The door to the gangway to next carriage was partially open, bits of debris preventing it from closing properly. The next was a coach carriage, rows of empty seats staring blankly at him. He checked out the window again, certain that the seats were pointing the wrong way. Outside the landscape appeared as black as ever, giving him no hint as to train’s direction

As Erik checked the rows of empty chairs a creeping hollowness washed over him. The entire carriage was devoid, lacking even a single piece of refuse to hint at human habitation. When he reached the far door he turned around, noticing Penelope still standing in the gangway, gingerly holding the door ajar.

“You coming?” Erik asked, unsure how he wanted her to respond.

“Like, I’m not sure,” she replied, her voice quavering. “Do you need me to help, dude?”

“No,” he said, hoping it was the right answer.

Penelope nodded, retreating back into the chaotic carriage. The door shut with an ominous clunk behind her, plunging Erik into silence. When he turned to the door, he felt a shadow fall across his back. Panicked, he spun around, seeing nothing in the carriage but emptiness. Nearly paralyzed with fear, Erik cursed himself for telling Penelope to leave. Any companion would be preferable to facing the train alone in silence.

Almost too frightened to continue, Erik wrenched the door ajar and barreled forward, finding himself in another coach carriage. The seats were facing away from him, backing up his notion of which direction the train was going, yet blocking his view of whatever might be hiding in them.

Alone again, he advanced up the aisle, whipping his head from side to side as he found yet another empty carriage. Erik didn’t remember starting to run, only that when he failed to open the next door he slammed into it with enough force to wind him.

For several agonizing moments he remained still, glancing over his shoulder, checking for people he knew wouldn’t be there. Then he tried the door again, searching for a latch. It was almost a relief when he couldn’t find a way to open the door. When he looked through the glass into the gangway he saw that a pole was jamming the door shut. A part of him realized that if he simply broke the glass he could push it aside with ease.

The thought made him shiver, Erik immediately thinking of the legal and financial consequences of such an action. Several times he ran through why he had to leave the glass alone. Still not entirely convinced, he turned back the way he had come, his eyes falling on a book longing upon one of the seats.

Erik blinked, positive it had not been there before. A moment later he reminded himself that he might have simply missed it during his initial search. Heart pounding, he scooped it up and bit a hasty retreat, back through the empty carriages until he arrived back where he had awoken a lifetime before.

Jeff and Penelope were huddled around the intercom. The box had been broken open, revealing a tangled web of wires that Jeff was now elbow deep inside of. Meanwhile Penelope was cracking open bits of electronics she had recovered from the chaotic carriage next door.

The sight, Erik felt, should trouble him, yet he felt nothing but a slight admiration for their determination. He settled down in a chair with the book, tapping its blank leather cover curiously. After a cursory glance found neither title nor table of contents, he began flipping through the pages to figure out what he had found.

Bewilderment washed over him, as he found that the volume contained snippets of the biblical narrative interspersed with quotations from Chairman Mao. Soon advice from the prophet Muhammad made an appearance alongside the antics of Don Quixote.

“What do you have there dude?” Penelope asked, glancing up from a half disassembled net book.

“I have no idea,” Erik replied, snapping shut the book of madness. “Probably a practical joke.”

He glanced out the window, the distant mountains seeming nearly motionless on the black horizon. After thinking it over, Erik decided that the book was no more nonsensical than anything else he had seen that night.

Without warning the door opened behind him. Startled, Erik spun around, his eyes landing on the dark haired young man he had seen asleep earlier. The lad appeared worried, his hands trembling slightly as he pushed into the room.

“Hello?” he said apprehensively, glancing from Penelope and Jeff to Erik.

“What is it?” Erik asked, breathing a sigh of relief.

“I, uh, I’d just want to know where this train is heading; if you’d be so kind.”

“Not sure,” Penelope called, “we’re like, as lost as you are dude.”

“Oh,” he murmured, glancing toward the window. “I don’t mean to sound absurd, but, I don’t remember boarding this train.”

