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The Other Entrance

I was walking past the park in my neighborhood at dusk when I saw the pikes and green-lighted globes. A subway entrance, several blocks down the frozen sidewalk, which I had never noticed before. I found this strange; I had lived in the neighborhood for well over five years and walked to my station several blocks in the opposite direction every morning with my eyes half-closed, blinded by tiredness. I had stood in the purgatorial cold of tiled station platforms and boarded the steel trains with the other early morning commuters, all droopy-eyed and half-dead, and believed that I would always be shuttled into the city, crossing the East River like Styx. I knew both the dank, black stairwells of my station well, the torn-up street corners that they emerged onto. Had their been another one all this time? I walked down the sidewalk and crossed the street, but as I drew closer to those familiar green orbs and dark staircase, it seemed to draw further away from me in perspective, still seeming distant. It wasn’t until I came right up on it that I realized that it wasn’t further down the block, but was just very small. The wrought-iron ledge around the staircase only came up to my thighs, and I could wrap my hands around the green lights. Where usually there was the name of the station and circled letter denoting the train line, there was only a thick coat of black lacquer, impasto’d on like swirls of frosting on a cupcake. The staircase gaped below yawning into darkness, each step descending in miniature scale. Curiously, I lowered my legs down past the steps and touched the bottom, like testing out the water in a swimming pool, wobbling as I stoop up unevenly and gripped onto the small stairwell with my hands. I could feel a decent amount of space down in the tunnel, and stooped my head down. The tunnel was covered in white tile and fluorescent light fixtures buzzed on the ceiling. Horrified by the scale of this mirage, I ducked deep inside and crawled along it on my hands and knees, taking up the majority of the tunnel, like some urban Gulliver. The floor of the tunnel was dismal, sopping from the runoff of ice and snow, and my palms were soon caked in dirt and grit. In short order, the tunnel opened up into a vaulted, tiled room, where normally there would be machines for dispensing tickets and turnstiles. Here, the circular room was empty, the floor clean and untarnished by muck and detritus, and I heard and felt the whoosh of heat coming from vents near the ceiling. There were no turnstiles, but instead a wide opening onto the miniature train platform, flanked by rusted metal that looked liked the remnants of what used to be the iron bars of some kind of prison or dungeon. A red light, like an eye, centered over the amphitheater opening onto the wedge-like train platform glowed brightly. I rubbed my mucky hands on the back of my shirt and crawled forward onto the platform with little room to move. I turned my head down the miniature vanishing train platform and saw people—if you could even call them that. They weren’t quite people. They were children dressed like people waiting for the train on their tiny wooden benches, beside monstrous black garbage cans, standing up reading newspapers, wearing suits and little Stetson hats. They looked on at me, my hunched body and dirtied shirt, and colossal stature with unrestrained horror. One of the little men dropped his newspaper. Helium-inflated voices echoed out on the stagnant train platform.

-My lord, what is that!

-I’m not ready to die!

-Oh my dear God, will someone call the authorities!

Several of the men, these little Lego-people, ran toward me and began kicking at my face and shoulders. It hurt badly, but I took it like a man (retaliation just isn’t in my nature).


Aaron Lake Smith

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