The echoes of a deep roaring sound and a blast
of air hit him as the train rushed into the station.
The rails screeched. He entered the nearest
carriage. The left platform, yes, that was what
Salvador had said. The instructions he had
received on the phone were precise and clear:
“We’ll be waiting for you, David.” We? He didn’t
know who the others were. The train resumed its
journey with a violent jerk. The blackness of the
tunnel, a flash of light, another station, and then
darkness again. For a while he did nothing but
stare at his own reflection in the window by his
seat during the intervals of darkness. It was a
pale and distorted image, hardly recognizable.
He felt the impulse to yawn and look around. The
carriage was crowded. A couple, an old lady, a
few teenagers and a young man with a guitar
stood out, but most of the people were office
workers who traveled to and from the city every
day. They were reading a book, or a paper, or
gazing at the air.
The train stopped with unusual violence. Another
one in a long series of stations, but the name of
the station did not ring a bell. Neither had the
name of the last station nor the one before. Of
course he had never been to Salvador’s place
before, but still some of the names should have
been familiar. He knew where he was headed. Did
he really? He looked at his watch. More than
enough time to have arrived to the terminal. Did
he really care to meet Salvador after all? Enough
time, yes, if he was on the right train. If not he
might not get there at all this evening. He didn’t
care that much, but where was he going then?
Another station, another unfamiliar name. He
tried to feel the direction he was going in, then
smiled bitterly; his sense of direction was one of
the many things he had lost lately. Yes, he was on
the wrong train; the journey was far too long.
He looked around and was startled to see how the
crowd had thinned. The couple, the young man,
the teenagers and the young guitarist were no
longer there. Only a number of office people were
left, reading or staring at nothing in silence. He
thought of asking them where the train was going,
but they were too absorbed in their silence. It was
then that he first noticed the feeling of his blood
freezing in his veins. No, why panic? Even if he
was on the wrong train he would find his way
back. The train stopped again, and most of the
people in the carriage walked out. It was absurd
for him to stay in it now that he was certain of his
mistake. He rushed out, just in time, right before
the doors slammed behind him and the train raced
into the tunnel.
The station was in a state of advanced decay. It
was just a vault covered in stained pale green tiles
and two narrow platforms with a few old benches.
He followed the other people up a flight of stairs at
the end of the platform. He found the ticket
seller’s booth and explained his situation briefly to
the man inside. The ticket seller looked at him
listlessly and just pointed at the flight of stairs that
led down to the other platform.
“Just take any train that goes in the opposite
Down the stairs again, back to a platform under
an oppressive vault. Don’t think about your
claustrophobia, he told himself. He sat on a bench
and fixed his eyes on the floor. He waited. A train
going in the same direction as the one that had
taken him there pulled into the station and then
went on. After that, several more came, but they
were all going the same way; none of them were
going back. He looked at his watch again. It had
stopped ticking. It had stopped ticking a long time
ago. Cold sweat covered his forehead. This is
absurd, I must stay calm. He went to speak to the
ticket seller, but the man’s answer was the same.
“Any train going in the opposite direction will take
you back,” he mumbled indifferently, without
looking at him.
“None of them go back!”
“Some will have to, eventually.”
Another endless wait on the platform persuaded
him to do something different. The ticket seller
was no help. He would leave the station and find
out where he was. After following an extremely
long and gray corridor he saw a glass door at the
end. At last. Free from oppressive enclosed spaces.
The air was an aquamarine color and grey and ink
blue clouds hung low in the sky. Neither the stars
nor the moon were visible. The wind was blowing.
He was in a vast extension of fields and there
were some stone houses close to the station. They
became more distinct as he walked towards them.
A cold mist froze his hands as he realized that
something was wrong out there also. It was
impossible. It couldn’t be true. Those could not
just be ruins, the mere remnants of houses that
once were. But they were.
He thought he saw a shadow moving among the
ruins, a human shadow. He jumped over a clump
of stones and climbed one of the walls that were
Below him patterns of stone suggested the shapes
of old rooms. Someone was lying on the bare
ground of one of the rooms, as if asleep. Someone
else was lying on the floor of another room, and a
third person in another, and a fourth . . . . He
stared harder. They were all wearing the same
clothes they wore at work. The office people,
that’s who they were.
He got off the wall—perhaps the semidarkness
was misleading his sight—and walked among the
ruins. Yes, those people were lying there, sleeping
there. He could see them, hear them breathing,
touch them. He could have screamed. So this was
their real existence, this was the way these
ordinary looking people whom everyone saw at
their jobs in the city really lived—and nobody
knew it; no one could even imagine it! He turned
and ran, stumbling over the ruins without waking
He entered the station again, ran along the
corridor and down to the platform. Nobody was
waiting on either side. He realized he could not
recall having seen anyone at any time on the
platforms. His hands were growing colder and
colder. He trudged up the stairs again.
“I have to go back!” he yelled at the ticket seller.
“You must tell me how to get back!”
The man refused to look at him. “I’ve already told
you,” he muttered sullenly.
“No, you haven’t!” His voice trembled. “There are
no trains going back!”
The ticket seller did not seem to hear him
anymore. He stood up, got out of his booth and
shut the door with a bang. “I’m leaving,” he said.
“It’s late. My job is over for today.”
The man turned his back and walked away, his
steps echoing behind him.
David could not even call after him. His voice had
left him. He looked down at the platforms. There
was nobody there. There was nobody in the
station. No sound came from the tunnels, not even
the sound of air blowing. There was only silence.
He was alone.
Lesley Galeote was born in London of Spanish parents. She has
lived in England, Spain and The United States, where she
obtained a Ph.D. in American literature from Claremont
Graduate University, California. She writes fiction in both
English and Spanish and has published short stories in
Ariadna-rc.com, Almiar.com and Barcelona Ink Magazine.