Take The A Train

You’re following a suspected wizard when you take the late night A Train headed to Queens. At first, everything is normal. The subway is never quiet, but this ride at least is subdued— until you cross under the East River. Once there’s water overhead, the lights on the train flip off. Someone screams, but it’s the performative scream of a class clown. In true New York spirit, someone else snarls at them to “shut the fuck up, asshole.” Then an amber light starts to filter in from the windows, warm and damp on your skin like the breath of a lover. When the first door opens, it’s not anywhere you recognize: somebody somewhere threw the wrong switch, and now you’re taking the long way home.


Well, not in Queens. You’re in an underground cavern, sure, but that’s where any similarities to the subway tunnels end. The ceiling overhead is covered in stalactites, and those stalactites are covered in red-gold slime that pulses with what might be a heartbeat. The floor is lit by hot, wet, and disconcertingly tangible amber light emitted from the stalactite slime. The gravel floor is slick with moisture, and it smells the inside of someone else’s mouth. In the distance, you can see a blue light. Hopefully that’s the emergency phone that would normally be in the subway tunnel in case of accidents.

It costs 0/1d4 SAN to realize you’re not where you’re supposed to be.

The next time somebody screams, it’s not fake. Black spots open in your field of view like someone flashbanged you, but they don’t go away when you blink. Instead, they blink when you look at them, staying otherwise static on the background when optical black spots would move with your field of view. Instead, these spots seem to be holes in the amber light itself. You turn towards the scream just in time to see one of the black spots take one of the passengers’ hands off at the wrist when they poke it with a finger. (1/d6 SAN)


They’re getting antsy, too. Here’s who was in the train car:

  • Maimed Evangel, Ephraim Barrabas: That can’t possibly be his real name, unless his evangelical status was inherited. Either way it likely won’t be his name for much longer unless he gets some urgent medical attention. His left hand just got bitten off and is now a bleeding stump. Get that injury dealt with or he’ll be meeting his god shortly.
  • Finance Jock, Kyle Calloway: A real piece of work. He’s coming home from work after the cleaning staff kicked him out. In a crisis he’s domineering, but not willing to lead. Instead he stands around being loud and aggressive, demanding that somebody resolve the issue without providing any suggestions as to how that could be done.
  • Discount Joker, Jane Jordan: The one who did the fake scream; in her defense, it was funny until things actually turned into a horror movie. She’s got an illegal (but cool) gravity knife in her bag, and she’s not afraid to use it.
  • Suspected Wizard, Norton LeGume: A HUMINT roll tells you that he was just as shocked as anyone else when the train doors opened onto an unearthly vista. If you attack him, he’ll cut loose. If pressed on why he did this, he’ll tell you what HUMINT over 60% will confirm is the truth: Norton didn’t bring you here. He’s been using magic to look for his girlfriend who went missing on the subway last week. He hit a Breaking Point while looking earlier tonight, and when he woke up from the gibbering panic, he had just stepped onto the train. Now he knows why: this is where she wound up.
  • Desk Rider, Pearl Miller: She’s got a night shift to get to, damn it. She’s also the only one with an actual plan or at least the will to get something done among the passengers. Pearl will go to the emergency phone the minute she determines that she’s not going to get maimed for setting foot outside the train car as long as she avoids the black spots.

The blue light in the cavern is indeed coming from a post next to a yellow emergency phone box. It looks incongruous, and you can see that tangible amber light starting to grow on the metal box. Worse, you can feel it starting to settle onto your skin as well. (0/1d4 SAN)

Using the emergency phone to call for help will get you an actual dial tone, and an actual pickup. The heavily-accented voice on the other side claims to belong to Mr Alan Shrewsbury of the MTA. The sound from the phone is so loud you have to hold it away from your ear, and anyone standing within a few feet of you can hear Alan talking as if you were on speaker on a cellphone.

Alan is sorry about all this, but traffic accidents like this aren’t unusual. The Agents are a higher grade of fare than would be used to pay for this ride, but there’s not much to be done about it now. Asking Alan about Norton’s missing girlfriend will confirm she’s the kind of drifter that the earth usually prefers to take. “They” caught her sleeping on the ride home one night.

Yelling at or threatening Alan doesn’t yield you much; he’ll patiently wait for you to finish. If you haven’t hung up at the end of their rant, Alan will ask: “are you done yet?” When he’s disappointed, he sounds kind of like the platonic ideal of your dad.

