Aaron made his way to the station where he’d left Harlan and Tammi’s bodies entwined on the train, skulking in the shadows and clinging to the walls so as not to be seen by the occasional late night commuter making their way home. He reached the entrance to the station, illuminated by fluorescent lights hanging over ticket machines – the booth was deserted at this time of night and obscured by a corrugated metal screen – and crept to the edge of the doorway, peering around the corner to check the coast was clear. The night was cold and Aaron pulled his ragged shirt tightly around his torso as he paused at the entryway, withdrawing his head from the light and pressing his back firmly against the cold brickwork, loose tatters swirled around his arms as they were caught by the freezing wind. He looked down at his arms, pale and disfigured by his gauging they displayed no reaction to the chilly weather; his skin was perfectly smooth around his wounds and did not goose pimple, the fine hairs that once adorned his forearms now gone. He took one more peek into the station, scanning for anyone that might see him and, upon seeing no one, snuck past the metallic ticket machines that stood lining the near wall like guardians of the underground, under the rotating three-pronged metal barrier that barred entry like a robotic claw ready to catch any trespassers, and down the dimly lit concrete stairs onto the platform. The familiar dank smell of dust and old sweat invaded his nostrils as he descended; it wasn’t a pleasant smell but it comforted him, made him feel as though he still had some semblance of humanity about him. The platform was empty, stretching into the distance where it abutted the wall of the train tunnel, the tracks disappearing into the dark. Square stone columns punctuated the tiled floor, each with a rusted bracket housing a speaker to announce upcoming trains to the waiting passengers, and a digital sign hung from the ceiling halfway along the platform to inform commuters of the next train to arrive. The speakers were silent and the digital display was blank, emitting only a soft, green-grey glow from the artificial blackness of its screen. Three tubular lights decorated the ceiling, running longitudinally down the platform, only the middle one of which was working; it flickered pathetically making the noise of a tiny cowbell being struck stochastically in the distance. Aaron crept forward to the edge of the platform, crossing the painted yellow line depicting the safe distance from the track, and leant out to peer into the tunnel one way and then the other; he could hear the distant whine of brakes and the quiet chitter-chatter of wheels on the railway, but no train was approaching. A small ledge, about a foot wide, led from the platform into the gloom of the tunnel at the end of the station closest to the stairs. Aaron skulked over to the intersection between tunnel and platform, pressing his back against the wall as he slid cautiously off the platform along the ledge, edging determinedly deeper into the darkness. He could feel the cold stone against his back, moist with grime that transferred itself to his skin as he slid along, and he had to stoop forward as the wall arched preventing him from standing straight without knocking his head on the brickwork. The sound of rats scurrying among the rails and stones below him made Aaron press himself even harder back away from the tracks, causing jagged edges of flint to chip away at his flesh. He didn’t feel any pain, though, and thought a few extra abrasions preferable to toppling onto the tracks where the rats would no doubt sniff out his wounds and welcome a fresh meal; that thought made him shudder and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut as he progressed into the tunnel, it was far too dark to see here anyway. The distant sound of trains grew closer, getting louder as, behind him, he saw headlights emerge and the squeal of the oncoming train’s brakes echoed deafeningly in the tunnel as it slowed to a stop at the station. Aaron knew he had to move faster; the ledge was adequate for moving along but was far too shallow to protect him from an oncoming train. Panic rose in him as he heard the train slowly resume its journey with an ominous, repetitive chugging, and after a few metres of flailing his leading hand found a corner leading round to an opening in the wall. Aaron hurried his step and swung himself into the alcove, doubled over and resting his hands on his knees, he panted furiously as he recovered from his exertions. As the train noisily thundered past, the lights from each window flashed over his back producing a strobe effect as they shone against his pallor. Once the train had passed and Aaron’s eyes readjusted to the darkness, he saw that the alcove was in fact a passageway leading into the recesses of the stonework. He could not see the end of this corridor but opted to follow it in lieu of risking another encounter with a speeding train; he shuffled his feet forward, feeling for obstacles or potholes as he disappeared into the darkness, hands tracing along the walls to steady his balance. After fifty metres or so of slow progression, he came upon a wrought iron door that was slightly ajar. He placed both hands against the cold, rusted metal and heaved as he pushed it open. The door’s hinges screeched loudly as they were forced into rotation, and the door left a wet layer of brown-orange rust on Aaron’s palms as it gave way and cumbersomely swung open. Beyond it was a small, square room, too dark to ascertain anything more than its shape and size; it smelled of body odour and stale beer. Aaron shuffled forward, hands outstretched like a blindfolded child playing ‘pin the tail on the donkey’. He didn’t get far until his knees clattered noisily into a small table; the scraping of the wooden legs on the concrete floor was followed by a metallic thud and a sloshing sound. Lowering his hands to the table’s surface Aaron found a metal object the shape of a small flask of coffee, it was fairly heavy and he could feel that it was filled with liquid. He ran his fingers over the object, feeling the metal get colder as his touch passed the level of the fluid inside, and found a button at the top. It clicked as he pressed it and a spark caught a petroleum-soaked wick protruding from the object’s top. The flame from the old-fashioned brass lamp was pitiful but adequate to illuminate the small space, and Aaron assessed his surroundings; he was indeed in a small stone room, having entered from the southwest corner. The walls were made of large stones, irregularities in their shape filled with smaller pieces of flint, and was streaked with the black grime that had also clung to the walls of the tunnel. In front of him was a small wooden end table, knocked askew by its collision with his shins a moment earlier, this sat at the end of a wiry steel single bed frame that had no mattress or pillows; the joinings of the frame were rusted, having come apart jaggedly in places, and coils of steel intertwined in an undulating pattern along the length of the bed on top of which the mattress should have been, some were also rusted and broken loose, dangerously protruding upwards like hungry snakes rising from their pit. Aaron considered taking a risk and lying on the bed, but it didn’t appear capable of supporting an adult’s weight such was its state of decomposition. He moved the lamp to his right, the flame casting dancing shadows across the stone wall like a devilish carnival was in progress, and caught his breath sharply at what he saw in the far corner of the room; sitting facing the doorway was a green chesterfield wing back chair, it had dried streaks of blood on its arms, now brown and crusted, and a smattering of similarly brown droplets on the inside of its wings. Beneath its feet were scratches in the stone floor that lead back to where Aaron stood, motionless, and when he finally came out of his trance and turned to shine the lamp’s dim firelight back down the passageway he saw the drag marks extended as far as he could see. Turning back toward the chair with a look of shock and suspicion in his eyes, Aaron heard a familiar voice inside his head.
Rest, dear. Sit and rest now. We’ll soon have work to do.
His mother beckoned him forward and, almost of their own volition, his feet began making their way in the direction of the chair, Aaron could feel the worm-like tendrils writhing in them as if propelling him forward and he struggled to keep his balance as he was dragged toward the green leather seat. Upon reaching the far corner of the small room, his feet swung around so that his back was now facing the chair and so that the force of the spin plunged him down into it. The leather felt warm and comfortable against his skin, and he began to feel rejuvenated as his head bowed forward and he fell into a deep sleep, his yawning breathing raising his torso straight then dropping his head limply almost down to his knees as he exhaled. As the sound of distant trains clattering along their predetermined routes echoed up the corridor and quietly filled the room, another noise emerged and discretely grew in volume so that it overpowered the soft click-clacking but still remained distant; it was the noise of a young girl laughing, her boisterous mirth growing in exuberance until she struggled to catch her breath between giggles. The quiet laughter echoed inside the room and, as it gave way to the sound of choking and desperate pleading, a smile grew across Aaron’s sleeping face.