martes, 24 de mayo de 2011

Rats Take Over The Subway

Something moving caught his eye. A dark shape was moving along between the tracks. He walked to the edge of the platform and peered down the track into the gloom.

Nothing. Then he noticed the shape had stopped. Realising it must be a rat, he threw the empty milk carton to see if he could make it scamper back into the darkness of the tunnel, but it merely shrank beneath the electric rail. The boy looked up sharply as he heard noises coming from the dense black cave of the tunnel. It sounded like the rash of air, but not the sound caused by an approaching train. He glanced nervously back at the form lurking in beneath the track and up again as the noise grew louder. As he did, hundreds, it seemed, of small black bodies came pouring from the tunnel, some between the tracks, others up the ramp and along the platform.

He turned and ran even before he realised they were rats, much larger than normal, and much faster. He reached the stairs, a long, black river of vermin almost at his heels, and flew up them, three at a time. He slipped once, but quickly regained his balance, grasping at the hand-rail by the side, pulling at it to gain momentum. But a rat had raced ahead of him, and his next step was on its back, causing Dave to stumble once more. As his hand went to steady himself, sharp teeth snapped at his fingers. He shouted in fear, kicking out wildly, sending two of the bristling bodies back down over the backs of their companions. He lurched onwards, now weighed down by rats that had attached themselves to his clothes and his flesh.

He fell again, hitting the bridge of his nose on the sharp comer of a step, causing blood to spill down his face and on to his white long-collared shirt.

He kicked and screamed but they pulled him back down the stairs, roiling to the bottom with him, ripping his body, shaking him as though he were a toy doll. His screams echoed through the old station. He half rose and before his senses blacked out completely he cried for his mother.

Errol Johnson pulled the door marked ‘private’ open and rushed out. He’d heard the screams and assumed someone had fallen down the long Stairway to the platform. He knew it would happen some day - those stairs were too badly lit.

If he ever became station-master, if coloureds ever became station-masters he’d clean it up and make it a respectable station. Just because it wasn’t used by many people didn’t mean it should be badly kept.

He stopped dead at the spectacle before him, his mouth hanging wide.

Millions of rats swarming all over the station. And bigones, like those he’d seen in his own country, but even bigger.

His mind didn’t even stop to evaluate, He ran, without looking back. There was only one place for him to go, the stairs being cut off by a struggling mass of vermin. Without hesitation, he ran down the ramp and into the dark womb of the tunnel. His fear drove him straight into the approaching train, mercifully killing before he was aware of death’s presence.

The driver, who was braking anyway, slammed them on even harder, pitching his~ few passengers forward in their seats. As he emerged from the tunnel, the train’s wheels screeching in high-pitched protest, the scene before him caused him to react instinctively, thereby saving the lives of his passengers and himself. He released the brakes and drove on.

The rats became still and glared at the huge intruding monster. Those beneath the tracks crouched low as it rumbled over them, the squealing from its wheels freezing them.

The passengers stared down through the window, horror struck, wondering if the train had found its way down to the corridors of hell. One fell back as a dark furry body hurtled itself at him only to bounce off the window and back on to the platform. As the train began to gather speed, more of the creatures leapt at the windows, some falling between the train and the platform to be sliced by the grinding wheels.

A rat broke through the window of one carriage and immediately attacked its solitary passenger. The man was strong and managed to pull the frenzied creature from his throat. It tore at his hands with teeth and claws, causing him to shout out in pain, but he still held its neck and body.

His terror gave him added strength and speed; he threw it to the floor and brought his heavy boot swiftly down on its head, crushing its skull. He picked up the limp body, amazed at its size, and threw it through the broken window into the black tunnel that the train was now in. He sank into his seat, shock spreading through his body, not knowing that within twenty-four hours he would be dead.

