Light at the end of the tunnel
By Callum Shergold
Jay awoke in a panic, gasping for breath as if being brought back to life. His blurry vision cleared, he was in the compartment a railway carriage….
He sat upright and tried to listen for any noise, all that he could hear was the distant sound of train wheels gliding along rails. He turned his head to look out the window, it was completely dark, no sign of any light from the outside… or even life, the only light source came from the dim lamps that hung from the ceiling. He couldn’t recall how he ended up on this train, Jay stared down at the floor deep in thought. Then he noticed out of the corner of his eye a slight purple hue from underneath his thin white T-shirt. He lifted it up to see and he reeled back in shock, his entire torso was covered in massive heavy bruising.
“What the hell!” Jay exclaimed to no one.
Then it hit him. A second of memory of a dirty white van coming straight at him and the sound of screeching tyres. This only brought up more questions than answers, like why was he in the middle of the road to begin with? Jay touched the bruise with his other hand expecting to feel pain, but… nothing!
No pain, no discomfort, nothing whatsoever!
Scared, he touched another part of his body, his left shoulder, nothing. Hey touched his right upper leg, nothing again.
“What is happening?!” Jay said managed to stutter through his panicked breathing, his entire body was numb. He started to feel claustrophobic, like the walls were closing in on him. He jumped out of his seat and grabbed the handle of the compartment door , and threw it open. He stumbled into the narrow corridor of the coach and stood there trying to catch his breath. Eventually Jay started feeling calm enough to think straight again. He focused on the memory that had come back to him of the van, he tried to focus on any other details, he could make out a row of shops to his right.
“In the high street close to the town centre” he thought.
The sky had been turning orange so possibly early evening.
While he stood there he noticed he was standing next to one of the carriage doors that led outside, he instantly grabbed the handle and began trying to force it open. Shaking and rattling it aggressively now desperate to escape but the door remained shut. Jay let out a scream of sheer rage, repeatedly pounding at the door with his fist, in the end when his anger depleted and the feeling of hopelessness started to wash over him, he just slumped against the wall and slid to the floor. He looked down the carriage at the other compartments, all of them were completely dark. Then out of nowhere, a light came on from inside the compartment at the other end of the carriage. Jay jumped to his feet, shocked, the train didn’t feel like it had stopped to let someone on, who turned the light on? Slowly he walked towards the other compartment, the dim overhead lights gently swaying, casting shadows along the floor and walls as he walked along. He glanced into the other compartments, all were dark and void of life. He made it to the last compartment and looked in through the glass of the door. Sitting there right in the centre of the right hand row of seats was a young girl, looking to be about nineteen years old, the same age as Jay, the girl had long frizzy brown hair that fell to her waist. She just sat there not moving at all like a statue, just staring at the other wall. He felt like he knew her, but with no memory it was almost impossible to know for sure. Suddenly it dawned on him who she was… it was Eva, his girlfriend… well ex girlfriend. He suddenly felt more of his memory come flooding back.
Standing in the middle of a narrow street with red brick terrace houses on both sides stretching as far as he could see. In front of him stood Eva, with tears in her eyes, his vision was blurred from his own tears.
“I’m sorry” she had managed to say though her sobbing. “I’m so sorry”.
Her voice in his memory sounded distant, almost like a whisper.
Then she turned around and started walking back down the road. All he could do in that moment was turn round and walk in the opposite direction rubbing his tears away with his sleeve and trying to fight back his own crying.
Jay snapped back into reality and scrambled to his feet started banging on the compartment door.
“Eva!” He called out, trying to get her attention.
“Eva, please talk to me!”
But still she sat in her seat, staring at the wall, motionless.
Jay slid to the floor against the wall and rested his head on his knees, and started tearing up.
He turned his head and looked towards the end of the carriage and noticed a sliding door in the middle of it. Slightly curious he put his left hand on the window ledge to help himself back to his feet, he took one last look at Eva, who was still staring at the wall in the exact same position as before, then turned and stepped cautiously towards the slim wooden door, half expecting it to not open just like the main carriage doors. He rose his arm up and listlessly extended his hand to make contact with the door handle, and gently pushed it to the side.
