Jean-Samuel considers himself a creative and writer, consistently working on perfecting his craft. He writes from Montréal, where he has attended Cégep and Concordia in English Literature, and from his hometown in the Appalachians. He reads from a wide range of books and his writing is as versatile—expect some sci-fi, dystopian, surrealism, and more! Place-des-Arts Part 1, his featured piece, will be included amongst a collection of short stories he intends to publish
[Dou, Dou, Duuu]
« Prochaine station, Place-des-Arts. Attention, pour le débarquement à la plateforme, veuillez vous dirigez vers les voitures numéros … Merci de votre compréhension. »
The announcement drifted down the length of the métro train like the drafts rushing through its gaps and from the tunnels, lost amidst the largely empty landscape. It resonated much like closing-door warnings, service interruptions and calls-to-attention, though these particular messages were a breathing reminder of the present context imposing itself on the métro and everyone else’s lives.
The wall-mounted machine—an automatic temperature scanner—was fixed upon the blue plastic panel immediately before the open gangway between the AZUR compartments. He stepped to it, his face hovering no more than a quarter of an arm’s length away from its screen and the blue plastic surface around it. So often he recalled himself staring at the blue plastic shell of the train in overcrowded cars during rush hours, those seemingly interminable minutes staring into the modern métro cars’ plastic casing, something that couldn’t ever be less interesting. It seemed so long since the last time he remembered doing exactly so, standing amidst a shoulder-to-shoulder packed compartment and shifting ever so slightly and involuntarily against someone’s shoulder along with the train’s movement, staring straight ahead and contemplating any and everything.
The machine beeped—37.3°C. Its screen blinked green and he turned to the glass panes before the open gangway. The panes swung forward and back into place as he proceeded beyond them and into the next compartment. The glass panes were quite like those he’d encountered a long time ago in the Toronto subway and allowed commuters to enter and exit its stations. He found this method plentifully more sophisticated and twenty-first century appropriate than tourniquet wheels. Although it appeared rather simple, walking through a tourniquet could occasion no particular occurrence or they could stop you dead in your tracks, the wheel barring when it hasn’t completed its rotation. One could walk through a tourniquet time and time again without incident but one could also find themselves barred unexpectedly, barred again and again, which was a near-infuriating nuisance that he remembered from the times that had happened to him. Nowadays, the glass panes separated every AZUR compartment, and the AZURs were the only trains operating throughout the métro’s on-island stations.
He started down the compartment, indifferent from any other carriage with its mostly commuter-less allure and the glossy finish of the plastic seats, wall casings and the metal support bars shining from the regular disinfection hose-down. In normal times, this is what the compartment might look like on a Sunday morning riding through a métro line’s more remote segment—though nowadays, it looked like this at every day and time. Occupants looked off into the distance, to the floor and their lonesome reflections in the windows, as though drawing a line separating them from the rest of the world and distancing themselves as much as they could from it. Only the thrum and rumble of the train gliding on the rails and the cars creaking as they slightly jostled up and down or swayed to the left and right permeated the space within.
Another set of glass panes and a station similar to the last awaited down the compartment. Whereas the previous scanned for one’s temperature, this one had a biometrics software analyzing an individual for fever-like symptoms: flushed forehead and cheeks, traces of perspiration and shortness of breath. It was this arrangement of machines that—in these trying times—was responsible for keeping the city and its economy afloat, or at a bare minimum, keeping it from drowning and succumbing to the present context. Without this system, everything and everyone on the island would be brought to a standstill and confined, without any manner of moving forward. The machines maintained a semblance of normality—however remote a semblance—that otherwise would have lived on as a distant memory and an aching longing for the world and life they had known.
He moved from the biometrics scanner and beyond the glass panes, greeted by an eerie, quasi picture-perfect scene of shiny empty seats and vast spaces between whomever sat within the compartment; and he continued forward, accompanied by the sounds of his footsteps and the rumbling train. Every time he approached someone standing by a door or the floor-to-ceiling support bars in the middle of a car he contoured them as widely as he could, mindful of his every step and how far he stood in relation to someone else, keen on keeping a solid meter-and-a-half to two meters distance whenever possible. Quite like the other commuters’ behaviours, he avoided glancing into other people’s faces, for they’d only reflect his own gloominess, a mood they had all grown much too accustomed to. The length of the compartments felt much longer to traverse than he remembered, missing the diversity and flair of Montrealers abundant along the seats and standing areas.
He approached another control station—a temperature scanner—and stepped before it. 37.5°C. He blinked as the screen flashed green and the panes allowed him through. Fluctuations were not uncommon, although seeing differing readings didn’t always inspire trustworthiness in the system’s accuracy and its abilities. From the onset of their installation throughout the métro’s AZURs he had been fascinated by the ingenuity behind the system, how they could detect virus properties and symptoms, and he liked to think that they functioned adequately—though discrepancies like this suggested less. Several factors played into the detection of symptoms, factors that he and the general population might or might not be entirely cued in to, such as the exact science behind the machines and whether or not the virus had mutated into a stronger, more virulent strain, or perhaps a mutation rendering its detection more difficult.
He reached the end of the compartment and stopped before another temperature scanner—37.6°C. Swell—that wasn’t far from the threshold. He set forth down the frontmost compartment—this had to be one of the compartments opening onto the platform—the first amongst two others, with this one placing him ahead of the group exiting at the next station. Throughout the métro, only select compartments amongst the entire train’s length provided access onto a station’s platform, rather than all the compartments opening up onto a platform. These compartments differed from one station to another and only those closest to the station’s designated exit were allowed access onto the platform, which could be the three compartments at the front, centre or back