8 // FLICKER

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It was hot on the Tube. Stifling. Suffocating.

I grasped onto the support rail, my sticky hands preventing me from getting a firm grip as the carriage rocked back and forth through the tunnel. Removing one hand, I wiped my palm down my thigh, before gripping the pole again and doing the same with the other one, not that it seemed to make much difference. A body brushed against mine from behind and I tried to shift into what little gap there was to avoid contact, but it was futile. Passengers were packed into the carriage, bodies crammed so tightly together that personal space would have been nothing short of a miracle.

My t-shirt was sticking to my back and I wished there was enough room to take off my jacket, but I had no chance unless a few people decided to get off at the next station. Inhaling deeply, I leant my forehead against the rail and clung to it the best I could, closing my eyes for a few seconds. The heat was starting to make me feel a little dizzy and nauseous and I was giving hard thought to getting off at the next station myself and getting some air before I continued the journey home.

The train jolted, slowed, then jerked again and I opened my eyes reluctantly, realising that I hadn't heard the announcement of the upcoming station on the intercom. We'd stopped in a tunnel. The darkness pressed against the windows and I groaned inwardly and hoped we'd only be waiting a minute or so before the train could carry on.

I looked around at the small windows, seeing that most of them were already open.

God, it was so bloody hot.

Stuck here with no air blowing through the carriage, I could barely breathe. My leather jacket was heavy and confining, holding in the heat which had reached its hands around my windpipe, and was squeezing tighter and tighter. The nausea churned in my stomach and climbed up into my throat. Swallowing, I took a deep breath. The last thing I wanted to do was throw up in the middle of a packed carriage, especially when I had no idea how long we'd be stuck here with the stench and humiliation filling what little space there was left between me and those around me.

Count to ten, Brogan. Close your eyes and count to ten. It'll be okay, it'll...

'You see.'

A man's voice cut through the dulled hush of the carriage and I opened my eyes once more, wondering who had spoken.

I'd always thought it funny how quiet tube carriages could be at times, when people squeezed themselves into every available space, where eyes met and gazes were averted, where everyone buried their faces into books or mobile phones or studiously examined the station map on the carriage wall, where everyone did whatever they could to avoid conversation with strangers. So many people in such a tiny space and yet everything could be so silent. I glanced around at those closest to me, but no one seemed to be ready to engage in conversation, and, believing that I'd probably imagined it, I leant against the pole again.

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