It was unlocked, Jay pushed the door fully open and the clacking of the trains wheels over the tracks grew much louder. The door of the second carriage opened automatically, which made Jay pull his arm back in surprise, when he did the door shut again. With nothing else to see in this carriage, Jay walked through the gangway, the automatic doors opening in front of him and closed themselves again as soon as he had passed through. The lights in this carriage were much brighter than they were in the first carriage, very little was engulfed in shadow, the light was also bright enough to reflect off of the darkness through the windows creating a mirror that Jay could see himself in, and his face… his face?… WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO HIS FACE?!!
This was the first time he had managed to see his face since he woke up and just like his torso it was covered in deep purple bruises, there were small cuts above his right eyebrow and there was dried blood coming from his visibly broken nose!
“OH MY GOD!” Jay yelled in horror at his own reflection, he had not had the ability to feel anything since regaining consciousness, even when he saw the state of his stomach he didn’t stop to think about how much damage the rest of his body had taken. All of a sudden another part of the memory came back to him.
In the new memory the van struck him, hitting him in the torso first, he remembered the feeling of momentary explosive pain as the van hit and his head being thrown forward and striking the slanted bonnet, and being thrown back almost ten feet to the ground by the impact, the last thing he could hear was the sound of people in the high street screaming and shouting before muffling into silence and everything fading to black.
Jay had fallen to the floor again when he snapped back, he grabbed the edge of one of the seats and pulled himself back up and walked towards the door at the other end of the carriage. He stopped in his tracks (pun intended) at the door, it looked different. It was the type of door that separated the public area from the train cab where the driver sat, thicker than the automatic door for better security and also a lock. Jay felt butterflies in his stomach, surely he can’t of reach the end of the train already?! If this really is the last carriage then he had no way of finding a way out of this nightmare, but on the other hand if this door did lead to the drivers cab then maybe he could have the chance to somehow stop this train or open the doors. Jay raced up to the door and threw it open, he looked inside the cab, and there was no one there, no one was driving this train, Jay almost screamed at the sight of the unmanned drivers chair, not only was he on some mysterious train with his ex-girlfriend, going somewhere he didn’t know, with no means of escape and now with no one driving it! Jay then leaped into the drivers seat and grabbed at whichever controls looked the most important. He grabbed hold of the brake lever (he knew it was the brakes because it had a label reading “brakes”) and froze! He could feel the break lever in his hand, he could feel the cold steel of the train control underneath his fingertips! Pretty much the second he noticed he’d regained all feeling, he doubled over in pain with the feeling of being punched in the face and stomach by ten people simultaneously hit him, and fell to the floor. He put his hands on the control board and pulled himself up and collapsed back into the chair, being able to feel the strain in his muscles while lifting his body off the floor. He sat there for a moment surprised and happy his body had feeling again but also regretful over the reminder of the pain he was in thanks to that van. Jay again reached out and grabbed the brake lever, he pulled it towards him but it didn’t move, he tried pushing it away from him but just like the doors it wouldn’t budge. Jay slumped in his chair, the feeling of hope once again drained away from him.
“Well now what?!” Jay said feeling defeated.
He closed his eyes and just sat in the chair, waiting for something to happen, anything. He concentrated on the sound of the trains wheels as they rolled across their invisible tracks, he focused on the deafening silence that filled the carriage and…
“Tickets please!” Said a voice from behind him. Jay’s eyes flew open, his body frozen in shock by the sudden voice from nowhere, it was the last thing he had expected!
He recognised that voice, very familiar but still different, deeper maybe?
“I don’t have a ticket.” Jay replied, not sure what else to say.
“Good thing I’m not an actual conductor otherwise I’d have to throw you off the train.” The voice retorted in a humorous tone.
“I’ve been trying to find a way off this train for ages” Jay said back with an almost relieved sound in his voice. “Trust me you throwing me off would be a godsend!” He got up from the chair and turned to face the person he was talking to. He made eye contact with the man and his blood ran cold, standing there in front of him, minus the bruises, was himself.
“Well… that explains why I recognised your voice.”
“I don’t even know how this is possible, who are you? And what is this place? Is this the afterlife of something? Am I dead?!”