An awkward pause followed his statement, everyone present knowing what he meant.

“Same for us,” Jeff said, “it’s a reality TV program I think.”

“A what?” the stranger asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Jeff insisted, “They drop a bunch of strangers on a train and film the results.”

“That’s insane,” the stranger cried, slapping his forehead. “I’d remember being approached and all that.”

“Nope, they like purged our memories,” Jeff said, “Used an amnesia drug to get better results.”

“Will someone please start talking sense?!”

“Like, chill, dude,” Penelope said quickly, “getting stressed won’t help.”

“You’re right, you’re right,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Calm, I’m calm.”

A few moments passed while the stranger calmed himself, silence threatening to spill forth and retake the room.

“Say, what’s your name?” Erik asked.

“Pendleton, it’s Pendleton.”

“Can you recall what were you doing right before you got on the train?”

“I told you, I didn’t get on a train,” he replied tersely, turning to leave.

“Wait, please,” Erik said, jumping to his feet, “Let’s stick together.”

“Why should I?” He asked, his eyes narrowing, “In fact, why should I trust any of you?”

“Because we’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” Erik insisted, “We have to know what’s going on.”

“Bah,” he retorted, a note of fear crossing his face. “You’re with them, aren’t you? This is some sort of elaborate set up.”

“What are you blathering about?”

“Quiet!” Pendleton called turning to flee.

His valiant escape attempt was thwarted not two steps in by the timely arrival of brown suited Finnegan O’Hare, whose mass blocked the doorway sufficiently to keep Pendleton bottled up in the dining carriage.

“OY!” Finnegan blustered, nearly toppling over.

“S-sorry,” Pendleton stammered, “But I need to get out of here.”

“There’s not much point in that, sonny. We’re all stuck on the train until she stops.”

“Get out of the way!”

“Well, if you’re going to be like that about it.” Finnegan marched into the carriage, giving Pendleton his opening. He took it, making a dash for the exit. This time he had to stop himself from leaving, for a new figure appeared to block his path anew, a black haired girl in a yellow dress.

“Pen, are you ok?” she said sheepishly, rubbing her eyes, “I heard yelling.”

“I’m alright Abby,” Pendleton said, his tone suddenly soft. “Don’t fret.”

He knelt down and gently hugged her, the dining car falling silent behind them. After an awkward pause, Pendleton wordlessly lead his sister from the carriage back to their compartment, leaving the rest of them to their devices. Sensing that everyone was growing uneasy at the silence, Finnegan walked up to Jeff and Penelope’s project, looking over the mess they had made.

“Err, what are you two doing then?”

“Like, Penny thought she heard a voice from the speaker, so she’s got in her head that we need to turn it into a two way communicator thing.”

“Shut up; I did hear a voice,” she said, poking Jeff, “this is not a reality show, either.”

“Err, did I miss something?” Finnegan asked.

“Nothing important,” Penelope said, shaking her head. “Though you could lend us a hand, if you, like, know anything about electric stuff.”

“Not really my area of expertise,” he replied, edging away from the mess, “I was just feeling a bit peckish and wanted a bite to eat.”

“There’s no food here,” Erik said quietly, “Might want to check the bar in the lounge, there’s some chips if you’re really desperate.”

“A man cannot survive off of crisps alone,” Finnegan grumbled, “There must be proper food somewhere on this bloody train.”

“Like, I have some trail mix,” Penelope said, reaching into her pocket.

“Never mind,” he said, turning away, “I’ll just eat some damned crisps and hope the station isn’t too far off.”

Before Finnegan could stalk off, a deafening crackling noise burst into life. Jeff dropped the speaker in shock as it began clicking, the strange sound reverberating around them. It was almost like Morse code, Erik thought, though he failed to identify any sort of pattern amongst the random bursts of noises.

And then the speaker went dead. After a momentary pause Jeff rushed back to it and tried to get it working again, cursing softly under his breath. Nearby Penelope had produced a notebook and was busily trying to scribble down a few notes. Curious, Erik approached her, though she covered up her writing as he approached.

