1/20/12
Subway
By Eric Suhem


“Orange, red, green, blue, black, white, yellow, turquoise, magenta, brown, peach…” Ben was examining his array of crayons. “Hmm…yes this will be quite nice for my purposes,” he thought to himself with a twisted grin. “Quite nice indeed.” He got on the subway and went in to work.

Ben was an insurance adjuster. He was at work, and the silk tarantulas crawled across his brain as he toiled away for the strange, faceless energy waves. Occasionally, the energy waves would attach themselves to a management skull, and then move on, upon departure leaving nothing but a pile of task-oriented ashes, enshrouded by a sensible suit, dressed for success, or a Hawaiian shirt if it was Casual Friday. The tarantulas eased along, massaging their 8 little claws into his cortex as he tapped each computer key, or scrawled a line on the papyrus. With every keystroke, a portion of his life force vacuumed from his soul, sucked up by the strange, faceless energy waves, which promised to redistribute his electrons for the common good. Ben opened one of his ledgers and a swarm of black butterflies flew out. ““Yes, yes my pretties! Pay a little visit to Don in Accounting,” said Ben.

It was at this point that the Venus Flytraps slowly approached, having been shipped across the ocean on the anonymous freighter, and now carted into the bright white office by the nameless technician, ready to do battle with the silk tarantulas. The spiders were quickly consumed by the plants. On Tuesday it was scorpions, today it was spiders, tomorrow it would be Gila monsters. These were the things that filled Ben’s mind as he stared at the actuarial tables. At 5:00 p.m., Ben left the office and walked to the subway station.

At the entrance, he looked down upon a dark cavernous area in which small unisex figures were scuttling about. They wore dark coats and little hats, milling about endlessly in circles, veering lines, various patterns, constantly moving, but eventually ending up back where they had started from. The air was clammy, and the walls of the station were dark moss-covered rocks. There was a bank of eight pay phones located on one of the walls of the station, and once in a while, one of the phones would ring. Whoever reached the phone first would pick up the receiver and listen to the voice on the other end, which would usually say something like, “You have just won $1 million! Board the train to collect your prize!” Immediately, an empty train would enter the station, with the yellow destination sign above flashing the word “RICHES”. The one who had answered the phone would scramble to the train and board it. Ben watched as the others would try to board the train also, but there seemed to be some sort of invisible force that pushed them away from the subway car. The doors would slam shut and the train then sped into the dark tunnel.

Ben saw more tarantulas on the floor as another phone would ring, and a voice on the line would say, “You have just won a dishwasher and 500 acres of prime real estate!” or “You have just won dictatorship of a small yet strategically significant foreign country,” and the person who had reached the phone would dash onto the train, while the destination sign blinked “WEALTH” or “POWER”, and the train then sped into the tunnel.

Then the phones didn’t ring for a few minutes, and people became more agitated, waiting for the jangling bell. Finally, a phone rang, and an aggressive businessman, who Ben recognized as Don from Accounting, snatched it quickly. Ben could see the spiders crawling on the phone, as the voice on the line said, “You have just won your death! Board the train to collect your prize!” And the train barreled into the station, with the yellow sign flashing “DEATH”. The doors opened and Don tried to get away, but he was pulled forward by the invisible force into the empty car. The doors slammed shut and the train sped into the dark tunnel. The phones started ringing again.

Ben wandered out of the subway station, and walked down the littered streets. He moved through the urban sprawl towards the beach. When he arrived at the beach, it was twilight, and the smell of sea spray was strong. He found the long-forgotten box of crayons in his pocket. Ben looked at his array of crayons with a slow grin. “I’ve waited for this moment, when the crayons can be used to fulfill their purpose.” He pulled out a sheet of paper and began coloring as he sat on the windy beach with the seagulls flying above, the tarantulas disappearing.


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Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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