Brent wakes up on an antique train unaware of who he is, how he got there, or why he's there. He soon finds that the person he is outside the train has dark secrets.
Brent’s eyes fluttered open, his vision blurred and distorted. Rubbing his eyes with a shaky hand, the world around him began to come into focus. He sat facing the plush, velvety seat of a train car. A dimly lit, antique lamp hung above him, shaking slightly as if they were in motion. He tilted his head to the left, where lacey curtains covered a window. Using one finger, he peeped behind the curtains, finding only darkness. They must be in a tunnel, he thought. He must’ve dozed off, fallen asleep, but…why was he on a train? Brent quickly sat up, groping at the suit he was wearing, checking for a phone, a wallet, anything. He had nothing on him except the high-end suit and a pair of dark, brown leather shoes. He checked his wrist, no watch. Why would he board a train with no phone, no wallet, and no watch on his way to a business meeting? Was he on his way to a business meeting? What did he do for work? A million questions started to pour into Brent’s mind. Leaning forward in his seat, he held his head in his sweaty hands and squeezed his eyes shut. “Think! Think!” he commanded himself. He was only sure of three things: his name was Brent, he was 40 years old, and he was on a train.
Brent slowly stood up from his seat, holding on to the wooden seat frame for balance. The train car he was in looked like something straight out of the 1920’s with antique furnishings, crystal chandeliers, and gold trim along the walls. Brent ran to the back door of the traincar, hoping that if he could get to another car, he’d be able to find someone who could help him. He tugged hard on the golden handle, but it wouldn’t budge. Brent then ran to the opposite door at the front of the car, but that too was locked. “Damnit!” he cursed, kicking the mahogany door. A sinking feeling of being trapped came over him. “Where am I!?” he screamed at the air. There was no response. “Let me out!” he yelled, banging on the door. After a few moments of banging with no response, Brent stepped back and sunk down into one of the plush booths. Checking out the window again, he pushed back the lace curtains only to find the same blackness as before. He wasn’t in a tunnel, even a tunnel has lights.
After a few moments of sitting in silence, a strange rattling noise arose from the center of the train car. A rectangular portion of the burgundy carpeting slid back, and out of it rose an old-fashioned projector, like the ones used in picture shows back in the day. Another thin, rectangular slot opened up in the ceiling at the back end of the car and a white screen descended, covering the back door. Brent hesitantly stood up, eyes fixed on the bizarre set-up in front of him. He walked over to the projector and examined it carefully. There was a large, round roll of film installed and ready to play. As Brent was about to touch the projector, the light from the lens flickered on, casting a bright glow onto the screen ahead of him. Brent jumped back, wondering how it turned on by itself. On the screen, in an antique-style font, were the words “Hello, Brent”.
“What do you want!?” Brent shouted at the screen. A jazzy tune began to play and a scene in black and white with no audio began to unfold on the screen. It was Brent, dressed in another fine suit, dark hair slicked back, and briefcase in hand. He was walking into a tall skyscraper in some big city. Brent watched, digging deep in his memory to try and place the scene, but unable to remember. The clip continued with Brent walking into a large office room, shaking hands with important looking men. At the end of the scene, he signed some sort of agreement and one of the men in the office popped a bottle of champagne, followed by a round of cheers. Then the screen went blank and the projector sputtered off, leaving Brent even more confused than before. “What does it mean?!” he shouted, spinning around in search of a camera, speaker, anything to indicate he wasn’t alone. Sighing in frustration, Brent slunk down into the booth again. Why couldn’t he remember anything about his life? How did this projector know more about him than he did?
