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The Subway Out Of Time

“Hello, passengers. Thank you for choosing TimeCap Express Services,” a cheery artificial female voice said over the subway’s intercom. “Today’s departure time is set for… 9:30,” the voice lost all human expression as it announced the time with a robotic and monotone inflection, “so please make sure you are seated when the red light comes on overhead. Today we will be making… 12… stops as we go backwards through time. The dates and times of each stop are listed on the electronic readouts attached to the back of the seat in front of you, as well as on the overhead scroll monitor at the front, middle, and back of the car.”

“You’re first time?” an old man with a shaggy salt-and-pepper beard asked, leaning in close to the younger man in the window seat next to him.

“Sorry?” the younger man replied.

“Is this your first time going back in time?” The old man smelled of whisky and emanated an unpleasant, hot breath as he spoke.

“Oh, yeah. I never really had the money to—”

“For your safety, please remain seated throughout the trip until reaching your destination. If at any time during the ride you become unwell, there are sick bags attached to the sides of each armrests and a first aid pack in the compartment underneath your seat.” A red sign started blinking at the front, middle, and back of the train as the artificial voice continued.” If this is your first trip back in time or using TimeCap Express Services, please consult the safety pamphlet and I.T.T. Rules Manual given to you upon entry at the main terminal. If for any reason you feel you must—”

“It’s not so bad,” the old man said through brown teeth, his voice overpowering the announcements with no regard for anyone who might need the information. “You get a little queasy the first couple of times, but it’s not so bad of a trip.”

“Yeah,” the younger man said with a crack. “I’m not worried,” he continued in an attempt to conceal his nervousness.

“This is my favorite time-train line. They are reasonably priced and more lax on the rules. Only downside is they don’t stop at too many dates. Just the major event years tourists like to visit.”

The younger man looked out the window with a blank face. “I figured as much,” he said with some hesitation, leaning to the side as much as he could to avoid the old man’s breath.

“So, when and where are you headed?” The old man, not taking the hint, leaned in closer. “I paid a little more for the R-History graphics pass so I can watch the Battle of Gettysburg.”

The younger man crinkled his nose instinctively from the foul air hitting him and practically pressed his face against the window to get away from the noxious fumes. “That’s cool. Should be fun,” he said holding his breath.

The old man leaned in closer still, but with a stroke of luck the train rumbled underneath and knocked him back in his seat before he could speak again. “We will be departing in… five… minutes,” the voice said with a metallic sharpness.

Oh thank God, the younger man thought, hoping the ride would put a stop to the old man’s small talk.

“The name’s Kurt,” the old man exclaimed without warrant.

The younger man sighed audibly hoping the old man would take the hint. “Andrew,” he said curtly.

“What event you going to see, Andy?” old man Kurt asked, assuming familiarity.

“Nothing special. Going to 1989.” Andrew did his best to keep his responses to a minimum as he had no intention on making friends with this old man.

The train rumbled with greater force and began to inch its way forward on the tracks. “We are now departing Royal Bee Station, 2021. Please remain seated until reaching your destination. A blue light will signify when it is safe to stand up. A green light will signify when it is safe to exit the train. For your safety, please follow the guidelines outlined in the I.T.T. Rules Manual once you reach your destination. Upon exiting the train it is highly recommended you check in with the tour booth for a list of pick-up times and the bus schedule. You can stamp your boarding pass at the automated ticket machine as you exit the train or at the ticket counter in the terminal. Our first stop will be at Bush Central Station New York City, September 10th 2001, and is for R-History Graphics pass holders only. Expected arrival time is… 10:05. Thank you for choosing TimeCap Express Services. Enjoy your journey through history.

The train lurched forward with a mighty pull causing the first-time passengers, including Andrew, to topple into the seats in front of them. Old man Kurt remained pressed into his seat comfortably as the train smoothed out and steadied its pace.

“The waiting is the worst thing about these trips. Even this company takes forever to go back to the era I like visiting. And it only makes 12 stops!” old man Kurt said with a forced chuckle.

Andrew gave a slight nod but didn’t reply. His mind was fixated on more pressing matters. It wasn’t his choice to take this trip, and he certainly wasn’t making it for his love of history. He’s forced to travel back to 1989 to get information on his birth parents—the ones who abandoned him at a Wendy’s restaurant when he was only two-years-old. Turns out, the parents he never met, or even knew of until last week, worked for the Russian government. A fact that ruined the childhood fantasies he held onto about who his real parents were and what happened to them. Now, he’s finally going to meet them—breaking the first rule in the I.T.T. (International Time Travel) Rules Manual.

“So, you seeing the Berlin Wall fall?” Kurt blurted out, like sitting too long in silence caused him physical agony.

“What?”

“The Berlin Wall. November 9th, 1989. That’s the event you’re going to see, right?”

“Oh, yeah. Of course,” Andrew replied not so convincingly.

Old man Kurt guffawed. “Well what the hell else would you see?” His brown teeth peeked through his almost nonexistent lips. “Not like this train stops anywhere else in 1989.”

“Yeah…” Andrew uttered under his breath.

The train picked up speed and the dark tunnels dimmed the subway car enough that the overhead lights came on, causing an eerie yellow glow throughout the car. Much to Andrew’s relief, the old man seemed to doze off unexpectedly; most likely whatever booze he had been drinking before getting on the train had finally kicked in all the way.  Andrew sat quietly, enjoying the low rumble of the train, but something in the back of his head caused a twinge of unease. He knew the consequences for contacting his birth parents in the past weren’t dire because the C.I.T.T.A. (Council of International Time Travel Affairs) had safe guards put in place so no one person’s actions could ever alter history. He wasn’t sure how it all worked—something dealing with personal time bubbles—but the punishment for his first offense would be a simple suspension of up to five years of time travel privileges.

This was no big deal as Andrew never had any desire to travel through time in the first place; this was hopefully going to be a one time occurrence—at least if he had it his way. After all, he never had an interest in studying history, which was the whole reason this industry exists in the first place. Of course, there are the occasional weirdos who make the news because they went back for perverted or immoral reasons, but their exploits are nothing more than the antics of the proverbial village idiots. Many television shows have popped up over the years dealing with these types of people: reality shows, game shows, sitcoms, you name it, there’s a time travel show about it. To Andrews liking, this time travel trend is already on a down-swing, though. He figures in a year or two it will get replaced by the next technological fad.

“Arriving at Bush Central Station in… five… minutes. Please remain seated until the train comes to a complete stop.”

The suddenness of the artificial voice caused Andrew to jump, snapping his attention away from his thoughts and back to the real world.

“Damn robots always stealing my dick pills.”

“Wha—” Andrew stopped himself and looked over at old man Kurt who still had his eyes closed and head dipped back on his headrest. His thin cracked lips were quivering like they were forming sentences, yet nothing but inaudible muttering and the occasional real word left his mouth.

This is going to be a long day, Andrew thought.

“Now arriving at Bush Central Station New York City, September 10th 2001. Please wait for the blue light to stand.”

The train eased to a halt as the majority of the younger passengers began to stir in their seats or stand up before the proper signal. The blue light flashed and everyone made their way to the doors of the car. Another announcement rang out as the green light came on, but the artificial voice was drowned out by the excitement of the exiting travelers.

Andrew stood up to stretch his legs, accidentally bumping old man Kurt’s arm in the process. The old man shot up unusually fast for a man of his age and started looking around frantically.

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