Trapped in the subterranean after hours. Can’t get out. Lost my ticket and now I can’t get out. I try banging on the window of the information desk, but the guards have already gone home. I yell as loudly as I can, but nobody replies. My bladder is full and my stomach is empty, but I can only fix one of these. I find the darkest corner and relieve myself. There’s nowhere to wash my hands, and the faint smell of urine disperses across the platform. Maybe I have diabetes. I check the time on my watch, but the second hand is just clicking over, seizing. This is the third time in two weeks that I’ve had to take my watch in for repairs. My backpack forms an adequate pillow substitute, after shuffling and sorting the items by density. I wonder whether the cold, hard bench might actually be good for my posture.
I wake up still hungry, and reluctantly forage for food in the bin. Among various empty cola bottles and containers, there is a corned beef sandwich doused in milky Earl Grey. I don’t like corned beef, but I do like Earl Grey. I pick off the beef and eat just the milked bread with pickle relish, with little relish. Marginally sated, I wipe my hands on my trousers and am seated. The watch is still clicking away, still reading 3:14:12. Is that AM or PM? Nothing has changed, so I lie back down.
After getting some more sleep, I feel restless. I take another walk around the station looking for emergency exits, but there is nothing except a drying pool of urine in some dark corner. With nothing else to do, it might be worth walking to the next station to check: there haven’t been any trains since I’ve been here, so it’s probably safe. I grab my backpack and jump down onto the tracks. I guess east is that way. I’m at Martin Place now, so I’ll head southwest towards home – towards Leichhardt. The tunnel gets dark quickly and it smells like carbon monoxide and concrete. Or maybe sulphur; isn’t carbon monoxide supposed to be odourless? I keep walking, searching for exits on the side of the tunnel. After half a kilometre, I see what must be the light of old Town Hall, and keep walking. When I reach the platform, I throw my backpack up and clamber up after it.
There are ticketed entrances and exits; an empty information desk; a cold, hard bench; a bin filled with various empty cola bottles and containers; and a dark, possibly urine-pooled corner. Basically, old Town Hall subter looks like any other subterranean station at this time of night. I search in the bin and find another milked bread sandwich, and lie down to sleep on the bench.
* * * * *
A sudden gust of moving air, and I am awake. There are a few people standing and waiting on the platform, while the train enters, slows, and opens its doors. The train leaves again after gaining new passengers, losing none. I stand up and crack my neck, walking up to the now-manned information desk. I can see him in there, talking on the phone. Should I wait? I tap on the window anyway, but he doesn’t notice. I guess I’ll wait. He puts the phone down, I bang on the window, but he’s ignoring me. I yell “I’m stuck!” but he doesn’t flinch. I guess you’d get pretty good at ignoring people, in a job like that. I’m annoyed, but I figure I might as well wait for the next train to Leichhardt subter anyway. I don’t have to wait long.
There are ticketed entrances and exits; a manned information desk; a cold, hard bench; a bin filled with various empty cola bottles and containers; and a dark, possibly urine-pooled corner. In other words, Leichhardt subter looks like any other subter at this time of day. I hop off the train with a few others, and rap on the window of the information desk. No answer. I approach another passenger waiting to swipe out at the exit gate. “Can you help me, please?” They are ignoring me. “Excuse me.” They are all ignoring me. They must think I’m homeless, or begging for money. “I just need to exit, please.” The line moves on, they exit the station, they leave me behind.
It’s not too bad. It’s early, and trains will become more regular soon, with more people who can help. In the meantime, I’ll just check the bin for another milked bread sandwich. That was a particularly good milked bread sandwich.
Many trains come, but nobody will help me, or even talk to me. I decide that the next person I see, I will shove them and steal their ticket. I will kick their face in and ignore their pleas for help, as others have ignored mine.
A train arrives, and a man gets off. “Excuse me, can you help?” I ask.
I am tired now, and lie down on the cold, hard bench. I fall asleep almost immediately. I wake up, trapped in the subterranean after hours. I urinate in the darkest corner, and eat a milked bread sandwich. Tomorrow, someone will let me out.