It is late when Peter finally leaves the office. The streets are empty, pools of yellowish light under the few street lanterns that still work, waves of darkness in-between. It is still warm outside, after a day of sunshine and happiness for those who could afford to stay at home, go to the beach or meet friends in the park. For those who have to work in an office without air-conditioning… well, Peter's mood could not be much worse. He isn't even sure he'll still find a train to catch, for in these parts of town public life still usually ends at eight in the evening, at the latest.
His briefcase is heavy, the project has to be ready and presentable by Monday. One more weekend spent at the desk, in front of his out-dated computer with the flickering screen. Maybe after this he'll finally get a raise and be able to afford a new PC, maybe one of those MacBooks he has heard so much about. He could really need a change right now.
The station is empty, except for gangs of trash surrounding and probably threatening the helpless trash can. Peter smiles. His mother always said his imagination was overactive. However, you have to find something to cheer you up when everything else goes down the drain. He'd never tell a soul, but he keeps making up little stories about the people he meets. The best are about his boss finally getting what he deserves, by karma or in hell or whichever possible way.
Humming in the distance. They're probably cleaning the streets with one of those fancy brush-cars. Or no, wait, isn't it coming closer! This may be his lucky day, after all! And there, as if by magic, are the lights, coming closer, slowing down, and the train stops at the platform, one door right in front of him, and Peter gets on the train immediately.
It's refreshingly cool inside. At this time of the day, the rail car is almost empty, and the few people sitting as far away from each other as possible look as if they could really need a change in life. They look numb, white skin, hollow eyes, no one's moving. Peter holds his briefcase closer to himself, almost hugging it. That guy with the baseball cap over at the other end of the compartment might be trouble. Fortunately, it will be only about thirty minutes before Peter will reach his destination. He sits down as far away from the rest of the people as possible, leans back and closes his eyes.
An old woman enters through the back door of the compartment and approaches each of the passengers with pleading eyes and a plate with a few coins on it. An overweight woman fumbles for money in her purse, embarrassed by the presence of the beggar. “Thank you”, the old woman says and limps on. Her voice sounds as if a file were dragged across rusty metal. She comes to Peter, charm bracelets tinkling as she shakes her arm in front of him. Peter pretends being asleep and tries to ignore her as she snorts and limps on. Long dirty skirts sweep the floor. Her gait is strange, something must be terribly wrong with her legs. Peter feels a pang of guilt, but can't muster the strength to get up and follow the woman. Well, she's probably only acting her part to get more pity - and money - out of unsuspicious, hard-working people. His guilt is quickly transformed into anger, and he turns towards the window again.
He must have fallen asleep, then, because he couldn't remember the train having stopped, and looking through the grimy window next to him, he wasn't sure he recognized the surroundings. Had he missed his station? Surely not, he couldn't have slept more than a few minutes, he was sure of this, although one or two of the people seemed to have gotten off somewhere.
Right this moment, the train enters a tunnel, and the lights turn off. Peter is startled. A tunnel? There is no tunnel on his way to work, and surely none on his way back home. Shit, he must have slept through his station. And why are those friggin' lights off?
He's shivering. That's definitely overdoing air conditioning. And the train speeds on, leaves the tunnel, lights come to life again, and when Peter looks around in an attempt to clear his head, the guy with the baseball cap is gone as well. What the hell?! He's sure he saw him just a moment ago. Maybe the creep is hiding somewhere, attempting to mug Peter, now that they're both alone. No matter what happens, the next station he'll get off. Take a cab, get home in safety, not think about the extra money he will have spent.
Peter gets up off his seat, keeping an eye on his surroundings, and approaches the door closest to him. They have to stop any minute now. His knees are weak, and he feels as if he is coming up with a cold or something. Great, the last thing on this damn planet that he needs right now. He can already see it, working through his days and nights, no break, all the while sipping hot peppermint tea. He hates peppermint tea.
The loudspeakers come to life with a nasty cough and hiss, “Dear customers, we are about to reach our final destination. We thank you for trusting in this marvel of modern public transportation. Please be prepared to leave your lives behind.” The voice sounds roughly familiar, metallic and screeching. Where has he heard this voice before?
Peter stops in his tracks. The old woman! But, that's impossible, isn't it.
The train slows down, comes to a halt, too, and the doors open. Outside, there is nothing but darkness.