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Henry Lion Oldie

The Eighth Circle of the Subway

* * *

...Eddy slipped into the carriage in the last moment and the guillotine doors shut with a bang behind his back. A siren howled and the train dashed forward whistling and rumbling, immediately picking up speed. Somebody cried involuntarily, having fallen on the pinned elbow rest. Eddy only smiled – this one would get off at the first or second circle. Or would die. The Subway doesn’t tolerate the likes of him.

Before his eyes flashed the face of that guy there, above – beaten, distorted with pain and despair; and his doglike glance up to a policeman raising his club. It was his own fault – he hadn’t crossed the road in time, while there was a green light – but still...

...The train braked even more abruptly than it had started, but this time nobody hit the needles sticking out from the front wall. Eddy pondered for a moment whether he should go down here, and this pause saved his life. A tall guy in a chequered cowboy-like shirt and blue trousers sitting tight on his hips dashed to the exit – and got himself into a break-mode. The door-leaves flashed and the guy was cut into halves. The blood gushed out, the black maw of the utiliser opened wide in the floor, and the body stumps fell down. The floor closed.

The break-mode works rarely, especially at the first circle, so until the next station one shouldn’t be afraid of dirty tricks. But there he’d have to get off. The strict rule of Death-Riders: one carriage – one stop.

Below the ceiling the ghost-lamps were blinking with lurid light and in this light all of the passengers seriously resembled ghosts. “Most of them actually will be dead soon enough,” thought Eddy. As for Eddy himself, he was not intending to become dead. As well as all the rest, for that matter. Including that guy who had been cut by the break...

Eddy had no time to finish his thought. The train braked at the far end of the station, but their carriage stopped where it was still possible to reach the platform in a jump. Eddy was the first who jumped to the platform, getting over the seven-foot gap without an effort. Almost simultaneously a young lad with a just appearing black moustache landed nearby. Eddy appreciated the accuracy of his movements in passing. A strong rival. You must have your wits about him. Who knows what there is in his pockets.

...The escalator ended abruptly, and a precipice opened behind his feet. Eddy was ready for this. Only a novice can be caught on “the gap”. He threw his body in a spurt over to the neighbour escalator, which was going down. The first circle is over. But this is just warming-up.

The footstep under his feet went down and Eddy remained hanging on the handrail. Behind him there was heard a cry that choked immediately, crushed by gear wheels rotating below. Eddy glanced around him with a secret hope – you wish, the dark-haired guy was safe and sound, hanging on the handrail just as himself.

The footstep returned to its place and Eddy let off the handrail. Just in time. An electric discharge went crackling along the full length of the handrail, and those who hadn’t jerked their hands back in time fell on the steps in convulsions. Well, the first greens are cut off...

Eddy jumped off the escalator, safely avoided “the devil’s ass” that opened in front of him and started running over the platform. The second circle began.

The train came almost immediately and stopped in the middle of the platform. It was suspicious, but to stay at one place was even more dangerous, and Eddy jumped in. Some people, including the dark-haired guy, also managed to jump into the carriage before the guillotine doors closed, cutting somebody’s hand off. Eddy felt pity for the guy, yet this one would survive, albeit without his hand – at the second circle the wounded are still rescued...

...The floor diverged and Eddy hung on the handrail again, along with the others. He had been right not to like this train. Now imagine a high voltage current over their hands!.. Then again, no, there wouldn’t be one. In the Subway you always have some chance. A small, barely seen one – but you have it. Only the Russians, they say, have such places where there are no chances. But the Russians pass even there. If they don’t lie.

And they do know how to lie. For instance, that there are no police raids there... The policemen, they say, are afraid to venture out. What the hell do you need such police for?! Or whatever they call it...

It was about twenty seconds left to hang till the station when a robust guy hanging near Eddy suddenly kicked him in the stomach with his foot. Eddy nearly unclenched his hands because of the pain, but miraculously, he didn’t. You fat son of a bitch... Eddy dived into his coat’s pocket and groped for a shabby gas lighter. Only a novice would ask for trouble on the second circle. And if he is a “greenhorn” – he will try again. The robust guy did. But when he swayed on the handrail, Eddy stretched his hand and struck the wheel of the lighter near the fat fingers clenching the rail. The guy howled and jerked his hand off instinctively. In that very moment the train stopped. Nobody paid attention to the cry of the one who fell down. The third circle was awaiting them.

The door leaves, glittering with sharpened steel, moved to the sides, but instead of a floor there was still a gap below. That didn’t surprise Eddy. After all, last time he had got to the seventh circle. Yet there he barely escaped being smashed by “the merry man” and he had to withdraw.

Eddy swayed, unclenched his fingers in the precisely calculated moment and fell forward, managing to grasp at the edge of the platform. The contact rail was dangerously near. You jerk! He pulled himself up and rolled over the edge. Ah, “the labyrinth”. The third circle.

The sliding paths were crawling along the platform, intersecting each other at different levels, turning and changing direction every now and then. Eddy watched this apparently chaotic movement for several seconds until he felt which way to go. He wouldn’t manage to explain how he did it; and he wasn’t intending to explain anything to anyone, for that matter. When Eddy jumped on the path he had chosen, the dark-haired guy landed nearby. Behind them there were three more. Yes, only three. That was quick, mind you...

...Eddy jumped to the neighbour path automatically, and a heavy press fell onto the place where he had stood a moment before. Skipping the next line, Eddy jumped to the far one, then to the next... In ten minutes he got safely to the other side of the platform. A minute later all of their company was there.

The train was already awaiting them. Everyone jumped in without casualties, only the last one lost the heel of his boot. Pure luck. He could have lost his foot, too.

The train had scarcely dashed forward when the light in the carriage went out. That didn’t mean anything good. Exactly! Sprouts of tentacles studded with suckers crawled lazily out of the walls. The octopus-carriage! Tough luck... Already the fourth circle. Eddy snatched the knife out of his sleeve and started to cut off the tentacles reaching for him. The rest were busy doing the same. The slaughter took place in silence and in almost absolute darkness; there was heard only the heavy breathing of the people and sometimes – the whistling of a knife having missed its target and cutting the air.

One tentacle nevertheless reached Eddy’s arm and stuck immediately, tearing his clothes and skin. He struck with his knife without looking, but this muck didn’t even think of falling off! With great difficulty Eddy managed to tear off the squirming stump, but his arm was bleeding heavily. He bandaged it somehow with a torn away sleeve and caught his breath. It would be good to have a rest, but it was still early – only at the seventh circle there was a safe spot, “the neutral”. This time Eddy was intending to get to the end. Just as these four. Actually, already three. The fourth one was lying on the floor, winded all over with greedily pulsating tentacles. It seemed that he was still alive, but even if one cut off all this – he would bleed to death. And still, a thin guy in eyeglasses – why was this student still alive?! – bent over the dying man and was trying to cut off the horrible cocoon. It didn’t make any sense, but Eddy involuntary felt respect for Eyeglasses.

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