Bright lights lit the end of the tunnel and the station indicator beeped insistently. Alan struggled to open his eyes and pull his head off the glass. The train would operate automatically but it wouldn’t look good if one of the supervisors happened to be on the platform and saw him napping. The warning panel began marking off the distance – 100 meters, 50 meters – at 25 meters he got his head up and grabbed the rag he kept on the dash and quickly swiped it across the grease spot he’d left on the window from his hair. One of the tricks of the trade his buddy Dave had taught him years ago when he was first training.
Suddenly the dark cocoon of the tunnel opened to the blazing expanse of the Embarcadero station. The run under the Bay always lulled Alan into a relaxed and easy state. A long dark run with no possible obstacles. It was his favorite section. He always regretted that station popping out of the dark. He could ride that tunnel for eternity and be perfectly happy.
The platform was jammed. Usually was on the midnight run. Last train to Daly City. People got out of the bars and down the hole so they didn’t have to take a cab and waste a days pay. Alan sat up and got his head into the game. The platform was the place things happened if they were gonna, especially at this time of night. Right at the end of the platform two groups with flags seemed to be jostling. Alan’s field of vision telescoped and he could see bodies getting bumped very close to the edge so he put his hands on the controls and switched to manual pulling the speed down more quickly than the computer would have done. Just as he passed the halfway point he could see a young woman in an oversize red, white and blue jersey suddenly lose her balance and pitch down on to the road bed. He jammed on the brakes and felt the lock and heard the squeal of fifty tons of steel and flesh grind against the rails. The slide seemed to go on forever, the girl was getting to her knees and Alan could see that she wasn’t going to make it up and back to the hands of her friends frantically reaching down to try and snatch her up from the onrushing battering ram. The girl began crawling on her hands and feet moving forward like a crab and then standing and stumbling along the ties her feet slipping as they hit the edges. And then the distance between she and he seemed to reverse. She was getting farther away and he was slowing and stopping.
He hit the lock button, slammed open the door behind him, stepped across the passengers who’d been thrown to the floor, and made his way out the door. He stepped over a sign that said “Slovenia Rules!” and pushed his way through the throng that was jamming forward to see if what had happened to the girl. When he got to the front he yelled, “Don’t move, the rail to your left is electrified.”
The girl looked up and burst into tears.