"The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flâneur as phantasmagoria-now a landscape, now a room.”― Walter Benjamin
There are seldom tales of verisimilitude that stir the mind impigrously, into such an irrepressible trepidation and incredulity that are twofold in nature. Therein is, the mystery of that dauntless episode of which terror is delusively manifest and prescited. Is the heightened allusion of fright so tangible that it no longer remains an unnoticeable soul of an apparition of surreal constitution? What if the actual concept of horror that is known has no unlimited boundary and is fully evasive to the absorptive eventuality of the existential realm of reality?
However, the pervasive presence of evil does not preclude the logical course of that unannounced occurrence so seemingly. Horror is forever linked to the expeditious apprehension of our inexplicable phantasmagorias demonstrated and observed. What may appear beyond comprehension is not fathomless, when a mere escapade by train can easily become, a vivid image of that unrestrained terror of nonpareil evolving ante-mortem.
The extraordinary capacity of the human mind can be equated to many episodes of innumerable cases that are unaccountable and left for the secrets of unpardonable iniquities of those who tarry anonymously. What we fail to discern by the naked eye, can be extremely active in the world that binds us to the misleading conundrum that derives afterward, when the mind is vulnerable at its highest state of consciousness.
In the year 1870, an innovative inventor by the name of Alfred Ely Beach had developed New York City's first genuine subway, which was a one-stop transit line, whose passenger car was propelled by simple pneumatic power. Then in the year of October 27, 1904, the New York subway opened to the general public present, as the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, opened nearly ten miles of underground subway line that had 28 stations, which ran north. Thus, 150, 000 people rode that first subway line that ran from City Hall to 145 Street and Broadway. The subway line was intended to alleviate the influx and imminution of heavy traffic that congested the populated streets of the city, and permit the New Yorkers to commute from one area of the city to another, exploiting the main streets of the busy center that were transited by many inhabitants of the city. Among those first passengers included was myself Ethan Zimmerman, a reporter, and native of New York. On that day the New Yorkers who had boarded the train would enjoy tremendously, the exhilarating ride on the subway.
The unique sound of the tooting and whistling of the throng gathered agog at the platform was clearly heard at 7 o'clock p.m. as the train had departed then. I could see women and children standing at the platform waving their goodbyes, while others waited impatiently for the next departure. I had heard from the previous day, the announced commencement of the new subway line, and I was fascinated and eager to experiment, such an excitable occasion of a modern contrivance never undertaken before in New York.
But I had never fathomed before that this trip would be a ceaseless nightmare of an immutable horror. At around 7 o'clock I got on the train and sat in my seat readily within the second compartment of the train. There were countless passengers of every background aboard. As for the precise number of the total passengers on that train I cannot aver with accuracy, but there were more who were waiting outside.
Shortly, the train began to move and depart from the train station, as the people on the platform watched the train leave. The day was fairly calm and normal, as the natural sound of the engine I listened to attentively. The discourse of the conversational manner expressed was quite audible, and the abundant diversity of the passengers reflected, the anticipatory excitement of the celebrated event. There was no indication whatsoever that what was to happen to me was ever predicted or presumed.
Of this experience I shall relate, only you will know of the veracity of this succession of events. The express trains of seven cars and local trains of six cars were to carry thousands to their residences, and during hours which the traffic above was rather hectic and monotonous. The trip in its entirety would extend to 35 miles in length, or so it was planned. My seat was adjacent to the rear window, and I saw the pleasant onlookers, who stood observing the grand spectacle that was foudroyant.
When the express train departed, I had sensed an unfamiliar variability of what was to happen, and it began to gradually increment at degrees of intervals. I was spellbound by the advent of the subway line, but nothing would have prepared me, for the inexorable madness that ensued thereafter. At first, the shutters and curtains were wide open, as the obvious curiosity to see the onlookers had compelled the passengers on the train to stare blatantly at the existing and gathering crowd, but then they were each closed.
The idle and voluble talk was replaced, with the serene and inquisitive intrigue that as passengers we maintained. I did not feel the typical dry and dampness that was associated mostly to foreign tunnels. It was reported by the daily newspapers that this was what differentiated the New York subway, from other established European subways, such as in Paris and in London. The woman beside me seated on the opposite seat was very fair with irresistible blue eyes. She wore an elegant dress, as her designer millinery overshadowed her congenial smile, and she carried a light umbrella with her in case of rain. There was no convivial conversation shared among us in the beginning, and only a token grin that denoted our arresting compatibility. Soon we shared an interesting discourse among ourselves that was lengthy and found a common theme to speak about, the miraculous growth of the city.