“Like, can I help you?”

“What are you writing?”

“The code,” she replied, pointing at the radio, “it’s a message.”

“Bah,” Finnegan snorted, at last making his exit, “nothing but white noise.”

With that she fell silent, the only remaining sounds those of her pen scribbling across paper, and Jeff’s tinkering. Despite several attempts by Erik to goad them into conversation neither took the bait. With silence threatening to engulf him once more, Erik turned to chase after Finnegan, hoping that the man would be more personable with a snack in his belly.

Just beyond the door, however, he ran into another of the passengers. Violet was pacing back and forth down the corridor, appearing quite nervous as she fidgeted with her purse. Her nervousness vanished the moment she spotted Erik approaching, replaced by a dull irritated expression.

“Oh, what do you want?”

“Just passing through,” he replied, trying to remain upbeat. “How are you holding up?”

“Mind your own damned business!”

A moment of ringing silence passed between them. Erik opened his mouth several times to speak, but couldn’t find the right words. Meanwhile Violet had turned crimson and seemed remorseful.

“Sorry,” she murmured at last, tugging nervously on a few stray hairs. “I’ve, just under a lot of stress lately.”

“I don’t think anyone onboard would disagree with that sentiment,” Erik said, determined to remain calm. He glanced down at his hand, a tremble betraying his true feelings. He hastily hid it in his pocket and thought of changing the subject. “Perhaps you could help me?”

“Sure, why not,” Violet said, shaking her head, “Help you how?”

“Get through a door in a forward carriage.”

“Right,” she said, turning the wrong way.

“No, this way,” he said, motioning back towards the dining car.

“If you insist.” She shrugged, following him through the dining car where Penelope and Jeff were hard at work. On the other side lay the devastated carriage. Violet seemed to shiver at the sight, though showed no other signs of distress. Past the devastation were the two barren coach carriages, which gave Erik the creeps.

At the end they came to the locked door, the next carriage tantalizingly close. Violet tapped on the glass experimentally.

“Exactly what do you need help with?”

“Getting through here,” he said, suddenly realizing how silly he sounded. “S…”

“Stand aside,” she said, pushing him out of the way.

Before Eric could react, Violet produced a hefty flashlight from her purse and smashed the glass in the door to smithereens. Howling wind whipped through the hole as she reached out and undid the latch, allowing them entry to the next car. Stunned, Eric rose to his feet, staring at the devastation Violet had caused.

“Why did you do that?”

“I want off this bloody train,” she replied, pulling the door ajar. “Now come on.”

He followed her lead, approaching the precipice of the gangway. What lay beyond gave him pause. The rubber enclosure which usually connected train carriages was missing. The roaring blackness of the outside world was now bearing down upon him. Wind washed over the edgeless gangway, a fall into oblivion awaiting him on either side.

Violet was already across the gap, looking through the next carriage with her flashlight. A few moments later she turned around and stared at him, appearing slightly confused. “Come on!”

Her voice was nearly lost over the roar. Eric nodded, but made no move to follow. The thought of falling from the train into the dark unknown sent shivers of primal fear through his being. After taking several breaths, he took a tentative step onto the shifting metal sheet, his fear of the unknown overwhelmed by his fear of being called a coward.

It was only two steps across the gap, yet felt like much further. Each gust of wind or shift in the gangway sent a twinge of terror up his spine. Once in the next carriage he collapsed against a pile of luggage for a moment and breathed deeply, trying to gather himself. A hand landed on his shoulder.

“Are you alright?” Violet asked, pulling him around to face her.

“Fine,” he said unconvincingly, “just, what did we find here?”

“Nothing but piles of suitcases and overnight bags.”

“How disappointing,” Eric said glumly, his eyes now drawn to the wall of baggage blocking their way.

“Want to pitch bags out the door until we can get through?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Yeah,” she replied, flashing an unconvincing smile, “Just a fantasy.”

