“Scones, coffee and is that…pineapple?”
“Its been years since I have eaten one of those so I wouldn’t be sure, but looks like it. Let’s dig in, shall we?”
With nothing better to do, Alina and Henrik dug into breakfast along with dozens of other passengers. As she bit into the layers of yet another french pastry, Alina gazed around the room – absentmindedly staring at the ever growing number of empty chairs.
In the early days, people bustled in for breakfast in scores of hundreds but after nearly ten years on the same train, many succumbed to impatience and departed at some random station. Sadder still were the stories of once seemingly lively individuals, who never fully wrapped their heads around this unending journey and simply faded away in their cubicle.
But what more could she do beyond dwelling into nostalgic memories and hoping for novel breakfast food? Life had not been the same for her, or rather anyone else, since that fateful day. The monotony of boredom made her feel like it was just yesterday that she was shaken awake by the gentle swaying of compartments and the rhythmic “clang” of wheels on the train track. It felt like just yesterday when the elegant calligraphy on a scrap of yellowing paper had written her a life sentence –
“Whatever you do, do not get off this train till the last station”
And that was that. The train just went on and on as it slithered through peaks and valleys, coasted across sea shores and deserts and made the occasional pit stop at barren stations only to pick up pace as soon as someone stepped off. Along all the miles they travelled, there was never another inhabitant in sight and even stranger was the lack of staff on the train itself.
No driver coaxing the machine forward, no conductor, no kitchen help, no one to wash the linens. Yet miraculously, the dining room was always full, the beds were always made and the train was always moving.
Many tried to camp out in the dining area to see where all the food came from – those days everyone went hungry. Others took it upon themselves to canvas their mobile prison in search of the console room, only to report what Alina had long suspected – they were in a loop. This train had no beginning or ending and maybe it wasn’t even moving, almost as if there was a carousel of images that circled their confines to create the illusion of motion.
She had shared her suspicions many a times and instilled this belief that whatever station one steps off on returns them home. In a way she was responsible for many of the empty chairs – sparking hope and igniting resistance to the tyranny of their situation. Yet she never had the courage to disembark from the eternal journey herself.
As Alina pocketed a warm scone to quietly celebrate Henrik’s 50th birthday, she realised that she had found a home here – a home with her person – and she never wanted to leave.