The galactic railroad stretched all the way out across the abysmal expanse as far as the eye could perceive. It was something awesome to behold, it crossed through many parallels of existence and through trillions of celestial bodies of different value and size. It had existed from the dawn of the universe and would most definitely continue to expand past the point of the final contraction.
Sitting in a cushioned seat trimmed in chrome, just a few rows from the very back of the first car, sat a young woman. She was the paradigm of beauty, dark brown hair, deep brown doe eyes, with a slightly tan skin complexion. Shy, innocent and a free thinking mind. Admirable inside and out.
She sat at a window seat, staring out into space as stars and planets, as she had never seen them before, zipped by at an unbelievable pace. Interested in the gaseous cloudlike nebula, seemingly, hanging in sunbeams like large misshapen balloons. She noticed other bodies floating along outside the train car, a large metal cruise ship with three large smoke stacks, two massive towers running parallel to one another made for business and commerce at one point in time, and a giant lighthouse decayed and crumbled from centuries of use. She wondered about their stories and that of the people within these structures. So much filled what should be vast emptiness that she was struck in awe.
The train continued on with its schedule for quite some time before the girl felt the brakes suddenly begin to screech and lock up. The large locomotive grinded along invisible tracks for hundreds of yards before stopping abruptly alongside a small train station. The force of the stop caused her to jolt forward in her seat, she extended her arms in order to catch herself on the back of the seat before her. The conductor said something, she couldn’t make out, over the intercom. As she recomposed herself she peaked around the side of her seat to see why the train had stopped, she hadn’t noticed yet that her hair had been messed up by the sudden stop.
Looking up the wide aisle she first caught wind of the scent of something, the air outside the train. It was a pure smell, the kind that awakens all of your senses and sends your neurons firing off in all directions. It was the pleasant scent of nostalgia, childhood memories, family, schoolyard friends, opening gifts on holidays, fresh coffee aroma on a cold winter morning, being outside in your clothes while a misty rain falls from light gray clouds bringing down gentle clarity and peace, the ocean’s midsummer breeze.
She closed her eyes and filled her lungs with this familiar scent, she smiled slightly as her mind went into a tailspin of pleasant thought, as she exhaled she opened her eyes and standing before her was a man. Her eyes trailed up his height and their eyes met. She blushed and looked away quickly, returning back to her window. The man stood before her still though, looking down at her.
“Is this seat taken?” he asked in a deep voice.
She looked over to him and saw him pointing towards the seat across from her, facing her direction. She shook her head no, and the man proceeded to put a bag in the overhead compartment before taking a seat across from her. After settling into his seat the conductor said something more before the train lurched forward and steam blew past the windows. As she sat looking out at the steam she noticed him in the reflection of the window. He looked young with sandy hair, blue eyes and a white skin complexion. He looked unhappy and she couldn’t help but feel as though something was troubling him. She felt sorrow for him.
He kept his gaze fixed on the floor for some time before raising his head to look out the window. He looked out at the expanse before him with contempt and slight objection. Like he didn’t want to be there, as though this trip wasn’t planned.
“Why get on the train then? Was it not his choice? Do we all not have the choice of freewill to get on the train?” the young girl thought these things.
“It’s encoded in our DNA, you know?” he spoke to her.
She was caught off guard by this and she looked over at him, making eye contact but only briefly before darting her eyes back to the window.
“What are you saying?” she asked.
“Survival strategies. Instincts. Astrology. We are binary creatures, set on a course. Given what we perceive as will, then pressed forward to carry out what we were written in the stars to do. If we act against the clockwork laid out before us, are we still human?”
This was a bit too deep and cryptic for the young girl to take in all at once. The man noticed the look of puzzlement on her face and retracted for a moment.
“Sorry, I’m not great with greetings…” he paused, “or partings either for that matter.” He leaned forward and extended a hand, she raised her hand into his and the two made contact with each other, “What’s your name?”
She hesitated but felt it was okay to at least provide a name.
“Canelé.” She told him as she looked back up at him.