The other Jay stood silently for a moment, then spoke.
“I am you, and you are on a train.” He said with a small grin, not trying to hide the sarcasm in his reply.
“Hilarious!” Said original Jay very unimpressed.
“Seriously though” He continued. “What is the meaning behind this, I’ve woken up on a mysterious train, my ex girlfriend is locked in one of the compartments, I’ve only had patches of memory come back to me and I can’t remember anything else, my entire body has been completely numb up until a few moments ago” Jay stopped quickly to catch his breath. “Please, just tell me what’s going on, what did I do to end up here?!”
“What do you remember?” Asked New Jay.
“I remember me and Eva walking away from each other crying, and being hit by a van, which I assume is the reason I’m here in the first place, the van killed me!”
“So you don’t remember the part when you stepped into the road and into the path of the van?” Quizzed New Jay.
Old Jay’s jaw dropped in disbelief at the words he just heard.
“I did what?!” He exclaimed.
“You stepped out in front of the van under your own free will” New Jay said now being completely serious. “You tried to kill yourself, and no this is not the afterlife because you are not dead, but you were temporarily before they were able to bring you back to life.”
Old Jay was starting to piece it together. “That’s why I spent most of this ordeal completely numb.” He concluded. “Wait a minute who are “they”?”
“The doctors at the hospital looking after you Jay, you’re still in a coma” New Jay replied. “And to answer your question on who I am, think of me as your brain in human form, as for where we are, no it’s not some kind of purgatory, this whole place exists in your mind, as do I.”
“So essentially, this has all been one big dream?” Jay pondered.
“Essentially yes.” Brain Jay answered.
“This is really confusing, this is a lot to take in” Jay sat back down and rubbed his head with his hand.
After a few moments Jay spoke again.
“So what exactly happened to make me want to end it all?” He asked.
“It might be easier if I showed you.” Said dream Jay.
Suddenly everything for regular Jay went black for a moment, then a blurry vision appeared.
Jay was walking quickly through a highway street in the middle of town, walking past a row of red brick terrace buildings with shops on the ground floor and living spaces above. It was early evening around 4:30PM so the streets weren’t very busy with only a small crowd of people walking up and down the street, and the small queue at the bus stop for the next service. Jay continued down the street for a few minutes when he saw up ahead his girlfriend Eva walking the opposite direction about the turn down a narrow street of houses, Jay started jogging quickly to catch up with her, he turned the corner and called out to her “EVA!”
She was about thirty feet away, she turned around and froze when she saw him.
“I’ve been trying to call and text you but you won’t reply, what’s going on? Are you avoiding me?!”
“No, I haven’t been intentionally avoiding you.” Eva stuttered nervously. “In fact I have been needing to talk to you but I’ve been unsure of how to tell you.”
Jay felt butterflies rising in his stomach, he already knew what she was going to say.
“What?” Jay asked with a hint of nervousness in his response. “Did something happen while you were at University?”
“I guess you could say that…”
Eva looked down at the ground momentarily feeling as nervous as Jay over what his reaction would be. She took a deep breath and looked at Jay again, she could see in his eyes that he knew what she was going to say.
“I met someone else.” She finally said. “He’s a fellow student in my class and he offered to help me with some coursework, we got talking and we…” Eva faltered.
“What?” Jay pressed.
“And… we just connected, we ended up talking to each other more and more and we found that we had a lot in common.”
Jay was trying to fight back his tears as much as he could. “So does this mean we’re breaking up?” Jay asked.
Eva hesitated for a few seconds before replying.
The second that word left her lips Jay could almost feel his heart shatter, he closed his eyes and let himself cry a little bit then dried his eyes with his coat sleeve.
“What did I do wrong?!” He asked, trying not to shout his words but he felt too emotional to fully control himself. “Two and a half years we were together, I thought we were good, what went wrong?”
“We were good, at one time, but recently I feel like we grew further apart, sometimes you were distant or just didn’t want to talk to me, and that made me feel like I’d done something wrong, and you didn’t always have the best temper, and in those moments you were stressed or frustrated or just angry, you scared me.”
