Authors: George Right
Copyright © 2013 by George Right
Why is this book named just
? Is this an error?
No, it is not. D is a very special letter. D is for Daemons and Devils, for Destruction and Desolation, for Deserts and Derelicts...
Down to Darkness, to the Depth
of Despair, Doomed to Death
Descend if you Dare
Thank you for your interest in my book. If you haven't heard about me before, it required some courage from you to buy a book by a new author, and I really appreciate it. However, you will need more courage to read my stories. Forget the Twilight Zone. Twilight is left behind. You are entering total darkness.
Some stories here are supernatural, some are not. You decide which ones are more frightening. Anyway, you won't be the same after reading this book. You will be telling yourself: "Well, that's only fiction... or maybe not?"
If you like (or hate) this book, please don't keep it a secret. Share your feelings with your friends, write a review in your social network or even in printed media. Also, your feedback is welcome at my e-mail
I have more horror, SF and fantasy stories to offer, so if you are an agent or publisher interested in cooperation, please contact me using the aforementioned address.
I wish to thank my editors George Lohmann (
) and Joanne McClurg (all other stories). Without their generous help, this book would have never appeared.
In different places it has different names. Metro. Underground. Tube. Subway.
Some stations look like magnificent palaces. Others more resemble a tile-revetted public toilet. Some, with many platforms and levels, bound by a network of passageways, corridors, stair
cases and escalators, are a real labyrinth. Others have only one entrance, which is an exit as well. The car designs, fares, personnel uniforms–all these can differ. Only one thing is invariable: the subway grows into the flesh of big cities, the network of its tunnels penetrates them from the center to the most remote blocks, like a blood system–and plays the same role. Any clot that corks a separate blood vessel leads to a paralysis of the whole area. If the subway stops completely, life in a city becomes impossible. And millions of people who daily descend under the earth through the opened mouths of stations in order to become a part of streams flowing through tunnels, got used to it long ago and take it in stride. At least, the majority of them.
Some, however, feel an uprush of fear.
What is the reason of this fear? Claustrophobia? But is a subway car more close and confined than a bus aisle, office space, or an apartment room? Tabloid press rumors about mutant rats, runaway maniacs or monsters hiding in tunnels? But does anyone take such rags seriously? Lastly, the idea that hell lies under ground? But, after all, in our time even the most naive believer knows that heaven is not in the physical sky, and it is impossible to reach paradise by a plane or a rocket–so it is impossible to get to an underworld through a mine or a subway tunnel. So what is the reason for the fear?
Employees of the New York subway, as well as of any an
other, of course, wave such fears aside with irritation. The subway, they will tell you, is the safest form of transportation. Accidents, especially with those with casualties, are extremely rare here, in contrast to the roads above where cars crash every day. As for the crime level, it is not the 1980s now, thank God, and the subway was put in order long ago. And even if something extreme were to happen, there are detailed schemes and mechanisms for helping and evacuating passengers. And as to ostensibly strange and inexplicable cases–that is a pile of crap, and you should not addle your brain with superstitious bullshit, but familiarize yourself with the real facts.
These facts are presented in the New York Transit Mu
seum at the corner of Schermerhorn Street and Boerum Place, or you can find them yourself on the Internet. The New York subway has 468 stations in operation and 24 routes. The total length of the routes is 842 miles, approximately equal to the distance from New York to Jacksonville, Fla. a whole, it is a rather complex enterprise which can easily confuse a newcomer. The modern subway is the result of unifying three previously independent railway systems, so it operates two different types of trains. Some routes are designated by letters, while others are designated by numbers. Trains of different routes can travel the same lines, while trains of one route can go by different railways, depending on the day of the week and the time of day. On average, the New York subway transports more than four million people daily. So its employees are busy enough doing important work and annoying them with silly questions is a waste of time.
Especially since the absolute majority of those millions of passengers who daily go down under the earth safely comes back to the surface.
The absolute majority, yes.
When Tony Logan descended to the 42nd Street station, it was almost 1 a.m. already. Tony's mood was extremely foul. To have to stay at office till midnight is not too pleasant by itself, and moreover, when it appears to be in vain... The buggy computer destroyed the work of several days (oh yes, all of us learned to make regular backups, and all of us remember it too late), and all attempts to restore information had also failed. Now the project will surely not meet the deadline, and then... "And then it probably won't be necessary to work late any more," Logan thought gloomily. "There simply will be no work."
