Too big to be allowed

I don’t know what the weather is like outside; I’m not sure I even know what day it is. I am poised at an unnatural angle, with my head and neck craned to try and gasp clean air. But all the air is sweet and dusty and it makes me feel sick. Pressing against me from both sides are the foul bodies of men and women I have never seen before and will never see again.

I try to take my jumper off but my hands are held down against my thighs and I can’t lift them up. There is a bottle of water in my bag that no one else knows about. Even if I could reach it I don’t think I could tip my head far enough back to take a sip. Time seems to have slowed, and if I don’t escape soon I think I will die here; die here alone with these men and women who, it seems, are already only half-human.

Ah, I hate the tube. People only put up with the brutal conditions because, as a means of transport, the tube is so bloody brilliant. Imagine being whisked across the metropolis in a matter of minutes – underground! There must be a catch. Indeed, sir. The snag of every excursion is that you are required to rub your freshly flannelled face into the grotesque, sweaty breasts of the world’s most unclean man.

They should have showers at the exits, although any such sensible move to try and improve conditions of hygiene and comfort might make each tube station seem rather too much like a voluntary extermination chamber, used only by people who hoped they hadn’t survived the journey because now they have to go to the office.

London, on the whole, is rather ridiculous and if you think about it too hard it makes you laugh nervously. It’s like a weird experiment that’s gone on for too long and now it can’t be stopped. It and its people will just get bigger and dirtier until the whole corpulent mass finally implodes when everyone decides that, really, it would be better to live in a normal town and get home from work before 9pm.

But Shelley said that Hell is a city much like London and, 200 years on, everyone’s still here. Shelley must think we’re idiots. And Shelley didn’t even have to get the tube.

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