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The rattle of the train was approaching. He once again turned his head towards the pinpricks of light, multiple dots converged into one in the far corners of the tunnel, enveloped in darkness. At the cobwebbed regions of his brain, he juggled the idea of rushing forwards, waving his hands to get the conductor’s—or anyone’s—attention. But as the rattle became a roar, the idea melted next to the heat of fear, and he found himself running for cover in the safety of the many shadows in the tunnels.
Another train missed, another day wasted.
His watch had stopped working when he first fell through the hole, but his acute sense of time told him that the train came at 5:17pm exactly each day, roaring past this particular tunnel that seemed terrifyingly void of maintenance of any kind. Wires hung loose from the ceiling, abandoned tracks were rusted over with disgusting brown flakes, and the carcass of rats were left to rot or consumed by their own brethren.
After the initial shock, he had numbed to the horrors of the underground world. It took only two days, however, for him to realise the horrors of his own mind when he considered in immeasurable hunger, the possibility of eating the humanoid corpse lying beyond a wall of rocks long since eroded to reveal an unfinished and forgotten tunnel. The head was crushed in by a large rock and half its body was swimming in thick, black water that skittered over the rocks. Not at the discovery of the death, but the discovery of his own monstrosity, he staggered away from the scene. He held his furry head and ran backwards until the thought dissipated in the aura of panic and mindlessness. It was only two days until he had numbed to the horrors of his own mind as well, and he went back to the corpse to feast after a week of starvation.
Every time he took a step along the tunnel, he could feel his paint bucket clanging against his leg. While he didn’t mind it one bit, he had to stop every now and then to rub out the red indent where the bucket hit him continuously. He wondered why it would never callus after so many bruises and sores.
He kept to the schedule of sleep at 10pm each night and waking up at 7am each morning. At 7:20am exactly, directly following a trip to a corner to relieve his bowels, he picked up his brush and dipped it in paint. The bucket was divided in eight, so there was an abundance in colour. He usually chose white, since it stood out in the bleakness of the tunnel walls, but sometimes orange did the job as well. In large letters, he wrote his name, phone number, and the date. Maybe someone would notice, he thought as he painted in a vain hope of rescue, but more than that, he was painting for his own sake in an attempt to remember himself, to make sure he had not forgotten his name, phone number, and the date in the amnesia of any tragedy.
The train passed by at 5:17pm. He flattened himself against the coldness of the wall. The wind slapped him across the face and he turned his head accordingly. He thought he could feel the electric charge on the shell of the train, buzzing violently. When he felt little pebbles deflected onto his face, he dreamt of the high voltage spitting sparks at him, hissing at each other in mutual disgust. He always fell after the nightmare, but this time, he was too precarious of the dangerously charged tracks so he stayed on the wall, inching to his left until the tunnel widened.
When the mouth of the tunnel did finally open up, he found himself hoisting himself up to solid ground, not a sea of charring, black gravel. He turned and fell to his back, eyes stared up at the ceiling. He had expected another bleak, grey sky, but this one was different. The sun was a face of a woman, her eyes closed but her lips turned up in a graceful smile. The clouds were flowers, and it softened the intensity of her penetrating brightness. Her hands were folded across her chest, holding something on a chain close to her heart, but refusing to reveal it to him. How strange, he thought.
He turned his head to his left and saw a broken set of stairs, unfinished half way up to a tightly locked grate to somewhere more blue and orange. But each stair was a different hue of rainbow, each stair a different geometric shape in different dimensions. What starts as a soft gradient from orange to green turned into sharp black edges of a dodecahedron outlined by a glow of violet and fuchsia, which in turn moulded to swirling winds of green and teal. At the top of the stairs, he saw colours merge into the body of a human, his hands locked in a grip with art and his eyes open to the empty despair of death.
He realised his neighbours were rotting, their clothes tattered and nibbled at by long-teethed rodents. Bodies of the darkness rebels rolled in silence along the floor of the obliviated station. From the cracks between the colourless corpses, burst forth an explosion of artistry, swirling rainbows weaving together to create meaning and emotion in him. Their paint led him to a grey spot in the wall, surrounded by blooming flowers and trumpets playing loud jazz—all of which screamed the word: “Yours.” Taken by the hypnotic trance of the music and taste of paint, he dipped his brush in his bucket and began to create.
Stroke by stroke, the grey came alive with white sashes and green stars. The name “Yours” turned into a cluster of red lilies floating in sparkling, purple water suspended in the reaches of outer space. The music of the trumpets transitioned from jazz to an upbeat fantasia, a whole orchestra pouring forth from a tight brass bell, belting out an all-enveloping music that tied the grey in a neat bow, only to break out in new colours, in new shapes. His eye, his hands—they became a surprise, the calluses that never should’ve formed shied away at the sudden sensation.
Schedules were forgotten. The night passes away without his recognition, his sense of temporal spaces absolutely diminished in the blight of creativity. It wasn’t until the rattle of the train’s approach that he realise the ever constant passage of time remained that way in his period of lucidity. Intoxicated with the power of creation, he ran out with his brush to the tracks and waved his hands above his hands frantically. The train honked and slowed, and he rejoiced at their welcoming fanfare. He pointed towards the grey on the wall, now alive with his newly explored artistry. His manic smile was plastered onto the front of the train, and if his conscious was still awake, he would’ve said that was perhaps the greatest work of art that ever lived.