The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

rythmic piping

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A dream to some…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recurring nightmares have plagued me since childhood. Many of them revolve around isolation, or being solitarily confined to a familiar place that is normally quite crowded with others. The Subway system, in particular, strikes several of my psychological fault lines. There’s the paranoia about being pushed onto the tracks by some lunatic, an unnamable dread about having the tunnel collapse while under the East River, an entirely reasonable fear of the pathogens that swirl about within the cars, and the notion that no matter how crowded the train might be – you are always quite alone down there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For several years, a recurring nocturnal hallucination finds one traveling on the NYC Subway system through an endless ride. The train never seems to stop, which would offer egress for escape from its confines, instead it just continues rattling and hurtling through the dripping concrete and steel havens of the rat.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train speeds up when it comes to stations and terminals, rather than slowing down, acting in the manner of some sort of subterranean Mary Celeste. There are other potential victims of the endless train ride on the platforms, who see the panicked face and wild gesticulations of a humble narrator in one of the train windows and then begin to laugh and point.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The mephitic vapors of the underground mix with those powdered remnants of rat feces that fill the air, inside and out of the train, as the collection of electrically driven boxes speeds along rickety tracks which cause the conveyance to rattle and shake from side to side. A panic takes over me, as does the realization that the conductor might be some sort of demon swine herd and that riding the Subway itself might be the Sisyphean punishment that awaits me in the afterlife. A commute that takes an eternity, and one that starts over as soon as it ends… truly – Dante might have imagined this fate, were there Subways “back in the day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always, in these nightmare visualizations of being trapped down there, the train is empty. In New York City, the notion of being alone – true solitude – is somewhat terrifying. For those of us native to this wonderful and horrible place, there is always the notion that someone is watching. There is always the “presence” of others. Removing this externality of consciousness from the equation is terrifying enough, but being completely isolated on a moving Subway is both odd and disconcerting.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gazing out of the train, in these dreams of mine, reveals naught but hopelessness. Were one able to pry open a door, in an attempt to escape into the tunnel, momentum would crush and pulverize. The false hope of the blue lights (the blue lights in the Subway tunnels indicate the presence of a stairway which leads back up to the surface, either a sidewalk hatch or a station) are set in place to tantalize and torment by the foul council of elder demons (the MTA) whose will is made manifest down here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While caught up in the enchantment of these nightmares, basic physical needs begin to manifest. Urination, thirst, hunger. The worst, however is the boredom. Once, my recurring Subway nightmare played out over a week of dream time, an imaginary interval during which a humble narrator saw himself descend into atavist and ape like behavior. Licking the walls of the train car for condensed moisture was amongst the least horrible of my actions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In waking life, one suffers from a certain form of claustrophobia. A bus trip in Junior High School which saw a 1980’s race riot spark up is the origin of it. The pushing and surging of the crowd of combatants during the internecine warfare of Brooklyn’s “Cujenes” and “Homeboys” left me with a real fear of being trapped in a mob, and to this day one avoids crowds. You will never see me at a protest, or attending a concert at some mega venue. These subway nightmares of mine seem to play on this trait, offering instead the hell of loneliness and solitary isolation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Can any wonder why it is that I prefer the jittery solace of late night coffee, or question why I am routinely awake at 2, 3, or even 4 A.M.? That the notion of placing ones head upon a pillow is so terrifying that I resist the embrace of Morpheus? If only there was a way to escape the tyranny of biology, and avoid sleep. It’s during those intervals of unconscious hallucination that one truly understands terror, and the latent horror of an eternal commute.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

3 Responses

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  1. There is a nice SF story from the 60’s about the Subway system being expanded and inter-connected to the point that inadvertently a Mobius strip of the tracks was created and the train riders were constantly taken around and around without the capability to get off. (You will have to dig up the story to see how it ended).

    Wikip:
    The Möbius strip or Möbius band (UK /ˈmɜrbiəs/ or US /ˈmoʊbiəs/; German: [ˈmøːbi̯ʊs]), also Mobius or Moebius, is a surface with only one side and only one boundary component. The Möbius strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable. It can be realized as a ruled surface. It was discovered independently by the German mathematicians August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in 1858.[1][2][3]

    A Möbius strip can be made with a piece of paper and tape. If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.

    Louis Kleinman

    December 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

  2. Something like this?

    Cav

    December 16, 2014 at 1:18 pm

  3. Sounds like the script from the Twilight Zone…! Sent from my iPhone

    Jim Kelly

    December 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm


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