For what seemed like hours, Brent sat there in the booth, trying to figure out who he was and what he was doing there, but he couldn’t think of anything. He was almost relieved when the projector light suddenly turned on again and the screen came to life. The word “Success” popped up on the screen in the same antique font with the same cheesy jazz music as before. The scene that followed was of Brent once again. He was dressed in the same nice suit as the first clip, but this time was entering a run-down apartment complex. He opened the door and was immediately greeted by a beautiful young woman with long dark hair. Although there was no audio, it was clear that Brent was sharing some exciting news with her. She jumped up and down happily and Brent scooped her up and spun her around the dingy apartment. Watching from the booth, Brent noticed that the woman on screen was wearing a wedding ring, and so was he. He looked down at his hand, bare and empty. Why didn’t he have his ring here? Did the person or people keeping him here take it? Did they take her too? The clip ended with a scene of the couple moving into a beautiful penthouse apartment overlooking the city. Then, the projector went black once again.
Brent leaned his head back against the seat and stared out the train window into the darkness. So, he had a beautiful wife and apparently, a successful job. That’s great, he thought, but why was he stuck on this train? Brent got up from his seat and walked over to the front door of the car. “Hey!” he shouted, banging on the wood, “Thanks for the clues, but it doesn’t explain why I’m here!” There was no answer. “I know you can hear me!” he continued. In a fit of frustration, he screamed as loud as he could and punched the door with full force. Brent jumped back, expecting to have bloodied his knuckles if not broken something, but when he held his hand out in front of him, it was fine. That’s weird, he thought. That kind of impact would have done some sort of damage. Brent took a deep breath, composed himself, and then launched his fist back at the door, hitting it with all of his strength. Again, his hand was completely unscathed. Brent looked up at one of the crystal chandeliers hanging above him. Standing on one of the seats from the booth, he reached up and plucked one of the crystal pieces from the chandelier and held it out in front of him. “I can’t believe I’m about to do this,” he whispered to himself. He then held the sharp end of the crystal against the palm of his hand and sliced. The skin separated for a brief moment, but healed before his eyes without any pain or a drop of blood. Brent dropped the crystal in shock, “What the hell!”
Just then, the light from the projector spewed onto the screen, and the jazz music began to play. “Betrayal” was the word that appeared this round. The scene took place in a high-end hotel room where Brent was pouring two glasses of wine. The arms of a woman wrapped around him, and he smiled and turned to face her. Brent realized immediately that it wasn’t the same woman as the first two videos. This woman had light hair and wore a small cocktail dress. She kissed him, nearly spilling the wine in his hands. The next scene was of the dark haired woman, his wife, sitting alone in their nice apartment, visibly distraught and waiting by the phone. The screen went black, leaving Brent to think about what he’d just seen. He was a cheater. He had cheated on his wife. Although he still didn’t remember anything about his life, a flood of shame rushed over him. Whoever had put him on that train knew what he did, and for all he knew, could know more secrets.
“Is this why I’m here?” Brent asked, “I get it, OK? I messed up, but I can’t do anything about it here…” Like he expected, there was no answer. Brent sighed and leaned forward, resting his head on his hands again. He wished he could slip into a deep sleep and somehow drift back to the world, but he wasn’t tired. He wasn’t thirsty or hungry, and he hadn’t had to use the restroom the entire time he’d been on the train. Just like when he tried to injure himself, it was like something was preventing him from feeling natural human sensations. “I guess I’ll just…sit here,” he muttered, leaning back into the seat. Brent folded his arms and stared out the window at the black nothingness, feeling the train rock and shake as it continued on their journey to nowhere.
It felt like hours of sitting, staring out the window, and thinking about what he’d done. The image of himself in the hotel room with the light–haired woman and then his wife sitting home waiting by the phone played over and over in his head. Had he become so successful in life that all morals went out the window? Was he the type of man who would throw away a happy marriage so easily? Was he being punished somehow for what he did? Brent was almost relieved when the light from the projector turned on and the jazz music began to play, snapping him out of his thoughts. He was quickly disheartened, however, when he saw the word “consequences” on the screen.
