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Forget Us Not

The Train

By Bernadette JohnsonPublished 8 months ago 7 min read
Forget Us Not
Photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen on Unsplash

Laure drove down the street of her childhood home. Things were different, but not entirely unfamiliar. Remodeled, maybe? And was that a giraffe in the neighbor’s yard?

She realized she was in the back seat and couldn’t reach the brakes. Or the steering wheel, for that matter. She struggled to get into the front seat before she crashed.

Then the car was a small boat, floating rather than driving down the same street, atop which water now flowed. Laure turned the boat and veered into a tunnel. It emerged in an old ruin. She passed a line of monks, only one of whom looked surprised to see a woman traveling through their sanctum in a dingy.

Laure woke up. It was dark. She heard a steady, somewhat familiar noise, but felt an unfamiliar motion. Her bed didn’t normally move. She wasn’t sure why it had decided to start now.

She sat up and hit her head, then felt above her with her hands. It didn’t feel like ceiling. She got out of bed carefully and ran a hand over the area above. It was another bed. She stopped when she touched something warm and realized the bed wasn’t vacant. A grunt emanated from the person and she jerked her hand back.

Laure stepped away, held her hands out in front of her, and took baby steps until she found a wall.

She felt all over until she located a switch.

The room filled with an almost painful light.

“Oy, turn that off!” said a man on the top of the bunk she’d just abandoned. “I’m tryna rest.” Two others slept undisturbed in another bunk bed across from it.

“Who are you?” asked Laure. “Where am I?”

“You’re on a train,” said the man. “We’re all on a train?”

“I can see that,” said Laure. “But how did I get here?”

“I don’t know, luv,” said the man. “How did any of us? It’s best to go back to sleep.”

“But I don’t…,” started Laure.

“Look, it’s been a rough day,” said the man. “Or week. Or year. Go find the dining car. There’ll be people there.”

“Oh,” said Laure. “Okay.”

She looked down at herself. Fully clothed, shoes and all. She glanced around for her purse, but didn’t see it, or any belongings.

“Just go. You won’t need money,” said the man, his right arm over his eyes. “Not paper money, anyway. Drinks are free.”

“Uh, thanks.” Laure turned, opened the door and started out.

“Light!” the man yelled.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, leaning back in and flipping the switch.

She exited and shut the door behind her.

The hallway seemed to stretch an equally long distance in both directions, with doors like the one she’d just left lining both sides. Which way was the dining car? She’d never been on a train before, except for the subway.

She used her senses to figure out which way they were going, made a decision, and took off toward what she thought was the back.

It took a while, but she finally got to the door to the next car. Hoping they all weren’t this long, she slung it open. Noise of talk, laughter, glasses clinking, and some sobbing hit her eardrums. It appeared to be the dining car. Or maybe the drinking car. There were booths along both walls. At the back, a bar was on one side and a row of what looked like water fountains on the other.

A tall, wiry man in a uniform approached her before she stepped all the way in. He was so thin that she worried for his health.

“Ticket, please,” said the man, holding out a bony hand.

“What?” asked Laure.

“I need your ticket,” said the man, holding out his hand.

“I don’t have one,” said Laure. “Where am I? Where is this train going? What…?”

“Ticket, please,” he interrupted.

“Just give old Char there a coin,” said a woman at a nearby booth, sitting across from two guys.

“But I don’t have….”

“Yes you do,” said the woman. “Somewhere on your person. Check your pockets.”

Laure patted herself down. Sure enough, she found a coin in her right pocket. She examined it. A little larger and thicker than a quarter, covered in lettering in a language she didn’t recognize.

“Ticket, please,” said the man again, startling her out of her reverie.

She placed it in his hand, which was cold to the touch. The train worker passed her and left the car.

“Come,” said the woman. “Sit with us. I’m Miriam. That’s Ahmed,”she said, pointing to the man directly across from her.

“Nice to meet you,” he said.

“Likewise,” said Laure, scooting onto the bench seat next to Miriam.

“And that’s Tom,” said Miriam, motioning to the other man.

“Who’s Tom?” asked Tom.

“You,” said Miriam. “You’re Tom. Or at least you used to be.”

“Tom who?” asked Tom.

“Just have another drink,” said Miriam with a sigh.