Afterward, the young lady got off at the next stop that was at 145 St. and thus concluded the engaging conversation between us. I was beginning to feel a soporific state overcome my faculties, as the earlier fatigue of the busied day had caused me to fall slowly, into a profound sleep that I started to recognize intuitively. I could faintly see the other guises of the strangers, who were the passengers aboard. Some of them descended, while others ascended the train, as the people came and went to and fro. The inabatable sound of their voices began to be deafened, by the whirring noise outside of the engine. I had yielded to a slight restive period of solace and did not expect to be burdened, with any imperceptible hazard.
My stop Broadway St. was the final stop of the trip, and I had no original intention of slumbering, along the duration of the route. However, the delassation I was feeling, along with the coziness of the seat had mulcified my normal movements. I was not accustomed to this humbling experience on train, and the more that time transpired, the more this eeriness had engrossed me with an incredulous uncertainty. For some unapparent reason the antecedent excitement I had upon boarding the train had mysteriously dissipated, as an incredible phenomenon was about to occur that would alter the sequence of events I had supposed.
I had often heard and was told about supernatural occurrences that happened when least expected, but I had never truly imagined being within the center of an evocative episode of an unspeakable foreboding that would seem endless in extent. I began to succumb more to the soothing effects of my dormant state facilitated by the lapse of time, and everything circumjacent was blurring and unhurried. I was then in that initial stage of uninhibited sleep, where the conscious mind although active is at the most susceptible. It is when the proclivity of the mind is interchangeable, with the condition that habitually perturbs the mind and is aligned to a cognitive dissonance, we do not acknowledge as an inherent frequency.
In fact, it is expatiated consistently that the unconscious mind triggered activates the subconscious thoughts of the intangible surrealism subjectively. Therefore, the exposed vulnerability of that contingency can be revealed abruptly, as an unbidden circumstance that at times does not apply to mere logic. The singular implication of that concatenation is what ultimately ignites the unquestionable phenomenon that terrified me incessantly. Hitherto, the boundless mystery of that outcome will remain insoluble, as long as we do not transcend that unidentified boundary. I was drifting more into that heavy lethargy, and I became more drawn to the subtle vagaries of my disquietude.
Suddenly, I was awakened by a screeching noise, from my deep trance of stupor to discover that I was virtually alone in my compartment. Judging from the queer noise and precipitous halt to the train, I had assumed that the train had halted at one of the designated stops along the way. Thus, at first I did not suspect anything out of the ordinary and remained in my seat ready for the train to continue its predistinguished path. I had attempted to sustain myself, within a certain placidity permitted. There was a protean adaptation in the tranquility I had felt beforehand, and this looming shade of caliginosity had emerged to infiltrate the train. I sat and waited for several minutes, but the train did not proceed, nor did I see the conductor pass to collect or check the passenger's tickets.
I had opened the shutters to look outside, and there was pure darkness, and no detectable sign of any passengers or train stop near the vicinity. This I had thought very peculiar and was not sure of what was befalling me. After a few more minutes, the train started once again to resume its natural trajectory, and my unnerving sentiment had subsided for the moment. However, I perceived that something unusual was occurring, as I had contemplated that oddity progressing. There was only one passenger present, who was seated ahead in the first row of my compartment. She was an elderly woman of petite stature, and was very unperturbed in her demeanor, until she started to weep uncontrollably. She was also dressed in all black from top to bottom, and had an especial veil of a somber pall that covered her countenance.
I began to walk toward her attempting to not be overtly intrusive in my patent suspicion. When I reached her, her back was facing toward me, and I was not able to see her face plainly. I had addressed the old woman as I stood in the aisle of her row behind her view, but apparently, she did not hear me quite effectively. Therefore, I approached her and put my arm on her shoulder as I spoke softly, but as I did that, she quickly turned around to confront me. Her weeping continued, until I lifted up her gloomy veil to see her face. It was precisely then that I descried her ghastly eyes of dread that were tinctured in a wicked sable hue. Her crooked teeth were yellowish and her gaze was daunting, as her obstreperous screech deafened my ears therewith. I walked backwards in a tardigrade manner, as the sheer volume of her forceful voice had startled me as well as her unsightly guise. Her unbelievable stare remained invariable and demoniac, while I was transfixed with a noticeable consternation. She rose to her feet and continued to stare at me ever so devilishly. I could not forget that ominous look of hers.
I immediately headed toward the back door into the next compartment of the train. A violent gust of the wind had entered the train, and the old woman had disappeared into that rapid wind, as she passed me by, like a bolt of lightning. Had I experienced an oniric encounter with a nameless ghost or was she an illusory delusion? If so, from where? When I reached the exit, the door was shut, and I was unable to open it. I knocked and then pounded on the door, as I had called on the conductor.
