The train leaves in ten minutes. She held the ticket firm in her grasp looking out at those populating the station. There were only two trains, both were quite large though one was filling at a far faster rate than the other. The apparently more popular of the two was luxury in appearance. The external hull was waxed black of unearthly depth, with a long maroon strip of rich red flowing across its length. Beside this was its more archaic rival. A pale white with a golden trim.
The doors of either train remained closed until the passengers’ approached and presented their tickets at which point they would slide apart and allow for immediate boarding. This all passengers did, disappearing into the bowels of the respective beasts. Leaving the platform altogether, never to return to it again.
There was great movement on the platform as people began to make their way. Some were still in line waiting for their tickets. A large swath of passengers had already purchased and now where waiting for their turn. This appeared a problem only in front of the red train. And there were even those that faltered, unable to make up their minds, lost in the middle of it, all the while being dragged in a particular direction.
She had been one of those people. Lydia Cross. A last-minute purchaser. She had wanted to be more prepared. She had scolded and chided herself over all those little things that had prevented her from making up her mind. In life and practice she had always been so decisive, until now.
It was a well-known fact on the platform, whether passengers chose to believe so or not, that if you failed to purchase a ticket yourself then you would be given one, and that ticket was always to the black train. It wasn’t that there wasn’t space on the white one, it was merely that it was very simple to gain access to the black one.
That idea had haunted her for a long time. The despairing thought, if she didn’t make up her mind it would be made for her. That thought, how torturous it had been, but that was over now. The ticket had slipped through the small arched slot in the glass and this she took it like a greedy child.
Pressing the sliver of paper to her chest she began toward the gigantic machines. The clacking of her low reliable heels treaded the smooth tiles. The first platform was cramped, people pressing to get through. Elbows and feet. Lydia could feel every part of her body as people collided with her sending her off balance. There were even those who tried to pull her hand from against her chest. These people always managed to go unidentified, but how they struggled with her. It had come to the point where she was surprised there were no bruises or marks to commemorate those encounters.
The deafening sound, the pressure against her that directed her in a different way then she intended to go. A horrible strangling feeling suppressed her, tortured her. That maybe, maybe she wouldn’t be able to make it. She wouldn’t be able to hold onto that precious ticket. Trying desperately to move forward her feet were pulled from beneath her and she began to fall. Fall toward the herding steps of the crowd, it was dreadful, agonizing. The fear, the pressing poisonous fear that she wouldn’t be able to get to her end. That she would fall, and they would trample her, and then. Then she would be dragged off to a place she didn’t want to go. And her ticket, that precious ticket, would lay on the ground, compressed under foot till it was unrecognizable.
A hand caught her. A smiling porter held her firm, the crowd dispersed creating an empty space around them.
“Are you alright,” He released her when it appeared she had recovered herself.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Of course. I would be happy to show you to your train if you’d like.”
“Thank you very much, I would appreciate it.” She glanced around the open space at all the people some carrying bags, others with trollies full of suitcases and packages, and those with nothing but the clothes they wore. She was amongst the latter.
“This way, if you please.”
“Yes, thank you.” She began after the porter.
He appeared to act like a plow, as long as she stayed close behind no one bothered them, his person causing a divide in the masses that only came together after they had passed her by several feet. The chaos continued all around, but now it was as if she had been caught up in a bubble that none of them could enter.
“It’s busy today.” Her voice felt nonexistent amongst the throng of other voices, of other sounds.
“It is always busy.”
“Yes, trains leave the station every few seconds.”
This appeared a strange comment to her as she hadn’t seen one leave yet, “Oh, yes. Don’t you need to see my ticket to know which train I will be boarding?”
“Are you sure?”
“Quite. You see the physical tickets are for the passenger to hold onto. We porters can see the other ticket, that the passengers cannot perceive from one to the other. Occasionally there are those like yourself who need a little help to get to their train. And, it’s important that we are able to help you quickly and efficiently, and its only by this knowledge, of the other ticket, that we can.”
“It seems strange to you, but there are many things those who frequent the platform can’t see.” He stopped, turning to her, “I believe this is your train. Have a safe trip Ms. Cross.”
Just that fast he was gone and she was alone beside the train, the ticket still pressed against her chest. The white train was in front of her glistening in a way that it hadn’t from the distance of the ticket counter. The surface was not shabby at all, but lovely. It seemed not to be white but made up of clear light that twinkled against the eye. The doors stood open as if waiting to receive her. An excitement, trepidation greeted the back of her throat sending a flutter through her pulse.
It was time. Time for her to board at last. She squeezed the sliver of paper. The color of which she realized was just like the train itself. A person appeared at the door. The conductor. He was beautiful, beyond description and with a warm and biding smile. He extended a white gloved hand and said, “Ticket?”
She placed it in his hand. Watching closely as he punched it before handing it back, “Take whichever seat you like.”
“Thank you.” With the ticket held close to her chest once again, she stepped more fully into the long body of the vehicle.
The hours of youth had bleed from her features, from her body. She was now an old woman, creased with age and years. Winkles strewn across her face, hair long black tresses now short white curls. Her cloths were replaced by a sensible patterned pajama with a cardigan to cover her shoulder and slippers to protect the soles of her feet.
Relieved after such a long journey Lydia Cross took a seat near the door, a bit too tired for the moment to go much further. Her hands which were thick from use and speckled with age spots held the ticket pressed to her heart, eyes staring out the window as a heavy, tranquil sigh escaped her lips. It was at that moment that the train began to move and led her away from the crowded station.
Every second a train leaves the station. The two trains go in different directions, one permits carryon luggage the other does not. You never see one leave. They always appear to stand still as the passengers’ board and are taken away to their final destination. Everyone has a ticket to the black train at some point in their life, they can change to the white train if they wish, but too few do. In the end, no matter what anyone wants, they must at last board.
Thank you so much for reading everyone!!
Prompt Sentence: The train leaves in ten minutes
Word Count: 1385
Special thanks to Pixabay from Pexels for the use of the image!
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