The subway platform was full and busy. Eddie hated that feeling of standing only a few feet from the edge. He always felt as if he might just drift over and onto the rails, that being too close to the edge might make him teeter over it. It was like the rails were pulling at him, humming with an electricity that he couldn’t hear. He just had to wait for the train to come, and the screen said it would be another three minutes. It wasn’t as if he were going to get on the train, anyway.
While he waited, he fiddled with his coat. The hem on the bottom was fraying, and the threads splayed like frail wire under his fidgety fingers. The train was in the distance now. The light was a bright suggestion in the distance of the tunnel. As he watched, it grew more definite. They could all hear the rush of its movement as it sped toward them and slowed down. Eddie watched as women in long coats and couples holding hands stepped toward the edge of the platform, and as a few men with business suits hurriedly pulled their tickets from the machines and thrust through the turnstiles. The crowd was clamoring at the doors, going through the usual dance of stepping and wriggling around one another to get on the train. The people in the train always had to fight their way through, ducking and weaving to get off while everyone else tried to get on. It was that sort of busy time of day.
Eddie turned from the train as people crammed into its doors. He walked along the platform, toward the tunnel from which the train had just appeared. The crowd was still buzzing and squirming when he glanced back to check, so he slipped into the tunnel unseen. There was a ledge clinging to the wall in the darkness, and he leaned against the concrete and placed each foot carefully. One after the other, and he knew the fork came soon. His hands found the wall on either side of him, and he closed his eyes to the graze of palms on the jagged surface. When the fork came, he remembered the wall just ending. He wanted to feel the corner before he took another step off of the ledge and into the train tracks.
It was hard to call the image into his mind of the place where he was going. He remembered it being warm, and lit with gold. The people were quiet but friendly, and Sasha was there. Eddie had never meant to do anything with his life that would bring him someplace like the community living in the abandoned subway. Nevertheless, when she had led him there it had seemed obvious. Of course he was there. She was taking him.
Sasha had always been the crazy one. When they were kids, she was the one daring him to eat a grasshopper and climbing to the very tallest boulder that jutted from the hill in the woods. Eddie had always followed her.
When he first found her on the subway platform, he hadn’t seen her for two years. She had smiled as if she were expecting him, and taken his hand. The surprise welling in his breath was cut off by her whisper. “Follow me,” she hissed at him, and pulled him away from his train and into the darkness.
He hadn’t made this trip alone until now. Sasha had taken him a few times by now, introducing him to the leader of their group and showing him where they stole through forgotten stairwells to go grocery shopping. It had seemed like another world there, a little town secreted in the concrete underground of the city. There were platforms and tunnels that hadn’t been used for decades, except that now they held little lean-tos and an old picnic table. It was a whole community hiding where nobody could see, and everyone in it only wanted to be seen when they were there.
Eddie wondered a couple times, after going there, if there were people escaping their aboveground lives. He supposed there were. Probably that was mostly his romanticizing it, but there was something fairytale-like about the little village huddled under the streets and skyscrapers. Even if it was childish, he already wanted to stay here. He mulled on this as he inched upon the ledge. That might be the end of the wall just ahead, and he could almost see it.
When his fingers reached the corner he smiled to the black, and pressed himself around the finger of concrete until he was on the other side, gasping a little and grinning. He was almost there, almost to Sasha. If he stayed with her, he would be alright. Perhaps he was building some glorious romantic daydream of life under the city, but it already felt as though he’d left that real world and this was his new place. Here there would be new people, new ways. He would learn that instead, and everything about this strange and lovely way to live would fill in for the empty hard life above.
Besides, in the darkness he might find dragons.