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Bedtime Speculative Fiction

Leaves wisp by in a crescendo, swirling and dancing through the cool evening air. Far removed from any city or town sits a train station. This is the station at the end of the line. Countless tracks lead into its terminals, and only one leads out. No one knows how to get there or even how they got there, but everyone ends up there. The platform is empty except for a small boy sitting on a bench accompanied only by the dancing leaves. He is counting the bricks, one by one, that are interwoven amongst the platform. The leaves whirl around his ankles and tickle his calves. The boy giggles and smiles with the sincerity that only an innocent child can espouse. No one is around to hear it, but it brings life to the deadness surrounding the train station. As if the leaves can understand him, the boy asks if they know when the next train will arrive. The leaves begin to waltz down the platform as if to invite the young boy to join in their dance.

The boy hops off the wooden bench with delight and hurries after the leaves as fast as his wee legs allow. He pitter-patters along, in awe of the train station, as if he is taking it in again for the first time. He jumps from brick to brick like a frog jumping between lilypads. The boy doesn't remember how long he has been at the station; it could be minutes, hours, days, or months. The boy is unbothered. He used to dread and worry about being left on the platform, but now he finds joy. The boy loves welcoming travelers from incoming trains. He guides them along the immaculate brickwork of the platform, up the stairs, and into the glowing lantern of the station before they are sent off on their final ride. Countless trains in and only one train out for the station at the end of the line. A distant whistle blares, and a plume of smoke can be seen far down the railway as a new train is about to enter the station.

As the train approaches, the station seems to come to life. The lights illuminate with a comforting glow like a hug from a lifelong friend. The station atop the steps begins revolving its doors, and a clock chimes from far away. The leaves become a vibrant pallet of autumn dancing about, creating a mosaic of fall colors. It is signaling an end and a beginning. The boy runs around, arms stretched wide, pretending to fly like an airplane as the train hums into the station letting out a final hiss to announce the end of its journey. The doors slide open like velvet curtains on a broadway stage, and the ticket masters emerge from every door in a synchronized fashion from the caboose to the engine. Dressed in red and black with shiny golden buttons glistening in the station lamps, they simultaneously check their pocket watches to confirm they are right on schedule. Then, one by one, passengers of all shapes and sizes, from people to pets, begin to exit the train. The pets are the boy's favorite part whenever he can sneak in a quick scratch behind a dog's ear or under a cat's chin. The boy waves and smiles at the passengers as they disembark from the train. The passengers reflect the boy’s happiness as they all funnel towards the station with the revolving doors at the top of the steps. Without direction, the passengers all know where they need to go. In no rush, in an orderly fashion, they enter the station, tickets in hand, to take the final train to the stop at the end of the line. It is unclear to everyone how much time has passed since the train arrived, the passengers unloaded, and everyone entered the train station. The boy has returned to his seat on the wooden bench, swinging his feet into space as he awaits for one final passenger to exit the train.

The boy waits and watches patiently as the hands of the train station clock make another round. He's lost count of how many revolutions they have made. Like a spinning top that never falters, the hands pass from twelve to twelve. The boy is lost in hypnosis from the clock hands. The leaves stir at his feet again alerting him that the final passenger is emerging from the train.

A woman timidly pokes her head out of the third car from the caboose. She is wearing a beige sweater, blue jeans, and white sneakers. She is in her mid-forties with auburn hair. Her deep brown eyes glisten in the train station’s glow illuminating wisdom beyond her years. She looks from one end of the deserted platform to another, at a loss as to how she arrived here. The platform seems to extend indefinitely from either end as she gazes into the abyss expecting to see something that will never be there. Finally, her gaze meets that of a small boy swinging his legs beneath him on a wooden bench, waving her down and smiling at her. She senses an air of familiarity with this boy, although she doesn't recognize him. She takes a shaky breath, gives her ticket to the ticket master for the third car from the caboose, and puts one foot in front of the other to exit the train. As soon as she has left the train, the ticket masters return to their cars; the train exudes a final choo-choo and rolls back in the direction it came. Step by step, she approaches the young boy on the wooden bench with his swinging legs. She doesn't know what else to do and sits next to the boy on his wooden bench. The boy just sits and smiles, looking off into the distance. 

