"The Eighth Circle of Subway" by Henry Lion Oldie

By Henry Lion Oldie

Action & adventure, Sci-Fi, Short stories

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705
8 mins

The Eighth Circle of Subway

…Eddy slipped into the car at the last moment, and behind his back, the guillotine-like doors shut with a clang. A siren howled, and the train darted forward whistling and rumbling, and picking up speed immediately. Somebody cried involuntarily, as he fell on a spiking elbow rest. Eddy only smiled; this guy would get off at the first or second circle. Or he would perish. The Subway did not tolerate such types.
The face of the guy from up there came into view: beaten, distorted with pain and despair; his dog-like glance at the policeman raising his club. It was the guy’s fault; he did not cross the road in time, while the light was green – but still…

…The train stopped even more sharp than it had departed; that time, however, nobody hit against the needles sticking out from the front wall. Eddy considered for a moment whether he should get off there, and the pause saved his life. A tall guy in a chequered cowboy-like shirt and blue pants that sat tight on his hips dashed to the exit and ran into a break-mode. The doors twitched, and the guy was cut in halves. The blood gushed, a black maw of the utilizer opened wide in the floor, and the body parts fell down. The floor closed up.
The break-mode worked rarely, especially during the first circle; so till the next station nobody should be afraid of any other dirty tricks. However, at the next station he would have to get off. The strict rule of the Death-Riders: in one car – from one stop to another.
On the ceiling, the deathly-pale ghost-lamps were blinking, and the illumination made all the passengers look like zombies. “Most of them actually will be dead soon enough,” thought Eddy. As for Eddy himself, he did not intend to become a dead meat. Just like all the others did. Including the guy who was cut by the breaks…
Eddy did not finish his thought. The train slowed down at the far end of the station, but their car stopped where it was still possible to reach the platform by jumping. Eddy was the first who jumped on the platform, covering the seven-foot gap without any effort. Simultaneously, a young lad with a sparse black moustache landed nearby. Eddy appreciated the accuracy of his movements. A strong rival! One had to keep the eyes open. Who knows what’s in his pockets.
The escalator ended abruptly, and an abyss yawned under his feet. Eddy was ready for that. Only a novice could be caught by “the gap”. He threw his body with a jerk to the neighbouring escalator, moving down. The first circle was over. However, it was just a warm-up.
The step under his feet went down, and Eddy remained hanging on the handrail. Behind him a shriek was heard, but it was choked immediately, being crushed by the gear wheels rotating below. Eddy glanced around hoping secretly that … – but no! - The dark-haired guy was safe and sound, hanging on the handrail just like Eddy did.
The footstep returned to a regular position, and Eddy dropped the handrail. Just in time. An electric discharge went crackling along the handrail, and those who had not jerk their hands back in time, fell down on the steps in convulsions. Well, the first grass was cut...
Eddy jumped off the escalator, and safely avoided the “devil’s ass” that opened in front of him; then he started running over the platform. The second circle began.
The train arrived almost immediately; it stopped at the middle of the platform. It was suspicious, but to stay in one place was dangerous, so Eddy jumped in. Some people, including the dark-haired guy, also managed to jump into the car before the guillotine-like doors closed cutting somebody’s hand off. Eddy felt pity for the guy, yet that one would survive, though without his hand; during the second circle, the wounded were still rescued…
…The floor opened, and Eddy hung on the handrail again along with the others. He was right not liking this train. Just imagine that their hands could be given a high-voltage shock! Though no, it wouldn’t happen. In the Subway, one always had a chance. A tiny and barely visible – but you got it. Only the Russians had such places where there were no chances at all, as the story went. But the Russians managed to pass even those places, if they did not lie.
And the Russians did know how to lie. For instance, they said that there were no police clean-ups there… They said that policemen were afraid of sticking their noses outside. What in blazes such police was needed for?! Or whatever they called it.
About twenty seconds remained to hang on till the arrival to the station, when a robust guy, hanging next to Eddy, suddenly kicked him in the stomach. Eddy nearly quitted hold of the handrail because of the pain, but miraculously he didn’t do that. You fat son of a bitch! Eddy slipped his hand into the coat pocket, and felt for an old gas lighter. Only a novice would ask for trouble during the second circle. If the guy were a “green hand”, he would try again. The robust guy tried. But when he swayed on the handrail, Eddy stretched his hand and clicked the lighter next to the fat fingers clenching the rail. The guy bellowed, and jerked his hand back instinctively. At that very moment, the train stopped. Nobody paid attention to the scream of the falling down. The third circle awaited them.
