End of the Line Car 4

Tom McHugh's vomit cleared the carriage at Lambeth North. Tom waits alone by the door, still trying to clip on his badge. He hears fluttering and sees Who? beating his wings against a fluorescent panel.

Tom thinks of the bird as an extension of himself, somehow a product of the Pimms. Tom is permanently distracted, his access random. He sends out his thoughts like messages on the Internet only to find they get gummed up in his lack of bandwidth. They stall at some unknown domain, fluttering like pigeons in realms of light and noise.

Then he crashes.

The entire floor rises and tilts. Debendrath Karan's portfolio shoots down the length of the car and breaks open. The lights die.

Tom was feeling ill anyway, so he sits down. The car squats with him, to half its normal height, as if wanting to chat. The doors open in a new way, by bursting.

Everything is still and dark. Tom steps out of the doorway and falls 7 feet, collapsing onto rails. There is no platform. The carriage sits flattened on top of two others. Muttering about the level of service, Tom brushes himself off and walks down the tunnel towards the Elephant. The contents of the portfolio settle around him: forests in France, or an English cottage seen at rabbit-level amid lettuces. The pictures blow along the tunnel: a circus, dancing birds, and a view of a hill on which a holy fool once sat.

Who? shoots past him towards the light.

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