The Subways of Kansas City

It was a stormy Sunday night and I was out too late, hours later than I meant to be. Nothing had been open for hours, but I’d managed to drink and drug my way into the early morning. I didn’t want to call a taxi and there was no one I could ask for a ride, at least not without angering or embarrassing my family. I’d fallen asleep on a bus or something and didn’t know where I was in the city except that it was far from home. The late hour and the impending storm had all but cleared the streets, so I decided to look underground. Surely there was a subway line that could get me close to where I needed to go. I found a cellar door with a stairwell that led into a station, which was almost pitch black. It looked like a service depot, with hardly any signage except for a dusty electronic ticket booth which I swiped my debit card on and which spit out a ticket from a dot-matrix printer with perforated margins. The ticket cost me $16.17, but the route numbers listed on the ticket were unfamiliar. I looked at a map on the wall, but it appeared to be of an island, and everything was in German. The stops along the route were neighborhoods or municipalities I had never heard of before, including one — possibly the station I was at — called Abaddon. I saw no other passengers, and on the tracks different trains went by without stopping. Box cars, wooden crates, steel rail cars with no engines attached. I walked to the far end of the platform where a man behind a murky bulletproof glass window offered to help. I showed him my ticket, which he collected under the counter and looked at with confusion, shaking his head. He sold me a new ticket for $7 and asked where I needed to go. I felt foolish asking for help since I had never seen a subway station anywhere near my house before, or anywhere in the city for that matter (except of course the Amtrak station downtown, and this was clearly something much older, more surreal and subterranean than our nation’s official subsidized rail service). But when I told him I needed to get to Westwood, he nodded and pointed to a stop on the line that would let me out at Southwest Boulevard, a low-lying urban thoroughfare near the railroad tracks. The train should be down there in just a few minutes, he said, nodding toward the dark end of the platform. Would there be a sign? I asked. No, but you will see the other passengers. A minute later, an engine with a single cattle car attached pulled up, but no one else was on the train or waiting to board. It slowed down long enough for me to jump on, but sped up again before I could make my move. It must have been almost light outside by now, but it was hard to tell since the station did not have any clocks. I began to doubt whether I would ever get home. The other trains and train fragments continued to race past at increasingly faster speeds. A few moments later I was woken up by a particularly loud peal of thunder. The faint smell of soot and axle grease lingered in the morning darkness.