The train was moving with a monotonous speed as I sat by the window, wind gushed past my ears, my long hairs glided past them and my fingers were busy rearranging them. The destination was known but not the path, it was the Indian Railways, very ancient and dated back to almost the 17th century, but still it was almost the same and the iron track still sparkled as if it was laid yesterday. Evening rolled down across the horizon, the orangey glow was still noticeable across the ash-burnt sky. My companion who was travelling with me was asleep, his head laid down on the chair seat oscillated with the harmonic motion of the train. Rushing past me the scenery ran by, the hills along the way were dark and silent, the only noticeable sound was that of the piston revolving round the wheels.
Apparently everything was ok except, suddenly I noticed there was a creaking noise near the passage between bogey B1 and B2, I was very much disgusted by this creaking noise as it broke the serenity of my mind. I was bearing it now for over half an hour, I got up from my seat to go to the washroom my ears are very sensitive to shrill noises, it is an old problem and I suffer from severe headaches on long exposures. I wanted to splash water on my face so that I could soothe my nerves. So, I got up and held on to the seats as I ascended towards the washroom, I realized now with what great velocity the train was heading in the opposite direction to my motion. The washroom was near the end of B1, usually the washrooms in these trains are located near the junctions so that I could be used by both the compartments. I walked cautiously and entered the washroom, there was a faint aroma of a bathroom freshener which has been sprayed long ago, I opened the basin tap, It was very difficult to pick up the water with my palms cupped, the water was often getting spilled because of the to and fro movement of my body, inertia is a strange problem after all. I suddenly felt a huge jerking, I fell down on the floor, my skirt was drenched with water which ran down from the tap, the basin had fallen off, I somehow managed to get up on my feet, outside I could hear loud voices, I knew something has happened, I opened the door quickly, the tap was still running.
Outside as I stepped, I saw there were people gathered, I looked back and saw the coupling had detached, B2 onwards the compartment tumbled upon the tracks at a distance, and we were gradually moving away from it as the train was moving. People were shouting, someone said "Goddamn it! Pull the chain, somebody!"It was an accident, a disastrous one, my partner came through the impervious crowd and pulled me inside, He said "Thank God! Ana you are safe". Before we could reach back to our seats, the train was stopping with a shrill noise, someone had pulled the chain, the brakes worked against the motion and we were all thrown back into the floor, I landed on my partner unhurt, he hit his head on the floor. I pulled him up, he was alright though, people rushed out of the train from the doors, there was chaos all around and I was pushed out by the flow of people. I lost him, people gushed out of the train all horrified, screaming at the top of my voice I tried to call him, but there was no scope, so I admitted to the flow and was gradually moved away from the tracks into the embankment along the tracks, my feet dug through the sands, I was trying to move away from the crowd now.
Then a chopper came through, the air above was vibrating, somehow, I ran towards it, It grounded at a distance in a field I spotted it and ran as fast as my feet took me, as I reached there I was breathless, two men rushed towards me and asked if I was alright, I said I was ok. They asked me to sit down on the chopper so that they could rescue me to a safer place, I did not think twice; I got up and sat down. The chopper rose from the ground and soared, it was moving, I was no more terrified, there was a calmness in my eyes, I forgot everything about the disaster as if. I did not know where I was going, but knew that I must get out of this place. As the chopper moved I spotted the derailed bogeys beneath. Suddenly I realized I had forgotten my partner and I wanted to get down. I pretended as if I wanted to help the people who were hurt in the accident, I asked the chopper whether their rescue team would come back again soon. They listened to whatever I had to say and said that they would pick me up in 2 hours as they would come back only then. The chopper landed slowly on the sands, I stepped down slowly and thanked the pilot and started off towards the train.
There as I walked I could see that a rescue party was busy digging the sands, a considerable portion of the train was beneath the sand bed around the track. I was somewhat very worried about coming back here, I started to look around, dusk was falling hard now across the sky, stars sparkled behind a dark hill, I walked on as my heels dug deep within the sands. The sands were still warm because of the prolonged period of exposure to the July sun. Sweat trickled from my forehead, head felt dizzy. I was very near to the derailed bogeys. I could see people walking towards the derailed bogeys along the track from where the stopped train stood the place from where I was picked up by the chopper.
When I reached there, I was spellbound by a weird sight, people sat all round the bogeys, some on the tops of the bogeys, relishing as if they were here on a kind of picnic or party, everyone looked cheerful, amazingly happy, people sat round bonfires singing songs, eating food talking and laughing. I looked around myself, not a drop of sadness, I was confused now. I walked up to one of the groups; It was a bunch of emo-type boys playing a song on a guitar and singing. I asked him "Hey what's going on here? Aren't you supposed to be rescued? You don't want to go home?"
He replied "Chill baby! It is the way life is to be. Just enjoy, it is a time to rejoice, forget the pain." He started singing again.
