Dear Ms. Fox, a sea of strangers flows before me, going back and forth, in and out of the trains that come and go, like waves at the beach. Sat on the cold steel bench at the end of the platform, I’m tempted to get on. No, too many people. A wave of bodies each with their own little black suitcase trailing behind them. They push through and shove aside whoever dares get in their way, locked in an endless battle for more space. Their faces are stoic, might as well be dead. They have somewhere to go and they go there, a job to do and they do it, never questioning anything.
The sky is gray, thick dark clouds, a distant roll of thunder now and then. A storm is coming, I can feel it. They can’t, because they’re too focused on themselves, their journey, their bag, their destination. I’m waiting, waiting for the right train, the one that won’t be too crowded, the one that feels right. The destination doesn’t matter, as long as it’s far away from here. But I’ll have to be patient a while longer, the station is still flooded with people.
The P.A. system hisses “Train leaving in five minutes, all passengers must be boarded. Train leaving in five minutes…” and a few stragglers rush through the doors barely seconds before they slam shut with a heavy clang. The conductor blows his whistle, a shrill, cruel sound, as if saying, “you’re too late, it’s over now, better luck next time.” The long piece of machinery shudders on its rails, moving slowly at first, then faster, and faster, until it disappears behind the trees. Quiet again, quiet before the storm. I’ll enjoy it for now, the occasional squawk of a bird overhead, the rustling of leaves in the wind, the soft pitter-patter of rain drops against cement.
It’s quite a scene you have set, Ms. Fox, but none of it is real, and neither am I. What train will I get on, and where will it go? That’s up to you. Some say although an author creates a character, the character ends up deciding for itself. We both know that’s not true, don’t we Ms. Fox? Only you know what I will do next, where I will go, and every second of mystery is torture.
I hear a rumble, it could be the sky, puffing its mighty chest before releasing upon me a shower of rainwater, a torrent, enough to drown me, end me, conclude this pointless narrative. But no, it’s only the train, my train, the one you’ve selected for me. I rise to my feet as it screeches to a halt. I climb on and wander down the narrow aisle, rows and rows of old and worn out seats. Most are empty but I continue farther down before sitting by a window. I rest my head against the dirty glass. My forehead trembles from the train’s movement but it doesn’t matter, I want to watch the trees. I want to see the branches sway gently before vanishing behind me in a blur of green. They dance to a song we cannot hear, graceful despite violent winds. You wish you knew, don’t you? You wish you could say what keeps them standing, all day and all night, never complaining. I want to fall asleep, and never wake up. This train can travel the countryside forever I don’t care, if only I could close my eyes and not be witness to any of it, not to anything at all, but you won’t let me.
Dear Ms. Fox, I’m the only passenger left, no more forest either. It’s only me and barren hills now, empty land stretching for miles and miles, coarse dirt, no trees, no grass, nothing here. Is this what the inside of your head is like? An endless wasteland for you to roam, fighting against the wind, the cold? Have you sent me here to find you, because you are lost? You have no idea where this train is going, do you? I have to say that comforts me. Not knowing what I would do next used to tear me apart but now that you don’t know either, well, there is nothing to tear myself over since there is nothing next. Nothing. I like nothing. Nothing is silence, nothing is nothing to worry about, nothing is okay.
Dear Ms. Fox, where am I going? I was fine with riding a train through nothing forever, but I’m afraid you have something else in mind. The train shuffles on, gale and rain beating against its windows, inches from my face. Straight ahead stands the vague silhouette of a town. So you have decided then, where I will go. I peer through the fog as the outline of my destination becomes a clearer. It looks like something out of an old Western, a lonely town in the middle of the desert, abandoned.
What am I here for, Ms. Fox? I pace the streets of this town you have sent me to, searching, but for what? What do you want, Fox? There is not much here, just old buildings falling apart. Old shops with broken displays, shards of glass scattered at the feet of bare shelves. The houses are empty, sheets still hanging from the windows, drooping sadly, like the skin of the elderly. I kick up dust with every step, a musty orange cloud everywhere I go. I turn a corner and find myself facing a river. A bed of murky water, still, too still, as if stirring would be a crime. No waves, no sound, never; such a vile act would have to be severely punished. I follow the bank, careful not to make any noise myself. The river is afraid, and you must be too. Afraid perhaps of what drove life away from this place, afraid surely that it might come back and destroy what’s left of this town, afraid of the truth, that nothing will ever be the way it used to. But you know that already, Ms. Fox. What do you need me for? You know it but you won’t admit it. You can’t deny it much longer though, because I know now, I know you don’t know either.
The sky is clear, blue, such a beautiful blue. No sun however. No wind, no movement. I sit on the river’s edge, sliding my bare feet into the water. It’s cold, and pricks at my legs but you make me stay. I want to dive in with my whole body, feel the bitterness seep through my clothes and wash my naked skin. I want to open my eyes and see only darkness. I want to sink to the bottom and lie there, bathe in the nothingness, rest, nestled in the wet earth. But I can’t, isn’t that right Ms. Fox?
I scoop up a handful of sand and let it slip through my fingers, trickling down towards the river. I watch it break the surface and fade into the muddy water. What are you waiting for Ms. Fox? Unleash the wave that floods these streets, the upheaval that annihilates this whole town. Release the anger you have accumulated deep inside you, you know the one, the one that killed this town in the first place. Give it up, give it to me. It is the only thing I know to be true and I want it.
Dear Ms. Fox, this town, it was once alive, now it is dead. Maybe you killed it, maybe someone else did. In any case, it’s mine now.