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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Dark · #2303635
Fate delays a man on a subway car.

Hayden nearly fell from his seat as the subway car came to a sudden, screeching halt. Overhead, the lights flickered, went out, then came on again and held steady. There were two other people in the car and they were looking around, just as confused as Hayden.

He stood and peered out of a window, trying to see what had caused this unexpected stop. Beyond the pool of light on the wall facing the window and circles of light from other windows receding down the tunnel, there was nothing to see but darkness.

As Hayden turned away from the window, the doors slid open. All three passengers stared at them in surprise.

“That’s not supposed to happen,” said one, a large man in a paint-stained overall. “D’you think they want us to get out?”

Hayden shrugged. “Well, someone must have hit the emergency door button. It’s probably a good idea to get out while we can.”

They began to move toward the exits and Hayden noticed that the third passenger, a young woman, was having some difficulty in standing up. She was holding a pair of crutches in one hand while trying to lift her body from the seat with the other. Hayden went immediately to help her.

“Let me help you,” he said, as he offered a helping hand. She looked up once, smiled and thanked him. They stood and started to move awkwardly together toward the exit.

“I can walk with the crutches,” she said.

He continued to let her lean on him. “And how’re you to get down through the door? You’re going to need me, I think.”

She nodded in reply. Once outside the car, they looked in the direction it had been heading. There was a glow of light in the distance and the silhouette of a man, presumably the other passenger, walking away. Hayden and the woman followed along the side of the car. She was using the crutches now but Hayden stayed close in case she needed assistance.

They came to the end of the train and saw the tracks heading off into darkness, only the faint glow from a distant bend allowing them to see the man still walking ahead of them. There was no other person in sight, as if they had been the only passengers that night on a train without a driver. Nothing indicated what the problem had been. It was as if fate had abandoned them at that point without reason or cause.

“I don’t understand,” said the girl. “Where is everyone? Have they all gone off and left us?”

Hayden stared thoughtfully at the man disappearing round the distant bend in the tunnel. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I guess we’ll have to walk out of here. It can’t be far to the next station. Do you think you can manage it?”

“I don’t think I have any option,” she said. “I’d appreciate it if you’d stay with me, however.”

Hayden grinned. “I’m not easy to get rid of.”

She laughed. “Good. We might as well get started, then. My name’s Sally, by the way.”

“And I’m Hayden.”

They began the long walk though the dark tunnel. It was not easy for Sally, there being little room between the rails and the wall, but Hayden helped her through the most difficult bits and they rested whenever her arms tired of the constant swinging of her weight between the crutches. For a while there was silence between them as they concentrated on their steps in the gloom.

When they reached the bend in the tunnel and could see that it was not far to the station, they paused for a rest.

“I can make that easy,” said Sally. “You can go on ahead if you have somewhere you need to be.”

“Not at all,” replied Hayden. “I was more concerned that you might be missing a meeting with someone or something.”

“Nothing serious,” she answered. “My husband will know to wait if I’m a little late. He’s not the kind to worry without good reason. If I can get the right connection from here, I should be only a few minutes late. But where were you heading when this happened?”

Hayden looked into the lights of the station as he answered. “Oh, nowhere important. I had an appointment of sorts but I can reschedule. If I decide I need to, of course.”

He paused for a moment, deep in thought, then continued. “Actually, I think this whole experience has made me reconsider something. It’s almost as if fate has arranged the thing to change my mind.”

“You mean about this appointment you mentioned?”

Hayden nodded. “Yes. I don’t think it’s going to be necessary after all.”

“Ooh, a mystery,” she said. “Now you’ve really got my curiosity going. You have to tell me. What was this appointment you had?”

“Oh, it was nothing much. I just had to get to the Tobin Bridge, that’s all.”

She stared at him. “The Tobin Bridge? Isn’t that the one where they…?”

“Yes, that’s the one.” He smiled wryly back at her.

Word count: 851
For The Writer’s Cramp, 09.01.23
Prompt: write a story or poem which takes place in a subway car that has broken down.

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