The station-master choked on his tea ashe beard screams coming from the stairs. He spluttered as he tried to regain his breath. Not another fight. Why was it that his station always attracted hooligans on weekends? Especially Saturday nights. Underground stations always attracted trouble on Saturday nights from the yobbos and drunks, but Sundays usually weren’t too bad. He hoped that daft ape Errol wasn’t involved. Always interfering. Making suggestions about how to run the place. Helping drunks instead of booting them out. Where did he think it was - Chafing Cross?
Shadwell suited the station-master. It was quiet compared to most stations and that suited him fine. Of course it was dirty, but what could you do with an old dump like this? Anyway, it helped keep the people away.

When he’d recovered his composure, he slipped his jacket on and stepped out from the ticket office. Without rushing he ambled towards the top of the stairs to Platform One.

‘What’s going on down there?’ he bellowed, squinting as he tried to see through the dim lights. He heard one cry of what sounded like, ‘Mum’ and saw one black, thrashing shape. He moved cautiously down a few steps and stopped again. ‘Come on, who is it?’

The black slope seemed to break op into little shapes that began mounting the stairs towards him. He heard a train grinding to a halt downstairs, and then suddenly, for some unknown reason, the whine of it picking up speed again and carrying on through the station without stopping. Then he heard the squeaks hat sounded like hundreds of mice. He realised that the creatures were coming up the stairs towards him.

Not mice - but rats. Horrible big rats. Black, ugly.

He moved surprisingly fast for a man of his bulk. He cleared the few stairs he’d descended in two bounds and headed for the ticket office, slamming the door behind him. He leaned back against it for a couple of seconds, fighting for breath and giving his heartbeats a chance to slow down.

He made for the phone and with trembling fingers dialled emergency.

‘Police. Hurry! Police? This is Shadwell Underground, Stationmaster Green speak...’

He looked up as he heard a scuttling noise. Staring across at him from the ticket-office pay window was a huge, black, evil-looking rat.

He dropped the phone and ran to the back of the office.

The windows were barred, preventing any escape. He looked around in desperation, his gross figure shaking with fear. He saw the cupboard set back in the wall, where brooms and buckets were kept for the cleaners, pulled it open and pushed himself inside, closing the-door behind. He crouched, half sitting, whimpering, wetness spreading between his thighs, in the darkness, scarcely daring to breathe.That
scream ! It must have been Errol or someone, waking for a tram. They’d got him and now they were coming for him!

The driver of the train hadn’t stopped. He’d seen them and driven on. And there’s no one else on the station. Mother-of-God, what’s that? Gnawing. Scraping. They’re in the office. They’re trying to eat their way through the cupboard door!

(...) The train suddenly gave a lurch and screeched to a halt, throwing the surprised solicitor’s clerk on to the laps of Violet Melray and Jenny Cooper.

‘Oh, excuse me,’ he stuttered, his face red alerting as he pulled himself up again. Other passengers were in the same predicament and were now picking themselves up, some laughing, others tutting angrily.

‘Here we go,’ a voice was heard to say. ‘Another twenty- minute delay.’ He was wrong. They sat or stood for forty minutes in a state of agitation, trying to hear the shouted conversation between the driver and the guard over their intercom. Henry Sutton, Violet Melray and Jenny Cooper were in the first carriage so they could hear the driver’s replies to the guard’s questions quite plainly. He’d seen something on the line, not quite sure what, but it had been quite large, so he’d jammed on his brakes and cut his power.

Having decided that whatever it was man or animal, it must have been killed by the train and there wasn’t much he could do about it now, so the obvious thing to do was to go on and send a crew back from the next station. The only trouble now was that he couldn’t get any juice. No power. It could be that whatever he’d run over had done some damage to the train although he doubted that, A faulty cable maybe?

He’d actually heard of rats chewing through cables.

The driver, or ‘motor-man’ as he was officially called, had been on to central control and they’d advised him to sit tight for a while until they located and repaired the fault. But it was the smell of smoke that decided him upon his course of action. The passengers became aware of the smoke at the same time and began to stir apprehensively.

