Servants

Chapter 1

Falling down

The girl fled through Columbus Circle; her name was Eva and she had fucked up. Moments before she had emerged from the subway regretting every decision she had ever made, but none more than those in the last few hours. Hindsight weighed heavily on her in almost equal measure to the stitch that was rapidly forming in her side and the small star forming in her lungs. “What was the line from that movie? Rule number 1: Cardio?” That was becoming the dark horse of the race for current priorities. Her mental inventory began to cycle through: “converse, jeans, tank top, hoodie, snap-back, backpack, laptop, tablet, phone, chargers, 2 reserve batteries, multitool, headphones, notepad, pen and 3 goddamn external drives that could thoroughly go fuck themselves at this point. For all her dearth of prior physical activity, she still slipped fluidly down the street at a respectable pace. Her light frame made it easier to avoid obstacles, of which there were blessedly few, spare the bounce of her glasses rhythmically transitioning her view of the world from impressionism to realism with the drumbeat of her heels.

The adrenalin was beginning to wear off, she could feel it coming; the wire coiling around her muscle, the dull curtain enveloping her senses; but for the time being they were still keen and cunning. “Okay, plan of action: can’t run forever. Or even for the next 90 seconds; need to hide. Central park West? I’ll take my chances out here thanks, today is not the day I become another body people criticize the fashion choices of. The college, its on West 61st? No, it’s 2am that’ll draw attention and I’ll just be cornering myself in a tower. Lincoln Cent- The fuck…?”

Maybe it was exhaustion setting in, maybe it was her glasses, maybe it was none of them or both but at that moment that she saw something in the most extreme periphery of her vision and for no reason at all that she would ever be able to recall: turned toward it, not slowing down in the slightest, almost meeting an embarrassing end at the hands of a prius for her effort. But there it was all the same, or wasn’t. And it really wasn’t. It wasn’t a thing, or not a single thing. It was everything. It was like someone with the world’s worst case of OCD had stepped onto 65th and perfectly arranged every object to flow perfectly into every other one. The longer she ran down it (the stitch and the exhaustion ceased to exist the moment she saw it, as far as she was concerned) the more intense it got; like everything was being pushed into a funnel…that went into a subway entrance. “Well, back underground works. No facial recognition and it might take them a minute to realise I hopped to another line.” And so, she jumped down the stairs, and through the turnstyle.

A train was pulling in right at that moment; the 1. It was less than ideal, it would take her back to columbus circle but in the opposite direction. If she was lucky, very, very lucky, she could go by unnoticed. She seamlessly joined the flow of people stepping on board and found a seat in the emptier side of the car. An action so well practiced and ingrained that even it saying it required no thought would be too much. It was the antithesis of thought. Had it been even slightly more conscious she might have noticed the few things out of place and possibly reconsidered her position on the state of her luck. Things like the low hum coming from the tracks, how everyone seemed to be unconsciously drawn to the front of the car, the slight dimming of the lights as they started moving, or how the pattern that first caught her attention, lined up perfectly with the tracks and how that pattern wasn’t static, things were still being moved into place, and they converged somewhere ahead. But why would she? It wasn’t like these types of things were rare, half the subway was held together with duct tape and it showed.

What she did notice was that it should’ve been one stop to columbus circle, they should’ve been there already. They’d also picked up too much speed already. “Is this the express or something? We still should have passed through columbus circle though. No-one else seems worried… did they lay new track? Well that’s con-” As she was thinking this, a shudder ran the length of the train, jerking them all in the process. The other passengers were now a little less nonchalant, and had she been able to see their faces, she would have seen more than a few looks of at least mild concern; but by the time she had formed the notion of searching their faces, every source of light was abruptly erased. There was a small shriek of surprise from up front that was quickly and embarrassedly stifled, the woman probably thinking much the same as the girl. “We just lost power, that’s all; probably another duct tape job that should’ve been a replacement”. In hindsight this was a laughably optimistic thought; because it was at that moment that the entire train violently rocked like they had hit something and in the next instant she was blinded by a wash of light. As she closed her eyes, she could have sworn she had seen clouds and the ocean in that light. She was focused on the sheer absurdity of that idea, so it was forgivable that she was not immediately aware of the fact that she was now floating out of her seat and the car was being filled with a chorus of screams. Her eyes snapped open, wincing through the pain as they adjusted. She had just enough time to realise that they were falling rapidly towards what looked like an English village before she was thrown to the front. Her last thought before everything went black for the second time that day, described her experience perfectly: “Fuck.”