The door to the gangway to next carriage was partially open, bits of debris preventing it from closing properly. The next was a coach carriage, rows of empty seats staring blankly at him. He checked out the window again, certain that the seats were pointing the wrong way. Outside the landscape appeared as black as ever, giving him no hint as to train’s direction

As Erik checked the rows of empty chairs a creeping hollowness washed over him. The entire carriage was devoid, lacking even a single piece of refuse to hint at human habitation. When he reached the far door he turned around, noticing Penelope still standing in the gangway, gingerly holding the door ajar.

“You coming?” Erik asked, unsure how he wanted her to respond.

“Like, I’m not sure,” she replied, her voice quavering. “Do you need me to help, dude?”

“No,” he said, hoping it was the right answer.

Penelope nodded, retreating back into the chaotic carriage. The door shut with an ominous clunk behind her, plunging Erik into silence. When he turned to the door, he felt a shadow fall across his back. Panicked, he spun around, seeing nothing in the carriage but emptiness. Nearly paralyzed with fear, Erik cursed himself for telling Penelope to leave. Any companion would be preferable to facing the train alone in silence.

Almost too frightened to continue, Erik wrenched the door ajar and barreled forward, finding himself in another coach carriage. The seats were facing away from him, backing up his notion of which direction the train was going, yet blocking his view of whatever might be hiding in them.

Alone again, he advanced up the aisle, whipping his head from side to side as he found yet another empty carriage. Erik didn’t remember starting to run, only that when he failed to open the next door he slammed into it with enough force to wind him.

For several agonizing moments he remained still, glancing over his shoulder, checking for people he knew wouldn’t be there. Then he tried the door again, searching for a latch. It was almost a relief when he couldn’t find a way to open the door. When he looked through the glass into the gangway he saw that a pole was jamming the door shut. A part of him realized that if he simply broke the glass he could push it aside with ease.

The thought made him shiver, Erik immediately thinking of the legal and financial consequences of such an action. Several times he ran through why he had to leave the glass alone. Still not entirely convinced, he turned back the way he had come, his eyes falling on a book longing upon one of the seats.

Erik blinked, positive it had not been there before. A moment later he reminded himself that he might have simply missed it during his initial search. Heart pounding, he scooped it up and bit a hasty retreat, back through the empty carriages until he arrived back where he had awoken a lifetime before.

Jeff and Penelope were huddled around the intercom. The box had been broken open, revealing a tangled web of wires that Jeff was now elbow deep inside of. Meanwhile Penelope was cracking open bits of electronics she had recovered from the chaotic carriage next door.

The sight, Erik felt, should trouble him, yet he felt nothing but a slight admiration for their determination. He settled down in a chair with the book, tapping its blank leather cover curiously. After a cursory glance found neither title nor table of contents, he began flipping through the pages to figure out what he had found.

Bewilderment washed over him, as he found that the volume contained snippets of the biblical narrative interspersed with quotations from Chairman Mao. Soon advice from the prophet Muhammad made an appearance alongside the antics of Don Quixote.

“What do you have there dude?” Penelope asked, glancing up from a half disassembled net book.

“I have no idea,” Erik replied, snapping shut the book of madness. “Probably a practical joke.”

He glanced out the window, the distant mountains seeming nearly motionless on the black horizon. After thinking it over, Erik decided that the book was no more nonsensical than anything else he had seen that night.

Without warning the door opened behind him. Startled, Erik spun around, his eyes landing on the dark haired young man he had seen asleep earlier. The lad appeared worried, his hands trembling slightly as he pushed into the room.

“Hello?” he said apprehensively, glancing from Penelope and Jeff to Erik.

“What is it?” Erik asked, breathing a sigh of relief.

“I, uh, I’d just want to know where this train is heading; if you’d be so kind.”

“Not sure,” Penelope called, “we’re like, as lost as you are dude.”

“Oh,” he murmured, glancing toward the window. “I don’t mean to sound absurd, but, I don’t remember boarding this train.”