“Oh, like the pastry, with the caramel in it?” he asked.
“I think so, I’ve never questioned it before though.”
“Well, I think it’s a beautiful name, it fits you.” His unhappy demeanor seemed to be shifting.
She blushed and looked away again, immediately after he made his last remark. She smiled a little bit and continued looking at him through the reflection in the window. He changed his attention from her to the window, this allowed her to see his face more clearly. The lighting in the train car was dim but with the help of the light being shed from the stars and from the angle of which he had his head turned she was able to make out the finer details of his face. Dimples, eyebrows darker than his own hair color, dark sullen eye sockets, worry, small imperfections.
“So on the topic of not questioning things, what brings you here in there first place?” he broke the silence again. She pondered this question, then she reached deep into a pocket within her cardigan, pulling out a train ticket along with her hand. The writing on it was blurry to her in the dim light the train provided and the light from the stars just made a glittering glare off the laminated surface of the ticket. She returned the ticket to her pocket then tried thinking about where she had gotten on the train to begin with. Her mind came up with no results. She displayed a new look of befuddlement on her face. "What's the last thing I remember doing before getting on the train?" she thought to herself. She just kept drawing blanks, like the answers you have at the tip of your tongue but can't quite spit out. "Sometimes words are hard to find, sometimes the feelings we have just don't reach, but someday they will." the young man said to her. She was still concentrated on her reason for being here. Turning up with nothing she looked back out into the window at his reflection seeing his face soothed her somehow, she smiled halfway and in that moment she realized he was looking at her through the reflection in the window, just as she was. Her faced flushed red, she unfocused her gaze quickly, turning her head slightly and focused in on a small dot out in the distance, shimmering a bright red glow. Her mind took her away for a moment, this was such a beautiful sight to behold. A short gasp escaped her mouth as she was being drawn to this object in the far expanse.
"Would you look at that? Scorpio. The burning heart of the scorpion is the red star in the center. Antares." he finished his sentence and smiled, he noticed the look of wonder on her face and his smile expanded. He returned his eyes to the window.
The two sat in silence across from one another for quite some time until a large gas cloud obscured the view of the constellation. The two snapped out of their daze.
“I, um, didn’t catch your name…” Canelé said.
“It’s T…” in the instant as the words began leaving his mouth the train screeched , the brakes locked and all of the lights in the train immediately flicked off.
Canelé was forcefully thrown forward into the man across from her. The train skidded and shook from side to side. Overhead baggage fell all around, people could be heard screaming in shock and terror.
The train gave one final heave before halting and settling, the intercom crackled and what sounded like the conductor trying to use it could be heard over the sound of dozens of people groaning in the train car. Two or three more bags of luggage fell off the overhead rack, landing with dull thuds onto the train aisle floor. As Canelé regained cognition she realized she was planted in the young man’s lap, she looked up at where she assumed his face was, and conveniently in that moment light from a passing shooting star lit up the car briefly and she saw his face, looking down at her. They made eye contact momentarily before the star dispersed into the expansive darkness.
“Are you okay?” he asked as he put both his hands on her thin shoulders.
“I…” she too was cut off by the loud hissing of steam from the engine. The sound of the car’s door was heard opening and then they heard the sound of heavy steps being taken at the front of the train car. The young man stood and he helped Canelé to her feet, they both looked up towards the front into the dark corridor.
The lights flickered briefly and the two could see others wading in a sea of luggage, trying to look past the darkness towards the front. Then they heard screaming, shrill cries of people from the front of the car, some 30 to 40 feet ahead of them, people running towards their direction. There was a moment of panic, like from a few moments ago, but this time there was much more fear, and the faint scent of a coppery metallic in the air. The lights flickered again and the two saw people running towards them in a hurry to get the hell away from the front of the car.
The two stepped back into the area where their seats were momentarily as people clawed their way past one another in the aisle, tripping over bags and belongings. Canelé reached out into the dark for the young man as security in this confusion. She found his arm and held onto it. Then they looked out once more as the lights flickered and then they saw it.