Short Story

The Train Forward

AVA KNAPP– GRZEXP.com Staff

It was a foggy and grimy day, that October 19. The sun didn’t shine due to the clouds and smoke covering the Earth like a dirty blanket. Children didn’t talk or engage in any way. They went along quickly, clinging to their mothers dresses and didn’t stop unless it was absolutely necessary. The birds hid in the tree trunks watching everything expecting the silence to break at any moment… but it didn’t. 

Aerabella Tempest watched as a mother and her two daughters hurried by the bench in which she sat. They only stared at her for a moment. A very peculiar moment to be witnessed indeed. Nothing incredible happened. In fact, barely anything happened at all. It was just a glance. A glance given to a young woman sitting on a bench, in a bright red coat in the middle of a dark and cloudy reality. Although things like this must have happened every day, to the both of them, it was completely unconventional.

A mother, with two healthy and proper young ladies found it both strange and frightening to see a little girl sitting alone, without a purpose or a pleasure of being there.

To Aerabella, no one had ever looked at her for so long. Barely anyone had ever noticed her at all. Granted, Aerabella didn’t exactly blend with the crowd. She never intended to stand out, she had only meant to be herself, however being herself in these trying times was considered ,“standing out”. 

Aerabella decided to stop acting unnatural and wondered why they would even be here in the first place? If you think about it, you can understand her confusion. A mother, two young girls, in the middle of a train station neither going somewhere nor coming back. 

As curious as this was, the mother was more concerned with a little girl sitting unoccupied in the middle of a train station during what seemed like the dark age. Her reaction to this was understandable, yet, unlike the mother, Aerabella knew exactly where she was going and what she was doing. 

Aerabella was one of those types of people who never did anything by accident. Good or Bad. Ironically, at the moment Aerabella knew what train she was boarding but the destination was unknown to her. Just as in life, it typically isn’t the place of disembarkation that matters, it’s the journey itself. 

Aerabella held strong to this belief knowing it would guide her on the right path. But it wasn’t like someone was going to come back from the dead and tell her if she was right or wrong. Nonetheless she persisted.

Suddenly, there was a low rumbling sound. You could have felt the vibrations through your body, as Aerabella did. The smoking atmosphere seemed to move with the reverberation, as if the sound affected it. Aerabella didn’t budge. She didn’t look. She didn’t move. She acted as if the sounds and quaking didn’t exist. 

As if it all happened at once, the train approached the boarding platform with a jolt. 

The machine looked extremely old fashioned and was labeled The Train in strange and bold font. A gust of wind from the aftermath of the approach caused Aerabella’s hair to fly into the hair for just a moment. 

As the air settled and the smoke hovered once again in the aura. The doors from The Train creaked open creating excruciating sounds. A man who looked as if he was in his late fifties stepped out of the mechanism.

 He looked at his pocket watch and then at Aerabella. His face was not confused as the mother’s had been, in fact he looked at her quite normally as if her being there was completely predictable. Aerabella stood up, nodded to the man politely and handed him her bags filled with luggage. However, to the elders’ surprise, when she handed him the luggage, they seemed to be as light as a feather. Undeterred by the strange weight, the bloke carried on as if everything was normal. Aerabella boarded The Train before anyone could do anything about it. Why should they? To them it was the most idiosyncratic thing they had ever seen a youth do, yet Aerabella seemed both confident and very much aware of what she was getting into. So, the mother, her two daughters, the old geezer and anyone else who had witnessed the strange yet seemingly insignificant events, did absolutely nothing.

When Aerabella came aboard The Train, she didn’t seem to notice that she was the only one who had embarked on it. Other than the old man, and the unintroduced conductor, Aerabella was the only passenger aboard.

Now, as offbeat as Aerabella was, she wasn’t without manners. She, in her opinion, was the most proper young lady she had ever met, she was also the only young lady she had ever met, properly. With this, she decided to make the unknown conductor, known. 

She promptly hoisted herself out of her seat and headed towards what she thought would be the front car. She passed the man carrying her luggage in an inattentive way.  

Aerabella walked with anticipation. 

She had always enjoyed traveling by train. It gave her a sort of exciting feeling in the pit of her stomach, as it should give everyone without a specific arrival in mind. Arriving at places planned always made Aerabella wonder what the point was in going there in the first place. 

If you spend your time going somewhere you may as well be attentive to the route in which you are going, less of what follows. The arrival is only pure until you’ve arrived. 

Aerabella made her way to the front of The Train. She pried open the door from the final car and there she saw another man, but this one looked more middle aged in her opinion. 

He was tall and lean. He had a dark brown mustache that seemed a tad lopsided. Politely, he tilted his hat at the young woman he saw in front of him, but in his mind, he wondered what on earth a child would want from the captain of a moving train.

“Umm, may I help you miss?” He had an unexpected sounding voice. It wasn’t warm and thoughtful like you would have thought it to be, instead, it was low and deep with a raspy finish to it. 

Aerabella didn’t respond at first, infact, she didn’t even acknowledge the question until she felt like it. That was the kind of person she was. It was her who was important, others … less so, to put it nicely. 

“Sir? I best hope your attention is towards me because a question is what I’ve decided to dispatch from myself and give to you. Not as a gift, more as a command. I expect something in return, an answer perhaps? Yes an answer will do nicely. You wouldn’t expect me, being the person that I am, to come here on accident, would you?” 

The man was taken aback from the impressive monologue that came out of the girl’s mouth. She didn’t look of age to be genuinely speaking the way she did, it took him a few moments to realize that she requested him to respond,

“Oh umm, no miss, of course not. What’s your question?” He stuttered but kept his bold and stern face at hand.

It took Aerabella only a nano of a second to decide what the question was. Of course she knew why she had come there, but what she would do completely slipped her mind. She had politely introduced herself by intending to ask a question. So betraying herself, she asked,

“Where is our destination exactly? Although I’m not typically the person to ask such a dreadful question, it shan’t hurt to be clueless on the port of call now would it?” 

The conductor let out a sly smile when he heard this. Even though the conductor had just met Aerabella and had no idea who she was, nor where she came from, he decided to say the one thing that would satisfy anyone of her sort:

“Forward,” he stated. Aerabella smiled. She knew at once that this was a place she wanted to go to.

Featured Image Credits:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/

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