The Tube Healer
1. Above and Below
Someone that pretty shouldn’t have to cry.
Those are the very words Gary thinks just before the transformation.
He admires her elegance, her pouting lips and long dark hair, and creases his brow at her sorrowful face. He notes her tears with special interest, then with his lower lip jutting a little, considers the 8-month-gone bump. It makes him feel a pang of his own sorrow. He wonders what it means.
He thinks: The tube is the most private place for public grief: the way we all travel drawn in on ourselves. Zombies lolling against each other at rush hour. Exhaling “scooz” quietly as we push by.
After a few seconds, he notices another man is also watching her. Gary doesn’t get sight of him properly, but senses an interaction between the other man and the crying woman. Then, as he watches, something happens. It’s like a moment of acknowledgement between them, and – right there – the first miracle happens. Among the crammed flesh in the tunnelled underworld, a new future offers itself for the woman to take.
She stops weeping in a moment, and from her smiling mouth a peel of laughter rings out across the carriage: big, rich and joyous, a bubbling fountain bursting from her body. Her eyes turn from iron grey to sky blue. All in an instant of surprised transformation.
Gary sits back for a moment, unsure what is going on – but realises that something has just happened. He stands and pushes through the crush to take a closer look at her. He feels like the photographic negative of witness at a crash scene. Where once there was a body trapped in a wreck, now there is a person sitting and laughing in dazed joy.
He leans close to her. “What happened to you?” He asks, fixing her with piercing eyes.
She looks up at him with shining blue irises. “Did you see him?” she asks. “Did you?”
Gary looks around to see that the object of her gaze is already walking from the train, out through the sliding doors, turning into a shadow in the underground.
“What happened?” he asks again, bewildered
“I don’t know,” she says, laughing once more. Puzzled, Gary steps towards the doors, but they slide shut in his face. Peering through the glass on to the platform he can see a shape, indistinct among the other indistinct shapes. An army coat, he thinks, and long hair.
This is his first experience of the phenomenon that will come to be known as the Tube Healer.