A Train Bound to Nowhere

Writing Prompt: Outside your window you see an enormous crimson dragon trying to keep eye contact with you. This, along with many other pieces of evidence, leads you to believe that you might’ve gotten on the wrong train.

Jadyn’s carriage was almost empty, a rare thing to see at rush hour. Three men in long coats had gathered around four seats in the corner, a woman with a peacock feather in her hat was reading to Jaydn’s left, and down the far end of the carriage there sat an old lady, dressed entirely in black, with a veil draped down over her face and a dog asleep in her lap.

London was a half hour by train, the announcer said as much. Jadyn glanced down at her watch. That’s odd. The hands were frozen, still ticking but not moving. The watches face read a quarter to twelve. She tapped the glass and the train’s lights flickered. What’s the use. She shrugged, slumping back into her chair. They’d have warned us of delays. With her nose pressed to the window the gentle vibrations of the track fizzled up through her cheeks. You’ll know when we get there. She thought smiling, it was something her father used to say. Gods rest his soul.

Outside the window deep valleys ripe with cherry coloured blossoms rolled on by. Fields of wheat a mile long and twice as wide rose up and over the green. Jaydn had even spotted a deer, far, far away on the horizon, a lonely blot with horns standing proud beneath the setting sun.

No. F*cking. Way. Jaydn jumped up, rubbing her eyes. What the Hell was that? She had felt herself dozing off before the blur shot past her vision. Is this a dream? It has to be. Surely it is? It wasn’t. A dragon of deepest crimson had soared past the window, wings tearing to race ahead of the train. Its scales sent droplets of red raining over the carriage, and the force of its passing sent the entire train bobbing and swaying, screeching for hold on the tracks. The dragon was enormous, its body spanned for minutes (not that Jaydn could’ve marked their passing) before finally coming to an end at a spiked tail. She hadn’t seen its head, and she scarcely knew whether she wanted to.

Inside the carriage the men in long coats had risen from their seats, and as they did the strangest thing happened. They shrunk. Right before Jaydn’s very eyes each one fell from nearly six foot tall to less than two in all. The coats floated lazily to the ground and when their cover parted Jaydn saw not three pairs, but nine – nine! – pairs of legs hurrying into the toilets.

The woman that had been reading gave a laugh, “Don’t mind them. Let Boys be Imps, as they say.”

Now that Jaydn had come face to face with the woman she noticed something entirely unfamiliar about her. The peacock feather was missing from her hat, and in its place there was a single severed finger. What of the woman herself? She’s a… bird? Feathers of bright blue and green covered her entire body with a great plume tucked under her rear. Below the cut of the woman’s ankle-swinging trousers there were long white toes with talons on the tips. What is this place?

“It’s awfully rude to stare you know.” the woman squawked, returning to her book with a snap. The cover was titled; On People-Watching, a biography of Man.

Jaydn started to feel nauseous, her stomach jumping rope around her innards. Her skin turned a pale white in colour as she closed her eyes and returned to the window. The carriage still shook, but the dragon was long gone (from sight at least). The newer view, however, filled Jaydn with a dread far worse than any dragon could.

Water surrounded the train’s carriage. They were deep below the surface of the sea, the only tell-tale sign was that of the sun glistening on the glass like ceiling above, sprinkling rippling waves before the light. There were no fish, that Jaydn could see at least, but of creatures this deep down below had plenty.

Sea-weed writhed with a life of its own, each tentacle a limb that slapped against the train’s glass windows. Christ! They’re going to break it… smash it open… we’ll drown down in here! Jaydn was caught between a sickening curiosity and a finite sense of dread. There were coral creatures, too, almost human in their make up, with arms and legs and skeletal heads. They seemed to smile and wave at the train as it passed on hurriedly by.

And what in Gods name are they? Lurking in the deep Jaydn had been unable to see them clearly at first, but their eyes, that was enough. Piercing orbs of blood-dragon red that screamed hunger and defiance of the natural order. They looked at Jaydn, through Jaydn, and she cowered away.

What in the Hell is going on here? Am I dreaming? Am I high? Jaydn shook her head. She hadn’t touched narcotics of any kind for as long as she’d been in London. Her father’s anniversary. The dull affair in her hometown of Essex. The niggling bite of deep depression. That was the last time she’d hit it hard. Cough medicine? Can that make you hallucinate? She remembered taking a spoonful or two before she’d left for the journey home.

A tap at the window stole her attention. Jesus f*cking Christ! She threw herself off the seat. It was her father, clear as day. Does memory live down here? He was a corpse, rotted by the sea, less flesh and more bone, with a stagnant pool of green that weaved around him. His undead hand pressed against the window, his skinless jaw shaped three full words; no more running.

“Sweet girl, are you okay?” the voice was music to Jaydn’s ears. Elderly and comforting, almost normal in this sea of the bizarre. “Come, please come and sit with me.” the old lady in black held out a hand and Jaydn gladly accepted. Together they wandered down the carriage, back to where the old ladies dog had remained, soundly asleep. “Oh don’t mind Stanley, he rarely ever bites.”

Jaydn gave an awkward smile, tucked back her skirt and sat down opposite the veiled woman. From this new seat she was able to see behind the train, to where they (and the dragon) had come from. The track remained as it should have been, feeding itself up and far above the water’s surface. Sparks flickered around the train’s wheels and spat back defiantly at their watery confines. And somewhere further back, just then breaking the water’s edge, a shadow chased the train with dull amusement.

“Where am I? What is the meaning of all this? Am I dreaming?” Jaydn was breathing heavy, a mist carried off with her words. It was colder than before, she realised.

“Please, my sweet girl, one question at a time.” the woman laughed, “Perhaps first we should introduce one another. I am Theresa, you’ve met Stanley,” she gestured to the dog, “and you are?”

Jaydn had no reason to lie, and yet she did, “Katherine,” Jaydn eyed the carriage queerly, close to tears, “pleased to meet you.” she stammered.

“Oh, sweet girl,” the woman croaked and rose so-slightly in her chair, “I really wish you hadn’t done that.” upon the seat, beside the woman, Stanley started to growl, quickly stolen from his slumber, one eye open, watching, waiting. “We don’t take kindly to lies. Not here. This place is pure, don’t you see that?”

All around the train had started to change in subtle ways, the leather of the seats was peeling back, the metal carcass of the carriage now wore spots of aged rust, the lights less flickered and instead held a permanent dark about them, and outside of the window… the sea was rotten gangrene, flakes of flesh rushed up and past the glass, hungry eyes paraded from out their cavernous hiding spaces. Then dragon returned, to show its face, a blanket of flame dressed with large obsidian eyes.

Quickly came the shadow, as it rushed over the train, the carriage, the girl.

Theresa’s Hell hound bared its fangs and the women herself clutched at her veil with frail, old hands. She lifted but the tiniest scrap of woven black, and beneath revealed her jawbone. Not jaw, not skin, just bone. A centipede crawled out between the bottom rack of crooked teeth, and Jaydn screamed.

“I want to go home now!” she closed her eyes.

The woman cackled loud. The dragon bathed the train in flames. The shadow shook its overbearing head and with it turned the carriage over. Jaydn felt herself being lifted from the seat, and when she at last dared to open her eyes she saw nine sets of tiny legs dragging her away across the carriage ceiling.

Below her, behind her, Theresa waved, “Sweet girl, this is your home now.”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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