Going underground, p.1
Published by AMMFA Publishing
This story is a work of fiction and is a product of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to actual locations or to persons living or dead
is entirely coincidental.
All content Copyright Chris Ward 2012
Cover image purchased from pond5.com 2012
Cover design Copyright Chris Ward 2012
Table of Contents
The Tube Riders (sample chapter)
Also by Chris Ward
About the Author
A Short Story
The sound came again from inside, a rushing, roaring noise like a strong wind in a tunnel. Rob kicked at the red bricks again, and then hit them with the piece of wood he’d taken from a nearby demolition site. He thrust the piece of wood into the gap he’d made, hooked the bent nail that stuck out of the end over the bricks, and pulled.
One more fell away, and a couple more were loosened. Perhaps ten more and there would a space big enough for him to climb though.
The roaring had died away. Maybe fifteen minutes would pass before it would come again. He couldn’t wait any longer; he had to see it this time.
‘Hey! What are you doing? Stop that!’
Rob turned, the piece of wood coming up like a weapon. People didn’t shout much anymore without violence to back it up.
An old man stood maybe five metres away, bent over a walking stick. Grey cardigan and dirty slacks hung off his bony frame, dirty slippers covered his feet.
‘Put that damn thing down, fool. Battering an old man won’t send you to Heaven.’
‘What do you want?’ Rob said, looking around. The man must have seen him from one of the old houses on the street that ran alongside the scrubland.
‘What I want, boy, is to know what you’re doing breaking in somewhere that you don’t belong. You don’t know what’s down there, do you?’
Rob looked back at the redbrick wall, partially collapsed from his efforts. It was part of what looked like a small building jutting out of the ground, a few metres square. The rest of the walls looked more solid. This one was weaker, because the bricks had been added later to cover an old entrance.
Above what used to be the door, the residue of removed lettering outlined the words:
London Underground Station
‘I know what’s down there,’ Rob said, still on the defensive, though he dropped the piece of wood to his side. The old man didn’t pose a physical threat. ‘That’s the old London Underground down there. I read about it before they banned the internet last year.’
‘Ah, know all about it, don’t you.’ The man grinned. ‘Mind if I sit down?’
Rob said nothing, but the man took his silence for permission. He shuffled over to what looked like a mound of brambles and fearlessly brushed them away with one bare hand to reveal the remains of an old metal park bench. He slumped down, as weary as the damned. The stick clattered to the floor.
‘What makes you want to go down there? Poking about in an old underground station?’ the man said when he was comfortable. ‘You know it’s been closed nigh on twenty years?’ He pulled a small hip flask from a pocket and unscrewed the lid. ‘Want some?’
Rob snorted. ‘Ain’t that the cliché,’ he muttered. ‘What are you, a bum?’
‘It’s espresso, boy,’ the man said. ‘Takes a bit of caffeine to wake up the old bones most mornings. You want some or not?’
Rob smiled. He felt a strange liking for the man, something he didn’t feel for many people. The man wasn’t afraid of him. He wasn’t hiding indoors, away from the streets and the anarchic youth, like most old people did.
‘Thanks.’ Rob sat down beside the old man and took the offered flask. The espresso was hot and bitter but the taste was revitalizing.
‘So, I say again. What’s a young lad like you doing trying to break into an old Underground station? The London Underground’s been closed more than twenty years.’
‘If that’s the case then why are the trains still running?’
The old man leaned his grey head back and laughed. ‘So. You’ve heard that story, have you? What fool told you that?’
‘A friend.’ A lie because Rob didn’t have any, none that wouldn’t steal his shirt while he was sleeping. It had been some drunk in a bar who’d stirred his interest.
‘A friend,’ the old man scoffed. ‘And who did your friend hear it from, might I ask?’
The old man nodded. ‘And so it goes.’
‘What’s it to you, anyway?’
‘I know – knew – a bit about trains, is all.’
‘Boy, don’t be a fool. I was riding those trains to work back in the day, long before they closed down the system, and before you were a cherry in your mamma’s eye.’
‘Why did they close the system?’
The old man laughed. ‘Government didn’t like the legacy, is all. Too much history, too much… past. Built the monorail instead. You ever ridden on that, boy?’
Rob knew the London Monorail. Its elevated tracks twisted everywhere throughout the city, leaving poor suburbs like his in perpetual shade. He’d never ridden on it, didn’t have the money, couldn’t meet the dress code. The only people who did were the upper classes, who lived in new towns outside the city or in the huge, multi-storey apartment complexes that had grown up around each Monorail station. Like little worlds in themselves, they were only accessible from the ground in certain areas, through tall gates and heavily guarded ticket barriers.
‘You ever seen Big Ben, boy?’ the old man asked.
‘In real life?’
Rob almost said yes, but could see from the man’s eyes that lying was a waste of time. The man was wiser than Rob wanted to give him credit for. He’d obviously seen things Rob couldn’t imagine.
‘Only on TV.’
‘Yeah, thought so. There was a time I used to get off at Westminster Bridge station, walk along the side of the Thames, drinking a Starbucks and watching the ducks and the barges in the river as I made my way to work each day. But that was a while ago now...’
‘I almost went in once,’ Rob said.
‘Wore my best clothes and everything. Guards at the Monorail station said my shoes weren’t new enough.’
‘Huh. Figures. Was it true?’
‘Maybe. I got them off –’
Rob shrugged. ‘Something like that.’
He’d stolen them off a guy he’d beat in a street fight. The ones he wore now, old, threadbare sneakers, he’d come by in the same way.
The old man sighed. He took a swig on the flask, and handed it across to Rob.
‘And now you’re trying to find another way in?’
‘You can hear them.’
‘What can you hear, boy?’
‘The trains. They’re still down there, in the tunnels.’
‘Hear the trains, can you? Have you ever heard a train, boy? What makes you think it ain’t the wind?’
‘Come with me over to the entrance. You can hear them down there. They come by maybe every fifteen minutes.’
‘Huh.’ The old man laughed wryly. ‘Sounds like they cut the service back. It was every two back in my day.’
‘I’m not joking. You can hear them.’
‘My ears can barely hear you, boy, let alone some rush of wind you’re mistaking for a train.’
The old man looked u
‘I didn’t say anything about ghost trains. I think those trains are real. I think someone’s using them, and I want to know who.’
‘Well, good luck, boy,’ the old man said, pushing himself up off the seat. He wobbled uncertainly and then found his balance just as Rob thought he would topple over. It didn’t cross Rob’s mind to help the old man. You didn’t do those kinds of things these days; the old were just as likely to put a knife in your back as the young were.
Rob watched the man stumble away. He thought the old-timer might catch his feet in some of the potholes or on some of the protruding shrub roots, but he made it back to the road intact. Rob waited until he’d turned out of sight down a small alley, the kind old people should leave well alone, then he turned back to his work.
The station and the trains were waiting.
Going Underground by Chris Ward / Science Fiction have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on15 votes