An awkward pause followed his statement, everyone present knowing what he meant.

“Same for us,” Jeff said, “it’s a reality TV program I think.”

“A what?” the stranger asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Jeff insisted, “They drop a bunch of strangers on a train and film the results.”

“That’s insane,” the stranger cried, slapping his forehead. “I’d remember being approached and all that.”

“Nope, they like purged our memories,” Jeff said, “Used an amnesia drug to get better results.”

“Will someone please start talking sense?!”

“Like, chill, dude,” Penelope said quickly, “getting stressed won’t help.”

“You’re right, you’re right,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Calm, I’m calm.”

A few moments passed while the stranger calmed himself, silence threatening to spill forth and retake the room.

“Say, what’s your name?” Erik asked.

“Pendleton, it’s Pendleton.”

“Can you recall what were you doing right before you got on the train?”

“I told you, I didn’t get on a train,” he replied tersely, turning to leave.

“Wait, please,” Erik said, jumping to his feet, “Let’s stick together.”

“Why should I?” He asked, his eyes narrowing, “In fact, why should I trust any of you?”

“Because we’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” Erik insisted, “We have to know what’s going on.”

“Bah,” he retorted, a note of fear crossing his face. “You’re with them, aren’t you? This is some sort of elaborate set up.”

“What are you blathering about?”

“Quiet!” Pendleton called turning to flee.

His valiant escape attempt was thwarted not two steps in by the timely arrival of brown suited Finnegan O’Hare, whose mass blocked the doorway sufficiently to keep Pendleton bottled up in the dining carriage.

“OY!” Finnegan blustered, nearly toppling over.

“S-sorry,” Pendleton stammered, “But I need to get out of here.”

“There’s not much point in that, sonny. We’re all stuck on the train until she stops.”

“Get out of the way!”

“Well, if you’re going to be like that about it.” Finnegan marched into the carriage, giving Pendleton his opening. He took it, making a dash for the exit. This time he had to stop himself from leaving, for a new figure appeared to block his path anew, a black haired girl in a yellow dress.

“Pen, are you ok?” she said sheepishly, rubbing her eyes, “I heard yelling.”

“I’m alright Abby,” Pendleton said, his tone suddenly soft. “Don’t fret.”

He knelt down and gently hugged her, the dining car falling silent behind them. After an awkward pause, Pendleton wordlessly lead his sister from the carriage back to their compartment, leaving the rest of them to their devices. Sensing that everyone was growing uneasy at the silence, Finnegan walked up to Jeff and Penelope’s project, looking over the mess they had made.

“Err, what are you two doing then?”

“Like, Penny thought she heard a voice from the speaker, so she’s got in her head that we need to turn it into a two way communicator thing.”

“Shut up; I did hear a voice,” she said, poking Jeff, “this is not a reality show, either.”

“Err, did I miss something?” Finnegan asked.

“Nothing important,” Penelope said, shaking her head. “Though you could lend us a hand, if you, like, know anything about electric stuff.”

“Not really my area of expertise,” he replied, edging away from the mess, “I was just feeling a bit peckish and wanted a bite to eat.”

“There’s no food here,” Erik said quietly, “Might want to check the bar in the lounge, there’s some chips if you’re really desperate.”

“A man cannot survive off of crisps alone,” Finnegan grumbled, “There must be proper food somewhere on this bloody train.”

“Like, I have some trail mix,” Penelope said, reaching into her pocket.

“Never mind,” he said, turning away, “I’ll just eat some damned crisps and hope the station isn’t too far off.”

Before Finnegan could stalk off, a deafening crackling noise burst into life. Jeff dropped the speaker in shock as it began clicking, the strange sound reverberating around them. It was almost like Morse code, Erik thought, though he failed to identify any sort of pattern amongst the random bursts of noises.

And then the speaker went dead. After a momentary pause Jeff rushed back to it and tried to get it working again, cursing softly under his breath. Nearby Penelope had produced a notebook and was busily trying to scribble down a few notes. Curious, Erik approached her, though she covered up her writing as he approached.

