‘Albert,’ whispered the Little Girl. He was in his dormitory at Bridgeway. ‘Albert…come find me.’ He flung the door open and hurried down the stairs. There were no orphans, at least, their physical forms were not there. What Albert could see was soaring shadows on walls, staring at him. ‘Hurry up.’ Ignoring the puzzled shadows he ran to the main entrance, but he was late; the fancy vehicle carrying the Little Girl has just disappeared. In reality, in dream, the half-blooded will always win. He looked at the sun. It was eclipsed, grey, somber. ‘There’s still time…before it’s too late,’ the whisper came from within him, indistinct, echoing in his ears, but had a sense of direction. Following the whisper, he came across shades of many shapes: prancing big-headed children reflected on the street ponds, solitary headless grown-ups floating along the walls, deformed shadow-mannequins behind white veils displaying on shop windows. They were all blurry, fading. In fact, this town of shadows was eroding, or perhaps, melting. ‘Faster.’ The whisper led him down a train station. There were the ticket office clerks selling tickets and travellers embarking a train. ‘Over here.’ He was about to climb into the train but the silhouette of the conductor denied him entry. “No freeloaders,” he said. And the automatic door slid shut before him, only if there was a ‘him’; it was shut before no one, before nothing. Albert was simply a shadow like all the shadows he met. He was simply...worldly trapped.
The train was propelled into action, leaving the shade named Albert behind. Everything melted down, the train, the platform, the three clocks, the passenger seats, the ticket kiosks, the whole building including him. Misplacement thawed him out of this world, and into another it reshaped his existence. Like watching a reversed motion picture of wax melting down, the new world was remolded or reverse melted. The colours of this world returned hazily and the shadows were now physical. Another train halted before him and the bodily shades started to throng. He managed to get out of the scrum. ‘Tick, tock,’ the whisper came now a bit clear, but still not entirely so. Albert needed to have a ticket. He went to the clerk. “I need a ticket, please,” Albert said. “How much does it cost?” The clerk looked vaguely at him. Albert was not sure if he was making an impression, he was just a shade, a shade wearing rail station clerk cloths. “What’s your name, boy?” “Albert,” he said. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” A pause squeezed in. The clerk was busy in his humdrum routine of filling in papers and signing them. “What’s your name?” Albert struggled. He could not remember his own name. A moment ago he was, and now, he was not. The clerk handed him a ticket. Bewildered, the boy gave the ticket he apparently paid with his name to the conductor. He took the receipt and the boy went aboard the train. The engines spurred it to move.
Where would this underground train go? No idea. Why is he taking it? Doubly no idea. He grabbed onto a pole. Beside him, a bulbous man with a newsby hat and a tweed jacket took a seat, reading a newspaper. Opposite from him, there were two kids with shorts kneeling on their seats, looking at the cityscape. It was day and night; the eclipsed sun had a halo of red. It was bleeding and showering the world in rays of scarlet. The train bolted through the heart of the city—skyscrapers and wide streets. Now, it went through a countryside where modest buildings and farms retreated from spotlights. It struck the boy that the train was travelling through space and time. A sense of unreality overwhelmed his spirit: everything was somewhat hazy, blurry, eroded.
The train stopped at several stations. Passengers dropped off. It continued. ‘Stop wasting time,’ said the whisper, coming from behind the door in front of him. He shoved his way into the passenger cars. Every step he took forwards, the train became faster. ‘Stop trying to follow me and follow me.’ The angle the train was moving at increased downwards. Ten degree. Fifteen degree. The speed accelerated. Twenty. The boy trudged ahead. He could not hear clearly. He could not move faster. Forty. The speed went insane. Sixty. Seventy. A paradoxical ninety. Parts of the train rattled and sputtered. The passengers’ outlines were being eaten away, but they were indifferent to what was happening. One hundred. The boy could not move. ‘Almost there.’ One hundred and thirty. His blood boiled, his head went light. He looked at the barely holding windows and realised the train was about to reach a dead end. “I—I CAN’T,” he cried, the shadows around him looked perplexed. One hundred and seventy. ‘Yes, you can.’ One hundred and eighty. The boy dropped on his knees, trying to puke. “I can’t…I can’t,” he said, panicking, panting. The conductor leaned towards the boy, the wind washing away his outliners. “You should’ve gotten off at the last station,” he said, looking at the boy’s ticket. “I’m afraid I have to kick you. But…I might make an exception. No?” The shadow boy nodded with his red eyes.
The train crashed into smithereens.
No sounds. No movements. No whispers. The train was moving silently, though. The lights went on and off. Outside, it was pitch-dark. A tunnel, a mine, an ocean? The boy got to his feet. There were no shadows wearing cloths. There were people, real people, but they were bent out of shape, disfigured, deformed. They were like the works of an artist who drew them flawlessly but then decided to use a rubber and erase partially their outlines. Their heads were the creations of a photographer shooting them with long exposures. Looking at his reflection in the window, he was not an exception, head distorted, screwed, scribbled. He waited for the whisper but there was no whisper. When his eyes adjusted to the blacking-out lights, he glimpsed the sight of pinpoints of lights forming galaxies in the shape of boughs and leaves of ivy: the train was driving in outer space. Far off, the boy saw a magenta-coloured nebula, its light dim and fading.
The boy decided to finish what he started. He had to find her. Sliding open a couple of doors ahead, he finally managed to find the Little Girl. She was the same old little girl, no deformity and no twisting. It was just that she was rather weak, frail, and sad.
“You’re not him,” she said. “You’ve lost some things behind.”
“If you lost what makes you who you are and you don’t know it, you won’t remember who you are when you know it.” The boy stood, puzzled. She held his hand. “All birds are meant to fly.”
“Chickens don’t fly.”
“Because they’re afraid to take off…and you’re like them.”
The train door slid open and the pressure sucked the shell of the disfigured boy out.
Well done! I love the concept of this work. It is very thought provoking. And, I love what Little Girl says at the end. Brilliant!
After a while doing what you love over and over again, you lose that feeling. You know, that thing that keeps pushing you forward to achieving your goals...but comments like yours are exactly a token and a reminder of that missing thing.
Thank you for your support
Thank you for your support
This is awesome. Amazing composition, and a good plot