“I know I’ve never had the best anger management in the world, and I’m sorry if I scared you, but please… don’t do this.” Jay said with a pleading look, he had a lot he wanted to say to her, but in his state he just couldn’t find the words, tears were now running running down his cheeks.
Eva couldn’t hold her tears back anymore either. “I’m sorry, but i need to move on, I still care about you, but It’s best for both of us if we went our separate ways, meet new people, go on new adventures, that’s why I went to university, to make a difference to my life.”
Jay didn’t say anything more, he just gave a slight nod to her in acceptance, still feeling distraught.
“I’ve got to go now, I’m heading back to uni tomorrow.” She started to slowly walk away. “I’m sorry.” She said through her sobbing. “I’m so sorry.” With that she turned on her heel and walked down the street leaving Jay standing there by himself. Jay turned around and walked away himself, still trying to fight back the tears. He looked down at the ground as he walked with only a feeling of emptiness inside him, he had just lost the girl he loved, he had nothing else he could feel, nowhere else to go, he just went home.
Jay spent most of the next few days sitting in his room staring at the ceiling, staring at the wall, replaying what Eva said to him over and over, and replaying the moments when he had lost his temper enough to scare Eva and the other people around him, each time he replayed those memories in his mind another wave of guilt would hit him like a ton of bricks. He just wanted to talk to her again, apologise and pray she would take him back but he knew there was no point, it wouldn’t change her decision.
“Are you ok?” His mother asked one morning while he sat in the kitchen eating his cereal.
“I’m fine.” Jay replied, his voice sounding listless and distant.
His mother noticed the distress in his reply.
“I know you’re not fine” she pressed “I have noticed how distant you’ve been lately, we just wanted to help you, what’s going on?”
Jay felt the his temper rising from his mothers persistence and had to really fight back his urge to snap back. “Me and Eva broke up.” He said though exhalation after a few seconds of silence. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Aww sweetie I’m sorry!” His mother said. She leaned forward and put her arms around him. “She was such a nice girl, what happened?”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” Jay exclaimed, feeling the battle to keep his frustration under control getting harder.
His mother took her arms off him and backed off a bit. “Ok, ok!” She said not wanting to start an argument. She got up and grabbed her handbag from the kitchen counter. “I need to go out for a few hours, will you be alright?”
“Yeah.” He said, still feeling distant.
“Sitting around here feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to do you any good is it?” Jay looked away and didn’t say anything to that, he just took another bite of cereal.
“Could you at least do something today, maybe go for a walk or go and see a friend? Just do something that doesn’t involve lounging around the house.”
Jay exhaled again. “Ok.” He said looking back up at his mother. “I’ll go for a walk later or something.”
“Thank you.” His mother gave him a sympathetic smile, then turned and walked out of the room, shutting the kitchen door behind her, Jay sat and listened to her footsteps on the floor of the hallway and the sound of the front door open and close. Jay looked at the clock on the wall above the door, the time was 9:25am, he eventually got up from the table and put his empty bowl in the sink and walked into the hallway, grabbed his shoes from the shoe rack by the front door. He put his shoes on and grabbed his set of keys and wallet from the sideboard and put them in his jeans pocket. He opened the front door and stepped out into the street, the morning air felt humid with only a slight breeze, he started walking briskly down the street towards the centre of town looking down at the ground, still thinking to himself about him and Eva.
Jay had been walking aimlessly around town for most of the day, occasionally stopping and visiting shops in the high street to look around and pass the time away. Also stopping in a few pubs to drink, hoping the alcohol would help ease the emotional pain he had brought onto himself. Jay was still out walking around by the time early evening came along, he was walking down a pavement that passed a row of mostly charity shops, hairdressers and off-licences, he watched the people that came and went from the buildings as he walked slowly by, a lot of them by themselves, and some were in couples, holding hands or with their arms wrapped around each other, not afraid to show the world their love for each other, filling Jay with so much remorse and jealousy he looked away towards the road, the traffic had died down considerably, with only a few vehicles passing by. Up in the distance and a grubby which van turned round the corner and came down the road towards where Jay was walking, clearly speeding. Jay saw the van and stopped, standing on the edge of the pavement, watching the van get closer with every second. Then it all happened so quickly, Jay didn’t even think, acting purely on impulse he stepped into the road, he saw the face of the van driver go from blank to shock, he heard the deafening sound of tyres screeching on tarmac, then it struck. Torso first, with the force of the impact throwing his head forward and slamming onto the bonnet, the van finally stopped and he was thrown to the ground, the sound of people shouting and screaming around fading quickly, and the faces of passers by crowding round him slowly faded until everything went black.