“Like, can I help you?”

“What are you writing?”

“The code,” she replied, pointing at the radio, “it’s a message.”

“Bah,” Finnegan snorted, at last making his exit, “nothing but white noise.”

With that she fell silent, the only remaining sounds those of her pen scribbling across paper, and Jeff’s tinkering. Despite several attempts by Erik to goad them into conversation neither took the bait. With silence threatening to engulf him once more, Erik turned to chase after Finnegan, hoping that the man would be more personable with a snack in his belly.

Just beyond the door, however, he ran into another of the passengers. Violet was pacing back and forth down the corridor, appearing quite nervous as she fidgeted with her purse. Her nervousness vanished the moment she spotted Erik approaching, replaced by a dull irritated expression.

“Oh, what do you want?”

“Just passing through,” he replied, trying to remain upbeat. “How are you holding up?”

“Mind your own damned business!”

A moment of ringing silence passed between them. Erik opened his mouth several times to speak, but couldn’t find the right words. Meanwhile Violet had turned crimson and seemed remorseful.

“Sorry,” she murmured at last, tugging nervously on a few stray hairs. “I’ve, just under a lot of stress lately.”

“I don’t think anyone onboard would disagree with that sentiment,” Erik said, determined to remain calm. He glanced down at his hand, a tremble betraying his true feelings. He hastily hid it in his pocket and thought of changing the subject. “Perhaps you could help me?”

“Sure, why not,” Violet said, shaking her head, “Help you how?”

“Get through a door in a forward carriage.”

“Right,” she said, turning the wrong way.

“No, this way,” he said, motioning back towards the dining car.

“If you insist.” She shrugged, following him through the dining car where Penelope and Jeff were hard at work. On the other side lay the devastated carriage. Violet seemed to shiver at the sight, though showed no other signs of distress. Past the devastation were the two barren coach carriages, which gave Erik the creeps.

At the end they came to the locked door, the next carriage tantalizingly close. Violet tapped on the glass experimentally.

“Exactly what do you need help with?”

“Getting through here,” he said, suddenly realizing how silly he sounded. “S…”

“Stand aside,” she said, pushing him out of the way.

Before Eric could react, Violet produced a hefty flashlight from her purse and smashed the glass in the door to smithereens. Howling wind whipped through the hole as she reached out and undid the latch, allowing them entry to the next car. Stunned, Eric rose to his feet, staring at the devastation Violet had caused.

“Why did you do that?”

“I want off this bloody train,” she replied, pulling the door ajar. “Now come on.”

He followed her lead, approaching the precipice of the gangway. What lay beyond gave him pause. The rubber enclosure which usually connected train carriages was missing. The roaring blackness of the outside world was now bearing down upon him. Wind washed over the edgeless gangway, a fall into oblivion awaiting him on either side.

Violet was already across the gap, looking through the next carriage with her flashlight. A few moments later she turned around and stared at him, appearing slightly confused. “Come on!”

Her voice was nearly lost over the roar. Eric nodded, but made no move to follow. The thought of falling from the train into the dark unknown sent shivers of primal fear through his being. After taking several breaths, he took a tentative step onto the shifting metal sheet, his fear of the unknown overwhelmed by his fear of being called a coward.

It was only two steps across the gap, yet felt like much further. Each gust of wind or shift in the gangway sent a twinge of terror up his spine. Once in the next carriage he collapsed against a pile of luggage for a moment and breathed deeply, trying to gather himself. A hand landed on his shoulder.

“Are you alright?” Violet asked, pulling him around to face her.

“Fine,” he said unconvincingly, “just, what did we find here?”

“Nothing but piles of suitcases and overnight bags.”

“How disappointing,” Eric said glumly, his eyes now drawn to the wall of baggage blocking their way.

“Want to pitch bags out the door until we can get through?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Yeah,” she replied, flashing an unconvincing smile, “Just a fantasy.”

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