“Drinks!” yelled Tom, getting up and walking toward the bar.

“You’ll have to forgive our friend,” said Ahmed. “He drank from a fountain.”

“Those water fountains?” asked Laure, pointing a thumb behind her.

“Yes, don’t drink from the fountains,” said Miriam. “ANY of them. Soft drinks are fine. Spirits are fine. But no water.”

“Spirits!” said Ahmed with a laugh.

“Ba dum bum,” said Miriam, smacking the beat on the table.

“But…what is this place?” asked Laure. “I don’t know….”

“How you got here?”

“No,” replied Laure.

“Join the club,” said Ahmed.

“Yeah, we were all in the same boat,” said Miriam.

“Or train,” said Ahmed.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” asked Miriam.

“A weird dream,” said Laure. “About a boat, actually.”

“Before that,” said Miriam. “In real life.”

“I was in my car,” replied Laure. “Going to work.”

“And?” asked Miriam.

“That’s it,” said Laure.

“Any details?” asked Ahmed. “They help.”


“Like what road were you on?” asked Miriam. “How close were you to work? Were you listening to music?”

“Devo,” said Laure. “I remember Devo.”

“‘Whip It?’”

“No, ‘Girl U Want,’” said Laure. “I was getting on the freeway. Only a few minutes from home. Then I was…here.”

“Any sounds?” asked Ahmed.

“Besides the song?” said Laure. She thought for a moment. “A horn. Screeching tires.”

“And then you woke up in a sleeping car,” finished Miriam,

“Sort of. I dreamed I was in this car-boat thing,” said Laure. “Then I woke up.”

“That jives with our stories,” said Miriam.

“What we’re you doing?” asked Laure.

“Kayaking. I remember going under. A pain.”she rubbed her right temple. “Coming out of the water. My friends yelling. Going back under.”


“Then I was here,” said Miriam.

“And you?” asked Laure, turning to Ahmed.

“I was at the grocery store. I heard a bang. Then another. People screaming. Something hit my back. I was on the floor. I could see…I could see….” Ahmed couldn’t finish.

Miriam put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” said Laure. “That sounds….”

“Horrifying,” said Miriam.

“I’m sorry,” said Ahmed.

“Don’t be,” said Laure.

“I had to talk him out of drinking the water,” said Miriam.

“So you think we’re…?” Laure didn’t want to finish the thought.

“I’d rather not say it out loud,” said Miriam. “But yes, I think we’re….” She ran a thumb across her throat.

“Huh,” said Laure. “I don’t know why I’m not more upset.”

“We’re probably still processing,” said Miriam.

“And the afterlife…is a train,” said Laure.

“I suspect this is transit to the afterlife,” said Ahmed.

“Unless it’s hell,” said Miriam. “I wasn’t fond of trains.”

“I don’t think so,” said Ahmed. “Maybe limbo.”

Laure thought for a second, then let out a belly laugh.

“What’s so funny?” asked Miriam.

“You’re saying…,” started Laure between laughs.

“Yes?” encouraged Miriam.

“We’re on…,” continued Laure, catching her breath.

“Yes?” prodded Miriam.

“We’re on…the soul train,” finished Laure.

Miriam snickered. “I suppose so.”

“The what?” asked Ahmed.

“Should we dance down the aisle?” asked Miriam.

“Dance?” said Ahmed.

“You might be too young to remember,” said Laure. Then her brow furrowed, and she added, “Awww. That’s really sad.”

“That he never saw Soul Train, or that he died so young?” asked Miriam.

Tom walked up with an armful of drinks and sloshed them onto the table.

“Both,” said Miriam.

“What do you mean?” asked Tom, taking his seat.

“What does what mean?” asked Miriam.

“What do you mean ‘he died so young?’” asked Tom, taking a drink.

“Nothing,” said Laure.

“We’re just joking around,” added Miriam.

“Well, stop joking and start drinking,” said Tom, raising a glass. The others picked up drinks and followed suit.

“To us,” said Ahmed.

“To us,” parroted Laure and Tom.

“May we Rest In Peace,” said Miriam.

They drank.

“Ha!” laughed Laure.

“What?” asked Miriam.

“Peace Train.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Bernadette Johnson

Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.

You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at

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  • Kat Thorne8 months ago

    I like your writing style, great job!

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