Train Ride to the End of the World

I’ve loved train rides my whole life. My dad would take me to school on the train, and I would miss it come summer. The rides only got better when the Advent trains were introduced. Those were structured closer to the trains others would use for long trips, so much more comfortable. It was always fun to see who was a regular or who had never ridden before, to try to determine what job someone had based solely on what they did on the train, or to see how many runaway kids there were each day.

Ok, that last one wasn’t very common, but it happened to be true on a day back in 2018, just a few weeks before the Collapse. When they got on, I recognized them as new, but nothing more. There was a girl and a boy. The girl I guessed was older by the way she carried herself and because she guided the boy to a seat, but they must have been around twelve years old. The boy seemed to be rather fun loving, and enjoying the new experience. They could have easily been kids that would be meeting their parents at a later train station, so I thought little of them.

The Advent trains were structured more like a diner—booths of seats facing eachother—so they sat the next booth over, in front of me. I thought nothing of them for the next few minutes, but when the girl got up to use the restroom, the boy peaked over the divider between us and said, “We’re running away!”

I had my doubts that anyone, even a kid that old, would just tell a random adult that they were running away except for as a joke. So I indulged him. “Oh? Where to?”

“Land’s End. It’s as far west as you can go in Cornwall,” he replied.

“I know the place. Why run away to a cliff? I hope you don’t plan on jumping.”

“Oh! No, don’t worry. We’re trying to find a wizard—Crap, my sister’s coming back. If she asks, tell her I was asking for the time.”

She didn’t ask me, though. She just talked to the boy for a few seconds, and then sat down. I didn’t like unfinished stories, so after a few minutes of failing self-control, I got up and sat opposite the children in their booth. The girl looked scared, easily on par with some of the people I’ve interrogated. The boy was just nervous, obviously regretting his decision to talk to me.

“Stop looking like you were caught with your hand in the cookie jar,” I said calmly, “What’re your names?”

“Cal,” started Cal before his sister shot him a look.

“We don’t need to tell you,” she said. She’s definitely better at this running away thing than her brother.

“If not your name, will you at least tell me about the wizard?”

“Darn it, Cal! Why’d you tell him?” the girl hissed. I guess that part had some merit.

“I didn’t tell him much. Just a teeny, tiny bit,” he said, putting his fingers close together.

“Well, you obviously told him about the wizard, anything else?”

“No, well, maybe a few things,” he said in an ever decreasing volume, “But only little things!”

“Did you tell him you-know-what?”

The boy looked away.

“Excuse me,” I said, before the girl could yell anything, “Can you please answer the question? Who’s the wizard?”

“Are you going to tell the police?” the girl asked, scared again, not in her scary older sister voice. I guess the runaway part also has merit.

“They already know, but I can help with that if you explain what’s going on.”

“Help?” I nodded. “Ok, fine. My brother and I are following notes left by a wizard. The first one was in our secret fort, and only we could’ve put it there. I know you might think it’s not that secret, but it is. Perfectly secret. Then we found two more. They were in easier to get to places, but no one could have hidden the first clue.”

“What was the clue that led you here?” I almost started taking notes, but I didn’t want to scare them anymore. I would just have to rely on my memory.

“Ride the beginning to the end of the world,” she recited. “The only train that goes far enough West is this Advent train. Advent is similar to beginning.”

“And Land’s End is the end of the world,” piped in Cal, who had quickly regained his confidence.

I put on my best are-you-kidding face and said, “So you’re running away to follow a possible answer to a clue that you shouldn’t have found?”

“Not running away. Just… taking an unscheduled vacation,” said the girl, “Besides, it’s not like our parents would take us.”

“And we know we’re right. We know we have to go to Land’s End,” said Cal.

“Will you return home after you find the clue here?” I asked, “Even if it leads farther away?”

“Maybe. I guess,” said the girl.

I doubted that, but my stop had come. It still wasn’t a finished story, and I hated unfinished stories. I would like to keep up with them, but I didn’t know if I could. They wouldn’t call me if I gave them my number, would they? Well, maybe if I gave them more than just my number.

I got up, “Well, this is my stop.”

The girl looked annoyed, “What about helping with the police?”

“What’s your name?”

“Jess. Now are you going to help?” she said.

I ignored her. “Here is my card,” I said, handing it to Cal, “Call me if you need any help with your adventure. I love an excuse to visit Land’s End.”

As I walked off the train, I heard Cal exclaim, “Sis! He’s MI5!”

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Rune’s Goodbye

To whoever may find this in the coming years:

My name is Rune Olhouser. As of writing this note, I am 26 years old, but by the time I turn 27, you will be long dead. Firstly, a description of myself you will promptly replace with your own imagining. I have long, blond hair, and blue eyes. I have tattoos running down my right arm, each with a story of its own.  I was born in a haunted house in October, and I suppose that’s why I’ve been so attracted to the supernatural.  It’s what got me into this adventure in the first place.

