A bit of a forward, first, by way of explanation.
This story was written for 4A Games’ 4ALives Metro 2033 contest. The goal was to create something (a story, piece of art, etc) set in the universe of Metro 2033 (which I had just recently beaten at the time the contest was announced). Interested in exploring the Metro universe, I spent some time thinking about it and then put together this experimental little story as an exercise in my talents (and I am aware that the series is based on a book series, but alas, I have not read them yet).
Oh, and as you might expect … just a small language warning. It’s the Metro, after all.
A Metro 2033 Story by Max Florschutz
Well? Are you ready to go? Then climb aboard—that’s it. Careful; don’t put too much weight on that. And watch your hand. There we go. You can stow your bag in the back. Don’t worry, it won’t fall out.
You’ve got a lot of equipment in there, eh? You must be strong, carrying all that around—no fears, traveler. I’ve no interest in whatever’s in your bags. Just talking. Making noise. That’s all this old man ever does. Heh.
Right. You strapped in? The rails can get a little bumpy. You might bounce in your seat a few times. Without anyone to maintain them … Things can be a little rough.
Of course I promised a smooth ride. Smoothest you can get. But this is the metro. You can only expect so much.
See? Out of the station, and into the tunnels. Nice and easy. No muss, no fuss. No noisy engines … Just us, the tunnel, and our thoughts.
Hah! You’re a funny one, stranger. Of course I talk. I didn’t say it would be a silent ride, eh? What? You think an old man like me hires out my cart for the bullets?
Well of course I need the bullets. Man’s got to eat, hasn’t he? You see any pigs on this fine cart? Bah! She’s a good cart, but she’s not that big. Besides, I’d wear my legs out pedaling a pig everywhere. I have enough trouble hauling normal passengers around.
The rattle? No, that’s the gears. It’s supposed to sound like that. If it starts to sound like a bunch of bolts rattling around in a tin can, then we have a problem. It’s just old and stiff. A bit like me, most mornings anymore.
I could stop talking, of course. In fact, for you I might … If I could be persuaded to do so. A spare bullet or two, perhaps?
No? Suit yourself. No refunds. And I don’t think you want to walk back to the station. It may not look like it, but we’ve already come quite far. She may be old, but the gears are still good. You feel the metal beneath you? Solid. Cool. Unyielding. She’s not some weak-willed beast to cave at the first sign of trouble. She’s tough, like all of us in the metro. One of us. She’s never broken on me, never come apart. And when she has, it’s been nothing a few tools and some hard work won’t fix.
Mutants? Heh. Well, that’s what that big bastard of a rifle sitting across your legs is for, isn’t it? We shouldn’t; these tunnels are usually fairly safe. That’s why I’m here, and not someplace else.
No … no. The station … it’s not for me. Back when the world ended and the bombs first fell, I tried. I really did. But it … it wasn’t for me.
Remember? Of course I do! I was a young man at the time, full of vodka and drunk on ambition. The world was ending … but when had it not been? I was headstrong, impetuous—Hold on now, there’s a dip ahead where something bent the tracks.
No, I don’t know what did it. I hear rumors out here … ghosts, wraiths, mutants. Old legends that skulk around in the earth. Or maybe new ones, new ones for the new world. Does it matter? The tracks here were straight for years, and then one day, they weren’t. Such is life in the tunnels.
There, we’ve passed it now. Now just to make it back up.
Well, you’re more than welcome to help an old man pedal. No? Then be quiet. Focus on keeping your eyes up and alert.
The tunnel is safe the same way the ride is smooth, traveler. Or do you think this gun at my side is just for show? There are bandits, mutants, and worse things lurking out there in the tunnels. Just like that bend in the rails, they can not be there one day and then be there the next.
Hah! You’re a funny one, stranger. No, when that happens, I leave. I’m no Ranger. Just an old man looking to stay alive.
Again with the talk of the stations. They so good, why don’t you live in one, eh? You don’t have to be out here. I don’t like the stations. Never did. All they are is cages.
Ah. It may be hard for you to understand, but you’re from the stations, yes? You grew up in one? Have you seen the way the old ones, the ones from before, like me, wander around with that aimless look in their eyes? The way their gaze turns skyward, like they want to look through the rock and dirt and soil, up into the sky they can no longer see?
You don’t understand, stranger. You can’t. You’re too young. When I was young the world was open, unchained! Endless sky stretching in all directions. You could go anywhere, unheeded. All you needed was a will and a dream. That was what many of us did. It was what I wanted to do. And now?
Now I can’t feel the wet chill of rain against my face. I can’t see the sky. The world is toxic. Poisoned. Something different. We can’t live up there without masks, so we live down here. Trapped in pens of concrete and steel. Once they aided us in our freedom. Now? They keep us alive. But we do not live.
No, the stations are not for me. They’re closed. Dark. They are cages. At least this way, with my cart, I still have the metro. I still have the tunnels. And the rails. And there are openings, holes and chasms in the earth. Old shafts and accessways, vents and grates. Sometimes I glimpse the world above as I travel, grey and strange, like it’s wrapped in smoke. All the smoke we ever birthed. But then, sometimes, I see the sky, pale and blue … but enough. It’s all I can get.
Because the other tunnels are dangerous, that’s why. You might be brave, traveler, or think you’re brave, but you’re not very smart. Did you hear me? I want to live, not die in some monsters gut, or wind up in a Reich prison camp. Better the stations than stuck there.
Hold on to that bastard. There’s another jerk in the rails coming.
No, this one’s always been here. Since the world ended. Maybe since before.
Right, that’s passed. Where was I?
Quiet? You’re funny, traveler, but I know myself better than you think you do. I only quiet for one reason, and one reason alone.
Which reminds me, have you heard the rumors? D6?
