Danger. That’s what the sign says. Door must not be opened except at stations. It’s like seeing, Caution: Contents Hot, on a coffee cup. If you don’t know, you deserve what you get. If you do, maybe it’s a way of getting what you deserve.
The train car is half empty. Between travel restrictions and mandatory shifts below surface, Sunday mornings are slow. Fewer passengers. Less security. I stand and hold the metal bar on the back wall as the tracks begin to rise. The creak of the near two-hundred-year-old wood floor is insignificant to the groans of the car as it strains around a bend.
The need for transportation saved these relics from being recycled. One of the many instances of our new reality after the solar storms. Steam returned to favour when our ability to harness electricity in a reliable fashion failed. Demolition is no longer a brute endeavour. Because trees no longer grow, the integrity of every precious reclaimed piece has to be maintained.
Two cars up, the siren sounds. Then the car ahead. The person closest in our car stands, and illuminated by the dim oil lamps, turns the crank. The wail continues on down the line. I shield my eyes, and we blast through to the surface. Even through the treated glass, the sunlight carries power. I feel it through the toes of my shoes.
I look along the rows of seats. Some of the other passengers have donned their goggles. All face away. Alone, but together. I prefer the former, especially now. The train lumbers on. I don’t have much time, so I step toward the door. Nobody turns to watch. I take another, grip the silver knob, then slowly unlatch the draw bolt.
The door snaps open and my skin is on fire. If not in a literal sense, then close enough to. I stare into the light until my vision is taken. My lungs fill with scalding air as I step through the door. My feet leave the wood floor and I am delivered to my fate.