Midnight Train (Part 2)

After being shoved up against the locker, I went on with my normal everyday routine: I put my earbuds in and walked sprightly out of school. It’s probably no shock to anyone when I say that the trip from my school and home was my favorite part of the day. 

No one knows who I am, what my life has been like. I’m a nobody in a sea of nobodies. It’s poetic in a way. I see a lot of new people on my walk, and then there are a lot of people I see everyday. For example, there’s an old woman who sits at a bus stop reading a book. Every week it’s a new book- this week, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird– and she doesn’t seem to notice the busy, chaotic world around her. I don’t know, she’s a somebody, but to others, she’s a nobody. 

I walk down the steps into the subway, thinking about the girl, the black eye on my face, and the old woman. The subway is only semi-busy, not busy enough to fill every car (some are even empty). A lot of people are tourists, or business men with suits and ties, checking their watches to make sure they aren’t late yet as they sip their coffee. 

Nobody likes walking more than they have to, it’s only human nature of today’s world to get things immediately and as lazily as possible. This is why I always make my way to the last car. It’s always empty until I get on. 

I hold onto the subway pole, despite the choice of chairs in the car and the train takes off. A few minutes later the train stops again to let passengers off and passengers on. 

Today is an odd day, indeed. 

An Asian girl with blonde hair and a leather jacket, wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt, gets on into my car. She’s about my age, and she’s about a head shorter than me. I don’t think much of her at first, I figured that maybe she didn’t like the crowded cars as much either. I started to shift on my feet when I noticed she was staring at me. 

Okay why is she walking towards me? Why-

She yanked out one of my earbuds playfully. “Hey,” she smiled, and I noticed she was chewing bubble gum. 

I looked around the car, as the train started to move on to the next station, but I only saw my own eyes stare back at me in the window. “Hi,” I said slowly eyeing her suspiciously. She was pretty, her eyes were the color of black coffee on a Sunday morning. 

“Rough day?” she indicated to my black eye. “Or is it just a bad year? You know with the divorce, and your sister off into college.” 

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Of course I don’t, “are you stalking me?”

“Right!” she smacked her forehead with her hand. “Yeah, that was sort of a creepy approach to this. Okay let me start over.” She closed her eyes, breathed in, and out, then continued. “I’m Kathlene. I work with a society of kids who just want to escape. Like you.” She took my other earbud out, and wrapped them up. “My job in our ‘club’ if you will is to gather kids like us, and help them run away, to some place better.” 

“Like where? To Canada?” My voice sounds skeptical. 

Kathlene smiled, and shook her head. “What’s your name? Ryken, right?” She waits for my confirmation. “Okay Ryken, I’ve done this a hundred times, and at first no one believes me, but they want to, so they just keep listening. This is your stop, yeah?” We get off the train and walk up the stairs. “You think I’m crazy, but if for one second you just believe what I have to say you might just believe me.” 

“You have two blocks to try to convince me to not call the cops.” My phone is in my hands as we climbed the stairs back to the outside world. 

“I can work with that.” She huffs the cold city air before she continues. “About ten years ago, tons of kids went missing. Never seen again. People thought they were kidnapped, or killed somehow. There wasn’t a trace of them. Kids have gone missing here and there, same way. No one could find them. But a few years ago, maybe two or three, somebody came back. Ironically his family was there when he did. He was part of that first wave, and the crazy thing? He never aged! Like some sorta weird Narnia thing.” 

At the stoplight I looked at Kathlene skeptically. 

“Oh yeah, and then, he let us know where he went and what had happened. The police didn’t believe him, and waved it off like some mad man’s story. Another little boy with a huge imagination.” We walked across the first street. “Don’t you want to know what he said?” 

“I figured you’d just tell me anyway.” 

She sighed dramatically. “He said, ‘I left on the Midnight Train, on Dyckman Street. On the platform that was built, but never used. It took us to Wonderland.’ From there it was just some crazy story a boy had made up. And yet, an unsolved mystery. How do you suppose we know it’s real now?” 

“I have no idea.” I really didn’t either. This story is so bizarre, it had to be some sort of scam based off an urban legend, yet she was right about one thing. I did want to know more. 

“We, the kids of the city, the Runaways, investigated it. We solved the mystery… partly. The last Friday of the month, in the same platform he told police about, there was a train, that comes in at midnight, and the people on board are never seen again.” 

“So what? They died?” 

Kathlene smacked the side of my head. “No. They’re somewhere better- Wonderland.” 

“How do you know they’re alive?” 

She looked at me with a delighted look in her eye. “The first Alice came back.” She shook her head. “You didn’t call the cops. Which means you’re interested.” She looked around and pulled something out of her pocket. “The train takes off tonight. Here’s your ticket if you want to leave for something better. To go somewhere where you won’t get pummeled. Where there are no fighting parents. Where you could be a hero.” 

“How do I know you aren’t just leading me to my own demise?” 

Kathlene had a playful, mischievous look in her eye, “You don’t. But I have a feeling you’ll reconsider. That you’ll actually come and be a Runaway with me and more kids like you who just want a change.” She looked around, and looked me dead in my eye. “Goodbye, Ryken.” She turned to leave, her blonde hair mixing in with the sea of nobodies. 

 

***

 

My parents were in the kitchen screaming over something I had deemed unimportant, as I was bent over, looking at the homework I didn’t understand. 

I rubbed my face with both my hands. 

Gosh why is everything like this?

Maybe it doesn’t have to be…

A thought rushed into my mind all at once. 

I dug into my backpack and upon finding nothing, turned it upside down and shook it, gum wrappers and pencils falling onto the floor. I ran my fingers through my hair and heard something crinkle in my pocket, the sound of hope. 

I pulled out a ticket with a bubble gum pink sticky note with a number and one sentence. 

 

Did you reconsider??

 

I smiled and dialed the number, staring at the white ticket that had gold stars and lettering which read: 

 

One passenger
The Midnight Train 
Dyckman Street

 

“Hello Ryken,” I heard on the other side of the line, and for the first time, in a long time, I felt pure joy.