The darkness was impenetrable. The passengers could just as likely be heading high into the oblivion of space as much as they were heading anywhere else less strange; the chosen few sent gliding on tracks of night towards a fertile young planet, to claim and colonize an unknown speck of earth floating lost amid a vast and lonely universe. If it were not for the screech and screams of weary tracks slipping angrily by beneath, lulling him in and out of difficult sleep, this could have been an effortless reverie to escape into and remain safely embraced by. But reality always claws him back. Strong, invisible hands grip him to his seat. You cannot run away for long before you are reclaimed by the only existence that there is.
‘We will be arriving soon’ she said, between the fulsome lips of her smile. He nodded gratefully back in reply, then looked politely away, out beyond the reflection of the inner carriage, refusing to acknowledge the troubled expression reflected back at him in the image of his own mirrored face. He gazed for what seemed like days into the distance that he knew must be there, until out of the withholding darkness small dots of light gradually bled into view like a pile of stars laid out, harvested from the empty sky. The city was close. Soon, he would have to answer to the choices he had made to bring himself here, this far away from home; the birthplace and background of all he had ever lived and known.
As the city sped closer and loomed higher, tall, towering and immense shapes began to appear out of the lights, filling his vision with a sprawling spectacle the strangeness and immensity of which he, as yet, knew not how to make sense of or understand. Then suddenly the vision disappeared, replaced with darkness once again as the train was swallowed whole by this colossal concrete beast, entering a tunnel leading into it’s innermost labyrinthine depths.
He stood. He breathed slow and deep against his fears until they quieted and dimmed, and, allowing the African woman to walk ahead of him, stepped small tentative steps that belied their courage and strength, on towards the open doors. As people bustled in their private urgency to disembark around him, in the exhilaration of unexpected revelation he realised.
The past is done. What I miss I bring in memory with me and am not unlikely to see again; what I don’t, never even boarded the train.
Smiling reassuringly to himself, he stepped boldly down onto the platform.