Warning: big fat chunks of text!
Claire is 29 and drives a Tube train for a living. And it’s a good living, too. But the job suits her for more reasons than the money: Claire doesn’t like people. She spends her day in the cockpit, alone with the darkness of the tube tunnels and the lights zooming past her. By the time she gets home it’s dark. Tube drivers only work 4 days of the week, and Claire spends her 3 free days arguing online, watching television, eating fast food.
Claire likes to think of herself as an “owl”, but does so ironically, because it’s a simplistic self-definition cliché that appeals to simplistic minds. But she thinks better at night, and she hates going out in the daytime – with all the people and the noise of downtown.
And so her life is permeated with the glow of artificial light, so much so that it continues to haunt her in her dreams.
And it’s her dreams that we will be focusing on in the game itself, but right now I would like to explore her distant and perhaps slightly irrelevant past a bit more.
Claire’s dad was a Tube driver. She knows that she would never have gotten past the interviews without some strings being pulled. She doesn’t really mind. The work is good and dull, she’s left alone most of the time, and her parents are calmer knowing that their awkward daughter is settled in a cozy position for life. This makes them call her less, and for that she is grateful.
Claire grew up in the suburbs a strange ginger child with hollow, staring eyes. She was never very popular with anyone, her own family included, and for a long time that hurt her. Around age 11 she began to realize that she was fine like this.
That defining moment was when she was walking home from school one evening, sipping on a can of soda with a green straw. She took the side streets because it was cold and she’d lost her coat again in school. She knew her mother would be upset about the coat. Her mother was a woman who liked worrying about objects.
As Claire was walking past a small ally between two townhouses she heard a muffled shout and the sounds of struggle. In the shadows, she could see a man wrestling a young woman who was resisting vigorously. Claire stopped and stared at the strange scene, her soda pop forgotten. The man unzipped his pants and hitched the woman’s flowery dress up and she was crying. Claire absently thought that she’d seen such things in movies, and at this point exactly she – the onlooker – was supposed to drop her can, or make some kind of involuntary sound, and the attacker would be distracted long enough to allow the girl to get away. She proceeded to stand there and stare, and thought, “which one of mum’s shows was this on?” , and then thought, “That’s a stupid thing to think right now”. The woman wasn’t making any sounds anymore, except a pained quiet sigh every time the man snapped his arse forward. Claire found herself cringing every time, and then it hit her that she could hear her own heart beating like mad, and she couldn’t breathe proper, and she finally turned and ran away.
The defining moment was when she’d stopped running, right outside her house. Her heart was still beating and her lungs were hurting and she felt so many things – and as she opened the gate and walked towards the door, she realized she will not tell about this to anyone. There was no one whose reaction would soothe her. Her mother’s hugs never did much for her, and they won’t now either.
And that was when she reached the final point: she’d been confused and scared before, and they’d tried to help, and never managed to come up with something that did. And still she was alright. She didn’t need to be helped to be alright.
Currently, Claire doesn’t think about her childhood much. She thinks about philosophy and politics on various forums and blogs. She loves proving the anonymous of the internet wrong. She is so good at facing them off in writing. Back in uni she tried to get into the debate club, but after 2 rounds of uncontrollable heartrate and muddled thoughts she’d felt like she’d embarrassed herself enough and left. Not long afterwards she dropped out of uni altogether. That was the point when her dad interfered, probably spurred by mum.
Claire grudgingly admits that this had been a good thing. She had since settled into a convenient, safe routine of working, arguing online, eating takeaway and keeping a safe distance from other people.
When she gets lonely she calls up lesbo Liz from work and they have a beer. Claire conceitedly thinks that Liz is attracted to her, and gloats to herself whenever in Liz’s presence. In truth, Claire reminds Liz of her brother, who has Asperger Syndrome, and she kind of pities Claire a bit and takes pride in her ability to connect with her.
Claire had gone out with a boy once, in highschool, and even slept with him a few times. He was a big Nietzsche fan, all about the selfish nihilism and transcending the humanity within, and he’d beat her at debates.
She has not been eager to repeat the experience since then.
Claire has thick ginger curls and a bad complexion, skinny legs and saggy little boobs. During the last several years, becoming more and more at ease in her safe solitude, she has finally dared sport the bad posture she’s always secretly had, and has developed a tendency to slouch.
She secretly likes the way she looks.
School dream, from Claire's journal:
Dream # 516 04.20.10
Morning, 05:02, dank kitchenette
As usual it starts with the tunnels, me in the train and the service lights flashing by like a heartbeat. I remember the rhythm. It’s very dominant… vvvVVVVVOOOOOOOooosssshhhhhh… vvvVVVVVOOOOOOOooosssshhhhhh… I feel like I can hear them wooshing closer and then away from me. Then they start blinding and disorienting me and dancing around like it’s all spinning around me. I feel like I’m falling down instead of driving forward. Like it’s a deep hole in the ground and I’m plummeting straight down there on the railtrack, with the full weight of the train at my back. As I think this, about the weight of the train, I can feel it, like I’m a train myself, and I’m heavy, I’m all these tons of metal, and I am filled with a terrible dread, the knowledge that I am going to crash down and all these tons at my back are going to drive me like a lance into the ground. The lights are zooming by faster and faster the whole time and I can’t do anything, there’s nothing I can do. This feeling takes over me completely, it’s all I can feel. I’m falling so fast that my chest hurts, all my insides are stuck to my spine and I feel like I’m slowly trying to push the scream out of my lugs that’s been boiling there for so long – it all hurts so much – I have to scream. This is when I become conscious. The scream half wakes me and I realize this is a dream, I force myself to breathe and to calm down. I remind myself that I am not a train. That this dark tunnel is not going down. Slowly the train resumes going forth.
A green corridor with peeling shiny paint on the walls. It’s a sickly summery twilight outside and no one should be here and I shouldn’t be here either. The light is heavy, a tired sun sinking down a tired sky. There are posters of birds and animals on the walls and doors in between. I am looking up from way down close to the floor – I can see the corridor going on and on. Rows of hooks next to the doors insinuate children’s coats, not there right now. Everything feels runny, like it’s all slowly sliding down this green wall and onto the floor. Like a fainting child; with the wet squeak of a sweaty little palm. Ah. I feel heavy and slow. I slowly slide down this hallway. The windows are barred and the clouds outside are smeary. There is a great weight on me and I can hardly move. I ache to run but there is no room for such energy here. I turn around, maybe I hear something, children. I think I hear the bell and my heart hitches into my throat. I don’t think there’s any actual sounds here.
There’s something in my hand. I look down. It’s a can of soda with a green straw. My aunt said redheads should have everything green. I remember picking out this straw because of this. I need to take my coat from the hook but it’s not there. I need to get it because if I lose another coat mum would be angry. I have to find the coat or I will never get out of here.
I will never get anything done with this light on. It’s heavy and slowing me down and I know, I just know, if I close these windows and shut it out, I will be able to move. But I know that in the dark I will see completely different things. I dare not close the blinds. I sink down this shiny wall to the floor. I try to breathe. I will never get out of here.