Mark sat down, and pulled his current book out of the top of his backpack. It had been one of those days, which hadn't been helped by his current mood. Now he had to sit on the London underground for an hour. During the summer months, the underground became intensely hot. Warm air from outside was forced into the system, as the trains entered and left, like a gigantic plunger in a syringe. The hot air was mixed with the heat emanating from the millions of people who used the sprawling network every day. The sweat, and perfume, of three million regular users permeated the tunnels and cavities. Giving the underground a fragrance that wasn't to be found anywhere else in the world during the summer months. Mark hated it. When he got to his home station at night, it was actually a relief to breath the lead-laden air topside. He settled down for the journey, squashing himself into his corner seat and trying to avoid the greasy swirl where someone had leant their head against the glass next to him. He was late tonight. Just as well, as the day had been the hottest on record for nearly thirty years! Fortunately he'd had plenty to do in the office and so he stayed put, taking full advantage of the air conditioning. Even when he'd left the office, the air smelled like a wet dog, thick, and clammy. The underground was not an improvement.
The smell reached him first. The train had stopped and most of the passengers had got off, leaving him alone in the carriage with his book. It could only be described as a presence, an intense odour that almost defied description. Rank, human, smelling of rotting meat and sweat. In the back of his mind he could guess the source, but he took a glance down the carriage anyway. At the far end, weaving slightly stood a tramp. He was wearing what looked like two or three duffle coats, a cardigan, a jumper and a shirt or two. His torn trousers, showed him wearing another pair underneath, and his huge boots seemed too big for his feet. In one hand he held a tall can of cider, and a plastic carrier bag in the other, which was obviously filled with them. It never ceased to amaze him. Where did they get the money for all the alcohol they drank? Was it really that profitable on the streets? He was about to bury his nose back into his book, when he heard over the squealing of the tracks a badly slurred 'Hey!' Mark groaned inwardly. He'd managed to catch the drunkard's eye. He took another surreptitious glance down the carriage, to see the man staggering down the centre aisle towards him. He wished he'd not forgotten his portable stereo that morning. At least he could have feigned ignorance of the other mans presence by turning the volume up. In its absence, all he could do now was make a show of being totally engrossed in his book.
As the man approached, the stench of dried vomit, stale cider and rotting flesh somehow intensified. The vagrant belched loudly as he sat down opposite. Mark concentrated on the text in front of him whilst desperately trying not to breathe, as he could nearly taste the air. As expected, the man starting shouting at no one in particular. This particularly singular conversation rapidly degraded into religious ranting. Mark made a show of turning the page, even though he hadn't been able to concentrate enough to read it. At that point, the train came to a juddering halt and the pair of them lurched to one side. Mark's bag and book tumbled into the aisle, disappearing underneath the drunk as he fell to the floor. The lights in the train dimmed, and then flicked out. After a few seconds of darkness, an emergency light flickered fitfully halfway down the carriage. The drunk got up. "You hit me!" He slurred, loudly. "Hit me with a book will ya!" He tore the paperback down the length of its spine, and threw it at Mark who looked at the torn pages in disbelief as they fell to his feet. Steadying himself against one of the poles that were distributed evenly along the carriage, Mark stood up. Clasping a hand to his aching head he growled at the drunk. "I am not in the mood to be fucked with OK!" The man took a drunken swipe, which connected with Mark's chin, knocking him into the glass next to where he'd been sitting. The growl turned into a snarl, and with eyes blazing he advanced on the drunk.
The train driver heard the blood-curdling scream, and how it was cut off abruptly in mid flow. He shivered uncontrollably, and urged the train forward to the platform. He quickly got out and rushed to the carriage behind his cab. Inside was a tall man, black hair with green eyes. "Are you alright mate?" Mark looked up, and belched loudly. The driver visibly paled at the smell. "Oh, sorry. Must've been something I ate. I'm fine. Why?" The driver looked down the carriage. This man was the only person there! "Oh, er, sorry mate I thought I heard something from back here." Mark shook his head. "No, sorry. Just me I'm afraid." He picked up the bag of cider cans and moved to the door. "I think I'll walk from here. Had a big meal this evening, and I need to walk it off." He grinned at the driver, and walked away. The driver shivered again. That man had just given him a grin that a lion would be proud of.