Where the Trains Used to Run(Unfinished)

Where the Trains Used to Run(Unfinished)

A Story by Lionel Braud
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Gerald, an alcoholic, has a blackout and ends up in an abandoned underground tunnel forgetting most of his present life. The worst has yet to come when he begins seeing things in the darkness.

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Where the Trains Use to Run

 

I linger somewhere in the sinkhole of America, somewhere underneath the potted drains. I can hear the rumbling and trumpeting thuds above of what sounds like a stampede of elephants. No idea what happens above or outside the shadows. I have lost connection to what happens above.  All I know is that beams of light occasionally bleed through the manholes. The shadows walk around corners, and my brain can’t seem to register location anymore. Instead I stare at the flickering fluorescent bulbs above me as they ricochet off the white paneled walls. In a funny way the artificial light keeps me grounded. It’s the only part of my sanity that has not orbited towards the darkness. You would think the neon lights could at least keep up with the dark, but these long ago inventions have gradually inclined themselves to the shadows too. I use to have some sense of where I was, but I had gotten lost along the way with the underground scrubs.

 

The underground scrubs are creatures like me that have been entrapped underneath the earth. We use to be human, but living off of street grub for so long has erased any civilized memory. My mental capacity for associating ideas to their proper place has failed, and I can hardly utter a syllable. Yet, I know that I am in a tunnel, and the trains no longer run, but I don’t know what a train’s original purpose was for. All I know is that they no longer run. My narration has been cornered away in a dream, and dreams never have any linear consistency to them. But I do know that in this dream I was once a man who had memory, memory that was warm and full of light.

 

 The fluorescent lights barely hold on, flickering away and producing the sound of a buzzing bee as I begin to tunnel my way into the clutching darkness. It pulls me through like a magnet. I have never ventured beyond the flickering lights, but now I feel it is time to confront the tunnel of darkness where the trains use to run.

 

Even though the darkness clings to me it is not a mutual experience. My mind has no conception on which to grasp. The only thing I can rely on is the gravel underneath me that brushes against my calloused feet. Ancient dust bellows from the deep black.

 

I was not always homeless, although I never had a place to call home to begin with. My mental mode of articulation seems to be held together from some past habit of education, although I can’t remember what knowledge I had specialized. My past has been fractured to tiny mirror pieces, and the future is literally dark. I am in an empty present, a present however, that will not budge, a here and now void of context and reason. It’s as if I am drowning in the pool of time.

These monsters that snide in the dark, scaly ribbed protrusions from the black velvet mass leave their impoverished markings onto the scrubs faces. Black marked soot covers his face while he occupies his hands with a strange homemade brew he fermented from orange peels and mildewy bread. Demon alcohol incapacitates him like a salted slug. Meanwhile the scaly ribbed protrusions trail right behind him.

The scrub doesn’t know that he will soon be consumed. Tails wither and dance out of the corners of my eyes.

Do my eyes tell the truth?

I have a marked potency of anxiety that supplants my hands with the tremors. The bottom soles of my dress shoes are partly unhinged, creating the sound of flip flops. My neck tie is still firmly held around my neck. I do not take it off for fear that the scaly ribbed masses may slither their way under my buttoned shirt. My dress pants cling to my legs like a wet suit. On my front shirt pocket is a stick on badge that says, “Hello, My name is Gerald.” I am far removed from this name, from myself. Names don’t linger to well in such a lost modern world of unfit transportation.

 

Underneath the drains where the excess rains pour, I spot a briefcase. I open it and look inside the lining; the name Gerald again appears. I also find some papers with meaningless numbers and graphs. The papers are tainted with spots that smell of whisky, which reminds me that I have not had a drink in a while. I don’t know if a while means a few hours, days or months. Time has been siphoned out of this place. I feel the inner contours of my linen jacket for a flask and take a swig, so I can empty out the nightmarish hordes congregating inside my head.

 

I venture further beyond the other lost souls who have casted their hopes in bottles. I expect the black masses are after them too like that poor soul back there. I hope they have enough juice to get them through.

