It appears, as if from nowhere, as the door hisses open. It lifts one leg slowly to reach the elevated floor of the carriage and slams down a studded boot to announce its arrival. It is adorned with the noisy fetishes and symbols of protest. They scream, ‘Look at me!’, and the commuters are compelled to comply. In the sweep of a turning head they see it all: the black and silver; the textile and metal; the glorified wounds; all the painstaking effort. It’s Saturday night and the curtain is up.
It could be female, but no one can be sure – this is an emergent species, and its gender has little to do with its pent-up rage. Rusted bolts weigh down its earlobes into elongated piercings, cosmetically accentuated to appear inflamed and painful. Each ear is ribbed with silver rings; a dozen or more at irregular spacings and angles. One cheek is punched through with twin, silver spurs that spin and glint in the fluoro lights as it rotates its head in predatory scans of the carriage. Charcoal is plastered in a continuous black mask from ear to ear, inking all the skin of the temples and eye sockets from cheekbone to eyebrow – a wayward Robin separated from Batman. Behind hooded lids, black pupils loll in white eyeballs, in a desperate imitation of demonic reverie.
But within those charcoaled sockets, the lashes have been carefully sprinkled with silver, and they flash like fireflies in the chemical light of the carriage.
Its face, neck and shoulders are dusted white to conceal the natural pallor and texture of the skin. One could easily imagine scales hidden beneath the caked lime – a thought giving rise to a shudder of revulsion. Greasy, lank hair, the colour of filamentous algae, hangs down to naked shoulder blades and adheres to any surface it touches. Mock blood trails over its chin in tapering dribbles, diminishing down the neck and chest, and disappearing beneath a tightly laced bodice of ripped, black vinyl. The garment is stretched as tight as a drum skin, obliterating evidence of breasts or pectorals.
Both arms are loosely swaddled in tattered medical dressings, stained with what might easily be real blood. Emerging from these unfurling bandages, are grotesque green claws, tipped with bright red nails, long enough to be talons. The chin, throat and hands are skilfully rendered to look as if their owner has just finished feeding on the still-beating heart of a vanquished enemy. Below each armpit and visible through the open lacing of the bodice, inflamed wounds have been graphically enhanced with fresh sutures, pinching and puckering the skin.
It wears jeans, black and shredded, tight and filthy. The unzipped fly gapes wide, releasing a straight, blond quiff to cascade all the way to the knees. At the end of this shock of fugitive hair, rusty nuts have been tied. They clack and scrape against each other as the creature stalks the length of the carriage, growling and hissing at those already occupying hard-won seats. Each step resounds with a harsh scrape from the rows of steel studs hammered into the soles of the laced-up bovver boots.
As disturbing as this creature is, the single, most garish fetish leading the assault on the minds of everyone in the carriage, rests on its chest, radiating metaphorical horror. This lurching car wreck is proudly sporting a blood-spattered, rubber gas mask hanging on a chain around its neck. Functional fittings have been replaced with copper studs, already oxidized with verdigris. Its choked filter discs are labelled with spinning symbols for nuclear radiation.
In this place, at this time, in a carriage filled with commuters, the mask screams a media feedback loop of the Sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway. It howls in protest over rows of body bags strafed by the telescopic lens of a hungry news camera; and it whispers the mystified anguish of survivors, orphaned in the gruesome aftermath. This mask is the deepest outrage the creature has on offer, but its full impact is delayed until the train, crammed with its innocent citizens, departs with what now feels like unholy urgency.
The train of six, sealed canisters, articulated to form a gleaming, electrified worm, dips between the tapering, concrete walls of the entrance bunker and begins devouring the darkness of the tunnel. All souls aboard feel the forward rush of helpless abandon. The walls of the tunnel close in around them, until barely an arm’s stretch from the ribbed skin of the carriage. The flashes of the passing alcove lights semaphore a message of imminent danger. The only way out is forward, into the darkness, channelled by two steel rails that clatter and grind like the bent and pitted casket runners of a broken-down hearse.
Trapped in the scrolling sign riveted to the ceiling above, restless orange diodes conspire with the moaning dark-angel, by announcing a foreboding warning that their first encounter with the underworld will be Porte du Diable.
The carriage bores onwards into the dark tunnel, pulsating with a gagged chorus of unleashed phobias and rising panic attacks. Up and down, the robotic creature prowls, like a mechanical orchestra conductor energized by the magnetic field of the electric motors. The sea of bodies shrinks back to make way for this harbinger of cultural evolution, spitting its warnings and staring down an unresponsive world.
But Mephisto always knows the score – there will be no response from these mute and blinkered souls. They will sit rigidly to attention in their seats as they rocket forward into the night, their eyes and mouths resolutely shut.
Mephisto on the Metro
A gothic tale from the rail
This grotesque piece of prose has been posted to honour (can that possibly be the right word?) the wonderful Lucifer meets… series of digital artworks by Dwarkan
I was invited to post a Mephisto meets Lucifer story by Dwarkan in his reply to one of my more impulsive comments ;-)
However, I could not bring myself to allow Mephisto and Lucifer to occupy the same space at the same time for fear of bringing an end to this beautiful world as we know it.
So Dwarkan, please be content with knowing that Lucifer will be waiting at Métro, Porte du Diable to take charge of the souls being delivered so reliably by his “friend” Mephisto. He waits, in whatever form the reader likes to attribute to him, with a warm handshake and clear directions to their well heated accommodation.
And thank you so much for providing the catalyst that I needed to resolve this story into something I was happy with. It would not be posted here if it were not for the ideas behind your “Lucifer meets…” series. Merci beaucoup comme toujours :-))
Mephisto has many different roles in myth, legend and literature, but my interpretation in this story is that Mephistopheles is really Satan’s little helper – he does not corrupt men, but serves them, and by so doing, confirms those who are already damned and finally delivers their souls to Lucifer.
I must confess to having gone quite overboard with the descriptive prose in this short story – I indulged myself! Please forgive. It was inspired by someone I saw on the train once, wearing “the object of metaphorical horror” in the story! I hope we can all remain friends after you read this ;-))
I do not recommend reading this on a full stomach. If you do happen to see a creature such as this enter your train carriage, I strongly recommend you get off, walk across the street and spend the afternoon drinking in the pub.
Please visit Dwarkan’s remarkable four part study of Lucifer meets… – you’ll never think of the old spoilsport the same way again (Lucifer that is, not Dwarkan!).
The light bearer