A couple board a train and have the ride of their lives. 3rd pl Science Fantasy Encounters
|“Great,” John murmured, watching the caboose fly by. “Just great.”
“There are other trains, dear,” I said. “Let’s find out when the next one comes.”
The thin, iron bars were tightly shut over the plexiglass of the ticket office, and a large sign said “CLOSED” in red. “Let’s just get another cab and go home,” he suggested.
“Hold on, Johnny.” I found a little automatic kiosk hiding in the corner. Soon, I found out that there was another train leaving for Florida in fifteen minutes.
“Well, how about that,” John marveled as I slid some bills into a slot in the machine. From a compartment opposite the money slot, it relinquished two pristine tickets.
“Just go,” I urged, pushing a handle of a suitcase into his palm. “If we board the train fast enough, we can get seats next to each other; it’s supposed to be really crowded.”
“Really crowded, eh?” There were only a handful of other people in the ancient steam locomotive.
“That’s…odd,” I commented, sitting on a comfortably cushioned seat next to the window. John sat in the seat facing me. The train was underway, gradually picking up speed as it left the station behind. Soon, the city was replaced by rolling, rural hills, green and lush in the damp springtime weather. It all was a blur to me, but I calmed down just watching the passage of the landscape. Funnily enough again, however, the scene didn’t seem to change; it was all the same after a certain point, passing again and again.
I turned back to John, but he was asleep, snoring. Instead of waking him, I looked at my wristwatch. “That’s weird,” I commented. The hands were frozen in place, at the exact time we had boarded the train: 12:34:56 pm.
“Johnny.” I shook him awake. He opened his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Johnny, do you have the time?”
“Check your own watch.”
“My battery died.”
Groggily, he rubbed his eyes and looked at his left wrist, squinting. Then he shook his digital watch. “Funny. Mine’s dead, too.”
“Well, what time did it stop?”
“And fifty-six seconds?” I watched John’s eyebrows go upwards. “Something’s going on, and I don’t like it.”
“Coincidence.” He shrugged and stared out of the window, like I had.
“Sure… Just keep looking outside. It’ll get pretty familiar after a while, because it’s the same thing over and over again.”
“Well then, Mr. Scientific Method,” I said, “if you don’t believe me, just stare outside and pick something like that tree over there. Count how many times you see it. Besides, the conductor hasn’t come by to collect stubs yet, and he should’ve by now.”
John grew quiet, and I watched in silent interest the young man across the way from us. He was only eighteen or so. “We’ve quite some characters, then,” I said.
“Linda, knock it off.”
“Johnny, just look at them!” I hissed. “Since when do civil war re-enactors ride trains in full costume?”
John’s wrinkles grew deeper. “Well, I‘ll admit, that is pretty strange.”
“Exactly,” I whispered back. “There is definitely something wrong.” Then, I called, “Excuse, me, sir. Could you please give us the date?”
“April twentieth, 1865.“
The boy nodded and turned away.
“He still thinks it’s 1865!” I cried softly. “What are we going to do? He’s been here for a hundred and fifty years!”
“Calm down,” he said, grabbing my arm. “We’ll get off somehow.”
Then, the train began to slow to a stop. I hadn’t noticed the change from countryside to city, and neither had anyone else. “Oh,” I heard a young woman say as she and a man boarded the train. “What a quaint way to learn about ancient civilizations.” Their clothes looked like something you’d expect from a sci-fi movie: metallic-looking, tight-fitting spandex.
The doors swung shut as the man said, “That’s funny. My watch’s stuck at 12:34:56.”