 

I acclimate further into the shielded dark tunnel. I cannot bridge my thought to what lies beyond the darkness. In these tunnels there is no sky, no stars; just cemented manmade absurdity that has lost purpose.  So far I have not encountered the scaly ribbed masses that protrude from the dark. My palpitating heart would let me know if I should encounter one. If their entreating tentacles were to reach my abode, I would know. Not enough liquor or prayer could keep them away.

 

These dark black masses are deeper than the darkness that surrounds me. A bottomless black, a black that is too hard for the eyes. Even though I cannot see even as much as my hand, I would know if I saw one. They outshine that darkness by degrees inconceivable, so black that their presence is capable of blotting out the sun, so deep is their velvet black that even the deepest of oceans may tide over. I see differently when I am in the dark than when I am in the light, and I don’t like what I usually see, but I most know what lies outside before I am consumed like the others.

 

Detachment from life, I have always known nothing. You know that detached feeling you get when your mental paradigm of sanity no longer fits? You get a sense that your own surroundings seem to fade. Every thought that linked to me wasn’t really me. Then the enduring panic set in once I knew that my morality was discarded. And then I was just drunk. I was just a body inhabited by an anonymous life form who called himself Gerald. It is no longer apples and oranges or simple addition. The chronicles of my life add up to nothing. And believe me; I have tried enough meds to know that.

There is that something, a pale thought I cannot place my finger on. Something about my life. Something about a corporate job, a family and children. Did I use to know those things? Where do these tracks go? These are thoughts that just sit inside my head.

I use to spend most of my time sketching onto a drawing pad I had found in the garbage. It was the only way I could stop the weight of my thoughts from collapsing my brain. I could only see certain vibrations from my former life; they ribbon away into the next slide until it was too late to identify the context in which I had lived those moments. What formed was some abstract comic strip of events. Hence, I used the drawing pad for that very purpose. To connect the dots.

 

The place I am in now has no dots. It is just more of the same. An endless strip of pipes align in all directions above me. Meaningless gibberish is painted on the walls. The tracks recede into nowhere. And those trains are just a pile of junk, meaningless crumpled scraps of metal aged by rust and disuse.

 

My hands, for that matter, shake uncontrollably; MY BODY SEEMS TO BELONG TO SOMETHING ELSE. My heartbeat rattles inside a steel cage. My thoughts are no longer my own as I am propelled towards some otherworldly distinct singularity that is on the other side of my path in the dark tunnel. I’m convinced the answers lie dormant for the moment.

 

The charred subway has a few burrows of light that barely escape out of the aged cracked surfaces of the stony walls. Tiny lineaments array on the surface like a spider’s web. The light barely escapes this dark abode while the darkness seems to follow. So everything is not pitch black. The gravel glows with an unnatural iridescent purple, cascading other scraps of metal with black light, an oxymoron, I guess, that outshines itself.

 

Industrial dreams and stone cold lust of brighter futures. Mindfuck advertisements and paid vacations of bliss.  Monuments of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters displaced in backburner neo-noir paperbacks. Effigies of soldiers in World War II- underground caverns who had forgotten the battle was over. Sleeping in languid hallways. Blackouts and bruised hope. Scissor cutouts where the wife use to be. And the psychiatrist is just as crazy. Alcohol awakens the sleeping, ribbed black masses.

 

Only bored fathers and housewives think this place is heaven. He conjures a fantasy of a twenty dollar w***e giving him head while his wife window shops at the strip mall. In the meantime his wife is shopping, none of the less, for illusions in glass cased windows.

The six year old son at home, however, neither dreams nor fancies false truths. What he sees is real. Traditional dark fear in the closet. It’s the only knowledge imparted to him at such an early age.

Gerald’s pickled mind somehow has overturned these truths to be self-evident, because denial is an alcoholic’s best friend. Anyways, ‘how could such absurdities exist,’ Gerald asks. ‘The Sleeping, Ribbed Black Masses.’ The inside voice narrates his every turn.

 

I try to remember, paging through the succession of blackouts that got me here. All blank white pages. The only glimpses I get flash before me like a vague remembrance of a dream. As a matter of fact, my only tangible thoughts are scenic nightmares, death toll valley in the burrow of liquor bottles, prescription drugs; my mind window shops on its own when I pass out.

