As the echo of the firearm’s explosion filled the car, Ezekiel waited for some courageous bystander to tackle him and be a hero. That would have felt right. Instead, he opened his eyes and looked around. All the strangers remained inanimate. Bits of glass on the floor left him able to pull the lever whenever he was ready, completely according to plan.
“Any objections?” he announced. Leslie rolled over in her sleep and tried to fight the fluorescent light out of her eyes. “Is anyone opposed to my pulling the emergency cord?”
He faced everyone, though they refused to reciprocate. The faux pas of orating to unknowns was meant to embarrass him, and he blushed slightly for their benefit. Knowing he was embarrassed, they might be more compelled to reassure him, or at least to acknowledge him, or at least to be alive.
Pulling the gun from his injured backpack, he waited for any kind of reaction. He shot a bullet at nothing in particular, psychopathic. Briefly, he pointed it at a man whose face annoyed him.
“I think we’re almost at our stop. Go ahead and pull it,” Leslie said.
Not the trigger. He nodded. Gripping the handle with both hands, he braced himself against the closest bar and yanked down with both hands. The lever did not move. He lifted himself into the air. Back on his feet, he wrapped the straps of his backpack around the knob, and pushed his feet against the wall. As the switch gave way, the lights went out and the train shook. Individual cutouts fell over, and the screech of steel brought Leslie to her feet.
“I was joking. Dipshit.”
They stepped out of the wreckage and onto the platform. “Sorry,” he said.
Leslie ran forward. He had to chase.
The glass sign that said “Emergency Use Only” wasn’t necessary pointing to the emergency lever underneath. Without more clarification, Ezekiel couldn’t be sure it wasn’t referring to the bench beneath it, or to the train itself. Not to mention, whatever constituted an emergency was unclear. If one of these passengers passed out, one should probably not pull the lever. Better to let the train run its course. The only emergency worth stopping the train that Ezekiel could think of, was if the train would not stop.
He looked out again, to make certain. If it flew past a station, he would feel better, but he saw nothing but the flashing lights, evenly spaced along the insides of the tunnel. No one else seemed upset, but nothing assured him that this trip would ever end. He examined the glass again.
To reach the lever, one had to break through the panel, but no tool was provided. Ezekiel flipped his backpack over his shoulder, and grasped for any hard object inside. The Rubik’s cube would shatter, and almost everything else was soft, except the automatic. He had forgotten it was in there, because it shouldn’t exist. He forgot about racism, misogyny, classism, jealousy, Coca-cola. He held the backpack in front of him, his hand inside, clutching the pistol. With the bag against the glass, he tried jostling the gun forward, and it made a hard tink that might have echoed around the cabin, might have commanded attention. He didn’t look to see. As far as he knew, no one could see or hear him, and that was for the best. He shouldn’t exist. He should have been gone a long time now.
Tightening his grip, he held the muzzle against the glass. Oh well.
A woman passing by looked their way and sneered cheerfully. He couldn’t move his arms to shrug or otherwise gesture, as he was pinned in place, but he wanted to respond somehow. He turned his face slightly red. Their asymmetric hug was not of lovers or of relatives, nor was it the reunion of old friends. The way she had him smothered was an imitation of affection. It was the hug of a case worker, rooted as firmly in fear as it was in forced positivity.
When she let him go, he felt like something had been taken from him. He checked his pockets.
“Are you all right?” she asked, but she didn’t care. She hoped he was sick and dying. She wanted him to tell her he had cancer and wasn’t long, or that he was on the run from police or bandits or both. Something like a story, and assurance she wouldn’t have to deal with him very long.
“I’m good,” he said, and watched the muscles in her face atrophy with disappointment. Later he would tell her he was dying, and that he was on the run from police and bandits and working with both. He might discuss the mayoral coup with her if she seemed amenable to it, but she was always bored by politics. To him it made no difference what was happening in his life. He would leave it up to her.
They went back down to the underground. The escalators were narrow, and she led the way, slower than he would like. He felt like she was walking him.
They just missed their train, and had to wait for the next. Aquarium air suspended them, and they shared a silence. He thought it was a comfortable silence, but he waited.
Amnesia wasn’t the issue. Ezekiel remembered the last five years down to the last detail. He had had jobs and relationships. That was all.
He was in an office now. Or he was undercover for special police. A reporter for a tiny newspaper in rural Arkansas. A bartender in a pansexual strip club. A line worker in a glue factory. He corrected a nozzle if it strayed off target. He was investigating a serial murder. He’d tell everyone. His boyfriend had no idea. His girlfriend knew everything. His gender-neutral playmate had no idea. His long-lost soulmate had no idea.
He had no idea.
A man on the train asked him, “Do you know how to get to The Glass Museum?” The man expected him to know, so he knew, but the man wouldn’t follow his instructions. Ezekiel repeated them slowly several times until they arrived at the stop where the man would need to leave. Ezekiel nearly had to push him out, but he wouldn’t find his way. The man was committed to being lost.
Ezekiel was more open-minded. He could ride the train, or he could ride the bus. He could ride a Greyhound bus to a place he had abandoned. He hadn’t had a job. He hadn’t had a relationship. He’d spent the last few years planning a better future, all alone, The Count of Monte Cristo without the money or moral imperative. He could get the money. He didn’t need justification.
In film, the screen blacks out and the characters return in the future, having done what they needed to do. The last five years were not forgotten. They were blacked out, and he would be whoever he had been. He would find out after the break.