Jay regained consciousness to find himself still onboard the train slumped in the driver’s chair, and the dream him still standing in the doorway.
“So now what?” Jay eventually asked with a defeated tone. “If I’m still alive, what am I going to do?”
“Why did you step in front of that van Jay?” Dream Jay quizzed.
Jay stared at him. “Are you serious?!” He snapped. “You ARE me, you know why I stepped in front of that van!”
Dream Jay did react to Jay outburst. “I know why you did, but you need to tell yourself why you did it, you need to be honest with yourself, why did you step in front of that van?”
Jay thought for a moment. “Because… I wasn’t thinking straight, all I could think about were the mistakes I made with Eva, being so distant with her, making her feel like she had done something wrong.”
“Why were you so distant?” Dream Jay pressed.
“Because I’ve never known what I want to do with my life, I felt like I should have found something by now and the more time that passed the more useless I felt.” Jay stayed sat in the chair feeling drained.
“Did you ever tell Eva how you we feeling?” Dream Jay continued to inquire.
“No!” Jay said bluntly.
“Why?” Asked Dream Jay.
“Because she did know what she wanted to do with her life, she wanted to be a lawyer, saying she wanted to help those who needed help. She was ambitious, I wasn’t! And I felt like if I told her than she WOULD have dumped me, and found someone who was equally as ambitious as her.” Jay stood up and stormed out of the train cab into the main carriage. He turned back to Dream Jay. “Why is it I still haven’t found the thing I want to do with my life yet?” He asked.
Dream Jay remained silent for a moment. “Jay, do you know why you woke up on a train?” Dream Jay asked casually.
Jay was taken aback by this question. Not quite knowing what the say in response.
“I just assumed it was the random way dreams worked.” He replied, feeling baffled.
“Because of what it represents.”
Jay still looked puzzled.
“Trains have been a main staple in human history for hundreds of years, they’re not just a form of transportation, they are also a source of new adventure, new experiences, new friends! Railways have helped bring communities together and build new ones, taken people to far away destinations they never thought they would ever see in the flesh.” Jay had sat down in one of the carriage seats listening intently to Dream Jay. “The point I’m trying to make is if you step out of your comfort zone every once in a while, go somewhere you’ve never been before, try something you’ve never done before, you may find the thing in life you want to do, and that is where ambition comes from.”
Jay stayed sat down taking in what Dream Jay had said.
Dream Jay turned and walked back into the cab, Jay got up and followed him. Dream Jay sat down at the controls and grabbed the brake lever and pulled it back effortlessly, Jay stared looking annoyed and jealous for a second before being flung forward as the trains brakes were applied grabbing hold of the doorway so he didn’t fall to the ground. The screeching of train brakes was deafening and it resonated through the entire cab, eventually Jay felt the train slow to a stop and the screeching noise stopped too. Both Jay and Dream Jay sat in suspenseful silence for a few seconds before the total darkness of outside instantly turned into blinding white light, Jay hat to shield his eyes with his hand while Dream Jay sat in the chair completely unaffected. A door in the main carriage opened, Jay nervously stepped closer to the light at the open door.
“This is your second chance Jay.” Dream Jay called to him. “So take this opportunity to go to new places and try new things, you never know if you don’t try.” Jay looked at him and nodded.
“Oh and one more thing.” Dream Jay added. “Make the most out of this second chance because you might not get to third.”
Jay smiled appreciatively at his words, then turned his head and looked back into the light. He felt a feeling in his heart that was new to him, a feeling of optimism. He finally felt ready to move on, and begin his own adventure. He took a deep breath, then stepped into the light. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
About the Creator
I’ve always been a bit of a fantasist, making up stories with friends to entertain each other, which is probably why I’m here now, to reconnect with my creative side that enjoys writing.
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