It may have reeked of death and been engulfed in fire, but it still had plenty of seats available.
Relief Line is your not-so-serious glance at the city we love.
This week, we bring you a very special Halloween-themed Relief Line.
Lucy Jenkins was an ordinary young Torontonian. She lived in the west end and commuted downtown to her job every day. Like many people, she took the 506 streetcar to work, eastbound along College and, like many people, she often found herself waiting out in the cold for it to arrive. Until one day everything changed.
It was crisp, grey Halloween morn and after a particularly long wait for the 506, Lucy finally lost her patience. She shook her fist at the heavens and exclaimed, “I would sell my soul to Satan himself if a streetcar arrived right now.”
Then, as if on cue, the 506 eastbound glided up. Not believing her luck, Lucy hurried on.
Everything appeared normal at first, but Lucy quickly realized that something wasn’t quite right. The streetcar was empty, unusually hot, and choking with the fumes of sulphur. Even the driver looked out of place. His red, flaming robe did not appear to be standard TTC issue.
As the car lurched along College, Lucy noticed other curious things. The mysterious driver was reciting incantations in Latin, for one. But what really confused her was that they kept passing stops. First Lansdowne. Then Dufferin. Then Ossington. Crowds of commuters watched as they breezed past.
“Hey driver, why aren’t we stopping?” she asked.
“It’s the express,” he growled back.
“Express to where?”
The driver began laugh. A deep, haunting laugh that shook everything around Lucy. Not the laugh of an ordinary man.
Slowly, he looked back at Lucy, revealing blazing red eyes and blood-drenched horns, and said, “My dear, this is the express… TO HELL!”
For the driver was none other than Satan himself!
Yet when she was met with this terrifying sight, Lucy did not shriek or cry or beg for mercy. In fact she remained completely indifferent.
“Okay, but we’re stopping at Queen’s Park first, right?”
Lucifer stared back at Lucy, a tad confused.
“I don’t think you heard me,” he said. “I said this is the express to…”
“Hell. Yeah, I got it. It’s just that it’s 8:42 and, like, I need to connect at Queen’s Park or I am definitely going to be late.”
This was obviously not a reaction the devil commonly received. Angered by Lucy’s indifference, he began to remind her, with morbid delight, that she had bargained her soul for a mere streetcar ride and that she was now headed to the Inferno to face an eternity of excruciating torments at the hands of his demons.
Still Lucy seemed unconcerned. She barely even acknowledged him.
Of course, at the same time, Satan was trying to drive a streetcar in mixed-traffic. During rush hour. In Toronto. And it had started to rain a bit.
So, naturally, he got distracted. In no time, he forgot about Lucy’s soul and was instead intently watching the road.
“Is it always this bad?” Satan asked, after he nearly collided with the same fixed-gear cyclist for the second time.
“You should see King Street,” Lucy said, not looking up from her Sudoku.
Just then an SUV cut Satan off.
“Oh wow, did you see that?” he shouted, at the same time laying on his horn, which emitted the screams of a million sinners suffering for all eternity. “What’s wrong with people today?”
“I dunno, it seems like a pretty normal Monday to me,” Lucy said, sighing as they grinded to a halt again. “Hey, isn’t this supposed to be express?”
Now remembering his purpose, Satan smiled with macabre glee.
“Oh, don’t fret, we will be arriving shortly.”
He then pointed to a giant, gaping hole forming on College Street. Flames licked at its edges and the taunts of Satan’s awaiting minions echoed from inside. It was the gates of Hell opening in the heart of Toronto. Right out front of Sneaky Dee’s.
As Satan began to roar with laughter he was interrupted by the crackle of his radio.
“Dammit, hold on,” he muttered.
He had a brief argument with someone on the other before he slammed the radio down in frustration: “Bullshit!”
Suddenly the wails of the demons stopped. Then the fiery chasm on College closed up.
“Um, wasn’t that our stop?” Lucy asked.
Satan looked a bit sheepish.
“Change of plans,” he said. “Short turn at Bathurst.”
Lucy sighed again.
“Yeah, well, my dispatcher says there’s an accident at Spadina so we’re being re-routed. Not my fault.”
“This is literally the worst thing to happen to me all day,” Lucy said.
Satan was about to remind Lucy she had literally sold her soul to him, like, 20 minutes earlier, but he quickly had to slam on the brakes again.
“What is it now?”
“Sorry, gimme a second,” the devil said, grabbing a large crowbar from his side. “I forgot I have to go, you know, manually switch the thingy.”
“Hey, this isn’t my ideal Monday either, sweetheart.”
The devil walked over to the track and began straining to shift the switch with his crowbar. As he worked away, unsuspecting commuters began to file onto the 506 to Hell. It may have reeked of death and been engulfed in fire, but it still had plenty of seats available.
When he got back on board, Satan shrieked with ghoulish pleasure: “Next stop: Hell!”
Then, more quietly, “via Bathurst.”
But before he could sit down, he was met by the crowd of commuters.
He turned to Lucy. “Why did these people get on? Don’t they know where this is going?”
“It’s an underserviced route,” she shrugged.
Satan hurriedly got on the intercom: “Listen, vile scum, if you want to stay on this particular streetcar you must pay with your… ETERNAL SOUL!”
No one moved. After a moment a man in the back shouted, “So can I use my Presto card?”
“What?” the devil cried. “No!”
“I put a token in already,” one woman said, reaching for the transfers. “Can I get a transfer?”
Satan swatted her hand. “I’ll give you a transfer… to HELL!”
“Does Hell connect to Broadview station?”
“What’s wrong with you people?” Satan was now rubbing his bloodied horns in frustration. “This is going to the Underworld! For all eternity! Are you really this desperate to get on a streetcar?”
Most people weren’t listening.
“I think he wants us to move to the back!” one Good Samaritan shouted. “C’mon everyone, let’s make some room!”
People began shoving and arguing. Someone dropped their chocolate milk. A baby began to cry. Satan had clearly lost control of the situation.
Lucy, trying to bring order, raised her hand.
“Listen up everyone, we’re actually short-turning here.”
The crowd gave out a collective groan and then, as quickly as they got on, got off.
When he was once again alone with Lucy, Satan slumped in his seat.
“Thanks for that.” He pulled a macchiato from his flaming cloak and began to blow on it. “Whatever they pay streetcar drivers, it’s not enough.”
Lucy jumped from her seat.
“Wait, when did you get a coffee?”
“Oh, while I was outside. It’s just one of those two-macchiato mornings, ya know?”
“I’m already late and you think it’s a good time to get breakfast?! This is unbelievable! Let me off here.”
“You can’t get off! You sold your soul to me!”
“Yeah, yeah, and you said this was the express.”
“C’mon, it’s only…” Satan glanced at his watch. “9:18?!”
Grabbing her purse, Lucy forced open the doors and headed out into the street.
Satan ran outside and called after her as she headed down College: “You may have escaped my clutches, Lucy Jenkins, but you can’t escape rush hour in Toronto!”
He began to roar with maniacal laughter.
“You hear me?! You’ll never escape rush hour in Toronto! Never!”