After a while, I realized that the conductor was not nearby, and when I turned around to see if the old woman was still present, she was not. I was all alone it seemed in the compartment. I then noticed that there was a discernible image of various hands that were protruding from the walls, with long sharp nails that began to scratch the walls irreversibly. I was taken aback by the indescribable sight, and a confounding creepiness had unsettled me to the core of my existing soul. There had to be an explanatory reason for this disconcerting incident that was comprehensible. It was not natural to surmise such incongruous developments.
My immediate concern was that I was in a perilous situation that required rational thinking to understand this precarious predicament I was in. Whatever immeasurable doubt I had became, even more dubious in its unmistakable composition. An intense desperation had encompassed me and caused me to break the window of the exit door of my compartment. I had cut my hand, but fortunately the gash was not a major wound to worry me much.
Afterward, I had opened the door that led on to the third compartment. When I stepped into that compartment, I saw a very bizarre image before me that I did not conclude its origin. There were sundry individuals in the last three rows of the seats, and I was tentative in what to believe. My intuition had impelled me to investigate the matter, and I did reluctantly. I walked toward the strangers with my pressing lubency to satisfy my insatiable intrigue to know the veritable truth. I had to know if what I was experiencing was not a casual anomaly that was materializing accordingly. However, when I approached them, they were extremely immovable and silent.
Surely, I thought these individuals were real, and not an abhorrent illusion, but when I addressed them I realized that this behavior was similar in pattern to the morbid old woman. Suddenly, the individuals rose to their feet, and passed by me walking out of the compartment on to the exit door. Naturally, I followed them, but when I reached the exit door they were gone, just like the old woman into the nullibicity that surrounded the train. I could not conceive the inconceivable incident that had developed. Their vanishing disappearance had alarmed and bewildered me into a frantic discomfort and distress that had no elucidation.
It was impossible to comprehend from any inference, the illogical episode that had eventuated unnaturally. The train did not halt, and there was only the darkness of the tunnel outside they could have departed into. It made no sense as a videndum, since it would signify a lamentable suicide. Perhaps there was another sinister explanation that I had not contemplated before, actual encounters with ghosts or the wandering dead. If this was the case, then I was being haunted, but why and by whom? Was I undergoing an inextricable confluence of two worlds of vague distinction that were manifesting in the form of a parallel juncture? Then the indication of that allusion was illimitable or abatable.
What was not determined was the fact that I did not know if it was an internecine or a consecutive action, within a methodical episode that constantly haunted me. Nonetheless, I noticed the conspicuous and phantasmal images I witnessed that were not fictitious. The nature of this unexpected phenomenon had to be measured considerably, by the interaction of two worlds that had co-existed. I then thought of the driver who was conducting the train. Indeed, there had to be someone steering the train manually, or was it functioning all mechanically?
Thus, I headed toward the front of the train in search of my indispensable response to my inquiry. When I reached the area, the door was shut but not locked. Therefore, I opened the door with a powerful thrust of energy. Afterward, I entered the obscure passage and discovered that there was no one conducting the train, and I was horrified by that startling realization. With immediacy I attempted to stop the train, and it was futile, since the lever did not budge at all; and the course was dictated, but by whom? For some apparent reason unknown to me, the train was running without any driver. This was the conclusive and transparent proof that what was happening to me was an abnormal circumstance that could not be construed as normal.
A crebrous image of the hysteria had increased my caprizant pulse that had activated the constructed fear that was embedded in my psyche, by a renitent danger that seemed to have no foreseeable surcease or respite. Was I stricken by the madness that was distorted in nature or was this nothing more than a harrowing nightmare that had forsaken me to the shade of the eternal world of the dead?
My next thought was how on earth, was I going to get off this train alive, and was this train ever going to stop?
I then perceived this sequential order of events, was aligned to my every action taken. However, I did not interpret totally, the indecipherable events that were unraveling before my own eyes so indiscriminately. It was mad to envisage that I could jump off the train at the disturbing velocity it was going, and not be either seriously injured or killed in the end. The unmissable problem as well was that the devised tracks and space were too narrow and lethiferous. I tried to assuage my inquietude and think how I could stop the train completely. I knew that there were unavoidable ghosts on the jungible compartments of the train, but I was not certain if within this outré episode I was experimenting there was some amount of reality I could grasp intellectually.
I had to corroborate my theory on the subject, and determine whether or not, I was only experiencing a hallucinatory dream, or an unforeseen evil that I had encountered unwillingly. The actuality of that direful probability however uncommon it may appear perhaps was connective, to my impending situation that was becoming unbearable. Thus, I paced the aisle of the compartment I was in, and cogitated introspectively.