Oh? I think there may be more truth to it than we know. You don’t remember the old government. Their plans and their schemes. They never stopped, not even for a moment. Besides, those missiles, the ones that hit the old gardens. Someone had to fire them. How else would they have done it?
Fine. You don’t want to talk about it. But mark my words, something will come of it. There’s simply too much rumor echoing through these old tunnels for there to be nothing at the start of it. And the Rangers … They’ve been more active than ever lately.
Well, yes. But the Reds and the Reich are always fighting, always at one another’s throats like mangy dogs, tearing and ripping over scraps. But even so, there are strange things afoot, certainly. The botanical gardens are gone—or so they say. I haven’t been that way myself. Too much worry. They say the Dark Ones are gone, but that won’t bring back the people that went missing. The missiles had something to do with it, I’m sure. Not certain, but sure.
Ah, what’s this? Do an old man a favor and reach down to that handle by your legs and crank it. Let’s get these old lights up and running.
I don’t know. I thought I saw something, but … Do you hear anything? No. Must be a trick of the light. Let’s keep going.
Ah, there we are. Do you feel that breeze on your skin? It’s air—Don’t inhale too sharply now! Too much at once can be bad. Just breathe … slowly. The rails are very near the surface here. You can see it through the vents.
See! There’s one. That was the sky. Wrapped in clouds now, an endless smoke, but it’s still close to the sky I remember. There it is again!
See, traveler, it’s the moments like those I live for. I’m no scavenger; I’m not brave enough to return to the surface. Or stupid enough. I’ve seen what lurks up there. Things no man was meant to see. Whispers of the dead.
Yes, but here it is … manageable. Life down here is no good either, but it’s better than up there. Life down here is hard and dangerous, yes, but it’s a better chance than up there. And I can still glimpse it.
Hold up, traveler; just a moment. I heard word the other day that someone had sighted nosalises in this part of the tunnel.
Well, just because rumor says it is so doesn’t make it so. I believe you were just reminding me of that, eh? Still … best we be careful for a moment.
There! You see that smelly pile? Rumor was right. Nosalises. Get that weapon of yours ready, traveler. We can move quietly, but they may still hear us.
I know. Strange. Look. More signs. Lots of them. But where are they? With this much sign, there should be a pack of them breathing down our throats.
More sign. And a boot. But no blood. Something does not feel right, traveler.
You see that? Bullet casings. Lots of them. Keep that gun up.
Did you hear that?
No … it’s gone. I thought … There it is again! Like metal over flesh.
No, listen. You hear it?
I don’t know. Where is it coming from?
I’ve no idea, but if you want to start pedaling, now might be a good time. It’s getting closer. Damn, that’s loud. What in the hell is it?
Shit! Shit! Pedal! Go! Go!
Don’t stop pedaling!
The eyes! Aim for its eyes! Oh, shit!
Damn that was close. Don’t stop; keep pedaling.
No, never. It looked like … shit, I don’t know. A snake of some kind.
Eh? They were like a lizard with no legs. A … Ah, forget it. They looked like that. But without the teeth, or the eyes. Shit, that thing was huge! A monster! We’ll have to let the next station know, leave it for the rangers to clear out. By the … I’ve never seen anything like that before. It must have eaten those nosalises. Swallowed them.
I don’t know. In the old days, whoever found it got to name it.
No, I don’t think that’s a good name. Besides, unless you’ve got something very different in your trousers, that’s not what it looked like.
Like a snake! A mean one. A big one. Did you see the size of those scales? All grey and white, like pale, dead flesh?
Actually, that’s not bad. Death eater. A little cliché, perhaps. Reminds me of something …
No, it was from the world before. But I think you’re right, it is a little too much. Eater sounds much better. Damn! That was almost too much for an old man like me.
Not a chance. I’ll just go elsewhere until someone kills that beast. There are other tunnels, friend.
Of course. You can’t walk away from something like that, traveler, and not call a man a friend. In some strange way, people are like that. It’s what makes us different. Hell, it’s what made the world above us what it is: Man stopped being friends, and look where it got us. Maybe that’s what we forgot, and what we relearn now.
You can stop pedaling, now. It’s an easy run from here on out. The next station is only minutes away. I told you, though. I told you she’d see us through, and look! She did. Past that eater. Without a single fuss.
That’s an interesting question. I suppose … a dozen times, maybe more. Like I said, I can’t take being caged, even with the risks. Maybe I’m just a stubborn, old fool. Or maybe I’m just hopeful that one day I’ll drive past one of those vents, and I’ll breath air that doesn’t burn at my throat again.
Ah, we’re here, see? Open up in there! Coming through.
See, they’re letting us in. Nice and easy.
No, I don’t think so. I’ll head to the next station in line. It’s only a short way away, and the beds are cheaper there. I’ll see if anyone needs anything and then be on my way. It will be my last stop for the day, I think, however. An old man can only take so much.
Ah, here we are. As promised, safe and sound, though that’s in part thanks to you. You’re good with that gun, traveler.
Don’t worry. The metro is a dangerous beast … but it’s what we have, and we’ll have to make do with it, eh? You take care of yourself, now, friend. Perhaps next time we meet, we can share a drink.
Sure, I’ll buy. After all, I earned a few bullets today, did I not?
Ah, and here’s some business for me to tend to. Good luck, my friend. See you again.
Now, how about you, traveler? Looking for a ride?
And a big thank you to 4A Games to bringing the Metro to life. From a work of written fiction, to a game, and now back to fiction again, the endless cycle of art. Thanks, guys, for a fantastic and thought-provoking adventure.
Oh, a bit of legal stuff. I wrote this story, but the universe is not mine, but the property of the original owners. Hence, this can’t be resold, yadda, yadda, yadda … it’s fanfiction people. You know the drill.