I’d never believed in magic. I guess perhaps I should have.
My sister would play their games like Cinderella and pretend to be transformed by a fairy Godmother. They’d turn into animals, princesses, anything they wanted to imagine. They believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
They were only two years younger than me.
But I could never believe in magic.
Our parents died in a car accident when I was seventeen and then my youngest sister, Lily, got diagnosed with cancer at fourteen, I really did not believe in magic. My sister, Emma, prayed to God.
Then Lily died. I called God an imaginative being and scolded Emma for believing in silly magic. She was taken into the foster system shortly after. Separate from me. I was soon to be eighteen, soon I’d be out on the street forever. I had no family left except Emma but the look on her face when they took her away told me she wanted nothing to do with me ever again. I had no girlfriend, no friends, nothing. I wasn’t going to have anywhere to go. No one to rely on.
My foster mom, Deb, was ready for me to be gone. For me to disappear from her sight. I ate too much and cursed too loudly at the younger kids. I was bitter.
When I’d gone to sleep, she said she’d wake me at midnight to throw me out. I’d just drifted at 11:56.
The sounds of wheels hitting railroad tracks filled my ears before my eyes opened. Road to Nowhere by Ozzy Osbourne filled my ears with a low hum. I wondered if Deb had been serious about her promise and left me at the train station a block away. I opened my eyes, expecting to be in a chair at the station. I was horrified to find that I was wrong.
My eyes ran over the interior of the train car I appeared to be in already. There were people in almost every seat, the back of the trailer car nearly empty except for me. I tried to stand up but my legs felt as though they were about to give out. I tried planting my hands on the seat in front of me and summoned all the strength I could to stand. Eventually, I did. I ran to the window on the other side of the train car, looking out but I saw nothing but fog.
Where are we going? How did I get here?
I looked around at the people sitting, hoping I would be able to ask someone if they knew where the train was going. I ran up to an elderly woman who sat so poise and proper I would’ve mistaken her for royalty. I gently touched her shoulder and she felt cold. My muscles began to feel weak and my head started to spin. I wanted to sit down. As I looked upon her face, I managed to let go of her in pure terror. Her eyes were milky white, her face ghostly pale. Her mouth was dropped agape and she appeared to be in some sort of trance. I looked around at the other passengers. Their faces all held the same expression of men and women of all different ages.
I stumbled over my feet and fell backwards into another body, but this one I took down with me. A younger man, just like me. He fell from his seat and I atop him. I heard a groan and he began to move. I yelled in surprise and I scrambled off him, attempting to get away from him. “Z-Zombie!” I exclaimed. None of the entranced bodies reacted to my scream. Except the one on the ground.
“Zombie?” He grunted. “Where?” He looked around. He did not seem affected by the other passengers as he looked at me confused and rubbed his head. “What day is it?”
“Uh, September fourth,” I stated bluntly, my confusion growing worse. “Twenty-twenty-two.”
“Shit, I’ve been out that long, huh,” He gripped the seat in front of him to bring himself up to his feet, reaching out his grip to me. I hesitantly took it and he lifted me up to my feet. “How old are you? What’s your name?”
I looked at him for a second, confused and apprehensive. “Connor,” I said above a whisper. “I turn eighteen today. Can you, uh, tell me what’s going on? You seem oddly calm for the situation we’re in.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, I don’t know or remember much,” He looked me dead in the eyes. He had a soft brown eye color as opposed to the milky white ones the rest of the passengers had. His hair was brown and stringy and draping over his face. “But, when I was awake, I managed to discover a couple things. This train is some sort of black magic, curse, or even the wrath of God. It takes unwanted, unloved children the moment they turn eighteen. They grow tired as they ride the train, and eventually they sit down. They never stand back up. I watched my uh… Who was she again?” He scratched his head. “Well, anyway. Someone I loved sat down. She never stood up again, never woke up. We were losing memories while we were here. I don’t remember who I am or where I’m from. I just remember it was February second when I turned eighteen.”
I began to panic. What? That story would’ve been too outrageous to believe if I wasn’t staring at a group of basically dead people. How would one even react to that?
