Blake stopped at the edge of the platform. An immediate pileup formed as people, their iPods insulating them from reality, suddenly had to deal with it. Blake took distant note of glares and mutterings as the irresistible tide of people moved around an immovable him.
"Please stand clear of the doors."
The mechanical warning, heard every day, multiple times a day, for years, intruded again. He stepped back, bumping into a woman who was making for the train.
"Idiot," she snapped as she moved around him. "Why don't you look where you're going?"
Blake watched as she reached the train. She turned and glared at him, a triumphant look on her face. The doors slammed shut.
The train moved away from the station. Blake heard screams as each carriage passed him.
He decided to skip the subway.
Blake turned to go, and stared. There were no "up" escalators. Both of those he could see were steadily transporting people down to the platform. He stood a moment, lost in the steady "thump, thump" the escalators made as they moved. A mechanical heartbeat.
"May I help you?"
Blake jumped at the sound of a voice right behind him. He turned. A tall man stood there, dressed in a Transport Authority uniform.
Before Blake could speak, the man held out his hand.
"May I see your ticket?"
Blake handed it over; habit formed over many years of commuting. The man looked at the ticket and handed it back.
"I'm afraid you don't have a ticket out of here." He smiled, a flash of teeth.
The platform was filling up. People stared ahead, heads moving here and there in time with unheard music.
The man tapped Blake on the shoulder. "The next train is for you."
He moved away along the platform. As a train slid to a stop, Blake tried to identify a strange odor.
It came to him as he was swept by the crowd into the train. Sulphur.
"Caution. Please stand clear of the doors."
The doors slammed shut.