TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 17 (EXCERPT).
She flung the door open and, sensing a cold whiff of air drifting along the floor, pointed to the locomotive. “There.”
“But it’s off limits,” protested Mitya.
Olesya didn’t listen, drawn to the engine like to the magnet. The corridor curved, and she was upon it. The door stood ajar, yawning, as if inviting her in. She halted. Mitya bumped into her from behind, and Olesya crossed the threshold.
In the gloom of faint light seeping through the slits of the grille shone curves and bellies of the engine parts, pipes, tubs, cisterns. To the right a narrow pathway led ahead into the depth of the engine compartment. A single light bulb encased in wire mesh shone cancerous yellow.
The place thrummed with life. It was warm. It was pulsing. It emanated energy.
“What now?” Asked Mitya over her head, and Olesya gasped.
“Don’t scare me like that, please.” She whispered, tiptoed in and tucked the heap of clothes into the gap between a large round tank where some liquid sloshed around and a big round pipe. Her hand brushed the metal and she tore it away. It was hot, scorching hot.
“Here,” she pointed, “just shove it in.”
Mitya pushed the bundle into the same gap, gave it a good shove, and wiped his hands. “Are we done now?”
Olesya held onto the doorframe, terrified that the door might close any moment and trap them inside. “Yes, yes, please. Let’s go.”
When they stepped out, she immediately felt relief, as if the air was lighter and the temperature milder. The warmth behind her tugged on her, with greedy fingers, pulled on her skirt, as if unwilling to part. And she thought she could hear a heartbeat. In the quiet rumble of the idle engine she heard a pattern.
It was breathing.
(Photo by Rachel Baran.)