The Platform

People wait on the platform for the train to come. It is not clear what time it will arrive, nor whether it will come at all. The rumour of a train is enough to bring a crowd to the platform.

Word of an escape would have started above ground, gathered momentum in the ruined streets and trickled down into the subway. Word continues to fall this way, and more faces stumble in from above to join the mass of blinking eyes peering down tunnel.

Some have waited long, too long. The crowd shudders occasionally, shivering in fear and exhaustion. The movement forces people at the edge off the platform and onto the hot rails, where they continue to wait.

Each minute of each hour somebody will swear they have seen a light approaching from down the tunnel. “There! There!” the person will say pointing with their hands. But the crowd has been here longer, it grows tired of false prophets. The crowd is patient for the click clack sound of a real train.

A small party of desperates set out into the eclipsed tunnel. With them is a child, dressed impeccably for the first day of class. He grips the hands of two women and swings between them, over the tracks, back and forth, back and forth, and into the black tunnel.

Above, the fire is reaching fever pitch. Air whistles down the stairwells. Smoke slumps onto the platform, closing over those nearest to the entrance. The crowd recoils and more spill onto the rails. Women call for stop, there are shouts of “calm!” but the crowd is deaf. It surges back and forth with an appalling rip of screams. People push up against the walls, then the walls push up against the people. There are more screams.

Many stations down the line, a woman arrives on a platform bringing word of a train.

The Platform

Mark Welker

Perth, Australia

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  • Damian
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