My shoelaces tapped the asphalt of platform twenty-seven. Yes, that’s right, I was sitting at the twenty-seventh platform of the largest, most isolated train station on the Eastern border. I tap-tapped my feet and listened to the sound of the aglets hitting the ground in unison. It was very quiet in the station, so my noises seemed rather loud. I continued this motion for three whole minutes before I even realized there was another person nearby. I saw someone, who was indeed quite short, wearing all white. They were watching me.
The sound of my shoelaces seemed to have attracted a small child. The boy had long and shiny black hair that hung like a curtain and covered his face. There was an orange stain on his chest. He walked slowly towards the wooden bench that I had chosen to sit at. As he approached me, he pulled out a tiny broom from the inside of his coat. Before he sat down, two and a half feet away from me, he swept the sand off of his side of the bench. It fell to the ground faster than it should have. That’s odd.
The young boy put the broom back in his coat and leaned his elbows on his knees. I heard him sigh a word but it was too soft for me to hear. I felt uncomfortable with his presence so I took a sip of my flower-flavored soda and started to shake my legs again. We sat in silence for one hundred and forty-two seconds before he finally said to me, “The train is coming.” His thin, pale finger pointed over my shoulder and as I turned my head, I heard the unmistakable squeak of the brakes and recognized the distinct scent of the locomotive.
Together we watched the train approach the platform. Just before it came to a complete stop, I stood up. It was exactly one in the afternoon.
“Don’t get on,” the boy said suddenly, in a surprisingly deep voice. Without looking at him, I asked him why. “Don’t get on the train.” He reiterated, this time more urgent. As he said this, a door on the train slid open. I turned away and looked at the train; calculating. I could feel his eyes on me as I did so. This boy was starting to make me uncomfortable and I wanted him to leave me alone.
For the fifth time, I looked at his face. His skin, which I had originally seen as a pale white, appeared to be more of an ashy gray up close. I didn’t want to look at him anymore. Something was off about him. He seemed familiar in a way. I picked my bag up from the bench and walked towards the open door. The gap between the platform and the train was very wide, maybe two feet, but I made it across safely.
Upon entrance, I took a right into the carriage and assessed my surroundings. The walls were painted dark blue, peeling, and the seats were dusty and red as if no one had sat in them for a very long time. I thought of the boy’s small broom.
I chose a seat in the fifth row; the one closest to the window. I heard the door close and the train began to move. Looking out the window, I saw that the boy was gone. So was the wooden bench.
I sat in silence on the train for about an hour. No one came to check my ticket and we passed no other stations. The only things I saw out the windows were consistently green hills that dipped and rose like waves. I soon became bored, so I decided to explore. I pulled the strap of my bag up onto my shoulder and walked down the aisle. In front of me, I was faced with a closed door with a circular window in the exact center of it. I didn’t see a handle for me to open it so I tried to push it but it didn’t budge.
I leaned down so I could see through the window. The room beyond seemed to be an empty carriage. I saw no chairs, and a large sliding door left the entire side of the carriage completely open. Instantly, the door slid to the side, allowing me to enter.
As I stepped inside, I felt a rush of air from the open door. The walls were made of some sort of metal and the room was nearly empty. The only thing inside, besides myself, was a paper package. I crossed the car and picked it up. It was square and heavy, tied together with twine and bearing what appeared to be a name, written in black calligraphy. “Carthalo Barda,” I read out loud. I thought that was a very curious name. I pondered it for a few moments and then put the box back down.
At that moment I felt tired, so I decided to go back to my red, dusty seat. I walked up to the door that would lead me to my carriage but it didn’t move aside. I pushed it forward but it still didn’t move. I bent down again to look through the window. I saw twenty seats and eight windows but I could not get through the door. This didn’t concern me much but at that moment I would’ve liked to sit back in a seat. Realizing that I was currently unable to do so, I melted down to the ground and leaned up against the wall.
The wind had begun to make a sort of pulsing vortex in the cabin and it made me very drowsy. I closed my eyes and relaxed my muscles. I reckon I had been asleep for maybe an hour before an insistent sound woke me up. I heard a sort of thumping coming from the other side of the room. Thinking back on it, it sounded much like a heartbeat. I rose to my feet and walked to the other side of the car. Using my impressive analytical skills and bat-like hearing, I concluded that the sound was coming from the paper package.
I picked it up once more and felt the sound in my hands. I stared at it for a few moments and turned it around in my hands. I then thought to myself, what a strange day I was having. The boy on the platform, the locked door, the beating box, and to make matters worse I had run out of soy milk just that morning. I let the thought go with a little inquisition and a little more unease. The package continued to beat in my hands and, as it did so, I felt the train slow down. I stumbled a bit.
Curious to see if we had finally arrived, I stepped to the side of the car and looked out. There was no station and all that I could see was the same green grass that we had not passed even after hours on the train. But, yes, we were stopping. As I heard the brakes once again, I was thrust forward and fell to my hands and knees. Ow, that hurt. But we were now at a complete stop. I walked to the side and looked outwards. Green. Grass.
I really don’t know what compelled me to do so, but I hopped off the train and onto the ground. I looked forward and back and was startled to see that the tracks seemed to be infinite. I saw nothing in the distance. Nothing ahead of or behind the train.
In the corner of my eye, I saw a glint of gold. Upon further investigation, I discovered that it was a stopwatch, buried halfway in the ground. I bent down and picked it up. I noticed immediately that there were very beautiful carvings on the backside. They were geometric and floral. With even more inspection, I concluded that this was no usual stopwatch. For a reason that was then unknown to me, there were thirteen hours on the clock, rather than the traditional twelve.
I watched the clock tick, tick, then I curled my fingers around it. I seemed to be in a very patient and calculating mood today. Strange. I’m usually not. Suddenly, I heard the squeak of the wheels on the steel of the tracks. The train was moving. By the time I even had a chance to react, it was going too fast for me to ever hop back on. I ran a few steps and then watched, defeated, as the train rode away. Within a minute, I had lost sight. The train had left me behind.
I was standing in the middle of a grassy plain, seemingly endless in every direction. My bag had been on the train, I realized with a start. I would henceforth be without my silver hairbrush, anxiety medication, and a bag of one hundred and fifty chewy candies. All that I had now was this small watch that lay warm in my hand, and a photo in my back pocket. Without any intentions, I started walking away from the tracks.
According to the watch, I continued for four hours.
End of Part 1
Check out more of my short stories!