On December 30th, 2017, all of this changed. A Queens-bound J local train derailed between the Myrtle Avenue and Kosciuszko Street stations, at least it was listed as such. The train was traveling at five miles per hour and the track running between the stations was elevated above ground so a true derailment would have resulted in a jack-knifing of the train, sending cars toppling into buildings and the street below. Since the train had just departed Myrtle Avenue it hadn’t reached its average speed of thirty miles per hour, which probably saved the lives of the train crew, the one hundred and fifty-four passengers and pedestrians below. The truth was an event occurred within the fourth car from the front that caused it to cant several degrees, lifting one side of its wheels slightly off the track.
The incident happened roughly eleven thirty in the evening, in a car that suffered mechanical issues with the doors not responding to controls. Passengers were asked to move to one of the adjoining cars as the train crew locked down the faulty car, which was preferable to taking the entire train out of service. While the latter would have resulted in fewer injuries in hindsight, the action taken meant luckily there were no fatalities within the car in question.
According to eyewitness reports, as the train was leaving the station there was a slight rocking that might not have raised any alarm had it not been for a passenger, illegally standing outside the train between the fourth and fifth cars. He claimed he was not riding between cars to urinate, despite statements from other passengers that when the man rushed back into the fifth car, his fly was undone and his right pant leg was wet. The man yanked the emergency brake cord, yelling, “It’s a bomb! We’re gonna die!” At first, the other passengers were angered by the seeming lunatic but one of them looked through the windowed door into the fourth car and confirmed, “We gotta get out of here!” This statement caused a panic as passengers pushed and shoved one another to get through the door at the other end of the car. Fear spread like wildfire throughout the train as the fifth car passengers forced their way through car after car inciting their fellow passengers with speculations of another New York City terrorist attack. Eventually, the eighth and final car was jam-packed with passengers eager to escape, who took turns trying to smash out the windows and pry open the sliding doors. The Metropolitan Transit Authority crew tried to reassure them everything was under control but it was far too late by then.
The MTA acted quickly in cutting the power of both the downtown and uptown tracks and passengers were evacuated from the train station, some having to be rescued off the tracks when they had fallen between cars during the passenger stampede. Of the one hundred and fifty-four passengers all but seventeen were sent to the hospital with injuries sustained from the panic resulting after the activation of the emergency brakes.
Despite being told of the unlikelihood of the incident being a terrorist attack when the police and fire departments arrived it was investigated as such. From the outside, the only sign of distress to the fourth subway car was the bloating on one side that pushed against the station platform which caused it to cant. The initial thought was an improperly detonated explosive device. The inside of the car told a different story. On the side facing the platform, striations ran along its entire length, floor to ceiling. One investigator reported, “It was like looking at stretch marks on a pregnant belly from the inside out.” Another investigator thought the striations looked like watermarks, as if tides over the course of years had pushed against the car wall at decreasing levels. What the investigators did not find were signs of an explosive device, evidence of human tampering or vandalism, or even traces of unusual and/or toxic chemicals or gas.
The train was taken out of service and at the train yard, engineers were at a loss to explain the condition of the fourth car but one of the engineers knew a colleague who was a theoretical physicist who was more than happy to take a look and venture a supposition. And though the visiting expert was fascinated by his own findings, the MTA was less so. Somehow, a passage from his report was leaked online in which he wrote, “The investigator who said these striations looked like watermarks was closer than he realized, only these aren’t watermarks, they’re timemarks. I’m willing to wager that the metal between these linear marks are of a different age than the metal within the marks themselves.”
It did not take long for public opinion to link this new piece of evidence to the subway shroud, but now the theories shifted from it being a monster or alien to a time machine. The shroud now claimed responsibility for train delays, subway accidents, and even missing persons who were last spotted riding the rails.
And just as before, a new series of speculation threads, fan fiction stories and memes cropped up seemingly overnight. One clever NYU film student who beat everyone to the punch created a Doctor Who-inspired web series about a time-traveling subway rider with a quantum Metrocard, who encountered the likes of Agatha Christie, Leo Tolstoy, and Leji Matsumoto while solving train-based mysteries. Shortly after, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article about the filmmaker currently being in talks with Steven Spielberg to take the show to network.
To be continued…
“Is he still at it?” you ask and my reply is, “Damn skippy!” Welcome to Week 3 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite. I still have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.
So, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.
©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys