The Railway Dream

Fog hangs over my reality and green light smothers my dreams. Before me is that same train again. It stands still and quiet, as it always did. Déjà vu conjures disquiet of how familiar this is, and the instinct to escape. But every part of me was numb and rooted, my mind in a trance.

I do not, and cannot run. Instead, I observe the train, unmoving. Its metallic body glows emerald under the dusty lights, part obscured by burnt and dead bugs. Scrawled graffiti coat every inch of its sides, illegible warnings calling out to me.

Then, I can feel my feet start to shuffle. Invisible strings hauls my hollow shell along the platform. More suicidal bugs litter the ground. Some lay quietly on the grimy signs. A screen lights up above me, as my neck cranes to look above. It tells of nothing where the train is heading. On it were dots and lines, like the pieces to an indecipherable puzzle that one can never figure out the rules to.

The train never moves. I can smell the sour acidity of the metal that rusts even now, by the second. The railway corrodes, as the wheels grind against the unmaintained tracks each day.

More odours amalgamate, as the station fills up. Unknowing folks stake their wretched lives on unknown odds, as they step in one after another. Doors close behind them. The cabins stretch across the tracks beyond an unbounded distance. Seats stay empty. Strangers stand behind the window in a neat row, staring ahead.

I walk on, if you can call it that, further down the empty station. My eyes are fixed on the floor, for the most part. Yet I cannot help but occasionally peer at the passengers’ stares. Their order unexpectedly brings neither fear nor discomfort, but calm and serenity. The lost soul looks further for answers she knows she will never find.

In the first car behind the controls sits the same old man dressed in a grim shade that remains grey under the green light. He has that familiar pair of sad grey eyes wrinkled at their corners, only masked by unkempt hair. His fingers lay on his lap and tap with a strange rhythm I recognise, but do not know.

I watch him for a long time. Sometimes it feels as though I am looking at him from a platform afar. Sometimes I can almost see him close before me, within uneasy distance. He stares back as though he knows exactly who I am. He never talks. At times he utters something under his breath. No sound, only mist escapes his rotten teeth.

Then, it happens. The blast takes no more than a few seconds to be overtaken by screams of the strangers on the train. Looks of horror made them look one and the same.

Their veins grow taut and their limbs, numb. Red flames engulf them where they stand, and swallow their feet. Some scream with their scorched eyes wide. Others stay silent with their melted jaws plunged. The grand finale sees every one of those bodies on the floor, their faces ashen and vacant as they once had been.

The nightmare ends abrupt, releasing me from its grip. I scream for answers, knowing that it will only return over and over again, to make sure I eventually do. Hot tears stream down my face, and my palms bleed where my nails had dug.

They say, it is only a dream. But I can still smell the burning flesh and hear the echoing cries, beckoning me to understand in my anguish. Who is to say a dream is no more real than reality? I cannot be certain. Not anymore. All I know is that each time, the train will vanish without me, and I will always be left behind.

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