The weather wasn't pleasing either. Since the September morning sun had been warm, Tony had thoughtlessly left home having put on nothing warmer than a shirt. But the evening dragged clouds in, and by night it became so cold that Logan al
most had to run to warm himself. His office was nearly on the bank of Hudson, and in Manhattan south of Central Park and west of Eighth Avenue, there are no subway stations. Tony needed route Q, and usually in good weather he went on foot to Times Square along the surface, and in bad weather waited for a bus under a bus stop roof–but now both options were unattractive, so Logan was glad to dive into the subway heat near Port Authority, though it meant walking underground a whole block, and navigating by numerous signs. The 42nd Street station, where as many as ten routes meet, is a good example of a station, or, perhaps, a cluster of stations, forming a real labyrinth where, without signs, it is easy to lose one's way.
Logan, being upset, missed necessary turns and exits sev
eral times. At one point he was bewildered to find himself at a dead end. He turned back, looked around, and noticed two familiar signs "Uptown & Bronx" and "Downtown & Brooklyn." For some reason, there were no designations of routes. Logan, who lived in Brooklyn, turned left.
Having walked a little farther, he reached a staircase lead
ing downwards, and began to descend absentmindedly. Mentally he was still far from his surroundings. Nevertheless, when something crackled unpleasantly under his foot, he noticed that the staircase looked dusty and dirty... as if it had not been in use for a long time. Tony even had a momentary thought of climbing back and checking whether he had passed, without having noticed, any sign announcing that that portion of the station was closed. However, as much as he remembered, in such cases there was always something more solid than just a sign which can be easily missed–namely, the tense yellow tape, a steel or wooden fence or other barrier. Since the New York subway, as well as the whole city, never sleeps, any maintenance or construction work is carried out on the fly. Sometimes it's necessary to close a whole station for awhile. So, considered Tony, here probably was a recent repair, and there was not enough time to clean away the trash–though this staircase did not look newly repaired in any way... Well, then, perhaps this passageway had been closed for a long time and now it is open because some other passageway was closed for maintenance.
He came down to a platform. Nowhere, as far as he could see, was anybody waiting. Probably, the train has just left, Logan thought with disappointment. At such time the next one will ar
rive no sooner than in fifteen minutes...
But isn't this the wrong line? Do Q trains go from here? There is only one way to the right of the platform... No, it is obvi
ously not the place where Tony usually took the train. Or have they opened some alternate way, and he has not paid attention to a service change announcement? The station, in fact, looked no less abandoned than the staircase, and it was lit rather dimly... The clock over the platform, however, worked and showed 12:55 a.m. No, he probably missed a sign and has gone down to some other line. Tony approached the sign hanging over the edge of the platform. Not only were any route letters or numbers lacking, but even the mention of Brooklyn had disappeared. The inscription said simply: "Downtown".
Tony tried to remember whether any route not going to Brooklyn passes through the 42nd Street station. Yes, number 1 comes to an end in lower Manhattan... Then, just the same, he had come to the wrong place. He moved back toward the staircase, but at this moment the train appeared from the tunnel.
Logan shuddered in surprise. He had gotten used to the fact that a train approaching a station announces itself by noise and headlights, but this one appeared in the black throat of the tunnel somehow suddenly. There must be an abrupt turn, Tony guessed. And in the following instant, he gladly distinguished on the flat muzzle of the forward car the capital letter Q in a red circle.
Yes, probably, after all it is a temporary change of service causing the train to come to an alternate platform. Therefore the signs were not changed. Well, for a New Yorker, such things are not surprising.
The train stopped and opened its doors. Tony stepped into the air-conditioned cool and arranged himself on a seat, only after that noticing that, except for him, there was nobody in the car. Well, at one a.m. it's probably not too surprising, though usually there are at least two or three passengers in any subway car, especially here, in the center of Manhattan. And, by the way, has anybody came out to the platform from any car of the train? It seems, no... And this is really strange for such a busy station as 42nd Street, even at night. However, Tony, after all, had come in immediately, instead of looking around and waiting for exiting passengers... But, maybe, something is wrong with this train, and it goes straight to the depot? Then why did it open its doors? Well, let's assume, to let the last passengers out, but not to take on new ones. But this should be announced loudly, and a subway employee should pass through the train, checking whether everybody has left...
