The Last Line: An RTD Horror Story

As I barely made it through the doors on the D Line bound for Littleton Downtown Station, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had just got off my shift as a swing shift security guard at the Hilton Downtown, racing to avoid the cost of an Uber.

Knowing how things worked in a pandemic era light rail train, I started to play RTD bingo. The car I boarded almost reached blackout potential: a man with a loud Bluetooth speaker blaring hip hop, the rider with an N95 mask, a disheveled person sleeping on the seats directly in front of me, and a woman with foil on the opposite end of the car being discrete about her habit. She was far enough away from me that it wasn’t much of a concern.

I sat down and started to read Absalom! Absalom! by Faulkner, a book that I could 1/2 understand due to the linguistic differences between it and a modern novel. As we left the Colfax at Auraria Station, the train steadily began to slow down, coming to a complete halt at the 10th and Osage Station.

This is your driver speaking, we are having technical difficulties at this time and are currently delayed. Please bear with us as we look into getting everything back on track.

The announcement hit us all in different ways. Bluetooth speaker man mostly ignored it, turning his music up a click once it was over. The N95 mask tried to call someone to have them picked up, going what it seemed to be directly to voicemail. The foil woman tried to walk towards the exit to jar it open, tripping over a seat and landing on it. The sleeper merely turned over in the seat in front of me.

Just then, the door closest to my seat opened, with a stout security guard coming on board. “Fare Check!” he said in a loud but controlled tone. Being the closest to him, I was confused, as the train was at a complete stop and didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I flashed my EcoPass, which work gave me, and he pulled out his validator.

My nerves intensified when I heard the sound of rejection “You didn’t scan your EcoPass” the guard chided.

“I was going to scan it but…”

As I was trying to talk to him, he repeated the line, as if I had said nothing

“You didn’t scan your EcoPass”

As I tried to find a way off the train by hitting the emergency door button, I noticed that the figure sleeping me rolled over unto the floor and got up, chanting the phrase with the RTD security guard.

“You didn’t scan your EcoPass”

The N95 took off his mask, revealing underneath an empty void where a mouth should be, joining the security guard and the sleeping person. The man with the loud bluetooth speaker switched from the generic hip hop he was playing to a track that looped the same phrase over and over.

“You didn’t scan your EcoPass”

The lady with the foil started dizzily walking towards me as well, joining what had become a chorus of voices saying the same phrase, over and over.

You didn’t Scan Your Ecopass

I tried to see if I could buy a ticket from my phone, but when I looked down, I read in horror what the date was.

January 2nd, 2019

The security guard and other passengers started to encircle me as I kept trying to pull the doors apartment, as they were about to grab me, I heard a phrase that I hadn’t heard in years.

This is the C Line To Mineral, Next Stops Evans Statio…

I woke up in a cold sweat in my bed. Checking to see if this was reality, I pulled out my phone.

July 6th, 2022

Realizing that I had to work a nightshift to cover a coworker that day, I checked to see what my next option was. Looking at transit made my skin turn pale: the trains and buses that I would normally take downtown were cancelled. I sighed, downloading the lyft app so that I could make it to work on time.

Featured Image is the C Line Train with its Old Alignment In Front of Union Station