Turtle turned around. The grass leading up to where the twins disappeared was worn away, and the dirt showed through. The park had always been crisscrossed with little, informal walkways, but this was the first time Turtle had seen one end at a blank stone wall.
Turtle knew you weren't supposed to follow paths in Central Park for a couple reasons. First, you weren't allowed to walk on most of the grass, and second, it was supposedly dangerous. As he stared at the rock and the little path that led up to it, Turtle felt a sense of dread—and excitement.
In the distance, someone laid on a car horn, long and loud. Turtle ignored the circus of sound that surrounded him and wondered if the twins had climbed to the top and over.
Slowly, cautiously, he rubbed his hand along the surface of the stone again—feeling foolish. He was dead last in the practice race; the rest of the team was already far ahead.
Just as he was about to give up and resume running, Turtle felt a deep rumble under his feet. He placed a hand on the cold stone surface and listened. He felt it more than heard it, but there it was—
the rumble again, like a train roaring by. He put his ear against the rock wall and it was louder—clack clack ... clack clack—a subway train rattling on iron rails, a sound that was so impossible to miss that it gave him a chill.
There was a train behind the wall.
Engrossed, Turtle didn't notice that he was falling forward until the rock face gave way, moving inward on invisible hinges. Dust cascaded down on him as he started to fall, he held out his hands to break his descent, but there was nothing to stop him, just a rush of air.
He was inside the rock.
The door shut quickly behind him with a mighty whoosh.
He had popped through and onto a subway platform. On this side, the door he had fallen through was clad in heavy wood and held together with polished iron bands. The iron was beautifully wrought and the wood was covered in delicate carving, the planks polished to a bright golden sheen. Birds took wing from long grass carved in the rich, deep wood. Everything was carved in deep relief and with great care. Sharp letters along the top of the door read: "Central Park South."
Turtle tried to push his way back out, but the door wouldn't budge.
The clack clack was wildly loud here, and Turtle took a quick breath and crouched down, ready to run. But where? The door behind him was closed and the platform was only about fifty feet wide and ten feet deep.
Turtle stared, dumbstruck, at the twins, who just stood there like they were waiting for the train. They hadn't noticed him. Something was coming down the tunnel. The wind and dust picked up and filled the platform with noise.
Was it a New York subway platform? It wasn't dirty or crowded or full of noise and mess. It was delicately gas-lit from above with crystal chandeliers. It smelled sweet and close, like a church; the scent of the polish and pine almost made Turtle sleepy. There was also a whiff of smoke from somewhere and the smell of ozone, like the water from a garden hose. The walls were inlaid with pieces of polished brass and tile the color of a robin's egg, coated with crackled glaze. The ceiling swung up above them, into the darkness. Tracks led forward and backward into dark tunnels. Turtle could feel his heart beating in his ears and heard his own labored breathing—as well as the twins' laughter.
Next to the door was a wooden booth with glass windows. A tombstone-shaped opening was cut into the lower part of the glass, and a ticket machine made of wrought iron poked out of the counter, a length of connected tickets sticking out of the window like a tongue. A carefully hand-lettered sign, yellowed with age, read: "Closed Until Further Notice."
YOU ARE READING
Imagine if, right now, clattering underneath your feet was a secret train system that could take you anywhere in minutes. Imagine a trip full of mystery and excitement from New York to Barcelona to the wind-swept coast of Italy to the edge of space...