It started when I ran into Jatur. I was 17, just starting my senior year of high school, and I was on a walk around my neighborhood. I saw a man that looked just a bit older than me run down a side street like he was being chased. I assumed he was up to no good and started running after him. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw him jump the gate of an old house that was rumored to be haunted.

I had of course already explored that house. Not only that, but I had mentally mapped out the entire property. I snuck in myself, saw that the door was ajar, and so went inside. The fellow I had followed was leaning against the wall opposite the door. His eyes seemed to glow out of the shadow of his cyan hood.

He spoke nothing, simply melted through the wall. I approached the wall and pushed my hand against it. It was there, but at the same time, I could push through it. It was like a plastic bag that, once it reached its breaking point, simply allowed you to pass through it. Pushing my head through, I saw the fellow floating in a square room.

It seemed to be a room like any of the other tattered and forgotten rooms in the house, but I could not fit it into my mental map. It should have intersected with other rooms; most of it would be part of the dining room. The fellow’s eyes lit up the room with a strangely soothing blue light, and I could just barely make out the smile of his mouth.

I feel I must tell my story, even if it is very likely no one will ever read it. Even if you do read it, you will never know what that smile meant. All I remember from afterward is his name, and that the house we were in never officially existed. I began my exploration of any haunted house I could find, in hopes I would find Jatur again, and be able to find out what happened, but since I fly tonight, I will never get the chance to find him. Perhaps you will have better luck in your search, or perhaps you will forget you ever read this, and get on with your survival in this new world.

Sincerely,

Rune Olhouser

The Log Kid

Prompt: There are three children sitting on a log near a stream. One of them looks up at the sky and says…

 

“I only have a week to live,” the kid in the middle says. The other two laugh. They think he is joking, of course. “I’m serious. One week, then I die.” Their laughs trail off.

“What do you mean?” says the kid on the right.

“The Nightmare told me. Darkness will come and take me away in one week.”

“Umm…  You know nightmares aren’t real, right?” says the kid on the left.

“Not nightmares, the Nightmare. He’s the master of the dreamworld. He’ll come for me soon.”

He’s much smarter than before my visits. He used to be carefree and immature. He was quite a waste of life. Now, though, he’s learned quite a bit, how to die with dignity, for instance.

“Why… are you going to die?” asks the kid on the right.

“He picked me. He believes I’m the answer to his problem.”

“What problem?” says the kid on the left.

“The Dreamer is escaping.”

“The Dreamer?” says the kid on the right.

“He was brought into the Dreamworld several years ago, but he wants to leave.”

“But you’re going to die?”

“I’ll die to this world, but I’ll be alive to the Dreamworld.”

Clever, I didn’t teach him that. He’s gotten much more articulate since I began visiting him. Maybe I should visit more. It would certainly improve this little world, but would they notice the coming fun? I think not.

The kid on the left has been quiet. I wonder what’s going on in his head. Is he contemplating the repercussions of my child’s disappearance, or maybe just silently observing and putting it all into the database of his mind?

He speaks, “What if you died before the week was up?”

Yep, should’ve talked with him. “I… don’t know,” replies my child.

The quiet one pulls a knife from behind his back. Well, isn’t that interesting? He moves quickly and puts the knife to my child’s throat. The other child falls back, afraid, and backs away. My child remains calm, and stares into the eyes of the quiet one. The quiet one begins the movement that would end my child’s life.

Time to intervene, I think. “I don’t care when he dies, I can consume him now just as easily as in a week.” A voice from thin air. The other child runs away. The quiet one stops for a moment, then continues his slice. “Fine.”

Black flame envelops my child, burning the quiet one’s hand. The knife is dropped. The quiet one is burned. My child is dead.

Wake Up

                Wake up. What’s up? Why am I up? Am I up? Knocking. All around. Cat’s hissing. In the living room? Yes, the living room. Get up. Stumble. Steady. Wake up.

                Walked into the living room to find the cat staring at a window, hissing and baring its fangs. The cat is usually pretty quiet, why is it so worked up? Walked over to the window and looked out. Face. I stumbled back. Look again, no face. Cat’s calmed down. I go back to bed.

                Wake up. Again? Again. Knocking all around. Cat’s hissing in the living room. Get up. More awake now. Steady. Wake up.

                Cat’s up. Staring at the window again. Look out. Face. Prepared now. Keep watching. No blinking. No looking away. All silence. Face is there. Face is not there, yet there. Face has no face. Eyes are heavy. No blinking. Where’s the room? No looking away. Sleep now. Face death.

The Psychic Box Part 3

“Oh, it seems I’m a bit late. The earthquake’s already hit.”

“Earthquake? This is one hell of an earthquake, looks more like a bomb fell!”

“Yes, but disasters like this will soon be commonplace for you descendants.”

“So, earthquakes like this will be happening all over the world?”

“No. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and every other natural disaster are currently occurring all over the world.”

The Earth of their time was in convulsions. Now I understood what that meant. “How many are left in the city?”

“Unknown. I have been trying to contact my siblings that are here, but only limited discussion is possible at the moment.”

“Siblings? There are more of you?”

