Before the screaming starts, London wakes to its normal rhythm of commuter life. Commercial planes, setting courses on their global trajectories, soar in layered patterns across the London skies. Trains shunt in and out of stations while the M25 is clogged like a fat man’s calcified arteries.
Kasha Hughes is leaving for work. She grabs her white jacket, locks the door to the London flat and runs down the communal stairway. Turning the old brass catch on the heavy front door, she steps out and hears the familiar clunk behind her. A northeasterly wind bites into her clothing and catches at her hair, but Kasha is too happy to care. She is in love.
Smiling to herself, she walks swiftly to Shepherd’s Bush underground station and joins the slipstream of people on a downward escalator. Unconsciously adjusting her balance and spatial awareness, she thinks about Sam. A sudden surge of happiness sends a shiver down her spine as she once again thanks some kind of omnipotent being, she approximately classes as God, for their chance meeting.
The shuddering escalator rumbles in its endless motion and Kasha feels the heat of humankind trapped in the underground passages rise up to meet her. Stepping from the staircase she weaves her way through the tide of commuters and waits in her usual place on the platform. A high-pitched whine announces the arrival of the incoming train and she watches the blurred lines settle into a solid form as it slows to a stop. The doors slide open and she squeezes herself into the already full carriage. Touching is now unavoidable as the travellers are crammed in tight. No seats, no room, no dignity. Pressed against a dark green suit jacket she thinks about texting Sam, but knows she will have to wait for the crush to lessen before she can get her phone out. Seven stops on and Kasha can claim more space. Manoeuvring herself into the central aisle she pulls the phone from her handbag. The over-head light flickers, causing her to look up. Meeting another passenger’s eyes she smiles at him without thinking. The train jolts and she sways in unison with the other travellers as they enter another lit station. Focusing back on the phone she types,
Still on for tonite? Xxx
Pressing send she hears the doors rattle shut and feels the engine’s power shoot through her body.
“Next stop and a cup of coffee,” she thinks as the train gathers speed and thunders along the deep tunnel. Slipping the phone back into her handbag she glances up and sees the green suited man she’d been so intimately squashed against.
“He’s kinda sexy in an older-man sort of way,” she thinks. He looks up from his newspaper as if he has detected her thoughts and she sees his eyes widen, his body stiffen and his lips move. But she cannot hear what he is saying as the carriage is suddenly filled with an enormous, blinding noise. A noise that sucks the air from her lungs, like a vacuum-sealed bag.
He watches as part of the train seat, which only a moment before he had longed to sit in, flies with a menagerie of everyday items through the oval-shaped space. His grasp on time shifts. Each microsecond flattens into a stretched beat as the seat leisurely twists, presenting its sharp metal inserts towards the girl with the amazing hair. He desperately wants to look away but his eyes stay focused as slowly, oh so very slowly, the metal cleaves through her flesh, slicing her open with the accuracy of a dissecting butcher’s knife. He feels her hot blood splatter his face, followed almost immediately by more solid body parts as the contents of the girl’s torso hit him hard, driving out the last of his breath. It causes him to crumple. Gasping for air, he feels himself travelling with the mess that had once been human. Forward, back, up, down, he cannot judge. The disorientation is total. Then, quite suddenly, he slams hard into a rigid surface and drops to the floor. His mind splits, fragmenting between blind panic and logical reasoning, both parts demanding action with the same objective: survival.
Reaching out in an automatic reflex, in answer to his desperate terror, his fingers search for something or somebody, anything he can anchor his life to. He can’t see. He can’t hear. Then he can, he can hear too much as the sound of slaughter rises out of the darkness, hot, black and wet. Pushing himself up he feverishly checks his body, grasping his balls then madly patting down each leg to find his feet.
“FUCK. FUCK. FUCK,” he sobs frantically in time with the patting. Finding himself whole his fucks lessen in intensity. He catches movement off to his left, then a voice reaching out from the darkness. A voice full of reason that penetrates the cacophony of horror. A voice of hope that will set him free to breathe again, to feel the earth solid below his feet and the sun warm on his face. A voice repeating an instruction,
“Be calm, the rescue services will be with us soon.”
A voice that tells him he’s alive.
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