The train was cold yet the people colder. George knew the people very well. He spent more time with them than he did his wife; each day making the holy commute to and from work.
“Doors closing, stand clear” the recorded woman ordered over the speakers. He wondered if she was real. Whether every day she might make her way to work on this very train. Secretly smiling every time she heard her godlike voice emanating from the walls. An anonymous queen amongst the slaves.
The usual standers crumpled closer together. They had no right to complain, everyone knew their place on the Train. Those who lived closer to the city paid the standing price of having no seats left. It did not matter. Occasionally a seat opened up by mistake, and a stander would sink down into it, gleeful and proud for having beaten the odds this journey.
The man next to George sneezed. He was a banker. He made a lot more money than George, but the Train dealt all equally. This is what made the system work. It had no bias. It didn’t care about your social standing outside. When on the train, all were equal.
George loved the Train for this reason. Everything was left behind. Wealth, family, job, health. For the 45 minutes from Meade into the city, he was free. George chuckled at this notion of freedom. He looked around him at the sullen faces. All obeying the strict rules of the Train; never interact with those around you. More important was to never assume a countenance of joy, only the homeless were allowed that privilege on the Train.
The irony of this made George smile. To be happy one had to first be homeless. “If only we were not imprisoned by our freedom,” he thought to himself. Had he not caught the Train daily, looking around him, he would have mistaken it to be destined for the concentration camps of the Nazi era. Prisoners all dressed to match, in suits of death, ready to pay the price for their lives of consumption.
“Next stop, Town Hall” she chuckled somewhere on the Train.
George watched the first exchange go down as it always did. The tailored suits finally getting to display their superiority at their financial district exit. This was the exception to the Trains equality. George often contemplated whether walking the two final stops was worth the illusion; simply for the taste of power. It was too late though, the Train knew him already.
The banker was replaced by a different suit, slightly shabbier, with signs of wear. Outside the Train he probably had a family and friends; on weekends taking drives through the country in his middle-class car. He looked at George and nodded.
As the final exchange approached, George left his seat early. He stood facing the doors waiting for them to spring open and the rush to begin. This was his favourite part, the Exit. It was most important to look busy. As soon as the doors opened, you must pretend that your job is a matter of life and death. Push. Shove. Stride. Take two steps at a time. Do whatever it takes to convey a sense of urgency about your place in the world. Weave. Dodge. Slice through the oppression. Anything that gets you to your office door quicker.
Closing the door behind him, George let out a sigh of relief, he had made it another day. Now in the safety of his office, George slowly made his way to his desk, putting his empty bag aside he swivelled in his chair and stared at his blank screen for a moment; unsure why he even bothered coming to work.