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Cerberus

by Koray Birenheide


The woman stepped off the subway train. She stepped onto the platform again and again, day after day but today. Today, far away, were her thoughts, were ensnared. And when her shoes connected, she knew she had erred. The platform was wrong, the station was wrong, but the door, it had closed, and the train, it was gone.

And there were many people, wearing no faces and suits made from gray. They were standing and waiting; they were waiting for trains.

The woman, she shivered, and turned with a sigh, and she looked for her train, for she, at least, had eyes. The platform was grimy and facing the rails, which led into tunnels traversed by the trains. The screeching of iron from wheels on the tracks had dusted the walls with silver-gray specks. There were stairs right behind her, leading to the unknown, one set leading up, one set leading down, and the station, a cavern, would quake with the trains, which roared through the tunnels, rasping metalline grains. They had tired of stopping, this the woman could tell, she was trapped in the station, in this cavernous hell. All alone, among the faceless; they were crowding her now, bereft of all graces, bearing bodily down.

And then came the hands. They were horrible hands. Ravenous, rancorous, ravaging hands. Greedy and hungry and slimy and ill. And as they converged, she would shake with a chill, would turn here, would turn there, try to squeeze out of the snare. And with elbows and knees aiming squarely to prong, she pushed, full of fear, through the unfeeling throng.

The hands were still there, they could slither like snakes, moved like sharks through the masses, unperturbed by the quakes. And the trains would not stop, there was no way back home, and the stairs that led up, they were blocked by the throng. So, she turned to the left, to the stairs down below. Made to flee to the shadows, and left behind the pale glow of the world in between, of its restless trains and the evil hands’ sheen.

And it turned quiet. And it turned dark. There were no lights on the stairs nor any quaking above. But the hands, they were gone, and the woman heaved a sigh. She felt for the railing, had to settle for the wall, and she stepped down the stairs’ subterranean night, fearing that she might stumble and fall. Until she saw a light: She saw two lights. They turned up towards her, lamps in the night. The lights were alive. They were lights made to guide. As they closed in on her, she could make out a form: A slender, tall dog, with a back broad and strong. Its eyes were aglow, searchlights in sockets, now lighting the way below. It had turned tenderly, illuminating the stairs, her path now incandescent and safe to traverse. So, she sighed her thanks, and stepped further down, and she followed her guide to the platforms; but there were none around.

There were stairs upon stairs, leading downward and down, but she had descended too far, far too far to return. And to follow the lights, had become her only concern. And when the dog stopped to sit on the stairs, she knew that the end was finally there, and just a bit further, the walls opened up and the stairs led outside. They led down, all the way, yet below the station was a sky, a sky that was gray. And a desert below it, a gray, sandy waste. And she stopped.

The stairs ended at the bottom, disembogued onto a black marble floor: Three by three tiles, polished and wide, and it felt to the woman as if she had been here before… Behind her, the dog sat patiently, his labor now done. And though there was light here, his eyes brightly shone.

Slowly, she completed her lengthy descent. The hands were far away now, her flight at an end. She walked across the marble floor, and, before the desert, saw two statues flanking her path. Their faces were shrouded, their features were dark. And wrapped arms of granite extended a bowl, each, two vessels, filled with silvery coins within her reach. And she knew, that this was the fare. She stood right before them, but her bag wasn’t there. The hands, they had pilfered and picked through her things, and she had no belongings, no silver to bring. So, there she stood. There she stood and shook. She shivered and shook. There was no turnstile, no bar in between, just expectant gargoyles and the shame she could feel. But she swallowed it down and dared a step. She stepped past the statues, determined not to look back.

She stepped onto the sands. The woman had escaped the hungering hands. But her shadow expanded, it stretched terribly far, as a light from behind her demanded she turn. The dog on the stairs had grown monstrous in size, and it was staring right at her with bright, burning eyes. Its features now twisted, it emitted a sound, no longer a dog, a gargantuan hound: Heeeeeeuuuuuuu! It boomed, not a howl, not a scream, but a whistle with the force of nightmarish, horrible dreams.

It rushed down the stairs with unstoppable speed, rushed past the statues without any heed. The white lights, unerring, they spotted their goal, the thing parted its maw and devoured her whole.


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©2017-2022, Koray Birenheide

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