Tyler Wetherall

Underground (2013)

You go underground and join the crowd. A seething, heaving beast shuffling discontentedly through the concrete labyrinth, breathing in each others musty perfumes: the acid flashback to last nights’ garlic dinner, a faint odour of sorry sex from the morning’s masturbation, a fat man’s sweaty neck, the synthetic hunger pang of an Egg McMuffin, an overbearing Chanel waft like your Gran’s lost lace knickers, too sweet amongst the rest. A rat passes amongst a thousand monstrous feet.

The futility of it all presses upon you. Here you are, incubated in artificial light, one cellular mass, upon cellular mass, upon cellular mass, your outer crusts dusting the pavements and clogging your lungs until you cough, asthmatic from your own decay.

And yet you all keep moving. For what? To work: you work to create things, so other people must work in order to purchase, and so on and on, as if the sole purpose of work is to give other people something to do with themselves. What if you all just stopped? You’re filled with an overwhelming urge to stop walking. You want to stand still, just for a moment, and feel the wrath of those around you. They will be angry at first, angry for not keeping the creature moving forward. They will tut and curse, and tut and curse, with sidelong glances, shaking their intolerant heads and rolling their bloodshot eyes; ashen faces with bags drooping like distended grey earlobes will turn on you. And all because you have delayed the creature, the worst of all rush hour crimes, a crime against humanity, against everyone’s greater good, as if at that moment everyone were walking towards a common, irrefutable goal. It’s selfish to throw yourself in front of a train, you said it once yourself.

But maybe, if you just stood completely still, letting the people creature pass you by like flood water around an obstinate tree, maybe eventually another person would feel the same, would recognize your protest, and he would stop too, two trees amidst the mud brown murkiness, and another, and another, standing still, and then standing strong. Each one of you, soldiers of stillness, a sad silent lament for the sorry concrete lives you are living, and for times gone by when people still daydreamed in more than status updates. A revolt of inactivity. Your protest is to simply stop.

Your feet begin to slow, the rush around you speeds up to compensate, shoulders barge against you, and for a moment it seems possible. That one moment. But then you think of work, a billboard distracts you with Converse youth, you think of time, your iCal buzzes incessantly against your thigh, and you bat away these other thoughts, mere indulgences. And so you keep walking, back in pace, back in step.

The rat makes it through to the other side, and disappears into the black beneath the tracks.

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