The pendulum had swung, forcing Olivia to backtrack in search of a new path into the loop. Panic was setting in all around her as a familiar scene was beginning to play out once again. Hordes of military and disaster relief were filing into the city while tens of thousands evacuated from their homes.
“These are only precautionary measures. There is no flooding at this time.” A trooper shouted over a line of people marching over the bridge. Olivia approached him.
“Sir, my name is Sergeant Reid, I’ve got to get in-”
“Ma’am, please exit this locale with the others.” He interrupted harshly.
“You don’t understand, I’m in the military. They need me at the tomb-”
“Just step back and start moving the other direction.” The trooper snapped, looking over Olivia’s head.
“You aren’t listening!” She stepped up into his face. “I’ve got to get in there!”
“Ma’am, my orders are to keep people off this bridge.” He grabbed her upper arm, hard, and led her to the precession of bodies heading away from the bridge. “So find somewhere safe to go, away from here!” he instructed, shoving her away.
She regained her balance and stepped towards him again. “We’re on the same side, jerkoff!”
The trooper’s patience had been tapped; he pulled his sidearm from its holster, holding it at his side, but in a threatening manner. The crowd around Olivia backed away from her.
“You’re going to turn around and leave this area. Now.” His voice was low, but it wasn’t calm; he was practically shaking.
“Arrest me, then. It’s what they wanted in the first place.”
Everyone had stopped walking; all eyes were on the standoff. People were shielding loved ones from possible stray bullets.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t have the means to arrest anyone right now. It’s martial law. That means you listen to us, or we put you down.”
She practically snarled at the stubborn trooper and searched for a way to best him. It finally dawned on her that there were an enormous amount of onlookers. Her gaze fixed on a young girl with terror in her eyes, frightened half to death. Olivia looked back at the trooper and then lowered her head, conceding the battle. She slowly turned away from him and joined the evacuees.
Olivia noted how many there were on foot. The amount of people that didn’t have a car and were unable to get out of the area when there was no public transportation running was staggering. It makes sense, she thought. In a dense city, you’ve got most of the essentials within walking distance, and there’s not much need for a vehicle when you can ride the train to work. Unfortunately, the tomb had given them a glimpse of what it would be like in a crisis situation, if the system shuts down and all these humans are stuck in place.
Sitting ducks by the millions.
If whatever is in that tomb really wanted to wreak havoc, it knew exactly where to position itself.
And then it hit her.
The trains had been shut down for fear of more flooding. The subway tunnels had been waterlogged before, they were sure to empty now. That was Olivia’s way in. She continued up North Milwaukee Ave. to the stop at Grand. It was one of the longest stretches in between stations, but the subway ran underneath the river before coming back up at Clark and Lake. She would bypass the checkpoints, putting herself one step closer.
Local cops were directing people away from the entrances leading down to the platforms, which Olivia would need to bypass. She moved, nonchalantly, to the railing along the side of the stairwell and peered from the sides of her eyes to make sure the two police officers were looking the other way. When the coast was clear, she swung her leg over the rail and lowered herself down. There was nothing much for her feet to grip below the railing, the sides of the stairwell were smooth concrete, but she clung to each rung of the railing until she was at its lowest point. Olivia looked down at the stairs now only a few feet below her and readied herself for the landing. Doing her best to touch down softly, Olivia scurried down into the station corridor unnoticed.
Each subway stop was well lit, although the tunnels in between were completely dark. In most cases where someone wanted to take a stroll down the tracks, it wouldn’t be all that difficult. Adjacent platforms were usually close enough to be seen from one to the next; all a person would have to do it walk toward the light. However, the journey Olivia was about to set out on was long and winding. She jumped down onto the tracks and considered the layout. It’s common knowledge that the third rail is the one harboring the electricity powering the trains, and if you didn’t know, the signage with the little man being electrocuted was posted all over. The third rail was on the far side of the tunnel so Olivia’s plan was simple; stay close to the near side, touching the rail with her foot every two steps to guide her along.
She started walking into the darkness, bearing in mind the distance between railroad ties. Olivia committed the length in her stride to muscle memory as the tunnel went black. Every once in awhile her toe would catch on an uneven tie, or something on the track would cause her to stumble, her hands instinctively reaching out to catch herself. She tried not to think about how many rats were surely scurrying around her, and the possibility of one running up her leg.
The air was wet and smelled of mold. Olivia could swear she could feel grains of dirt on her tongue when she inhaled. She pressed on without hesitation until she got so far along that the station behind her could no longer be seen. Nothing but darkness all around her.
That was when the claustrophobia set in.
Olivia told herself to stay calm over and over again, like a mantra. She shrugged her shoulders and shook out her hands, realizing they had been tightly clinched. Her pace quickened as she continually scanned for a beam of light peeking out of somewhere… anywhere. For a few strides, she lost her sense of where the rail was. She felt out with her foot, assuming it was no more than a few inches away, she found nothing. Olivia spun around in trepidation; the sound of a rat squeaking in the dark threw her off balance. She went to plant her foot and her heel caught on something, sending her tumbling to the ground. The side of her head smacked against the hard surface.
Olivia had known the feeling of being hit on the button and going numb in the legs. This time, when she fell, she bumped her head just behind the ear. Her equilibrium shorted out, causing her whole body to go limp momentarily. She reassured herself that she was fine, that she was awake and aware the whole time, she just needed to take her time getting back to her feet. The object she tripped on was the very rail she had been searching for; a small relief amongst a trying situation.
Olivia gripped the cold steel and pulled herself up to a seated position. She fluttered her fingers and toes, searching for any lingering effects. She looked up, even though all she could see was black, and imagined how much weight was above her. There was probably a skyscraper, or a river right up there.
What would it take for this tunnel to collapse? She wondered. She thought she was tough, but just one blow put her lights out. Maybe all this concrete and steel isn’t so tough either.
She got to her feet and made her way along the tracks again, calm and unafraid; she was willing to walk that filthy tunnel as far as she had to. Olivia had already made up her mind. She wasn’t going to second guess herself again.