The scene unfolded in black and white again, with no audio like before. Brent was sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant with the light-haired woman. She was dressed in another small, tight cocktail dress, her neck adorned with glittering jewels. Brent was in an expensive suit and his dark hair was slicked back. A waiter in a black suit and bow tie came by and poured them a glass of wine. Brent reached out and took the woman’s hand saying something sweet to make her smile. Watching the clip, Brent felt sick to his stomach, knowing it was wrong. It was all wrong. The scene continued with the two leaving the restaurant and walking down an alleyway in the city. It was raining softly and the puddles on the street reflected the glow of the streetlights. The couple paused to kiss under one of the lamp posts, only stopping when a hooded stranger in a long, black trench coat approached. Brent and the woman clung to each other as the stranger pulled down their hood. Standing there in the dim light was his wife. Words were exchanged between Brent and the heart-broken woman, as he tried to explain the situation. The light-haired woman became upset and confused and it was clear she had no idea he was married. The scene became even more tense, as Brent’s wife grew agitated. Brent tried to calm her down, but she pushed him away in a violent rage.
The jazz music continued to play as the rest of the scene unfolded. Brent’s wife pulled out a pistol from under her coat, her hand shaking as she held it in his direction. The light-haired woman began to scream, covering her mouth with her manicured hands. Brent held up his hands, as if begging her to stop. His wife was crying and yelling at him, still shaking with fury. The light-haired woman turned and tried to run, but the sudden movement rattled the unstable woman even more and she fired. The light-haired woman fell to the ground with two bullets in her back. The water on the street splashed as her body hit the pavement. Brent sank to his knees on the wet street, throwing his hands on his head in distress. He was sobbing, still trying to talk his wife into dropping the gun. His wife became suddenly calm, and slowly walked toward him until she was just a few feet away from him. She held the gun up to his chest, and in a puff of gray smoke, the gun fired a single shot. Brent fell to the ground, landing on his back. He lay there, coughing up blood, eyes staring up at the night sky. As he lay there, dying, his wife turned the gun on herself, and fired a bullet into her head. The three of them lay there, sprawled out in the narrow alleyway as a mix of rain water and blood trickled down the pavement. The lights from a cop car flashed on the building walls beside them, and the scene went dark. The last clip that played was of Brent, laying in a hospital bed, tubes coming out of his mouth and a few machines beeping next to him. Then, the jazz music faded, and the projector went dark.
Brent sat there in the booth for a few moments, numb from the shock of what he’d just watched. It was like his brain couldn’t process the information. “I…killed them,” he whispered to himself. All at once, every memory he’d ever had poured back into his head like a floodgate had opened. Brent fell to the ground, his hands grasping his head as if it would explode. He let out a loud cry as the weight of his actions crashed down on him. He could see it all play out before his eyes; the first time he saw his beautiful wife at a grocery store, their first date to a cheap burger joint, their first kiss on a park bench, the day they moved into their first crappy apartment in a bad part of town, and the day he told her their life was about to change when he got that job. They loved each other, a deep love that almost hurt. He felt the pressure of his career too; the late nights, the influence of his superiors who all cheated on their wives, the pressure to fit into their high-end lifestyle. The light-haired girl he met wasn’t a bad person, she was young and naive and far from the small town she came from, looking for some sort of comfort in the big city. He’d taken full advantage of her, and she paid the price. The sickest part of it all was that Brent was the one who survived. He was the one laying in a hospital bed while the two beautiful, young women in his life laid in a coffin.
Brent rolled over, staring up at the crystal chandelier hanging above him. The crystals rattled softly and glistened in the dim light of the train car. Maybe he hadn’t survived the shooting afterall, maybe he died in that hospital bed, and this was hell. If it was hell, why did it look so nice? Why was hell an antique train with soft seats, lace curtains, and crystal chandeliers? That’s when Brent noticed it, the chandeliers were still, they’d stopped rattling. He sat up, looking from side to side, listening for the sound of the train’s wheels grinding along the track, but it was silent. Brent jumped to his feet and ran to the window, throwing back the lace curtain. Outside was no longer darkness, but blinding white. Brent stumbled back, blinking as his eyes adjusted. The sweeping noise of a door opening came next, and the light from outside poured into the train car. Brent held his hand over his eyes like a visor and squinted in the direction of the light. The front door had opened and a soft mist was seeping in. Brent took a shaky step in the direction of the exit and then another and another until he was at the threshold. Whether he was about to step into heaven or hell, Brent knew one thing, he had to leave the train. He inhaled a deep breath, and stepped into the white in front of him.