 

Today I walk through the darkness I guess for the first time. I don’t know. This could be my hundredth attempt to get out of here. All I have is me and my placid brain that lies quietly up above.

My heart thumps. I see something ahead that squirms and flagellates. It scales upside the wall, and the cleft of a huge moth wing retracts. Then I hear mimicry of whispered voices, sort of human…but not really, coming from the direction where I spotted the monstrosity. Alien articulation in the sense that the voice sounds like it is being filtered through something to sound human as if it has made contact with humans before.

 

A buzzing sound permeates my ears…my whole being…and I get that distant feeling again that you get with panic attacks. I trudge forward despite my unstable sanity.

 

Enormous pursed like lips, cracked and blistery, protrude from the phantom black …You do not exist?” It exclaims. It shuffles back into the dark leaving a ripple effect from its departure.

 

I don’t jump or startle in fright. Instead, my mind decides whether or not if I should call it a day. I iron grip the bottle as if it were my last breath. ‘Just hallucinations.’ I mumble.

 

Gerald’s surroundings shift out of focus… his peripheral vision grows black around the outer edges, enabling him to only view  the center of his vision where the tunnel begins to shrink to one single beam of light, until lights out, as if wormholing into another  dimension. A shredded piece of memory begins to manifest before him in photogenic flashes, like a repressed memory of that drunken night at the prom.

 

Gerald Lovett, ambitious mail-room boy, had gone up the corporate ladder recently a couple of weeks ago, ditching those blue rags for a change. It was his first corporate loo-out; stickered nametag was on the left peck of his gray cottoned dress suit. He felt a little unease with all the casual handshakes and fake sincerity carrying on while his coworkers abundantly shared plastic smiles. Nothing a few drinks couldn’t handle, he thought. A few stiff corporate lugs caroused over appetizers and stiff drinks, outmatching each other over swindled bargains, and boasting over their perceptive predictions of the market. Not his first choice of a career, but it beat being a delivery boy.

 

Gerald carried a confident swagger of his own, mostly fueled by liquid courage. His father always said, “Never trust anyone, and never show a tear or even a whimper of emotion to anybody. If you do you’ll give them the leverage.”

 

So Gerald became familiar with alcohol at an early age, namely in his middle school years. The first time he drank, he carried the electricity of a fanatical born again Christian. He also secretly carried a love of literature, which he hid any boasting of books from his dad. As a matter of fact, his father had engineered him to be the prominent go getter businessman that he is today, although a little wobbly emotionally.

 

He motioned toward the bar with the dexterity of a cat, striding carefully to hide any hints of intoxication in his movements. Yet drinking was a part of the job, a corporate trademark of being a salesman. Hangovers and Making sales with just enough Red Bull to get him through, accompanied by a quick breakfast of spirits.

 

Past memories of his father hurdled him every morning toward the profit line. Yet he carried an eternal contradiction of true motives that really dug a grand canyon in his ability to separate the truth from the false. Something lacking from early childhood, as if he had killed the Gerald he was suppose to be, and instead suited up as an imposter. This Grand Canyon, this disparity from his purported purpose and his supposed heart felt self generated a distancing from reality. Something in the shadows haunted him; he felt somehow carried by an invisible presence that lingered in the shadows. His sanity for a long time felt like it was managed by a cruel director, something that bellowed from deep stars and undiscovered galaxies. Reality ripped a page from a book, like an author who disposed a plotline into the wastebasket; it certainly did not feel like the God of justice the bible talked about.

 

Something harrowing had waited, yet it felt too personable to be anything but an internal psychosis of denial and loss. But Gerald did not know that. However simplistic his basic emotions had maybe seemed to the armchair psychologist, Gerald drew mythological monsters out of his own uncertainty, his father being the propagation of such an insight.

 

Gerald made a few handshakes and a couple of deals and left the soiree. Yet he made one last deal, one he would create in suppressed supplication, silhouetted by a lit candle and a bottle of booze on his bedside nightstand before he finally retired to bed. 

