TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 41 (EXCERPT)
The body of the toy was dented in the middle. It looked crooked, no longer straight. The top part of the tin-wall with meticulously cutout windows was ripped from the sloping roof and had bent inward. The tiny glass pieces were gone, and the headlamp bulb was smashed. Both chassis were intact and still attached to the bottom platform, but because the platform itself had been disfigured the alignment of the wheels was lost. The perfection, the straightness, the trueness of the wheel-rail dancing tandem was obliterated.
That much Olesya saw in the slanting shaft of light that percolated through the rip in the roof. What roof it was, she couldn’t tell. She could tell it was above her, although she couldn’t feel her feet touching anything. They were suspended in mid-air. She was suspended in mid-air.
What she saw was a slice, a thin sliver of time put on pause.
I’m falling. And it’s falling with me.
Olesya thought it peculiar that she could glimpse her surroundings in such extraordinary detail, as if she was gazing around for hours, inspecting every shade of color, every shadow, every particle of every object. Curvy, plump, steaming. Pipes, cisterns, long tanks full of sloshing liquid, hissing cranks, groaning levers. There were displays behind glass with black numbers decaled over sweaty plastic. Black, and then red. Red needle pushing the upper “emergency” section, dancing her little frantic ballet.
I’m in the engine, in the engine compartment, and it’s failing. The driving mechanism, whatever all those parts are. They’re damaged and it’s—
A vicious blare, a blow of compressed air pushed through the horn with tremendous urgency, signaled the end of this bizarre intermission. All at once the world sprung into sharp focus, knocking Olesya out of her trance.
She heard the metallic chink as the toy dropped on a steel plate. She heard the groan of metal and the scrape of the wheels against the rails, and the struggle of the engine, the cough, the clatter, the burble of two voices overlapping each other, the mechanical one, the human one. Her father’s voice, moaning, spluttering. And just before she hit the floor, hit it hard with her bad shoulder, she heard the most disturbing sound that made her shudder.
Someone blatted. A child. A little boy. It came in irregular gushes, heart-wrenching, gulping, hiccupping.
Searing pain shot through Olesya on impact, cooking her brain in agony. She cried out, voiding herself. Warm wetness trickled down her thighs, sluicing their marmoreal coldness with this unexpected comfort. Her head connected with the grated steel and she sensed a change in space. The gravity seized working properly. It flipped up and sideways, and Olesya slid and bumped into a rank of spiny tanks.
(Photo by Sarah Hoey.)