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Rated: 18+ · Chapter · LGBTQ+ · #2314903
At the downtown subway station
Over the Rainbow

The darkness that shrouded the stairway chilled Dante's bare flesh.  Maybe he should have stopped to put on more than clean boxers. He steadied himself with one hand on the railing and used the other to hold his phone up to illuminate his descent.

         After a dozen or so steps, the stairway took a right angle turn and continued downward.  Ahead, a faint glimmer of light illuminated another landing.  The music thrummed louder now, more relentless.  Dante chewed his lower lip and continued down.  The next flight ended another couple dozen steps deeper and probably underneath the street.  He wound up on a brightly lit terrazzo platform next to a set of railroad tracks.

         A subway station.  Underneath his house in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city with no subways. 

         What. The. F?

         The subway tunnel stretched ahead and behind him, a featureless tube with just the tracks and dark puddles of water at the bottom.  The chill breeze that wafted across his body prickled his skin. 

         The breeze turned into a whirlwind, sending Dante's hair aflutter.  A single subway car rolled silently into the station, stopped, and opened its doors.  An impersonal female voice announced, "Lake Avernus Train to downtown. Doors closing in two minutes."

         He eyed the train's empty interior.  On impulse he stepped inside, his bare feet slapping against the worn, cream-colored floor tiles.  Almost at olnce, the doors swooshed shut, and he clutched a handrail against sudden acceleration.  In seconds, darkness closed in on the train's windows.

         Regret seeped upwards and soured his mouth.  What the F was he doing, in his underwear, on a frigging subway to downtown?  And why was this the 'Lake Avernus' train?  There was no such place, as far as he knew.  He shrugged.  He'd have to just go with it.  Too late to do anything else.

         In minutes, the car decelerated, emerged into bright, blue-toned fluorescent lighting, and rolled to a stop.  The doors oozed open, and the same impersonal voice announced, "Downtown.  Next stop, Broken Arrow." 

         That dead-end suburb was the last place Dante wanted to go.  Nothing there but suburban housewives and crazy MAGA Republicans.  He stepped onto the platform.  From nowhere, a recording of a big band played a jazzy version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

         The ceiling arched overhead, with a line of glowing fluorescent tubes at the apex.  A light at the far end flickered and emitted a low buzz.  Grimy ceramic tiles lined the walls.  Dante supposed they had once been white, but now they were just a dingy gray.  A row of aqua tiles at eye-level announced "DOWNTOWN" in plain white letters.

         A young man smoked a cigarette and leaned against a phone booth that nestled to one side of the sign.  The guy wore a pale blue shirt with two broad vertical white stripes running from each shoulder to his trim waste. Gray flannel slacks and high-top, brown hush puppies completed his ensemble.  His crystaline blue eyes peered at Dante from behind over-size, black, horn-rimmed glasses.  A dark strand of ebony hair curled over his forehead. 

         Just the way Jesse used to style his hair.  He'd spend hours in front of a mirror, getting that curl to look just right.

         But the whole scene was just wierd.  Like something from a fifties Hitchcock movie, with a gauzy technicolor look.  What was a phone booth  doing here?  It had been years since Dante had seen one of those things. It was like a movie prop, ready-made for the mystery man to change into Superman. 

         The doors on the subway closed, and the train disappeared with a rush of wind into the darkness.

         The young man dropped his cigarette onto the platform and ground it out with his foot.  He threw a smile in Dante's direction, but it failed to light up his features.  He spoke with a velvet-soft baritone.  "Hi there, handsome.  What brings you to downtown Tulsa?"

         The guy was cute, in a weird, retro kind of way.  Dante's body reacted, and he held his hand over his crotch. Damned boxers didn't hide anything.  "Uh, just checking things out. I didn't know there was a subway in Tulsa."

         Dimples formed on the man's cheeks, and Dante's heart quickened. 

         The guy nodded.  "Not many people know about it. You must be special to have found it."  He scanned Dante from head to toe.  "You're not exactly dressed for the occasion."

         "I guess I wasn't thinking."  Duh.  The guy must think him an idiot. 

         "It's A-OK by me.  To each his own, I always say.  There's a tailor shop nearby.  I know the owner.  He could fix you up lickety-split if you like."

         It would be good to have clothes.  But…"I don't have any money."

         "No problem. Like I said, I know the owner.  He'll give you credit."  The guy approached and stuck out his hand.  "I'm Clark, by the way."

         Clark.  Figures.  He managed to mumble, "Dante," and let Clark win the battle to see who could crush the other's hand. 

         Clark's eyes twinkled behind those freaky glasses.  "Dante, huh?  Well, Tulsa isn't the first circle of Hell, but it may as well be.  Whatever.  Don't matter what sins brought you here.  All that matters is that you're here.  Follow me."

         Sins.  Dante's belly chilled at that.  Sins always mattered.  Especially Dante's. 

         He followed Clark through a turnstile and into a side tunnel.  Stairs led upward and somone had scrawled on the wall Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate.  Whatever it meant, it looked like Italian. Why Italian? There were lots of Mexicans in Tulsa, but Dante had never met an Italian, except in Godfather movies.

         Clark ignored the stairs and continued on to a door where a ruby-red neon sign announced
         Cool Cat Clothiers
         Bespoke tailor to hip gentlemen

         This didn't look promising, but anything was better than paddling around in his boxers.  Still clutching his phone, he followed Clark inside.

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