Tunnel Vision

The train car rattled incessantly, tossing its passengers back and forth with relentless instability. Blake was trying desperately not to have his brain dashed out by the divider between his seat and the car door. He checked his watch—3:46. It would be another fifteen minutes until the train reached his stop. With a sigh, he leaned back in his seat and cushioned his head with an arm. Four o’clock couldn’t arrive soon enough.

“This is Jackson,” the intercom’s voice rang out, “Doors open on the left at Jackson. Transfer to Red Line trains at Jackson.”

The train stuttered to a stop and the doors smoothly came open. Blake gave a passing glance at the boarding and departing passengers, sizing them up for lack of anything better to do. His eyes came to rest on something he couldn’t quite figure out. A person—if they could even be called that—clad in scarlet, whose shape seemed wispy and constantly changing, stepped aboard. Their eyes shone like blue fire from beneath a spectral hood which blocked their face. They affixed Blake with a cold stare and drew near to him. He didn’t see the blade they carried until it was firmly rooted between his ribs.

– – – – – – – – – –

Blake opened his eyes with a start, gaze darting wildly around him. His head crashed into the divider next to him and jolted him back to reality. He sat on the train car, in the same seat he had been. Cautiously, he patted his chest in search of any mark, but found none. He checked his watch—3:46. With a disbelieving shake of his head, he sat back in his seat.

“This is Jackson,” the intercom announced. “Doors open on the left at Jackson. Transfer to Red Line trains at Jackson.”

Blake’s heart dropped. Panicked, he rose from his seat and rushed to the other end of the train car, gripping the handrail with white knuckles. He watched the passengers slowly board, then watched the doors close. No sign of the figure from before. Then he felt a sharp pain from behind.

– – – – – – – – – –

Blake sat in his seat, irritated. For the he-didn’t-know-what time, his watch read 3:46. For the he-didn’t-know-what time, the train was approaching Jackson. At the very least, if he was stuck in a time loop which reset every time he was stabbed, presumably he wasn’t going to die. On the other hand, escaping would likely require that he avoid being stabbed, and his ideas were quickly wearing thin.

He had tried jumping to other train cars, but the figure always caught up. He had tried making a break for it as soon as the train stopped, but somehow or another they were always lying in wait. He had even tried pulling the emergency brake as soon as the loop began and bolting down the tunnel, but that didn’t work either. There had to be a way, he knew there was a way, he just had to-

The figure’s blade pierced him yet again, but for the first time, Blake didn’t immediately black out. For the first time, the figure spoke in a voice which made the very air feel like fire and ice at once.

“You presume much,” they whispered. “You, ignoble fool, are merely the latest pawn in this game of mine. Now, be a good mouse and get back in your trap.”

– – – – – – – – – –

Blake sat once again, trying desperately to avoid being brained by the divider. Had the figure spoken to him? No, that was impossible. His mind must be playing tricks on him after replaying the same events so many times. There must be some way out.

“This is Jackson,” the intercom intoned. “Doors open on the left at Jackson. Transfer to Red Line trains at Jackson.”

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