 

Waking up day by day he felt increasingly disjointed, and it became more difficult to remember the night before, stern intoxicated memories placed in their own Petri dishes.  The only sensations Gerald could account for was an overwhelming sense of the present,  that bottle of Ketel One on his nightstand impervious to time could only be beckoned in the here and now; a good swallow fired the insides of his stomach. Glancing at Kafka’s The Metamorphis, placated next to the bottle, made the hangover that much worse, inciting the thought that, with all the anxiety, waking up as some cockroach was a possibility.

 

He ignored the thought with another swallow, and Gerald often concluded that reality somehow turned on the rotation of his thoughts…that his coworkers were faint phantoms of avarice and self-importance…they too edged toward the possibility of nonexistence. His failed relationship tied in a separation case, Becky who had walked out on him after she knew that her definition of normalcy did not include his personal vision of the world. But she made much of the mirror as much as he did…two class acts that met each other in college through the brotherhood and sister act of fraternities and sororities; fabricated identities that suited up for marriage too quickly. Both with steadfast hopes of backyards and childhood swing sets.

 

His father beat and bruised him, warned him of the blotches that came with imperfection. “In those blemishes” he said “was where the black ribbed masses waited to snare little boys who did not meet their father’s wishes.”

 

It was just a childhood story, until Gerald ravished himself with too much alcohol and dark reading of Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. Nihilism invites the dark things to come. Morals shatter in broken glass followed by faint maniacal laughter. Morning sun bleeds through the blinds; birds chirp as the  It was then the dark ribbed black masses became a convincing reality from the pits of an HP Lovecraft midnight story.

 

Gerald slowly surfaces from the blackout, a coming to that mimics the mental phenomenon of waking up from a dream … but it is that mental shift from dream to reality that troubles him since the whole under a tunnel experience has left him in wonder to begin with. Like a student who mistakenly thought he had completed his homework, only to later realize that he had left his will in slumber.

 

Upon awakening, Gerald still felt overwhelmed from the potency of the dream, or memory; he couldn’t tell. Despite being alone, Gerald experienced a regression, a turning memory of how he had hated crowds. Gerald had a love/hate relationship with commercialism and advertisements. As much as he depended on material comforts, society was the massive horde and the true devil of culture. More importantly, the true essence behind his unquenchable desire for drink and validation directed a covetousness that lied in the faces of the crowd. And in those faces, he saw his father.

 

Under the florescent bulb I saw what appeared to be a shadow of a man, an old man whose ghastly, frizzy and stringy hair made pertinent the horror of this place.

 

“How do men like us wake up in such places?” The figure replied in an aloof manner. Aloof in the sense of limited social awareness while extremely aware of some other present phantom.  The dim lighting revealed the old man’s dilated pupils. Besides, when you live so long in the inner recesses of abandoned tunnels, your eyes grow accustom to the dark, but it gets harder to leave the light on upstairs.

 

At first I thought he was conversing with me, but he did not even acknowledge my being there.

 

I wringed my hands anxiously together to summon an exchange of dialogue from the thin air; but only hearing the sound of drip drops of water exiting the drains.

 

I could not even manage a syllable, but this strange man seemed comparably worse than I.

His rags hung loose, and his eye twitched. I guess eternity gives us all the time we need to make adjustments in hell.

 

He finally caught sight of me after a long hard look beyond the blinding darkness, eyes bulging as if straining to see small print on the wall.

 

He briefly juggled his homemade brew out of fright. “Who goes there?” He threw the bottle at me on last second impulse, but I managed to duck.

 

Ur not taking my mind away!” Said the perturbed old man.

I immediately responded to wane anymore damage done to my person.

“No. it’s just me. I mean, I’m not stealing your mind.” I said.

 

“No, you’re one of them!” He cowered back into the light, yet retained a sinister look in his eye as if he would bite. I immediately thought of the album cover art on Jethro Tull’s Aqualung that bared the mark of the feral homeless man. How I am starting to make these references when I don’t even remember how I got here, I don’t know? But it just seemed like a natural comparison.

 

“One of them? I don’t know what you mean?” I said. I suspected what he meant, the black ribbed masses. But I didn’t want to aggravate the situation any further for me or him. Even risky to carry such a thought in my head much less speak about the scaly ribbed protrusions.

