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.
After a certain amount of time, possibly ten minutes, possibly a half hour, Ezekiel realized that the train hadn’t made any stops. No one around him seemed to notice or care, but he hadn’t seen any landmarks go by, and became worried. Nothing denoted that they were even moving forward except the side-to-side wobble that threw him off-balance and into various laps.
He knew the thought was crazy. Any conspiracy is crazy, but maybe the train wasn’t moving. He watched the window more carefully. Lights flashed by in rhythm, steadily enough that he heard music in his head. A piece of graffiti for The Young Guns flashed by every few measures. They were either a gang or a band, maybe both. Most bands were gangs. Violence is the closest harmony.
“Would you sit down and stop dancing for one minute?” Leslie growled from her seat. Ezekiel looked down at his shoes, now firmly planted on the Metro carpet.
“Okay,” he said, and he approached her. Now that his friend was awake, he told himself to stop worrying about the eternity of their journey. He could worry about that later. He wanted to talk to her, and began to speak.
“So, does this train usually make stops?”
“No, you have to use the emergency stop there,” she replied, and pointed. She seemed like she was joking, and Ezekiel chuckled a little. “No, you do. You’ve really been gone a long time, haven’t you? The train doesn’t stop unless you break the glass and pull the cord that says ‘Do not touch.’ Don’t you know anything?”
She rolled over and went back to sleep. Ezekiel noticed himself starting to dance again, and needed a hammer.
The other people on the train had no faces. Their conversations were not made of words, but overlapping differently colored noise, looped in waves of approval. They were cardboard cutouts, animatronic puppets there to give a sense of legitimacy to the whole enterprise. Only one seat remained. Leslie went straight for it and fell immediately asleep.
Ezekiel stood and surfed with the curves of the rails. On occasion, he had to take a step forward or back to maintain his balance, and sometimes he was knocked to the ground by a sudden stop. He bumped against a couple with their lips locked against the other’s. The heads came off together, and the hydraulics behind them continued to pump and gyrate.
“Excuse me,” Ezekiel muttered, propping them back on their perch. The train lurched to the left and to the right until he admitted to himself that he had to hold onto something, lest he end up in someone’s lap.
When he held onto the pole, the train seemed stopped. He felt foolish clutching so tight, but he had nothing else to steady him. He was on display. The audience was trying to ignore him, which only made him more self-conscious. They looked in no direction without faces, all facing the center where he was dancing. They were not looking at him. They were not looking at anything. They were incapable.
Leslie sat in the corner, asleep. Ezekiel told her she had the right to remain silent, and that anything she said could be used against her in a court of law. She had the right to an attorney.
Some of the cutouts scoffed and sputtered. One of them spit in his direction, though it was just a malfunction. Ezekiel had a conversation.