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Adela Divayeva hand shook slighty as she thrust thirteen ruble coins through the hole in the cracked window. She took the single trip ticket without a word, indeed she hadn’t even noticed the cashier’s sour face; her mind was occupied with deeper things. The trembing would have been worse if she hadn’t had half a valium in the car on the way to the Metro station.
Adela had been preparing herself for the meeting so long, she’d barely noticed the day come round. She’d been rehearsing scripts in her mind; what she’d say to everyone when she saw them again; Little Ahmed with his big ears and cheeky grin; Big strong Rahmed- the love of her life; Rosa, her best friend since the first class of school, and the countless others who’s memories had remained strong in her mind despite the wear of time.
Everything had been prepared for her that morning; Her favourite buckwheat porridge breakfast in bed, followed by prayer. She’d been made to feel like a princess by Uncle- the only one of her family left; it was he who’d brought her to Moscow; organised this chance for her; this opportunity. Adela had been apprehensive at first, thought herself inadequate for the job; unqualified in a way, though it would be hard to say what qualifications she actually needed- but now was the acid test; now she’d see if she had what it took to make a difference; to leave her mark on society. it was all or nothing. Failure wasn’t an option.
Slowly, Adela merged into the living human sea as it headed towards the escalator, her bulky heavy fur coat pulling her shoulders forwards, swinging as she walked, bumping into the anonymous beings on all sides of her. She looked down at her feet, watching that she didn’t trip; she wasn’t used to wearing high-heels. Uncle had bought them especially for her. Despite the snowy weather she wanted to wear them; she wanted to look her best; she knew that Rahmad would appreciate it. He said she always looked good in high heels. The pink bow in her hair matched them, more or less.
Stepping onto the escalator, Adela nearly lost her balance and grabbed onto the hand-rail for support. As she descended, she watched the faces coming the other way; young, old, short, tall, white, brown, happy, sad, loving, bitter. She couldn’t think of them as humans, as people; just faces, like on the television. The adverts on the walls passed in a blur. Closing her eyes, Adela held back her tears. She was so happy. She was going to be amongst friends again. She was doing the right thing- she knew she was. God would be pleased.
Opening her eyes, she smiled- tears of sadness mingling with tears of joy, washing the cheap mascara down her cheeks. She noticed the looks of disgust she received from the other passengers at the vision of insanity she presented, but she didn’t care; they didn’t understand; she was free.
Throwing her head back with a final laugh, Adela slipped her trembling hand inside her furcoat, and found the control switch attached by a pair of thin wires to the detonator, and the fifteen kilograms of nails and plastic explosives stitched into her coat.
‘Click. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.’


Sergeant Menshikov was about to swallow his last gherkin when the sharp crack and boom of a detonation, accompanied by the rook shaking like a hula girls wotsits rather stole his attention from the matter in hand.
As he stood, stunned and confused, a sizeable chunk of loosened ceiling plaster confirmed Sergeant Menshikov’s worst fears, as another ensured that The Thing was no longer dreaming, but was already upright, rubbing the dust from his eyes.
Snapped out of his psychological decline by the realisation that something enormous had just gone very wrong near by, Losha covered his head and stuck to the floor. The two policemen stared at one another, as their senses returned and reality registered.
“BOMB.”
Sergeant Menshikov ran to the wall, where he pulled down the great rusting red emergency lever that had stood dormant and vertical for fifty years- a testament to the quality of Soviet engineering, a split second later the fire bell was ringing; three miles away at the emergency switchboard of the combined Office of the Emergency services, a big red bulb began to flash over Krasnopresnenskaya metro station. He picked up the numberless bakelite telephone that was linked to the central switchboard of the same office, and yelled ‘BOMB, BOMB, BOMB’. Without waiting for a reply, he headed towards the door
Bundling Losha’s limp, beaten, mass out of the way as they went, Sergeant Menshikov and his colleague swung the door open and stepped into a cocophony of panic. The symphony of screams- some from shock, others through pain, that echoed around the round the hall compounded the atmosphere of terror. A tongue of orange flame licked the roof of the mouth of the escalator shaft, belching thick black smoke into the airless hall. The only other light came from the small emergency lamps around the edge of the hall and the shafts of grey-daylight that broke through the windows in the entrance door. Injured, scared, and helpless people lay broken in the floor in varying degrees of distress, emotional and physical; some stood, deafened, blinded, shocked. Other’s screamed for loved ones. The more robust pushed past, trod over and walked on anything that barred their way to safety; a base manifestation of Darwin’s noble theory.
Suddenly remembering their forgotten duties, the two anti-terror sentries burst against the human tide towards the source of the injury, heat and chaos. Pulling back and yelling at all and sundry to get out, they made their way to the top of the escalator, shielding their faces from the fierce heat they pulled those still alive back from the fire. Despite the roar of the flame and the relentless ring of the bell, they could hear the screams of those trapped further down, where the heat was too much to bear.
A hundred metres below them, the occupied policemen didn’t hear the eight carriage Metro train approaching on its regular three minute schedule. Under the circumstances it would have seemed remarkable to imagine that a train half a mile to the west and two hundred metres below could have posed a danger, so it was no wonder neither man thought twice about it. However, had they had a chance to reconcile the scorching blast of air that took the skin from their eyelids, blistered their windpipes, and burnt their hair with the draft forced by the displacement of a train’s worth of air, they would have understand that their lives were about to be brought to an excruciating, premature end by solid wall of flame that would follow.