The sharp and glittering steel door leaves opened, but there was a gap below instead of a floor. It was not a surprise to Eddy. After all, he had gotten to the seventh circle last time. Although, he had barely escaped being smashed by “The Merry Fellow” back then and fell out of the race. Eddy swayed and unclenched his fingers at a carefully calculated moment; he leaped forward, managing to grasp the edge of the platform. The contact rail was dangerously close. He pulled himself up, and rolled over the edge. Ah, “the labyrinth”! The third circle.
The sliding paths were crawling along the platform, intersecting each other at different levels, turning and changing their direction every now and then. Eddy watched those apparently chaotic movements for several seconds, till making the decision which way to go. He could not explain how he did it, but he did not intend to explain anything to anyone, for that matter. When Eddy jumped on the chosen path, the dark-haired guy landed nearby. Behind them, there were three more guys. Yes, only three. Well, how quickly it…
…Eddy instinctively jumped upon the neighbour path, and a heavy press fell to the place where he had stood a moment ago. Skipping the next line, Eddy jumped to the far one, then next… In ten minutes, he reached safely the other side of the platform. A minute later, all of their company gathered there.
The train already waited for them. Everyone jumped into it without casualties; only the last one lost the boot heel. Pure luck! He could have lost his foot, instead.
Scarcely had the train dashed forward, when the light went out in the car. That meant nothing good. Ah-ha! Tentacles studded with suckers started crawling lazily out of the walls. The octopus-car! They were in a deep shit! Straight to the fourth circle! Eddy snatched the knife out of his sleeve, and started cutting the tentacles stretching towards him. The rest were busy doing the same. The slaughter took place in silence, and in nearly total darkness; only a heavy breathing, and sometimes the whistle of a knife missing its target and cutting air was heard.
One tentacle nevertheless reached Eddy’s arm and stuck to it immediately, tearing his clothes and skin. He struck it with the knife without looking, but the crap didn’t even think of falling off! With great effort Eddy managed to tear off the squirming stump, but his arm was bleeding heavily. He bandaged it somehow with a torn off sleeve, and caught his breath. It would be nice to have some rest, but it was too early; only at the seventh circle there was a safe spot, a “neutral zone”. This time, Eddy intended to go all the way. Just as those four. Actually, three... The fourth one was on the floor, wrapped all over with greedily pulsating tentacles. He seemed to be alive still, but even if everything were cut off, he would bleed to death. Despite of the fact, a thin guy in eyeglasses – why was the student still alive?! – bent over the dying man, and tried to cut the horrible cocoon. It was senseless, but Eddy involuntary felt respect to the Four-Eyed.
The platform. Jump… roll over. “The clothespin” clicked angrily behind, but it was too late. Where to next? To the other side of the platform, to the fifth circle, or straight to the sixth one via the “Haemorrhoid Emma”? And Eddy jumped into the tunnel.
He immediately began sliding down the absolutely smooth sloping gutter. It was dark, and Eddy put on his infra-glasses. He slid down the pipe that constantly curved at various angles with an ever-increasing speed. Due to the glasses, Eddy noticed timely a long blade springing out from the floor in front of him; he threw his body to the wall, and rushed by in an inch away from the blade. A turn, another one… Steel hooks hung from above. Eddy pressed himself to the floor, trying to be as flat as he could. Farther, farther…
Suddenly, he saw light ahead... It was either the station or… Or! Those were the lights of the train! The damned “Haemorrhoid” was carrying him straight under the wheels. Eddy barely had time to pull out a vacuum sucker, and stick it to the wall. The train was rumbling right by him, and he was hanging there, clenching the saving sucker, and praying to all the gods he could recall. In the middle of the prayer something crashed into Eddy’s back, the sucker failed to hold, and he fell under the wheels…
Eddy came to his senses almost immediately. The back of his head and the grazed side ached; but as a whole, he got off easily. Apparently, he fell into the tunnel a second after the train passed by. That was what a sincere prayer for your soul meant! Even if the content was only approximately correct.
