A doubly anonymous tale that shows us the true dangers of falling asleep on the tube. It’s thick with mystery and when it’s done you’re left with more questions than answers.
STORY NUMBER: 60
PROMPT PROVIDER: Anonymous
“You said this was going to work.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t…”
The muffled voices fade out as I snap into consciousness. Where the hell am I? Oh no, have I ended up taking the train all the way to Ruislip? No, it was dark when I got on this tube, approaching midnight. Outside there is a purple glow. I glance through the open doors. Instead of the dirty tube platform I expected, there… isn’t one. The train doors have opened into a void, below which sways what looks like black leaves of tall grass. Maybe I have ended up in Ruislip? I can’t say I’ve ever been to the end of the line on this tube.
“Hold on, hold on, what’s this?” the voice is back. So I hadn’t dreamed it. A gloved hand grabs onto the side of the opened door and pulls up a man’s upper body, wrapped in a tight-fitting suit that reflects the purple ambient light. He’s young, with what looks like tube tunnel soot smudged on his cheek.
“Right. Don’t move,” he says, and I’m too dumbfounded to do anything but comply. “I’ve got a problem here,” he continues, though clearly not to me.
“I mean, if we can just charge it up again, I think we can…” pipes up the other voice, which momentarily distracts the young man in front of me, and I rise to my feet, intending to find my way home however it might be. There’s bound to be a night bus.
“Hey! I told you to not fucking move,” the young man in front of me shouts, shoving his hand in my chest, sending me skidding back down the floor of the train. Then he is above me, holding me down, shouting.
“When? When are you? When is …. this!?” he questions incomprehensibly, gesturing to the tube carriage with one hand while keeping me pinned with the other.
“Wha… what do you mean when?” I stammer.
“You have no idea how long we’ve been trying to get out of here! And then you…”
“Easy, Crenshaw,” says the other voice, now much closer. The man’s grip eases, but he keeps me pinned down. I’m still groggy, still confused. Then the other man appears above Crenshaw’s shoulder. He’s dressed in the same shiny body-hugging suit.
“This proves it works one way, so why not the other?” he says. “Kid, where were you before you were here?”
“London,” I stammer. “Let me go!”
“Where would you go? This isn’t London!”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s no time to explain. Does this thing run?”
“The train? I… guess?”
“Good. That means it’s got electrics. That means we can we can wire it up and try again. Get up. Crenshaw, help him up.”
Crenshaw gingerly gets up from on top of me and scowls. He moves over to and out of the closest open doors as I scramble up.
“Long story short, and I hate to tell you this, is that what we have here is a time machine. But one that doesn’t work the way it did in media. I ended up bringing you in rather than sending us over, for starters. But that’s at least a beginning. I think we can give it another go.”
As he is telling me this, he jumps down from the carriage. I can’t believe what I’m hearing to the point where I am, once again, speechless. If I travelled through time, am I in the future? The past? Is this all an elaborate practical joke? I curse having fallen asleep and missing my stop. I follow the man’s tracks to the door and look out again. Just away from the train is a set of machinery that the two men are working on. Crenshaw walks out toward me, glancing up before ducking down under the carriage. I hear him rummaging in the equipment and then shouting in glee.
“It got one?” shouts the other man.
“Sure does,” yells Crenshaw in return and jumps up. He is smiling as he glances up to me. “Come down, we won’t hurt you.”
I jump onto the ground from the train. The purple glow is still, all-permeating, and strange. It lights without casting shadows that I can see. The white hull of the train doesn’t pick it up, and the grass is jet-black and squishy underfoot. I walk over to the machinery, and Crenshaw joins me with a metal piece of some kind of electrical equipment in his hands.
“Here you go, man,” he says, handing it over to the older guy.
“Right, let’s hook it up and give it a shot. Let’s get home.”
That’s when I get my voice back.
“Are you guys going back to London?”
“Umm…” mumbles Crenshaw. He clearly has a North American accent, so I realise that if this crazy story is real and they really have a time machine, they may be from the States. “Close enough.”
“Yeah, at least it’s not here,” says the other man, gesturing me closer. “Get over here, step into the beam. There is good.”
He flips a switch and moves in front of the machinery, closer to me.
Crenshaw steps onto my left side.
“Nice to meet you, by the way,” says the older man. “Might as well as introduce myself. The name is Fitzpatrick. Doctor Conor Fitzpatrick.”
He reaches to shake my hand with his gloved hand. Suddenly everything goes white.
PROMPT: You fall asleep on the last tube and awake as the doors open on a desolate, alien landscape