The Horrors of Travel

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that takes place on a train.... view prompt



I’m tired, hungry, want to throw up, and have the growing need to use a bathroom. Dragging my heavy suitcase from the cramped taxi to the busy bus station did not help with my irritability either. By the time I got onto the red line that you must board on the green platform, of which two are closed because of construction, I was ready to scream at the next person who waved a newspaper in my face while screaming at me in no less than five different languages. 

I drag my suitcase into the aisle of the cramped train, find the seat that reads E4, miraculously get my carryon into the cramped overhead compartment, and collapse rather satisfied into my seat. 

As my body makes impact, my stomach lets out a monstrous growl that has the elderly couple across the row who had been eyeing me throughout my entire endeavor gasp. I shush the angry beast by placing a comforting hand over it. 

The couple now shares a look that clearly communicates how sane they believe me to be. I try to put on my most sinister expression as I dig through my backpack. The two start whispering, the husband pulling his wife closer to her. Their eyes continue to widen as I push my hand deeper into my bag. When I finally start to pull out my objective (a pink fluffy pencil case with neon orange polka dots) the wife almost swoons into her husband's arms before realizing the object I hold is harmless. 

As she composes herself, I relax to watch the flashing scenery pass by. My destination is a small town in the Northern prefecture of Japan. A quaint town filled with rice patties and tomato farms. I’ve embarked on this journey to see my older brother who had moved here over four years ago. We have never been the closest, but I used missing him as an excuse to finally take an adventure into the unknown. 

My first step into the unknown was catching a ride on the world-renowned bullet trains that run throughout mainland Japan. Instead of taking an entire day of finding connecting routes, I will simply be riding this majestic, sleck, maglift beast! 

I let my head fall back on the cushioned headrest, relishing the relief that sitting down awards me. I have no more taxis to ride, no more conversations to stumble through, and most importantly: no more trains to catch!  

Relief washes over me for the first time since I rolled out of my comfy bed a full twenty hours ago to make my flight. 

My head lols to the side as the train starts to move. It starts as a steady hum, before reaching a frequency that was almost unnoticeable. As we speed up, my body seemed to become suction cupped to the seat. Every few minutes I would carefully pry myself away from the backrest only to be pulled gently back. And the windows! The flashing of green and blue! Seeing cities and towns roll into empty fields, only to be broken by erratic tunnels through monstrous mountains. 

The serenity of it aids in my attempt to get my first few minutes of sleep since I embarked on this journey. 

Just as my sense of reality was starting to fade, my seat jolted. Startled, groggy, and more irritated than ever, I look over my shoulder accusingly only to find the bright smiling face of a seven year old girl. Her hair delicately pulled back into a sleek bun with flower combs holding it in place. She wears a beautiful lavender kimono with bold red accents. I smile at her, simply not finding the energy needed to scold such an adorable child. 

Turning back around, I pull a book out of my bag. Cracking the spine and inhaling the fresh smell of a new book always calms me. Only two paragraphs in, I’m hooked. The tale starts to take me away from this train. Then another violent kick sets me forward in the seat, causing me to not only fall forward but also drop my book.

Leaning over to tenderly pick it up I feel a growing sense of aggravation. I lean back, and before a whole second passes, my seat is once more kicked, forcing me to move forward and drop my book once more.

After picking up the mistreated book, I sit with my back perfectly straight on the edge of my chair. I’m too hungry and tired to deal with an indignant child!

Flipping through the now creased and bent pages, I scan to find my place. As I try to maintain my composure my chair is knocked forward repeatedly. She acts almost as a metronome, keeping time as I become steadily more insane. 

My anger continues to mount until I reach my breaking point. Turning around in my seat I hold my finger up in the universal sign scolding mothers give their children. To match, I place a stern expression on my face. 

The girl’s smile only grows. She laughs, clapping her hands together excitedly and copying my scolding gesture.

Then I watch her as she kicks my seat once more.

“No!” My voice is forceful and probably far too loud to be used on a train when scolding a child that is neither mine or even mildly known to me. I flush deeply, turning around once more in my seat and leaning back against the headrest. I shut my eyes, as my seat continues to jump forward rhythmically. 

Upon opening my eyes, I see the elderly couple staring at me once more. I try to put on at least an amiable expression but it definitely comes off as constipated or otherwise unwell. The wife looks to her husband, sighs, and gets up. 

She comes closer to me and I tense, fearing the inevitable attempt at conversation, but she walks past me and speaks to the girl in a hushed tone. The lady returns to her husband, and I lean back to enjoy the rest of the trip. 

February 07, 2020 21:04

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