*

From the brightly lit holding room, Losha gazed out onto the scene of carnage that lay out before him, his mind recalling the trash American films of his youth. With a mixture of something between curiosity and horror, he watched as amongst the confusion and chaos, a man with one leg less than he should have had crawled silently, steadily and defiantly past him, towards the exit; Losha willed him to survive, though didn’t have the psychological capacity to leave the safety of the room and actually help him. Instead, like a boy racing a snail, he silently urged him to the finish line; the shiny trail he left in his wake reflected the orange flames from the other side of the hall as they danced on the ceiling, quite unlike Lionel Ritchie ever imagined. It took Losha a moment to comprehend that his snail was trailing blood.
He would have stood like that forever, observing the multitude of personal dramas, tragedies and triumphs as they unfolded in front of him, should the enormous fireball that emerged without warning from the escalator shaft, not have thrown him to the dusty floor once more. As it filled the ticket hall, it illuminating it for a moment in all its wretched glory like a burst of orange lightening, and then receded into a swirl of thicker, blacker smoke.
Coughing, despite the sleeve over his mouth and nose- his eyes smarting from the acrid airborne particles, Losha gathered his thoughts, and then noticing the policeman’s leather jacket on the back of the chair, his mobile phone.
Keeping his head low to avoid the hanging smoke, Losha dashed into the ticket hall. moaning, screaming crying, laughing all swirled into a single disorientating noise that faded in and out of the dominant, incessant fire bell, as he dashed past dark shapeless heap after dark shapeless heap. His instinct told him to grab the nearest one and drag it with him. As he neared the door, he could see the old woman’s face- palid, cold, lifeless on the left; slightly toasted on the right. As he backed through the double swing doors into the frosty bite of the open air, he looked around him. The dozens of injured were laying, sitting, waiting, crying; their blood staining the filthy frozen sludge like a Mr. Frosty from hell; breath evaporated with every gasp into big clouds of steam. The red dot matrix thermometer across the road read ‘-19oC’. Cars from the busy road were stopping, bringing the junction in front of Moscow Zoo to a standstill. Women from the kiosks directly outside the metro station were wrapping their coats around the shivering, shocked victims; swearing, cursing and crying themselves. A couple of police cars had arrived, their occupants busy talking into their radios, but the first of the ambulances was yet to appear.
Losha deposited his groaning load in the midst of the rest, pulled his hood up, thrust his hands firmly into his pockets, and headed left.

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mister  khan

Best in the World, Russian Federation

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Artist's Description

mild family drama played out against the backdrop of moscow’s rapid transit system

Artwork Comments

  • missmidge
  • Whirligig
  • onetonshadow
  • mister  khan
  • mr t
  • pinkelephant
  • GreenwichMeanTime
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