I walked away from there, everyone around me looked the same, and somehow I noticed that it was as if everyone were lost among themselves. I went to the site where one of the rescue team was working and stood there in front of them for a long time they did not seem to notice me. I coughed; one of them looked at me as if he was inquiring why I was standing there. I said in a soft tone "Could you please tell me when the rescue chopper would come back, it has been a considerable amount of time now. He laughed picking up the axe again and said "Maybe in Two minutes or Two hours, or let's say Two days or maybe hahaha..." he started laughing. "Is this some kind of sick joke?" I yelled at him. He did not seem to care. Suddenly a hand grasped my shoulder from behind, I was startled, I looked back.
"Where the hell were you Ana?" he asked, It was my partner. What a great relief, he pulled my arm and took me to a distance, then he spoke in a distressed tone "Listen very carefully, Ana, this place is not at all safe. We got to get away from here as soon as possible, something doesn't seem right. Maybe we are in danger."
"And why do you say that?" I asked him in a higher tone.
"Hush!" he put his finger on his lips. "No time to ask questions, it's time to get the hell out of here." He said.
"But where will we go?" I asked him slowly.
"See the lights there?"
"Yes" I said. There were distant lights aglow on the southern side of the tracks very much visible, not very far from where I was standing.
"It is a small town, I booked a room for spending the night, tomorrow we leave, but for now no more questions, just follow me." He said hastily and started walking.
"But where?" I asked him as we walked in a jogging like pace, he was in great hurry it seemed. Everything was much unexplained to me; I was very much confused by whatever was happening around me.
"At Hotel Manor" he walked faster now.
I followed him blindly; the lights were getting bigger as we ascended towards it.
We reached a very well lit market place, a very weird kind of market, nowhere have I seen such a market in my life.
All the shops were like small pigeon boxes made out of cement, just enough room to accommodate a man, It seemed that four shops were attached back to back in four directions and there were lines of numerous shops all round , it formed a network like scenario. Rows and columns stood in-front of me creating a maze which had 4 directions to move at every node you stand. It created a four-way lane everywhere. What kind of place it was I did not know. I had no time to question, I just kept moving on following my partner, and the lanes were so narrow that, it had only sufficient room to accommodate me. It was dirty all around with vegetable peels, there were mutton hung on a shop, one had chicken closed in a basket with nets, I noticed every shop as I moved along the lanes. It was like any other market; I noticed almost all kind of wares.
The shops were not very ornate, but rather very dull. There was the same kind of lights hung in all the shops, the shopkeepers looked almost the same, their dresses; the way they wore their beards were the same. I noticed suddenly that I was moving at a very great pace almost like a footballer runs with the ball to survive tackles from the opponent defender as if. I was not even looking at my partner but somehow both of us were travelling in the same direction. He randomly changed lanes running and jumping and I followed in the same way, as if I were attached to him with an invisible wire. Somehow I always knew where he was going and even though I did not look at him, I went after him in the same direction. The shops were no more visible now, only lanes with small same looking houses, all same, even the lanes looked same.
Then I thought why was I running? From what? Or whom?
Each and every lane I went through I noticed now there was a man, He was middle heighted, heavy Arab looking man who wore a white shirt and dark trousers, I noticed we found him in one of the four lanes at every node. I knew by now that this is the reason we were running. My heart beat faster now, adrenaline rushed through my veins and I was running even faster now unusually fast. But I followed my partner exactly in the direction he went, the lanes were narrow and had many hurdles, closed gates which we had to jump. But the mysterious fat man was always coming from one direction; we had only 3 directions left to traverse.
Then I suddenly noticed another man wearing a dark brown shirt coming from another lane moving at the same pace we were moving. He was rather thin and had a darker complexion than the fat man, he was also tall. We were running across the maze with great swiftness as if we were programmed to go in that way, perfect synchronization with my partner. This was a great never ending maze and now we had only two directions to flee to. We ran, our velocity increased, the men also increased their velocities, and they were always on one of the parallel lanes we were in. They were getting closer, and closer we could sense that. Then suddenly the mistake occurs.
I jump into the left lane and my partner to the right. But no time to stop, we had to run for our lives, if we survive only then can we search each other. Thus, I did not stop for him, but kept going, I noticed now that I was only followed by the thin man in brown, and my partner must be being followed by the other guy. The lanes were different now, only two direction to move into. This was a tricky thing. The degrees of freedom of my movement decreased now as the number of constraint decreased, this was very unusual as they are only inversely proportional, and how can they be directly proportional? I had so many questions in my mind I was very much in a dilemma about this place.
Then suddenly the lanes disappeared and I was in an open space, a road with houses on both sides of it, each house was same looking and had the same garden, same fences, everything was in perfect symmetry. In front of the houses, along the road was a line of beautiful glowing street lamps, much like those gas lamps found in old London streets. It was really beautiful.
