The Closing Doors

Art by Cayetano Valenzuela

Mind the gap, please. Station stop is New York Penn Station. All doors will open. Pick up your feet, be aware of your surroundings. Now arriving Penn Station, all doors, all options open.

Mind the gap, watch the closing doors. Step aside to allow others inside the car. Block not the entrances lest ye be blocked. Law is inconstant, punishment for misdeeds cannot be guaranteed. You and you alone determine your path.

The Authority reminds you to keep all bags close to your person. Do not use electronics in public. Be wary of strangers, especially those whose odor or demeanor are different to your own. Trust must be earned, vigilance will be rewarded.

Station stop is Newark Penn Station. Now arriving. Watch the doors. Watch the smoke, be alert for small explosions. Keep your wallet in your front pocket.

Passenger advisory: Stations Litwin, Wolfsbane, and 157th Street are closed for repairs. Passengers for Litwin Wolfsbane 157th are advised to take this train to 285th Street and transfer for the inbound train making all stops. As an alternative passengers may disembark at next station stop and transfer to shuttle buses. Be sure to pick up a paper transfer ticket at the attendant's booth. Your card will not be charged for transfer. If your card is charged please contact the Authority immediately. Mistakes do happen and the Authority runs on order. The trains run on time, your account will not be mischarged. All errors will be corrected, all transfers redeemed in the fullness of time.

Station stop is Philadelphia Penn Station. Exit in an orderly fashion. Watch for tiny men with quick hands. Beware of perfumed women speaking loudly of trivial matters. Do not raise your voice, practice moderation in public drinking habits. Avoid vocal fry.

Passenger Advisory: All trains will run local after 11:18 PM, except those on the Circle Belt, which will run as normal from the airport to the expressway and back again. Circle trains stop very briefly, so be nimble. Vault gracefully over the gap, ignore the blast of air from the departing cars. The Authority advises only experienced passengers with newly replaced hips ride the Circle Belt. Authority disclaims all responsibility for injuries sustained after 12:11 AM, excepting only MetroExtreme™ cardholders.

Do not attempt to hold the doors. Holding doors can cause injury and equipment failure. Do not hold doors for slower passengers.

Station stop is Baltimore Penn Station. Last stop in this zone. Passengers are advised to don hazmat suits and avoid eye contact. No transfers after Baltimore Penn Station.

Due to a sick passenger, trains are being rerouted across the Divide. Please squeeze your eyes shut, ignore the bright phosphenes shimmering across your retinas. Visual distortion is due to changes in pressure and acceleration, lurching and bumping is due to routine trackwork. Keep all bags close to you.

So much wealth. So much poverty. Can you see across the aisle? Through the thick visor of your protective suit, across the miasmic haze? Avoid eye contact, clutch all bags close. Mind the gap.

Station stop is Mare Selenium. Approaching Mare Selenium Penn Station. Passengers are advised that only the first two cars will open. Please walk forward, taking particular care not to look down. The platform is farther away here; the gap is wider than before.

Do not use electronic devices between cars. Just don't.

Watch the closing doors. Watch them. Your card will not be mischarged, your ride will never be free. You and you alone determine your path. The Authority assumes no responsibility for insufficient funds, mounting medical bills, for indigent relatives or a disturbingly persistent cough. Your path is your own.

Mind the rubble, ignore the wheels sparking on charged rails. Once there was a station here, a place of stone where people grumbled and glared and leaned on pillars. Once there were people, air, a newsstand. The newsstand sold magazines with flimsy covers and pictures of celebrities buying groceries. Mademoiselle, the Wall Street Journal. Amazing Stories. Once there was a station, I don't recall its name.

Passenger Advisory: The Red Line is now the Rhomboid Line. Adjust all itineraries accordingly. Download our new PathWaze Rewardze™ app, which replaces the old MetroExtreme™ app. Accept all permissions swiftly, without delay.

All trains run local from 11:19 PM. All trains run wild from 1:56 AM. Hold tight to straps, fasten hazmat helmets. Do not make eye contact. Keep your wallet in your front pocket. Help yourself before helping a child.

The Mann line is now the Dude Line. The Dude Line is now the Bro Line. The Rhomboid Line is now the Trapezain™, except after 2:08 AM when it merges with the Circle Belt. Download our app. Step lively to the platform with your shiny new hips.

Station stop is Antares Penn Station. Mind the gap as you exit. You are off the map, off the grid, off the app. Step wide, take the longest stride you can and feel nothing beneath your feet. No air, no platform, no answers. No help as your hazmat suit shreds, your air seeps away, the warmth bleeds from your body. No up, no down, no shelter from the terrible cold, the final truth. Your path is your own.

Originally Appeared in: 
Issue Appeared In: 
Second Coming #1

Collected Editions