The next station, Stepney Green, wasn’t very far, so he would get them off the train and up the tunnel. With so many passengers it would be dangerous, but it would be better than have them panic in the confined spaces of the carriages. Already he could hear excited voices coming from the carriage next door. He told the guard of his intentions then opened the connecting door, to be confronted by anxious-looking faces.

(...) By now, the carriage was becoming less crowded as the people used the side-doors to escape the choking smoke.

‘Ah, now I think I can stand.’ Henry got to his feet and reached down to pull the woman and the girl to theirs. ‘I think we should stick together, ladies. When we get into the tunnel we’ll hold hands and feel our way along the wall. I’ll lead, come along.’

He led the two white-faced passengers towards the front of the carriage. Suddenly the screaming reached a new pitch. In the gloom of the tunnel, lit by the lights of the train, they could see struggling figures. There were so manyfaces out there that they couldn’t comprehend exactly what was happening.

Henry caught a glimpse of one man, still wearing a bowler-hat, disappearing from view beneath the window with something black against his face. As they neared the open door of the driver’s compartment, they saw that people were struggling to get back on the train but were being blocked by those still trying to get off.

Henry and his two female companions reached the small darkened driver’s compartment.
‘Now let me see,’ he said, half to himself, ‘there should be a torch or a lantern somewhere here - ah, just the job.’ He reached down for a long rubber-covered torch tucked away in one corner. A sudden scraping noise made him turn towards the driver’s’ open door. Something black was crouched there. He switched on the torch and shone a beam of light towards it. Jenny screamed as it reflected on two
shining, evil-looking eyes. Instantly, without realising his actions, Henry lashed out with his foot, catching the rat’s head and knocking it back into the tunnel.
‘It’s one of those black rats that the papers were on about!’ Violet cried in horror. Jenny burst into tears, burying her head into the older woman’s shoulder. Henry shone the torch down into the darkness and was dumb-struck at the scene before him. In the confined space of the tunnel, men and women were running, fighting, cowering as hundreds of black rats rampaged amongst them, leaping and tearing, their
bloodlust stirring them into a frenzy. He quickly closed the door and then looked back into the carriage.

He saw that the rats had entered the train and were now attacking the passengers who hadn’t managed to get off or had scrambled back on. He slammed the compartment door shut and switched off his torch.

He was trembling slightly but managed to control the tremor in his voice. ‘I think,our best bet is to sit fight for a while, ladies.’

They all jumped as something fell against the door. Jenny began to moan loudly, her whole body shaking fitfully.

Violet did her best to comfort her. ‘It’s all right, dear. They can’t get in here,’ she soothed.

‘But you must keep quiet,’ Henry said, placing a hand kindly on her shoulder. ‘They mustn’t hear us. I think I broke that devil’s neck, so he won’t try to get in. I suggest we all crouch down on the floor and keep as still as possible.’

He helped lower the sobbing girl to a sitting position and took one more glance out of the window. He wished he hadn’t. His mind registered a mental picture he knew he would never forget for as long as - he quickly pushed the thought of life and death from his mind. Below him was part of a nightmare. A scene from hell. He saw bloody covered limbs; torn faces; ripped bodies. A man stood almost opposite him,
against the wall, stiff and straight, his eyes lifelesslystaring, it seemed, into his own, while three or four rats gorged themselves on his bare legs. A fat woman, completely naked cried pitifully as she beat at two rats clinging to her ample breasts. A young boy of about eighteen was trying to climb to the top of the train by
pushing his feet against the wall and slowly levering himself up. A huge rat ran up the side of the wall and landed on his lap, causing the boy to fall back on to the ground. Screams pervaded the air. Cries for help beat into his brain. All in the half-gloom, against the blackness of the tunnel, as though the whole event
was taking place in black limbo. And everywhere scurrying, furry black creatures, running up the walls, launching themselves into the air, only stopping when the victims’ struggles ceased, and then eating and drinking...

James Herbert
The Rats

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