The soft beeping of a machine was the first thing Brent heard as he came to. He opened his eyes to see not the bright, white light he’d seen on the train, but the blinding fluorescent light of a hospital room. The next thing he was aware of was the firey pain in his chest, and the hard, circular tube running down his throat. His eyes shifted to the right of the bed he was laying in, where a green line danced up and down on a monitor. So, he was alive. Barely. The next thing he was aware of was the fact that he was completely alone. There was no one waiting by his bedside, no flowers or get well cards on the nightstand, just him and the machines.
A nurse walking by Brent’s room saw that his eyes were open, and she hurried off to get a doctor. A few moments later, the nurse returned with the doctor, a tall, blonde woman in a long white coat. “Hello, Mr. Simons,” she said, gently placing a hand on Brent’s shoulder. Simons, that was his last name. He wondered why he hadn’t been able to remember it on the train. “I know you just woke up, but I need to ask you a few questions. I know you can’t talk because of the breathing tube, but just blink once for yes and twice for no. Ok?” instructed the doctor. Brent blinked once to show he understood. “Very good,” the doctor chuckled. She then became very serious, “Are you in pain?” Brent blinked once. “Administer a dose of morphine, please,” the doctor instructed the nurse. The nurse nodded and proceeded to inject a liquid into a tube that ran down Brent’s arm and into his vein. Immediate relief flooded his body. “That should help,” reassured the doctor. “Brent, do you remember what happened?” she asked, delicately. Brent blinked once. The doctor nodded, “Are you aware that you were shot?” Brent blinked again. The nurse smiled sympathetically, “Well, the good news is that you are going to recover. It’ll be a few months before you’re up and about, but the bullet missed your heart. You’re very lucky.” Brent didn’t feel lucky. He wished he were dead. The doctor then became a bit more rigid, “Mr. Simons, I feel that you should know…after your wife, Janine, shot you and the other victim, she suffered from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. She is alive, but…she sustained very serious brain trauma.” Brent couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His wife, Janine, was alive. The doctor continued, “The police are still conducting an ongoing investigation, however it appears that your wife is being accused of murder and attempted murder.” Brent began to blink rapidly, as if to tell the doctor it wasn’t Janine’s fault, that it was he who deserved to go to prison. The doctor placed her hand on his, “It’s OK. I know this must be hard to hear and you must be feeling a mix of emotions, but you need to focus on recovering. In your wife’s state, she won’t be going anywhere for a while.”
In the months to follow, Brent slowly recovered, physically. Everyday, he would go to the ICU where his wife lay in a vegetative state, not knowing if or when she would wake up. Once Brent was well enough to be discharged from the hospital, a decision had to be made on what to do for Janine. Since she wasn’t conscious and showed no signs of waking up, there was legally nothing the police could do. They couldn’t send a body to prison, even if she was technically still alive. Brent decided that the best thing to do was to take his wife home, not to the penthouse, but to the tiny apartment where they had first lived, where they had been happy. Everyday, Brent cared for her, knowing that it was his responsibility to cater to her needs for the rest of her life. In the years that followed, Brent was never happy, nor was he hopeful that life would ever be good again. Some consequences are permanent, and he was paying for his sins everyday. Sometimes heaven, hell and purgatory exist in life, and can be experienced all within one lifetime. Sometimes the worst punishment isn’t death, but the constant reminder of a wrong doing that continues to be present in every moment.
About the Creator
Hey guys! My name is Jenna and I'm a twenty-something post-grad living in the DC area! I mostly write for fun and it's always been a hobby of mine. I hope you enjoy my stores and that they bring some excitement to your day!
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