Yes that is literally the working title of one of my short stories that I wrote, not even the worst working title i have had though as I once handed in a short story as coursework for university under the title ‘Monsters and Shit’…still did quite good on that one though. This story didn’t actually come to me when I was on a train which in my opinion is another nailo in the coffin of the ‘write what you know’ line of thought.
The clock hanging above the station had just rolled over to eleven o’clock. The glowing orange LED lights shining in the darkness caused by the fading lights of the station, seeming to you to be a fitting metaphor for the city itself, the flickering bulbs failing to keep the attention of the fluttering moths for very long before they flew off to find brighter pastures. For once it seemed the trains were on time for not thirty seconds later there was the tell-tale screech of wheels on the tracks as the train rattled round the corner.
Despite the time of night the train is unusually full and it isn’t until you make your way down to the very end carriage that you find a set of two seats to spread yourself across. This carriage itself was rather emptier than the others and you smile internally at the people who have crammed themselves into the middle carriages when this one has but a few occupants other than yourself. Exhausted from the long day you slide into the empty seats and rest your head on the cool glass of the window, gazing idly out onto the platform and willing the train to just get moving.
Despite your fatigue you notice something on the plastic frame of the window that draws your attention. The single word ‘trapped’ was scratched into the plastic, though with little finesse to it so that it takes you a few moments to realise what the word actually is. When you realise what the word is you give a small, sardonic chuckle at yourself partly for not realising it the first time and also as the word seems a perfect way to describe your own situation in this damned city. But as the train starts to move you feel the gentle swaying motion of the carriage start to rock you to sleep and before long you are a find yourself as a moth, gently fluttering away from this city and away to a better place.
You are awoken with a harsh start that seemed to have nothing to do with the calming dream you had been having and as you stare around it takes you a few seconds to realise where you are and why you are there. The confusion does not last long though as you remember your surroundings and bitterly acknowledge that you haven’t made it away from the city at all. Not yet in any case. Looking out the window you can see nothing but the blackness of a tunnel wall flying past you. Getting up from your seat you check the overhead notification scroll to see where you are in relation to the train line but the screen is completely blank for once, not even the time showing. Cursing quietly to yourself you turn around to see if anyone in the carriage can tell you where you are, something which usually you are loath to do but you discover that you are the last one left in the train car.
A quick tingle of panic runs down your spine but you quickly stamp it out. So a few stations have gone past, worst case scenario you have to get another train back a few stops. You head through the door at the end of the carriage and into the carriage beyond. This car, which when you had first gotten on the train was packed to bursting with people, now, also stood empty. The tingle of panic is back and greater than before and this time you can’t quite bring yourself to shrug it off. Hurrying through this carriage you check the next one which also stands empty, as does the one after that. With only one carriage left the tingle of panic has now taken over your entire body. Slowly you open the door to the last car of the train and step through. This carriage is empty as well. No bags in the overhead, no newspapers left on seats, no plastic bottles rolling around on the floor. Empty.
You half sit half collapse onto the closest seat and put your head in your hands. Your mind is whirring, desperately trying to think of a solution to your problem. After a few deep breaths you manage to get a grip on yourself and slowly push away the panicked sensation again. You realise how stupid you are being. So you missed the last stop. The train will reach the depot and you will get a taxi or a bus home. Whatever is more convenient. You could probably get the damned train company to pay for it, after all if the stupid guards had woken you at the end of the line you wouldn’t be stuck here. And then it strikes you and you almost slap yourself for being so stupid. The guard, he must still be on the train. Or the driver, some member of staff must still here; it was still moving after all so there must be someone. You stand again and look around. You didn’t see a guard as you walked through the train but all that meant was that the lazy bastard was probably sat up front with the driver, probably chatting away, blissfully unaware of their mistake.
With a new perceived outlet for your frustration you storm through the last carriage and up to the door of the driver’s compartment. You knock loudly on the surprisingly solid door, ignoring the signs to not disturb the driver. You wait but there is no sound from the other side of the door. Impatient you knock again to just as little response. You start hammering on the door pounding on until your hand starts to hurt and when it does you start screaming at the door for someone to come out and speak to you. when that doesn’t work you half run back through the train carriages to the other end of the train and start shouting at the driver’s compartment on that side to equally as little response. After this you storm back to the middle carriage of the train and slump into a seat again your body wracked with tears of frustration and panic and exhaustion.
Your mind is racing again, you are trapped on this train with nobody else around and you have no idea of how to get off. You have no idea of what is happening and you try to think of anything that might explain your situation. You put your head in your hands and for a few moments let the tears run freely. When you finally pull yourself together you have another go at thinking this through. A few more ideas come to mind about what could be happening but each seems rather unlikely until you finally come to one that seems to stick. You are on some kind of hidden camera show. Somewhere there is a film crew laughing their arses off at you and your panicked state as you run around like a headless chicken, crying and shouting. There are people laughing as they watch you through cameras that they have hidden throughout this train. There are no people because that is the point of the joke and the drivers aren’t reacting because they aren’t supposed to. It seems about as unlikely as some of your other ideas but in your panic stricken mind it is the one that sticks with you so you get slowly back to your feet and start to half-heartedly look around the car for cameras.