The woman finally speaks, "Excuse me," her voice is shaky and uncertain, "young man can you tell me where we are? I don't remember much besides waking up on an empty train car."

The boy chuckles as wholesome as a homemade loaf of bread and replies, "There is always one, every train, there is always one, and it just so happens to be you. A person who feels resistant to the last stop of the line. That is okay though, you can take as much time as you need." 

"I'm sorry, I'm not quite sure I understand," said the woman. "What do I need time for? What is this place? I don't think I can go back where I came from but I don't know where to go from here."

"Ahh," said the boy in a ponderous state, "What you need time for, I cannot say; most people just disembark from that train, enter the station at the top of those stairs, and take the last train. As to where this place is, I am not exactly sure that is the right question to ask. The only way left for you to go is towards the station, in due time though, whenever you are ready. May I ask you something, how do I appear to you?"

The woman looked more puzzled than before she had asked her questions. "What do you mean how do you appear, don't you know what you look like young man?"

The boy smiles again, "Yes and no, I appear however you need me to appear. I have been many things: a man, a woman, a young girl, a dog, and a cat. But I am always here for those who need a little more time, right here, upon this bench amongst the dancing leaves. Do I look familiar to you? Any names or thoughts come to mind?"

The woman has more questions than answers but is reconciling, calming, and relaxing. "You do look familiar like someone who may have been but never actually was. I feel like I need to walk up those steps but I don't know what will happen after and it frightens yet also excites me a little. I wish I had answers to more of my questions. Would you happen to know what I may be asking young man? Also, may I call you something, is Garth an okay name for you?"

"Certainly, Garth works just fine, miss," The boy responded with an endearing smile that only a child can give. As to your questions, those are a tad tricky to answer. No one knows what happens, where you go, or what becomes of you." The boy gave another laugh. "That is where the excitement and fright come hand in hand, I am afraid. You can no longer board the train you just departed from you, even if it did come back. But, there is one more train through that station that can take you wherever you are meant to go. I know it is scary, and it goes to the end of this line, but who's to say there isn't more at the end destination or even if there is an end destination? It could be a ride to oblivion, a ride back to the beginning, or anything in between. I can't give you the answers because I don't know them, and no one ever will, probably. Those answers await you and only you whenever you feel the time is right." Garth jumped from the bench and extended a hand, "I can walk with you up the steps to the station if you like?"

The woman didn't understand what was happening, but she knew it didn't matter. The time she needed had passed, and she felt resolved about entering the station. She stood and grabbed Garth's hand with a smile that he returned in earnest. They both took one step after another up the stairs to the station. They could have climbed those stairs for a minute or years, but it didn't matter anymore. The woman and Garth were approaching the revolving doors. They heard a distant yet familiar train whistle somewhere on the other side.

"Sounds like your train is here, miss." Garth asked, "Anything else I can do for you before we part ways?"

The woman wavered and thought, pondering as she began to enter the revolving doors. "Are you sure you don't know where we are and what this is, Garth?"

"Still a bit hung up on unanswerable questions, I see." Garth chuckled and responded, "This is nothing more than a metaphor, miss. As to where we are, I think it is quite obvious, we are at a train station."

October 20, 2022 14:50

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3 comments

14:41 Oct 27, 2022

I agree with everyone below that you have so many moments that create such vivid imagery. However, her description fell short. I don't care much about what she's wearing or her hair color. Often colors like beige (for the sweater) or khaki have connotations of being basic, disliked, or boredom while descriptions in earth tones such as umber, espresso, or terra cotta evoke more of a warm comforting feeling. The description of her clothing is also simple and telling with no mention of texture or how it sits which makes me think she is a no...

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Mavis Webster
15:31 Oct 24, 2022

Your style of writing is very artistic and I enjoyed the imagery. However, I do think a few more paragraph breaks could be used because big walls of text tend to muddle together. Other than that, great job! Keep writing :)

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Trey Lowerison
04:43 Oct 21, 2022

You had a lot of great lines that helped enhance the imagery of the story, like “The doors slide open like velvet curtains on a broadway stage.” After I read that I was imagining how the train cars looked, I started seeing them in my head decorated with red doors and a gold trim, and the uplighting of the station looking like those old world’s fair posters

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