09 February, 2015

The Train - A Short Story

Rhys took the train to and from work every day. He was always – mostly – on time (his winded pants while he flew into the doors as they closed behind him were still wins after all), and would sit in the same spot each day to people watch. He saw the same people every day, the woman painting her nails, the man eating his breakfast burrito, and the young student with his headphones up too loud.

When getting into Toronto he would get off and merge into the other lines of animal herding queues to get off the platform and walk to work. He would pass the business man kissing his wife before parting ways, notice the man taking his conference call pretending he was in the office already (“Yes, Jenkins, there is some street noise from the window), and would say ‘thank you sir’ to the homeless man who held the door open for streams of drones as they waddled out the door and into their seemingly busy lives.

Rhys wasn’t any of those people. He didn’t have a family, or important calls to be on. He never made breakfast or clipped his fingernails or listened to music too loudly; some would call him acutely aware.

When Rhys finished his day, he packed up, said goodbye to the Secretary and the doorman, and trudged day after day to the train station. He was one of a thousand people who walked through the doors the ignored homeless man held (“Thank you sir”), waited in line to shuffle single file onto the platform with the man and his wife, and always saw the business man fiddling with his mic on his earphones.

He sat beside the lady who was picking her nails (her nails were yellow this week), the man with the empty breakfast containers, and the student who was somehow sound asleep with the music loud enough to sing along to.

It wasn’t an exciting life, but it was routine, and Rhys could appreciate that.

Friday was another normal day. After the morning commute Rhys spent his day having lunch by himself, and working on his notes for a meeting. His manager asked him to take over Paul’s project since Paul wasn’t doing that great a job, and he knew Rhys would agree – Rhys always agreed.

Rhys stayed a little later to finish the project so Nancy wouldn’t have to wait until Monday to file it (she was really nice and always saved a few French Vanilla K-Cups for Rhys). He signed heavily as he said goodbye to the Secretary and to the doorman. He wrapped his scarf tighter against his neck as the February air chilled his skin. The streets were a little emptier than usual (people probably left early on Fridays), and the usual bustle wasn’t outside the train station doors.

Rhys checked his watch but he was only 15m or so later. He shrugged and opened the main doors to make his way into the platform. He froze.

Blood covered the threadbare carpet of the station, and pooled at the bottom of the stairs. Rhys looked stone-faced (too shocked to react) at the bodies on the ground. Bodies lay where they fell.

The business man lay a few feet from his phone, which flew out of his hand when he landed. The man and his wife lay by the stairs - the man was holding her hand. The student still had his earphones on half inside the bathroom, like he had come out and was taken by surprise. A woman with yellow fingernails lay clutching her stomach, eyes listlessly looking at the ceiling. A man and his bag of Tupperware was face-down a few feet away. Dozens more Rhys didn’t recognize; all these people who lead routine lives just as he did, all these people had their routine ended. The faint sounds of sirens could be heard in the distance.

Rhys stared in horror as he slowly stood in the lobby, not wanting to walk inside. The smell of iron overwhelmed him. He heard a sound and watched as the homeless man walked through the blood to the doors. He stood quietly for a second before pulling the door back into his usual position and waited. Rhys looked at the man and noticed the blood splattered on his tattered clothes, and a silver pistol tucked into his waistband.

He looked at the man and the man motioned for him to come through. Not knowing what to do, Rhys walked gingerly through the main station doors, as always. “Thank you sir.” He was a few feet in front of the man, and turned around to look at him.

‘Why?” The pain welled in Rhys’ eyes, and the confusion clouded his brain.

“I was invisible.” The man delivered the line calmly and with a matter-of-fact-ness.

Rhys’ heart started to pound in his chest.

“Why not me?” The man closed the door and dropped the pistol on the ground. He stared at it. His routine was about to change too.

The sirens were louder now.

“I was never invisible to you.”

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