[This #1667 Words entry is by Caitlin McGee.]
Gregory had been running through the endless subway tunnel for what had seemed like hours. His legs were cramped and tired and his lungs were no longer getting as much oxygen as they needed. The short, curly haired, sweaty out of shape man stopped to catch his breath for the umpteenth time and looked back over his shoulder, wondering if maybe he should go back the way he’d come. But he knew it would only lead him right back to where he’d started: a dead-end subway tunnel with only one way to go. He took a deep breath and began running again, his paranoid overactive imagination, the dim flickering lights, and the sound of his own footsteps playing tricks on him, telling him that he was being chased, stalked by a serial killer or some creature that shouldn’t… couldn’t exist. He peered left and right into small alcoves as he ran, expecting to find some hideous beast lurking in the shadows, watching him with bright yellow eyes . He pinched himself, leaving yet another red mark on him arms among the dozen or so other identical marks, hoping that this time the pain would snap him out of this nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. When he looked up from his bruised arm and found himself still trapped in the endless tunnel, he gave up on pinching himself, finally reaching the conclusion that he either wasn’t dreaming or, if he was dreaming, he wasn’t going to wake up no matter how many times or how hard he pinched himself.
Eventually Gregory noticed that he was getting close to a platform and he prayed it wouldn’t be the same platform he’d seen at least a dozen times before. Several small light bulbs formed together on a black square sign and shined bright orange showing “P-P1.” Gregory leaned his body against a wall after stepping up from the tracks onto the platform, trying to keep himself from collapsing to his knees. He scowled up at the sign that he’d scene before as a voice crackled over the intercom, startling Gregory.
“Welcome to platform P1. Next departure in one hour.” The voice was electronic, unsettling, almost taunting and Gregory knew that the information it relayed was false. He’d heard the same claim from the same voice every time he’d come across the deserted platform. He knew it was false, because the first time he’d stopped at the platform he’d waited, not for one hour but rather for several and no train had ever come. And when it became clear that no train was coming, he’d given in and climbed up the steps of the out of service escalator and each time he’d climbed he’d pass out at the top only to wake up and find himself right back where he’d started, at the beginning of one way track that he seemed doomed to travel a hundred times.
Gregory began his assent up the escalator steps once more, falling to his knees when he was halfway up. “Please,” he cried out to a God he didn’t believe in, “please God, I can’t take it anymore. Please, I’m begging you, make it stop.” He collected his tears in his sweaty palms as his chocked on his own sobs. He cried until his eyes went dry and then he looked up at the dark ceiling that seemed to stretch a thousand miles above him. “Oh God, where am I? Why am I here? Why can’t I leave? I just want to go home!”
The intercom crackled to life once more, the electronic voice causing Gregory’s head to pound as realization finally hit him. “Welcome to purgatory. Next departure in one hour.”
Gregory laid down on the steps, still staring up at the ceiling that suddenly seemed closer now. “Forgive me,” he said recalling all the mistakes he’d made in his life, all the trouble he’d caused. “Please,” he whispered as he drifted off to sleep, praying that this time he’d wake up somewhere else, rather than back at the start of his own personal hell.
[Caitlin is an openly gay and Wiccan writer, photographer, journalist, and activist working hard to make a difference in the world.]
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