I cleared my throat, the panic starting to take over. “So, uhm, how are we supposed to leave?” I asked. He shrugged and his eyes scanned the passengers.
“You don’t,” He said. “I tried for days before I was too tired to stand anymore. I don’t even know how people get here.”
I ran a hand through my hair before it hit me. “Someone has to be driving the train!” I exclaimed to him. I rushed towards the front of the car. I heard him utter something to me, but I’d already pulled the door open. My eyes widened in terror as I noticed there were no real tracks beneath the train. We were not on the ground, nowhere close to the ground. I could see the Earth hundreds of feet below us, maybe thousands. The fog around us were actually real clouds. The train cars were connected by some weird chains, but nothing sturdy enough to really cross unless you were brave enough to leap across them. As I stood there, frozen in fear, the guy grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back.
“You’re not going to get across.” He told me. “I’ve tried everything. This train circles some volcano. Probably to throw in sacrifices whenever. I don’t know.”
“H-How is this train running?” I exclaimed. “There are no tracks. It’s not on the ground so it can’t fuel up. There’s no way this is real!”
He looked at me softly. Sympathy and resignation in his gaze. “I asked myself the same thing. The only thing I can come up with, Connor, is that it’s magic. It’s dark magic. And it’s using the energy, the lost souls, of teens who don’t feel a sense of belonging. It’s why it straps you to a goddamn seat and you go into a trance. It’s why you lose your memories. It’s your essence being drained. Even standing, the train is taking you.”
I listened, trying to calm my whirring mind. Connor. “Who’s Connor?” I asked him. He furrowed his brow in worry. He looked around, his look changing on his face from resignation to determination. His gaze stopped on something in the back of the train and he sprinted towards it. Before I could even comprehend what he was doing, he pulled a lever and we went surging forward. Emergency brake. Clever.
But it was not clever enough for him. He fell forward and as the train lurched backwards from the inertia, he dropped into a seat. His gaze lingered on me for merely a second before his mouth dropped open and his gaze turned gray.
“No, no, we just got the train to stop, we made progress!” I ran to him, grabbing his shoulder. I tried to pull him off the seat as before but this time, it didn’t do anything. All I felt was the chill from him and my mind began to race. Everything that was happening began to blur again and I suddenly felt so tired. I wanted to rest. I pulled my hands from him and turned, stumbling towards the front of the car again. Maybe I could cross the cars to the conductor’s pit since it was stopped.
My body felt sluggish as I went towards it. I opened the door and swallowed my fear. The car was only a foot away. I could make that jump. Even if slipping meant plummeting to my death. I took a deep breath and I jumped.
Gripping the door handle, I managed to steady myself. I looked over my shoulder at the ground so far beneath me and shook the creeping, gripping fear off my shoulders. If I stopped, his attempt to help me would be in vain. I turned the handle and marched through another coach car that looked just like the one I had been in. It was packed full of people of all ages, all entranced and unaffected by the emergency brake being pulled.
I kept going from car to car. But as I went through each one, I felt more and more tired. Why was I doing this again? Everyone around me was sleeping as the train was stopped, probably accepting more passengers. Why couldn’t I do the same? Just rest my eyes for a second and relax. Why was I moving from car to car? I opened the door, about maybe one more car away from the conductor’s pit. I yelped as I noticed the ground was hundreds, maybe thousands, of feet beneath me. What is this? Where am I?
As my body instinctively leapt to the next train car in front of me, I collapsed on my knees inside. I didn’t know why I jumped. I stared in front of me, noticing the door to the conductor’s pit. Maybe I needed to go in there, ask the conductor why I was on the train and where we were going. As I stood and started walking towards the door, I felt the train begin to move again. I heard the sweet sound of the tracks clicking and clacking beneath the weight. It was soothing.
Why was I standing, again? I looked around and noticed a couple empty seats and everyone was sleeping. It must’ve been late at night and perhaps I was sleepwalking. I decided to find the nearest seat. I would rest my eyes for a moment and then I would look for answers in the morning. If I couldn’t remember what I was doing, it must not have been too important.
I sat down in the seat next to a beautiful woman. Then it all went dark.