A dark spot stirred next to him, and immediately took the shape of a man. Eddy rather guessed than saw that it was the dark-haired guy. Damn him! Yet another tough guy…
The platform edge appeared to be quite close. This time, Eddy climbed on it with difficulty – the result of the fall. His companion climbed after him. Eddy looked around, and noticed in surprise that the skinny Four-Eyed was also with them. The fourth guy, however, was gone.
“And where’s the other one?” Eddy blurted out. The Four-Eyed crossed his arms without saying a word.
Eddy turned away, and walked along the platform, automatically dodging the fly-breakers flying over him every now and then. His head worked poorly. Eddy walked as if on the autopilot, but he did not give it a second thought. There was something more serious at the sixth circle; Eddy had been there before.
Here it was! The machine resembling an asphalt compactor rushed straight towards him, but, unlike the latter, it had a decent speed. Eddy stopped, waiting. When the machine was quite close to him, he tumbled abruptly aside. The compactor missed him, but slowed down immediately and turned on to attack again. What the hell, where was the train?! As if mocking him, the train flew out from the tunnel and stopped several yards away from Eddy. The heaven-sent doors could close any second, while the raging compactor already rushed to cut off his way. Eddy dashed headlong to the doors. A crack ran across the platform, and the floor began to sink, falling out under his feet, but Eddy pushed himself off the crashing platform in the last effort and managed to roll himself inside the car, miraculously escaping the needles at the entrance. In comparison with the sixth circle platform, that dangerous car seemed to be sweet home to Eddy…
Just like ten years ago, when their district went mad. Everything was crashed, the ground crumbled under feet, the barracks burned, and a dirty giant bulldozer with a lifted bucket was inexorably nearing from behind. Well, it was okay at the moment, as it was the Death-Ride after all, but back then… Then, they just did not evacuate in time. Nevertheless, Eddy escaped. Both back then – and today…
The dark-haired guy and Four-Eyed were already there.
“Thank you for distracting its attention,” said the Four-Eyed politely.
Eddy cursed in response. Oh yeah, distracted! Just the damned compactor chased him, not those two jerks; it would be better if it were otherwise.
The train dashed from the station into the darkness. There were two more circles ahead.
They jumped out on the platform almost simultaneously, and immediately laid flat on the ground. A dim twelve-foot blade went over their heads with a whistle and disappeared as if it had never existed. Trains didn’t go any farther. The seventh and eighth circles had to be passed on foot. A car, though hiding dangers within it, provided at least some protection. Outside, one was deprived even of it.
Not waiting for the rest, Eddy jumped up, and started running to the other side of the platform. He reached the pedestrian tunnel called “the intestine” in slang, and was stunned by the absence of traps; Eddy was scared by it more than by anything else. The dark-haired guy and Four-Eyed looked at him dumbly and started walking along the platform; at once, three compactors rode out towards them. Eddy pressed himself against the tunnel wall, watching the situation.
The Four-Eyed ran zigzagging, while avoiding “the black holes” in a surprisingly careful way; the compactor rushed after him, getting closer little by little. The dark-haired guy ran in a straight line, but it wasn’t the panicked run of a condemned beast – it was the famous “life line” that every Death-Rider had heard of. All would go well, were it only not for the two compactors rushing to cut off his way.
The Four-Eyed jumped aside at the last moment, the compactor missed, and crashed a pair of fly-breakers swooping too low; the machine turned, but it was too late. By that time, the Four-Eyed already stood next to Eddy.
“Well done!” said Eddy approvingly. The Four-Eyed smiled abashed, and due to his smile Eddy felt somehow better. “We still have a chance!” he thought, not paying attention that he used plural for some reason.
The dark-haired guy was doomed, but he continued running stubbornly in a straight line, without turning. The two compactors reached him simultaneously, but at that moment the dark-haired guy did the impossible – he flew up into the air, jumping nearly six feet high, made a somersault and rolled over the platform, not deviating from the “life line”. The very moment he was in the air, the two compactors crashed into each other. The flash of blast blinded Eddy for a moment. When he was able to see again, there was a burning heap of deformed metal on the platform, smoking and emitting soot. The dark-haired guy stood beside them, and they could hear his convulsively beating heart. Eddy shook the guy’s hand silently; he couldn’t make up anything better.
“Let’s go,” he said in a suddenly hoarse voice, and began striding through “the intestine”, not looking back.


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