A children's story about riding the trains in NYC. Based on my own childhood musings.
The Clay Train 1248 words
The Clay Train
Story by Presley Acuna
When we were very young, my sister and I lived in New York City. We would ride the subway to school together. The subway is an underground train. Where we lived, it was so far underground, that it could only be reached by elevator.
There were lots of buttons in the elevator. Except for two of them, all were covered by a metal bar. The two uncovered buttons were labeled "Street" and "Train".
One day, when riding in the elevator with my sister, I noticed that the metal bar was missing.
"I dare you," my sister said, looking at the extra buttons.
I shrugged and pressed one of the new buttons quickly, so I wouldn't have time to be afraid. We clutched each other and waited.
When the doors finally opened, we stepped out and were both amazed at what we found.
"Take a look," said my sister, pointing upwards.
We were in a huge tunnel with a curved ceiling of shiny red brick. Above our heads were a row of enormous chandeliers made of gleaming glass, which glowed dreamily. Everything was shiny and new.
"How odd," I said.
"and scary," she said.
"and weird," I said.
"and interesting," she said, pointing down.
I looked down, feeling the tickle of a mystery.
The train tracks extended in both directions into a misty distance, seeming to follow the curve of the earth.
And people walked about on the platforms.
As we took in the scene through blinking, unbelieving eyes, my sister noticed something else about the people and whispered her discovery loudly in my ear.
"They're elegant," she said.
The men wore top-hats and were dressed in severe black. They looked like toy soldiers made out of stovepipe. The women wore corsets and their heads were adorned with fanciful hats. They walked gracefully and slowly.
Drawn by these peculiar people, we descended to the train level. I tried to read the signs to figure out what this strange place was, but the signs were a scribble of ink which would not form recognizable words.
"Let's walk to the end," I said, as the crowd milled all around us, seeming not to notice us.
"To the tunnel at the end of the light," my sister answered bravely.
But the end of the platform vanished into a distance that ended in a black hole from which tiny lights twinkled.
Suddenly the twinkling tiny lights became two very bright lights, which grew steadily. Our feet and legs felt the rumble of something approaching and, from the tunnel, came a wind which washed hot air over us.
With a roar, a train sped into the station. To my sister and I, it seemed to be a blur of steam, metal and blinking lights.
The train raced down the tracks like a meteor of lava, the wind it made threatening to bend us like trees in a storm. Car after car raced by, barely solid, until gradually the incredibly long train began to slow down.
Finally the train ground to a stop with a squeal of a hundred wheels coming to a reluctant rest, leaving the very last car of the long procession before us.
"Now that's what I call an entrance!" I said to my sister.
"Very entrancing!" agreed my sister, holding my hand tightly.
We turned together towards the train to marvel at the throb of its motors, and the hiss of its valves. Then my sister said, "It's made of clay."
She crept forward to touch it and as soon as her hand made contact, the doors opened, mutely inviting us in.
As soon as we stepped in, the doors closed behind us and the train began moving again. The station slid out of existence and soon we were clacking through a tunnel of blackness and strobing light bulbs.
Riding inside the car, it felt like we were traveling through an underground maze of a million tunnels and branches and offshoots that went to places deep in the earth where the subway's deepest secrets were kept.
"I wonder where we're going?" asked my sister.
"Let's look at a map!" I answered.
I walked up to a map which was framed in the wall and I noticed that not only was the map made of clay, but the entire subway car was too - it had clay walls, clay windows, clay poles, clay seats and a clay floor.
Even the passengers were clay statues posed like real people. There were clay babies too, and clay strollers, clay newspapers, clay everything!
We would have stared for hours were it not for the fact that we were slowly sinking. The clay floor was soft and our weight was causing us to break through the clay. We moved but again the floor began to give.
The train emerged into daylight as we came to an above-ground section of the line. It continued to barrel down the track with no sign of stopping, and the city's buildings sailed past us in a smudge of rooftops and water towers.
We were getting very tired from constantly having to keep moving when I realized something.
"If this car is made of clay, then it can be molded!" I exclaimed.
"A plan begins to form!" answered my sister.
We grabbed chunks of the clay and remodeled our car, adding wings, a rudder, stabilizers, and a joystick.
We climbed into the cockpit and I pulled on the clay joystick. To our delight, the clay train became a clay plane and lifted away from the rest of the cars, soaring above the tracks.
We worked the controls of our clay airship and joyfully soared high into the sky towards the spires of lower Manhattan.
"Plane-ly, this train can fly!" said sis.
"Thanks to its Train-ed pilots!" I shouted back.
Both of us laughed, enjoying the view, when my sister noticed that we were losing altitude.
"We're falling!" shouted my sister.
"Of course," I said, "A train is electric, but a plane needs fuel."
We had to think of something quickly, as our airship slowly began to nose dive.
With grim determination, I steered our clay plane towards the river as my sister got to work remodeling its various bits and pieces.
Smoothly, we splashed into the East River aboard our clay boat. With a sigh of relief, I grabbed the steering wheel and my sister aimed the rudder towards the shore, where school and our day awaited.
"I think we're going to be early for school," said my sister.
Once on shore we hailed a cab, and as we pulled away from the waterfront, I stole one last look back at our magical vehicle. With a touch of sadness, I saw that it had begun to sink in the water. As the gunnels bubbled over with water, flooding the decks, I couldn't help but notice that our clay boat seemed to be morphing again.
Perhaps it was burrowing its way through the earth back to the underground depths of the New York City subway system where the rest of the infinite train from that station between stations waited for its caboose.
We would never know.
But we would always wonder.
Presley Acuna 7/21/2016