The lighting inside of the distinctive globes that reflected off the glazed white tile of the walls was becoming dimmer by the hour. The wonderful ventilation that had comforted me once had started to permeate the air, with the disinfectant, creosote and odors of human origin. Once more the protrusion of the repulsive nails had appeared to scratch the walls, and this time, there were animate heads of hideous beings forming from within the sturdy walls near me. It was of a categorical horror that was quickly consuming my impression, and controlling my gullible perception. The thought of escape was converted into a restless obsession that I could not simply allay.
The excessive perspiration was coming down my face, and covering my hands, as I attempted to dry them in my hopeless despair. For a brief period of time, all I heard was that frightful sound of the engine of the train, as it passed by unstoppably. What was supposed to have lasted only a short duration had evolved, into an endless journey of unmitigated effects of agitation and suspense.
My only viable option was to find a drastic solution that was rational, but that was impractical, since my discomposing mind was occupied with the thought of immediate death. I closed my eyes to not see the heteroclite beings. When I opened them, they had vanished and were replaced by the sickening sight of rotting cadavers that were strewn, over the narrow aisles of the compartments. I felt like a helpless victim, and without any single recourse to implement. The speed of the train had increased by the minute, and I had calculated it was going at approximately 80 miles per hour. It was clear to me that either we were going to collide eventually, or this trip was bound to an undisclosed infernal station of hell.
The maleolent stench of death was insufferable and nearly suffocated me, as I sought to abate the temerarious insanity that was gripping me like a winding coil of a serpent. The constant images of dread had caused me to recoil in disbelief, and seek divine intervention through my frantic obtestation. It was an unearthly occurrence that was fraught with immense terror and jeopardy I was confronting personally. My hands and legs were trembling and on the verge of a convulsion, but I was capable of preventing my fear from overwhelming my will and body and I thwarted the horripilating convulsion.
The continuity of the noise of the progress of the train was still evident and loud, as the train sped on to the tracks of the subway line, with no direct interruption. I did not know the exact hour, or whether the morning and the crepuscule had given way to the invisible night. All I could attest to was the fact that I was still aboard the horrid train, and I was incapable of doing anything to prevent the definite termination of this fearless madness. My head was beginning to ring and be inundated, with such overpowering thoughts that were impacting my imperative sanity. I sat down for a brief moment to regroup my thoughts, and I had assayed to convince myself that this awful occurrence was nothing more than a gruesome and continual nightmare unparalleled.
Nevertheless, the distinctive sounds of the wailing and the laughter had begun to cause my teeth to chatter a bit. I heard a voice from behind me, and it was the old woman again, as she had emerged from her indeterminate latibule to torment me, with her teterrimous look of intimidation. Then she shrieked a horrendous sound into my ear, as I put my hands on my ears to not listen. I rose to my feet forthwith, and with my hirquitalliency, I had vociferated an emphatic clamor. She had then disappeared once again, and I was completely alone, with no other mortal passenger it seemed. There was no unconditional doubt in me anymore, and I had recognized that I was confronting a persistent and authentic evil that remained unsolvable.
The important question was how could I overcome something that was not entirely anthropomorphic in composition? Therefore, the purpose of my existence depended, on my actions and reactions. It was clear to me that the minacious evil was feeding off my undeniable fallibility and erraticism. Despite this objective conclusion it was yet difficult to detach my insecurity from my urgent confidence. And once again, I began to hear the strident voices and wailing from children and women unseen.
I was becoming more nervous and started to fret and fret, until I bore no more. I closed my eyes and had screamed out loud, hoping that the nameless creator of this perturbing phantasmagoria would end this madness at once. As I opened them next, I found myself in a fortuitous animation. I was in my seat sitting, and with an elderly woman across from me, who resembled the old haunting hag, with the exception that she was not an apparition but a human being. I was still visibly shaken, and the elderly woman had perceived my distress. I looked at her, and in particular into her eyes, and saw that she was not the horrible old woman of before, instead, she was kind and friendly in her cordiality.
The train had suddenly come to a complete halt and I escried the light from the glass roofs of the station. I opened the shutters of the windows and saw Broadway St. anew. I knew at last that I was alive and no longer in the horrific sequence of my infinite and sempiternal trauma. But as I was about to depart the old woman told me that some of us must die for others to live. I smiled and headed toward the exit, but then remembered that I had left my bowler hat that I had worn with my lounge suit on that day. When I had returned, the old woman was not there. She had disappeared like a specter into the mist of the thin air, and could not have descended, since I was in the line waiting to depart. I learned after my unforgettable escapade of terror that part of the subway line was built, over the cadavers of the victims of the Great Blizzard of 1866 that was the worst snowstorm of New York, at that time reported.