Benny stood on the subway platform picking corn kernels from his teeth with his fingernail. Unsuccessfully. He sucked and he prodded, but the little bastards would not come out. He regretted even more stopping at the street fair to get the corn on the cob, the delay of which had caused him to narrowly miss the previous train, leaving him to wait what felt like an eternity with something obnoxious stuck between his teeth. He half thought about knocking one of his molars out on one of the steel girders sticking out of the platform.
The station housed only one train, but there was another side, lit, seemingly abandoned, unused, separated from the functional platform by a wall which had small openings he could see through if he ducked his head a little. The tracks had been pulled up and there was no obvious way to enter, yet the city kept the lights on for some reason. Stairs led to the other platform, but they were gated and locked off. He tried to imagine where they led, but could not figure it out. He had often wondered about the other side of the station. It called to him. He thought about exploring it every time he was down there, waiting for the train, typically on his way to do something bad to someone. Its mysteries were attractive, wrought with potential magic, danger, and glory, but Benny had never summoned the dogged buttheadedness to jump the tracks and explore.
To his right, he heard the growing roar of the train hurtling up the tunnel toward him followed by the reflections of its lights on the tracks. He looked back through the openings in the wall and only just caught a hint of movement on the other side. Being a New Yorker he had seen his fair share of subway rats, and whatever just moved behind the wall was no rat. His interest was piqued. He looked back up the tunnel again to judge whether or not he had time to cross the tracks before the train pulled in. When his eyes were blown shut by the rush of oncoming displaced tunnel air, he decided that it was best to wait.
The train he had been waiting for pulled into the station and everyone got on. Everyone except Benny. The Chink can wait, he thought. A woman who had just boarded the train looked at him, surprise on her face, as if to say, “There’s only one train. Why aren’t you getting on?” but she said nothing. Benny, acknowledging the passing connection they had made tipped his hat to her. The train doors closed and took her from Benny’s life forever.
When the train was safely gone, he scanned both side of the platform for subway staff. Satisfied that no one would see him cross, he hopped down onto the tracks and crossed through the not-quite-man-height gap, careful to avoid the third rail, into the abandoned half of the station.
Disappointingly, it looked basically the same as the other half—central platform lined by tracks, stairs every so often, garbage cans, rats, trash, syringes. Normal subway features and detritus. The only real differences were the profusion of tags on the walls and the heavy layer of dust over everything. Not the black grit from the train’s brakes that typically covers a subway station, but the more common greyish-brown dust that covers a dead, unused place. He climbed up onto the platform to see if there was anything interesting on the opposite tracks. He found only more of the same old nothing. A train bed with the tracks ripped up. He wondered what train used to run here.
A sound on the edge of hearing echoed through the dead cathedral of transportation. Benny stopped cold in his tracks, standing still, not even breathing, trying to get a better idea of what the sound was. He could not make it out. Ever cautious when dealing with other bad men, Benny ran and hid behind a dumpster on the far end of the platform. He squatted there, listening. The sound was becoming louder. Footsteps. Footsteps from down the tunnel, growing louder, more clear. And not just one man. Two, maybe three all walking together down the tunnel. From his hiding spot, he could see clearly down the tunnel was coming from. And suddenly, like the birth of a star in a distant galaxy poking a hole in the night sky, lights appeared in the tunnel, bobbing, weaving. Flashlights.
Behind him he heard a new set of footsteps approach from another tunnel. He shifted around the dumpster to be out of sight of whoever was coming through the tunnel. Benny had spent enough of his life involved with nefarious sorts of characters to know that anyone meeting in an abandoned subway station was probably up to no good and that it would benefit Benny’s longevity to stay the hell out of their sight. He thought about making a run for the passage way back to the other platform, but it was too far away now and he did not want to risk being seen by whoever these guys were. He was in enough trouble already. He didn’t want any more.