You check the empty luggage compartment and in the tops of empty bins, you check the empty overhead storage and even give a close inspection to one of the light fittings to no avail. You are in the process of checking under all the seats when you hear something that makes you stop dead in your tracks. Above the rattle of the train on the tracks and the whoosh of the wind in the tunnel going past you hear a small voice quietly saying something. You can’t quite catch what it is but as you strain your ears against the ambience you hear it again and this time you can make out what the voice says. ‘Fourteen’.
You try and jump to your feet but your head collides with the back of the seat you were searching under and you slump backwards a sharp pain in the top of your head. ‘Fifteen’ comes the little voice again. You crawl forward a few steps before getting to your feet and looking around for the source of the voice. It doesn’t take you long to find it. Balled up on a seat, facing out the window and completely covered in a blanket is a person. You can’t tell if they are young or old or even a boy or girl because they are so wrapped up in their blanket and the voice is so strained and horse it could belong to anyone.
‘Excuse me?’ you say quietly to the bundle of blanket but there is no response. You repeat what you said; louder this time but again there is no response. You reach forward, about to shake the shoulder of whoever is there but then their voice comes again, strained and whispery as if they had been talking for a long time through a very dry throat. ‘Thirteen’
‘Why are you counting?’ you ask but again you get no response. ‘Talk to me!’ you half cry at the person but the only answer you get is ‘Fourteen’
You rise to your feet and storm to the back of the carriage where the talk to driver button is located. Once again ignoring the warnings you hammer the button and wait for a response of which none ever comes. You start hammering on the button again and screaming at the received but there is no response to your pleas, to your threats or to your crying. Finally you grab a hold of the emergence stop cord and pull hard on it.
The expected screech of the brakes being applied and the lurch as the train rapidly slows down do not come. Nothing happens in fact. The train just continues to rumble on as it has been doing. You pull again and again on the cord until with a snap the handle comes off and you are left holding the small green grip with a small line of cord still attached. You drop it to the floor and hurry to the next carriage. Rushing to the far end of it you go to grab the emergency stop handle here only to find it missing. Choked cry catches in your mouth and you run to the next carriage almost tripping as you head to the back of the train and grab for the emergency stop cord only again to find it missing. You can’t help but utter a cry now as you stagger away from the wall and hit the luggage rack.
Your foot hits something on the floor and you reach down and pick up the small green handle from the emergency stop, the little piece of cord swaying back and forth. Your breath catches in your lungs and you find yourself hyperventilating. Then from behind you there comes the small voice, quietly saying ‘Fifteen.’ You tell yourself that it isn’t possible. That you left the other person two carriages behind but sure enough as you move around the seats, there they are, quietly saying ‘Thirteen to themself.’
You run now, up the carriage and into the next one. Slamming into the door and flying through it. But there they are again. Sat in the same seat doing nothing but repeating the same three numbers to themselves. You run up the carriage and through the door at the end but again find yourself back in the same carriage. ‘Thirteen.’ Again you run up carriage and through the door at the end. All you hear as you enter is ‘Fourteen.’ You run again through the far door, ‘fifteen.’ And again, ‘Thirteen.’ This time you turn and head back into the previous carriage. ‘Fourteen.’
You go up to the figure of the person, curled up on the seat and you scream at them, you demand to know what is happening. You cry and shout all to no answer except those same three numbers. Finally you reach forward and grab a hold of the figure. Intending to shake them to get their attention but as you grab them and pull as hard as you can. You are engulfed as a huge cloud of moths, dark brown and of all sizes burst from under the blanket. They swarm around the carriage and hammer loudly against the windows and the walls, bouncing off the lights and coming to rest over anywhere there is a space. They swarm over you and you flail to keep them off you. Disgusted you try and back away from them but you trip and fall, hitting the ground you hear a loud crunch as you flatten hundreds of moths. Instantly there is a shriek of pain and the moths fly faster and even more violently battering even louder off the windows. Suddenly you hear a rushing of air, one of the windows has burst open and the moths seem to be almost sucked away as they rush to escape the carriage. As suddenly as it started the noise is gone and you find yourself alone in the empty carriage once again. Painfully you pull yourself to your feet, looking behind you, expecting to see crushed moth bodies but there is nothing there to mark where you fell. You turn, slowly and blankly to the seat where you had thought there was a person sitting, where someone had been sitting but there is nothing there. You stare at the empty space, no words come to you. There is nothing to say. Your voice is hoarse from screaming, your throat aching. You stand there holding the blanket in one hand and the broken emergency stop cord in the other.
Aimlessly you wander to the back of the carriage and push open the door to the next carriage. Walking through you barely register that you are in the next car along. Walking hopelessly through to the door to the next car you pass through that to find yourself in the carriage you started your endless journey in. On auto pilot you walk a few seats down before you finally crumple into a seat pulling yourself as close as you can to the window. Wrapping your arms and legs up around yourself like a ball you let the emergency stop handle drop to the floor. Moving your head to look at it you notice something scratched into the plastic of the window frame. The single word ‘Trapped’. Looking up from this you gaze out the window to the tunnel wall. Something catches your attention briefly as it rushes passed, a tunnel marking in white paint, surprisingly bright against the black of the rest of the wall. The number thirteen. You wordlessly mouth the number, and then the number fourteen rushes passed, quietly you repeat it to yourself. Then the number fifteen goes passed, and then the number thirteen again.