Snakes and Pills

118 - smile fit

Kerry yawned. That coffee he had drunk this morning hadn't kicked in yet. Or, it was too weak. Caffeine tolerance is a hell of a thing, he thought to himself.

"Beep-beep," the automated doors went, and just to add in a human touch, a muffled voice over the PA system translated the electronic warning: "Doors closing." A second later, they did so, and Kerry re-examined his surroundings.

The layout of the car changed at each stop, with passengers shuffling on and off. At the last station, West 33rd Street, nothing too significant had changed. It was not the most popular of spots, and as the train jostled back into motion, Kerry did not see anything too interesting or new around him.

Everybody was face-down, most with their eyes buried in their phones. Some of the people lucky enough to have gotten a seat had dozed off to sleep. A few luddites still hid their faces behind newspapers. Real, honest to god, printed on dead trees, newspapers. And, of course, Kerry couldn't help but notice the one man who was totally awake but apparently content just zoning out, staring into the nothingness in front of him.

There's always one weirdo like him on every train, Kerry thought. For his part, he glanced down to his right hand, which, like many of his companions, grasped onto a phone. He was listening to some music on it, but not loud enough to drown out his surroundings. He always liked to be aware.

"Next stop, Brokerage at Tenth Ave," the muffled voice said over the crackling speaker. It always bothered him how they would say "ave," rather than just saying the whole word. Sure, on a sign, it made sense to try and economize space, but is speaking the word "avenue" really that hard, he wondered to himself.

Brokerage was a busy stop. It was a transfer station for three different lines. Even though the announcement was made well before the stop itself, Kerry could already feel the reaction it had put into motion. People began shifting in their seats, accounting for their belongings, and checking the time. Those standing, like Kerry, slowly began to shuffle toward the nearest door. By the time the train rolled into the station, the queue was ready to go, like a dam ready to burst.

"Beeeeep!" the doors signaled, and then slid open. With that, potential energy was transformed into kinetic, and the race to get off the train was on. It took some time for the doors to clear their crowds. Likewise, on the other side of the platform, a long line of people was waiting for a chance to board the train.

When that chance arrived, the crowd pushed their way onboard with at least as much gusto as those who had just disembarked. They were all rushing to get the best spots to sit or stand. A moment later, all was settled, as if the commotion of alighting and boarding had never happened at all.

"Beep-beep," came the familiar sound from the doors, as did the verbal warning. But, just as the doors began to move, out of nowhere Kerry noticed an older man dashing toward the door from the platform. The man said nothing, but his hurried actions indicated that he was rather hellbent on boarding this train.

Though the doors took only a moment to close, in that moment the old man managed to thrust his arm into the opening. Clearly an act of desperation, he expected the doors to act like those on an elevator, and snap open when they detected an obstruction.

Kerry expected the doors to open, too. They did not. There was a crunch, and a scream.


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