 

His eyes grew big with fright, and he then retreated back into the shadows, but I could still barely make out his face. His eyes were no longer huge with fright; instead he brushes his beard with his left hand, his other right gripping a bottle, and like a man possessed he segues into a disturbing song, an unusual countenance as if he were conversing with an invisible friend.

 

            Oh Where the Trains Use to Run

            Is When I use to have some Fun

            But now I carry a gun

            And a Bottle of 51

 

            Where the Trains use to Ride

            Is Where I cover my Hide

            From the shadows they glide

            Piercing horrors into my eyes

 

Tired of hiding in the dark, I escape the shadows for a moment and take a step toward the fluorescent lighting where the old man paces and carries his tune. But I tread on the toes of my withered, dried feet, so as careful not to startle him. He seems to have forgotten I was here a second ago.

 

I call out. He turns his head abruptly, rubs his eyes and strains to center his vision on me like a man who had just awoken from a deep sleep and a dream.

 

“They haven’t followed you here, did they?” He says with his imploring and sunken eyes.

I stall my reply. I try really hard to say what I think I know which seems very little.

“What? Umm no. Who is they?”

 

 “Ah it’s no use they probably have. Gotten to most of them already.”

He reverts back to his old behavior and mutters to himself like most of the homeless people you might see when you venture downtown. He oscillates back in forth between lucidness and catatonia like a comic strip character that is unaware of the proceeding boxed in scenes that lie in wait. He walks hunched over, treads lightly in stealth mode as to not awaken whatever he thinks must be sleeping.

 

I motion closer towards the old man, inadvertently kicking the individual gravel rocks that hinder my way.

 

“Shh! You’ll wake them.” He says.

“Wake who?”

The old man is wearing a wrinkled white dress shirt, collar cuffs splayed outwards. Buttons missing. Doesn’t look like a dress shirt. More like an overused hospital gown, in which his body pains for escape. A light rusty brown stain trails all the way down to the center of his shirt, probably from careless consumption of whisky. He ravishes his canteen for one last drop of liquor, and the way he is acting can’t be because of caffeine.

 

His mouth circles in shock; surprised and annoyed that I don’t know the answer to his question.

 

“Surely you’ve seen them? The sleeping ribbed masses.” Splashes of whisky run down the corners of his mouth; the smell fuming with alcohol letting me know that it is some cheap brand of liquor. Probably “Old Grandad.”

 

Crazy talk I tell myself. I glance away from his face and look towards my own withered feet; my soles have developed calluses, and my hands shake uncontrollably, so I clasp my hands together in prayer to make the jitters stop.

 

“Can I have some of that?” I retort. Afraid to respond to his question, for my validity is the thing that makes Them more real.

 

He sighs in relief. “Now I know you are not one of them. Drink is the only thing that keeps them away. At least for a short while.”

 

“How long have you been down here?”

“How long?” He brushes pellets of sweat from his forehead. The question seems to elude him. “There is no how long down here? This place has been zapped completely from time. Besides, my watch doesn’t seem to work.”

 

I’m completely thrown off. My forehead wrinkles with confusion. Yet, deep down I know what he says makes sense. “How can you not know…?”

 

“Do you remember?”

“Well…no?”

“I rest my case?”

“I had a blackout?”

He nods in agreement. “That’s how it starts.”

The old man and I are standing in the waiting area, where people would sit and wait for the next train to arrive. Old and semi-decomposed newspapers crowd the benches, but no one waits for the absent train out of here except for me and the old man.  

 

The florescent bulbs flicker incessantly like a heartbeat hanging on for dear life, managing to bring some brief light to the place but only in a strobe light sequence.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of some black horrid thing scaling up the wall inside the tunnel.

 

“How do we get out of here?” I imploringly ask the question with the clasping of my hands waiting for some good news to be revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

           

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2010 Lionel Braud


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Your prose is fantastic, sir.

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on July 11, 2010
Last Updated on July 11, 2010

Author

Lionel Braud
Lionel Braud

Smyrna, GA



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Try JibJab Sendables� eCards today! I have a bachelors in psychology and earning my second degree in English Education. im student teaching next year for secondary English. I turned off t.. more..

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