What Happened To John

The wheels rattled over the tracks. A conversation, an interesting one, roused me from my semi conscious sleep. I shouldn’t have been asleep; I had, after all, paid handsomely for this journey. I needed to take it all in.

           ‘He’s got five years, I wish it was more but that’s how it is,’ a middle-aged woman said. 

           ‘There’s always a chance that things might change. Who knows with the way things are going in this day and age. It can be one thing one day and another the next,’ her companion, dressed in blue, responded. 

           The scenery quickly changed from urban to suburban and then countryside. I wasn’t expecting so much of the latter, but it was a pleasant enough turn of events.

           ‘What does John think about it all?’

           ‘He’s said nothing.’

‘Maybe that’s his way of coping.’

The sound of the wheels on the track kept on in the background.

 ‘Come on, let’s get a drink and drown our sorrows.’

The two women stood up and left. There was a lull.

 I was thinking about leaving at the next possible opportunity when there was a huge bang! Sirens wailed, people jumped up from their seats. Everything seemed to jolt to a halt.

‘By joves, that was a shock,’ someone near me said.

The sirens stopped. Through the small gap between the heads of the people in front of me I could see that no one was badly injured. We started to move again.

A friend who’d told me about the journey had said that it could be slow at times but to hold on, as the ending was spectacular. I pulled a packet from my trouser pocket and eased out one of its contents.

Just as I was beginning to think I’d been duped and that this was as good as things would get, something rushed towards me from my left hand side. I ducked, but then felt stupid when I realised what it was. Perhaps this was what I’d been waiting for. Another of the same flew past. I ducked again quite unnecessarily. I realised that I was sitting with my mouth wide open, like a kid who’d just been told about Santa Claus. An elderly gentleman seated on my left hand side glanced quickly in my direction and then away.

‘It’s spectacular isn’t it?’ I whispered.

He ignored me. The women came back, I wondered if they’d heard the commotion, but if they had, they didn’t comment. They continued their conversation.

‘John’s been working on this sort of thing,’ one of the women said.

‘He’s clever then,’ the other replied.

‘At some things, but it’s a pity he doesn’t put more effort into what really matters. If so, there might be more than five years. I don’t want to go back to the city.’

I wondered if she was talking about their relationship.

‘I don’t blame you, it’s so nice out here.’

‘Well, the only negative is those things.’

‘What things?’ was the reply.

‘You know, you saw them, flying out there,’ she pointed to a window, ‘ they’re huge.’

‘Oh, those, don’t let them put you off. They’re harmless. And you have to admit, they’re beautiful.’

Their conversation was stifled by some spectacular pieces of imagery. Was this why my friend had told me to hang on? It went for sometime, one scene after another. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the whole imagery changed. It was jaw dropping. The two women seemed just as inspired as I was. One got up and pushed a curtain back. The view was so picturesque; I’d been wondering why they hadn’t done that earlier. She sat back down and the conversation continued.

I looked at my watch. By my reckoning there should still be a good forty minutes or so to go. The rhythmic sound of the wheels on the track threatened to lull me back into my previous soporific state.

‘John, sit down,’ one of the women told a man who’d just joined them. He was obviously the subject of their conversation. He was handsome, quite dapper actually. As requested, he sat down.

‘Sorry to leave you ladies alone all this time, but I was held up with some pressing business.’ He leaned across and whispered something.

I didn’t catch it all but it seemed that John did get more than five years. Was he a murderer, or perhaps an embezzler? Then again, it mightn’t be anything at all as sinister as that. Perhaps he had some sort of cancer or was applying for funding for a project; it was mere speculation on my part.

‘Shh, John, careful they might hear you,’ the middle-aged woman said.

‘Don’t let your imagination get away with you, girl. They don’t know I’m here. Anyway, the journey’s ending,’ John replied, ‘we must be going.’ He turned to the woman in blue, ‘Thankyou for accompanying my wife. I suppose she’s told you of my predicament?’

‘She has, let’s hope I wish you the best,’ the woman replied.

As John and the women took their leave, the sound of the wheels rattling over the track continued.

Suddenly, the image in front of me became blurred, the rhythmic rattling of wheels changed to a loud screeching, crunching of metal on metal. I wondered if John and the women had felt it. All the same, the journey was gaining tempo. Those flying objects from early in my journey were back with a vengeance. Instead of ducking, I looked hard at them. The woman in blue was right; they were beautiful and of no danger to anyone.

A voice came over a loudspeaker.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, there is no cause for alarm. Please accept my apologies for this disruption, technicians are attending to the problem and we should be back on track shortly.’

True to his word, we were ‘moving in the right direction’ was how he explained it

I was a bit disappointed by this as I’d been enjoying watching everything played out back to front, the scenery looked totally different that way and I amused myself trying to piece together the experience that had played out in front of me before. I again looked at my watch. Just ten more minutes by my reckoning and I’d be with my friend telling him all about my adventure.

 I stood up to take my leave, music played in the background. The wonderful views over snow capped peaks, previously in the background, made me realise that what I had just experienced was worth all the kerfuffle. Still, three days later, I’m left wondering what really happened to John.

1,110 words

September 17, 2023 09:00

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