Mr. Jones

G. ~500 words.
Another day at the subway.

Dirty, filthy and stinking. The stench crawled up his nose and nested. Tainted every breath he took, slid down his throat, curdled in his stomach. He’d smell it for the rest of his days. Rotting, everything was full of rot. The station, the garbage, the people.

Jones stood with hands clenching the case, spine straight, eyes forward. The benches by the entry were free. He ignored them, glanced at his watch. 6:45 pm. He should have been home by now. Bright, artificial light reflected off the watch face and made him look up.

The fixture was broken, jagged and black like decaying teeth. The next one down the line was dim, and the next wavered fitfully. Twitching shadows spread across the concrete wall and floor, the diseased death throes of something that had once been fancy, and new. The darkness spread, fell into the cracks, was jerked back again. Helpless.

Under the dying light, a kid played by a puddle. He tried to float a toy boat across the surface, pushing at it with a small finger. The boat mired in the mud, refused to move. Hopeless. The boy prodded it again, and it stayed stuck until he picked it up to try once more with the same result. Jones watched a moment longer. He wouldn’t want his kids playing in a place like this.

Murals covered the walls, pock-marked and dull. Support columns were chipped and broken, streaked with grime, crying dirty tears over dirtier skin. No, not tears. Sweat. All the hard work and sweat that had been put into building the station was slowly seeping away. He breathed and the putrid, underground air was stagnant. A line of cars rumbled by. Slippery hands clutched the case tighter. He met the eyes of another man, dressed in a cheap department store suit, his jaw tight. Jones averted his gaze.

The homeless woman in the corner slept soundly, a broken umbrella cuddled in her arms as if a teddy bear. She was a pitiful thing, grimy and forgotten like everything else. Worthless and used up. He frowned. Useless to everyone, especially herself. A drain on society. Someone should do something about people like her. Couldn’t she do something better with her life? She mumbled in her sleep, incoherent ramblings. The brown newspaper she had bundled up for a pillow crinkled and cracked, brittle like ancient bone. Harmless. He looked quickly away.

Jones imagined it had once been fresh and bright. The lights would have been steady, holding the shadows at bay instead of spawning them. The paintings splashes of colour in a world that was quickly losing its own. The tiles clean, the columns strong and complete. A guard by the entry, crisp in her uniform, alert and helpful. Students, businessmen, successful and full of promise waiting for trains that kept precise schedules. Perhaps the sound of friendly chatter between those who meet day after day-

The sound of screeching breaks shoved him back into reality. The doors of the subway car opened, and he stepped inside, facing front. He’d be back again tomorrow. On the briefcase, white-knuckled hands began to shake.

End

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