The Commute

She stumbled out of the rusty vehicle and followed the others.  All around her were grey faces, blank and emotionless as they joined the crowd all on their way towards their own personal tragedies.   She reached the platform and stood uncomfortably close to the greys surrounding her.  She daren’t look up for the fear of making eye contact, she had grown up knowing that it was safer to be solitary, you didn’t want to end up with accidental allegiances when things went south – that’s how you ended up feeling guilty.

It arrived, a jailhouse on tracks  The windows on her carriage had been spray-painted by some creative rebel, a futile attempt to add some colour into the dull weary world they resided in, but she could still see the emotionless greys staring into nothingness behind the make-believe stain glass windows.    The doors had barely opened before the pushing began, each person being cramped into the already full chamber.  In any normal situation, someone would have said something, requested people to move up, argued that there was room for everyone, exaggerated tuts, and murmured apologies, but not here.  She stopped her mind before it fell deeper into the memories.  This was her normal now.  Thinking back to the past would only bring grief.

The doors strained to close, too many bodies pushed up against it.  One of the guards appeared and with all his body against the door, slamming it closed causing a rogue elbow to sharply jab her in the ribs.  Yet she stayed silent just like her fellow greys.  The train moved on, speeding through empty stations and sleepy suburbs.  They were twenty minutes into the journey when the woman collapsed.  She looked across at her for a brief second. A condensed and crumpled heap on the floor, not dislike laundry waiting to be washed.  She turned away.  There were too many other people in between her and the woman, her assistance would be more of a hindrance than a help.

It felt like hours had passed by the time the driver announced that the destination had been reached.  The doors opened and she was pushed out of the carriage, just another blank face in the sea of greys.  Her expedition was far from over though.  The crowd was being moved down the stairs into the great open hall where an ocean of greys was moving as one.  Waves pulsating.  Like a river joining the sea, she weaved through the grey shadows, desperately trying to keep her head above water as she fought the current towards the tunnel.  She slipped into what she thought was a river but instead was caught up in the race of the rapids.  Fiercer and faster than before, she struggled to keep up as she charged towards the end but there was no light waiting for her at the end of this tunnel, just another wall of grey.

They pushed her from behind into the back of the person in front of her.  The continuous stream of people was neverending and she continued to get pushed forward, inch by inch.  She tried not to think about those in front, telling herself that there must be an opening ahead and that they weren’t just piling bodies onto bodies.  The pushing continued.  The back of her neck was wet with sweat and each breath felt sharp in her constricted chest.  Eventually, she was pushed into a small clearing.  Greys buzzed around frantically and without direction.  She had made it to the hive.

Arches presented on each side of the wall, each leading to a separate tunnel.  She took her chances and rushed for the far-right, not knowing what would be on the other side.  She threw herself through yet another set of doors, wedging her small body between the people.  No one said anything and she bowed her head, embarrassed that she was the one who had caused yet more discomfort for those around her.  The train started to move and they were plunged into darkness.  The noise was unbearable.  The smell of sweat, dirt, and stale air clogged her airways.  The feel of hot unfamiliar bodies surrounded her.  Her head started to spin, unable to cope with the attack on her senses.  She tried to control herself, slowed her breathing, counted to 10 under her breath.  She thought of the crumpled woman and saw herself, lying in a heap of bodies fifty meters underground.  The train came to a sudden halt, flinging the dark thoughts from her head and she fell hard onto the man behind her.

When they finally arrived at the destination she was weary and tired.  She followed the crowd up the stairs and out into the light, the cool air was a small blessing from the stuffy claustrophobia from below but their journey wasn’t over just yet.  She marched with the other greys towards the tall building, watching as her crowd became smaller and smaller as they were sucked into the buildings that towered over her.  Eventually, she arrived.  She looked up at the overbearing building in front of her and she walked through the door.  A calmness washed over her as she walked up to her nest and she sat in her chair, grounding herself with deep breaths.

“Did you have a good weekend?”  A bright cheery face asked her as she got ready to start another week at work.  

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