I was not tired not was I panting of sweating though I had run a great distance and at a great speed. I felt somewhat sick; I did not know what was happening. I was as if controlled by someone else, I was acting as he was telling me to do. I heard a faint footstep behind me. I turned briskly, behind me stood the man in brown, he had a queer grin on his face, his face was only half visible by the faint yellowish glow of a nearby lamp. I thought, this time I won't run, I will ask him what was wrong. Why should I run without any reasons, who was he? What did he want? I had thousands of questions running in my head. I moved a step towards him, he raised his hand and put it inside his shirt, and he was pulling out something.
I looked at it cautiously; it was a shining in the streetlight, a small whistle. He looked at me and blew it. A shrill noise vibrated my Trymphanic membrane a chill rose through my temporal lobe; I felt the noise making my head dizzy. I noticed a pack of stray dogs running towards me; almost fifteen dogs from all directions ran towards me. Within seconds I was surrounded by barking, growling, howling angry dogs. They were triggered by the whistle to attack me. I jumped back though I was passionate to dogs I could see anger burning in their eyes, I read the danger very loud, but before I could react a Rhodesian dog leaped and got hold of my left wrist, violent pain almost paralyzed my hand, his wet canine dug through my skin. I tried to get him off, he would not let go, I swung my arm In a circle while he clenched tightly to my hand, I shook him violently , after much effort he came off my hand, others were furious now they leaped towards me. The man stood there still seeing me getting torn by his slave dogs. Dogs bit my legs, some tried to bite my throat, I somehow pushed them away, I kicked some, I punched some, I was fighting a war alone with furious beasts who wanted to rip me apart. I was trembling with pain and horror, but I did not give up. My survival instincts were driving me constantly, giving me the strength to fight, and it was gradually increasing. Then it reached the threshold limit when my fury exploded, I gave a terrorizing cry, picked up one of the dogs and threw it on the man. The dog bit him hard, he shouted loudly, all the other dogs left me and ran towards him now; they tore him apart as I left and walked to the other direction limping slowly.
Then I noticed a building which was very different from the others, It was huge a beautifully arranged. It had a nameplate which said ‘Hotel Manor'. It was fully made out of Silver Oak wood. I was there at last, I walked into the lobby, and no one was around. There lay a horrid emptiness in the air, which was suffocating me. On the furnished reception was a man, the receptionist. "Hello madam can I help you?" he asked in a generous tone.
"Yes I have a reservation here." I said meekly, ashamed about my condition, I looked very un-presentable.
"Yes madam you have a reservation, this is your key, have a nice evening! ". He said as he handed over a key to me.
"Has my partner arrived yet?" I asked him.
"No one madam." He kept it short.
"Oh! I see." I went up the stairs, unlocked my room, and went inside.
As I walked the floor creaked, at every step I could hear the distinct creaking noise. As I stepped, the wood beneath my feet broke and my right foot was engulfed by the floor. I somehow managed to pull myself up again. I was very angry, but then my eyes fell upon the room.
It was a very beautiful room looked very luxurious, beautiful lights, the furniture was exquisite also. There was a large round wooden dining table in the center of the room, and in the eastern corner was a huge bed, covered by a topless glass box which had a sliding door to enter. I was so tired that I went over to the bed and lied down. Suddenly I noticed a beautiful girl sat on my dining table eating dinner. I was startled.
"Who are you? And how did you get into my room?" I demanded her.
"What are you doing in my room?" she said to me in a soothing tone.
"This isn't you room, its mine." I said
"How can it be yours when I already occupy it." She said.
"I didn't see you in this room when I came."
She laughed while drinking her wine"You must be blind then."
"Ok enough of this get the hell out of my room." I yelled at her.
She sat with the same calmness and answered "Ok, I will share it with you."
"No, I won't share my room with you, I can't." I said.
"Who said you are sharing it with me, I am sharing it with you." She answered.
I remembered the prior incidents and fell silent. I turned around wrapped my blanket and closed my eyes. The lights went off.
I was upon the girl and kissing her lips, I did not know why. I opened my eyes and was horrified, her face was pale and cold as if it was a corpse, it was lifeless and the skin had withered, I moved back with shock, she disappeared. The room was dark, the cupboard behind me creaked it opened I could see a shadow emerging out of it, she moved slowly towards me and then disappeared.
My bed shook, I leaned to see beneath it, she grasped my hairs and I fell down, she disappeared again. She appeared and disappeared from all directions, I did not know what she was, but she was dead I knew.
Then she started to sing a song, it was melodious though, and the instruments were playing in perfect symphony it was a known song. The room vibrated periodically with the melody of the song, suddenly light was pouring into my eyes, I opened them wide.
My cell phone was ringing, I picked it up "Hello, thanks for waking me up, I was having a bad dream."
I did not get up from my bed, the ceiling fan rotated above me, I was at my home, safe in my bed away from a derailed train, a mysterious market, queer followers or a dead girl, but I was afraid. I knew why, It was a dream, a dream which will haunt me forever and everyone who will hear it. Trust me.
-(Adaptation of a dream narrated by Anasuya Bain)