Unless you’ve taken measures to prevent her from following you, Pearl will be there when you call Alan, and will have a few demands on her own. Namely, she wants to know how the fuck she’s getting out of here. Alan will readily explain the process to anyone who asks. Either you find a fare to feed to the cavern, or you wait until the “mouths” get verklempt. He says about two people should do it. If specifically pressed for a nonlethal answer, you’ll hear what sounds like someone working an abacus before he says that “a partial fare will cost you more, but technically they just want blood.”


The depths of the earth are vast and inscrutable. Chthonic horror hungers for the blood of mankind, and the soil takes what it is owed from those who trespass beneath its skin. The black spots are how it hunts, opening and closing wherever they please for 5 damage whenever the Handler wants to ramp up the pressure. The attack can be resisted with a Dodge roll.

Once two people die, or a total of 25 damage has been dealt to any number of people present, the earth will release you. Ephraim getting bit dealt 5 damage to him, so you’re already 1/5th of the way there.

If Pearl hears Alan’s message along with the Agents, they all roll HUMINT to try and hide any violent intentions. Any Agents Adapted to Violence make this test at -20%. If the Agents flub their rolls and Pearl gets scared, she’ll retreat to the train car and try to turn the other passengers to her side. It’ll be easy for Pearl to convince Jane, but Kyle’s an asshole; he’s with you if you haven’t been an asshole in return to him, or have in any way deferred to his posturing. Norton’s attitude towards you depends entirely on whether or not you’ve let slip you suspect what he is.

If any of the Agents pull a gun, Kyle will panic, Jane will charge the armed Agent with her knife, Norton will let loose with Withering, and Pearl will try to shield Ephraim provided he’s still alive.

Finding out that his girlfriend is dead will do serious damage to Norton’s already weak SAN. Crafty arguments coupled with a successful Persuade roll could talk him into allowing himself to be killed in order to be reunited with her in death.

Once you’ve paid the toll, the subway announcement system will chime, and you’ll have a few moments to get back in the car if you’d exited it. The doors will close, and the train will start to rumble forward on the track as the wall in front of you opens like the valve of a heart. After a few minutes in the perfect dark, you’ll pull up to the stop at Euclid Avenue.

Needless to say, trying to find Mr Alan Shrewsbury is going to be difficult. If you look him up with the MTA, you’ll find he was shanked in the late 1970s by a tunnel-dweller during a routine track inspection. (0/1 SAN)


  • Getting home safely rewards you with 1 SAN for every passenger you bring back alive.

Final word count: 1500 words.



The Mouth Of The Eye
This monster does not have any HP and thus cannot be killed: if any solid matter is put into one of the black spots, it painfully vanishes. The only stats relevant for this monster are as follows:
ATTACK: Blink Open (at a skill rating of 65% this attack does 5 damage and is opposed with Dodge);


Subway Evangelist, Age 65
STR 12 CON 14 DEX 6 INT 11 POW 14 CHA 6
HP 8 (13 total) WP 14 SAN 84 BREAKING POINT 72
SKILLS: Dodge (65%); Melee Combat (10%); Unarmed Combat (30%);
DESCRIPTION: A thickset older man with the stamina to preach the word of the LORD for longer than anyone else on the train has been alive.


Finance Jock, Age 29
STR 12 CON 10 DEX 9 INT 10 POW 8 CHA 10
SKILLS: Dodge (55%); Melee Combat (30%); Unarmed Combat (50%);
DESCRIPTION: A haughty, self-centered man who maintains a gym-fit physique purely for the look.


Class Clown, Age 24
STR 10 CON 11 DEX 13 INT 10 POW 9 CHA 7
SKILLS: Dodge (65%); Melee Combat (60%); Unarmed Combat (40%);
DESCRIPTION: A lithe young woman with a sprinter’s build and a rage that frequently drives her to run the streets of Queens at night, hoping someone will try to jump her just to get an excuse for violence.


Young Occultist, Age 20
STR 8 CON 7 DEX 8 INT 11 POW 15 CHA 8
SKILLS: Dodge (60%); Melee Combat (20%); Unarmed Combat (350%);
RITUALS: Finding (Handler’s Guide pg 180); and Withering (Handler’s Guide pg 187)
DESCRIPTION: A thin young man barely out of his teens whose determination can’t make up for a malnourished childhood and a bad diet now.


Desk Manager, Age 45
STR 8 CON 13 DEX 7 INT 13 POW 8 CHA 9
SKILLS: Dodge (30%); Melee Combat (10%); Unarmed Combat (30%);
DESCRIPTION: A fat woman with an imposing demeanor she can’t back up physically in a fight.


Take The A Train was written by Bird Bailey for the the 2022 Shotgun Scenario contest.
Source: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Nbp6WnmVU5sENf2vPGAfZHw5Z6ur2zQrN5zHtadO4o4/edit

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