While Tony reflected on it, the doors closed and the train began moving. Oh, that's all he wanted after all today's other troubles–not to arrive at home, but at the depot! Logan stood up and, grasping a handrail, moved to the left, to the nearest end of the car. Having stopped before a door, he began observing the neighbor car. It looked empty, too–but not absolutely. In the dis
tant end some Black man sat. Black not only meaning his skin color–all his clothes were absolutely black, too. Black and... disheveled, or something like that. Tony could not make out the details from such a distance. Probably, a homeless man in rags? More often homeless New Yorkers are dressed decently enough–not richly, of course, but also not in old, torn clothes. A few times, though, Logan also met quite classic beggars in tatters. He thought then that they probably selected such an image intentionally, and not at all because they did not know any charity organization supplying tramps with free food and clothing.
All right. Whoever that guy was, the fact that there were other passengers on a train calmed Logan. He returned to his former seat, wearily closed his eyes and relaxed, intending to doze. He needed a long ride, to Sheepshead Bay station, so he could fall asleep for a half-hour without risking missing his stop. Especially because stops are announced, which usually wakes you up and, understanding that it is still too early, you fall asleep again...
"Announced?" asked his brain, which was already ready to sink into a black abyss. Before doors were closed, did he really hear the classic phrase uttered by a recorded female voice? "This is a Brooklyn-bound Q local train. The next stop is..." No, not at all. Well, not all New York subway trains have this automatic feature, but the Q trains are so equipped. Probably, a malfunction of the loudspeaker. A loose contact...
Tony dozed off. He had some nasty dream: he still realized that was riding a train, however the tunnel was not a tunnel, but something like a huge gut, and the train did not roll on wheels, but crept, convulsively extending and contracting. It crept unex
pectedly quickly for this way of moving, but nevertheless it was not fast enough–as in the clammy suffocating darkness behind it,
moved. Moved, gradually decreasing the distance. Tony did not know what it was, but he knew that if it were to catch up, then... then... it would be more awful than any accident that ever happened in underground tunnels. Much, much more awful... He already felt
icy breath; he would like to shout, but fear had closed his throat with a spasm. And the train–or whatever it was actually–instead of rushing to safety suddenly began to slow down, as if purposely allowing the anonymous horror to overtake it...
Tony opened his eyes and abruptly raised his head. The train was actually braking, approaching the next station. And it was cold in the car. The air conditioner here was definitely over
used. Maybe he'd better move to the next car? Though it may not be warmer there... also he would have to warm a new seat. Tony ruffled up, hiding his hands under his arms.
The train stopped. Doors opened behind Logan. In the op
posite window he saw a ceiling- propping column, behind it–the counter way sunk in twilight and behind it–a hardly distinguishable platform. What station is it? It was almost impossible to discern an inscription on the distant wall, but it still seemed to Tony that he saw a figure 8. "Eighth Street - New York University"? But Q trains do not stop there. N and R, which use the same line–yes, but not Q. However, if there was really a change of service... Or has he nevertheless taken the wrong train? But no, it is unlikely the Eighth, there is a two-digit number. 28th? Q does not stop there, too, and more to the point–this vertical dash can not be "2" anyway. 18th Street? But it is somewhere on the red lines, and Q goes on the yellow ones...
Tony jumped up, wanting to leave before this train deliv
ers him the devil knows where. But the doors had closed already. He swept his eyes over the car in search of subway maps which always hang in every car. But in this one they did not. Ubiquitous advertising was on the walls, but no maps. Electronic boards showing the current station also were absent.
But he found that he was not alone anymore.
Close to the opposite end of the car, a child sat. It seemed to be a boy, and not older than nine years. He was dressed in a thick jacket and a knitted cap–perhaps too warmly for September, even considering an evening cold snap. But the main point–why is a little child alone in the subway after one o'clock at night? What are his parents thinking and does he have parents at all?