“Yes, currently my brother Kelo (Kee-low) and sister Telah (Tea-lah) are in contact with me.”

“What have you learned?”

“Not enough. We’ve agreed to meet. Will you be coming? Or shall I have to float there by myself?”

“I’ll come.”

“Good. Into Limbo,” darkness, “Tell me, what do you think of Limbo?”

“It’s empty. Feels like death. I can’t imagine staying in here for very long.”

“Neither could your ancestors, but they were desperate. Now, to the meeting.”

I was in a construction site, although no construction was going on. It was night, and I and two others formed a triangle around a small fire. One of them had an exoskeleton suit like Ironman’s. The other had a cloak on, and one of his hands was cybernetic. Both were sitting cross-legged with their heads bowed, so I followed suit.

“That was impressive, newcomer,” said a deep, male voice.

“Yes, teleportation was a highly researched technology,” said a softer, female voice.

“Kelo and Telah, I trust?”

“Yes,” replied Telah, “What is your name?”

“I don’t care for names, but if you must have one, call me Zeur (Zee-or).”

“I do not recognize you, I do not trust you,” said Kelo.

“Understood, I was not created in the same facility. I am stolen tech.”

“We can not criticize eachother for our origins. We have come full circle, the Collapse is upon us now,” said Telah.

“Why have you chosen this man as a companion? Surely you could have found a more capable human,” said Kelo.

“I believe our methods are dissimilar. Would you save these humans through survival of the fittest?”

“I would.”

“Then I have only one thing left to determine. Telah, how would you save these humans?”

“Unite them under one leader, and guide that leader to safety.”

“Thank you, Telah, Kelo. Now, shall we be off?” I looked up. The box was now floating in front of me.

“Where to?”

“Wherever. We’ve got about a century of adventure ahead of us.”

“Wait a moment,” Kelo’s voice cut into our conversation, “How would you save these humans?”

“I wouldn’t. If their ancestors survived the Collapse I’m sure they can manage. Besides, I have another plan, wait a hundred years and you might see what it is.”

Darkness.

The Psychic Box Part 2

“Wake up, descendant, my makers are proud.”

I slowly regained consciousness. I was cold, one side of me was freezing, the other half was just barely warmed by a fire. A fire that I soon realized was coming from the plane. I felt no pain, even though falling out of fast falling planes tends to break a few things. I was fine. “How am I alive?”

“Limbo.” I still haven’t gotten used to having a voice in my head, and having it say things I don’t understand certainly wasn’t helping.

“Limbo?”

“The following is unverified, but will give you an idea of what it is. My makers believed Limbo to be an inter-dimensional space. In their time, the Earth was in convulsions, destroying their civilization. In an attempt to survive this end, they created me to find a way to pull people out of Limbo and then they put themselves into it.”

“So you’re supposed to save these people from the end of the world?”

“If I want, but perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps they are better off frozen in time. Besides, the end that they faced will soon occur to you descendants as well.”

“So how did I survive that crash?” I asked as I crawled towards the fire to warm myself.

“I brought you into Limbo, where your velocity had no meaning, then brought you back into this world.”

“What about conservation of energy? Where did my kinetic energy go?”

“It was added to the surrounding objects, and since the plane was already traveling fairly fast, it had little effect.”

I hadn’t seen the box since I awoke, and thought it odd that it wasn’t floating around my head like a buzzard. “Where are you?”

“In the ground somewhere, I think.”

“In the ground?”

“I wasn’t paying attention to where I ended up. I would think you would be glad I made sure you landed fairly close to the ground.”

“OK… Where are we, then?”

“On a mountain just north of a Canadian town. Montreal, I believe.”

I heard a helicopter coming. It was flashing its light around the wreckage of the plane. “How did I survive?”

“I told you.”

“Yeah, but what am supposed to tell them? That an ancient, high-tech, psychic box put me into another dimension while the plane crashed?”

“If you’re so concerned about it, we could leave.”

“Where would we go?”

“Wherever we want. You’re a dead man and I’m a ‘floating box’. Not much holding us down. However, I think we ought to head to Chicago, since that’s where we were headed anyway. I wouldn’t mind some company, or more, I can’t transport myself without taking someone with me, and you’re convenient.”

“I’m touched, but sure.”

“Very well. Into Limbo,” darkness, “And into Chicago.”

“This can’t be right.” Instead of the Chicago I knew, it was a town of broken buildings and sideways skyscrapers.

The Psychic Box Part 1

Why did I agree to this? It was such a stupid request. Take this mystery package on a plane, nothing will go wrong. Sure, it’s been through the security, but why does this guy want it on the plane? Of course, now that I’m on board, there’s not much I can do about it, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it once I get to my destination. Sitting here with it in my lap isn’t helping my curiosity any, either. I’ve done the shaking trick, even though it never helped work out my Christmas presents. The package was a sort of rounded cube, which seemed odd considering that wouldn’t make for very efficient packaging. It was wrapped in paper bag materials, and I had some paper bags in my bags. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to unwrap it and then I could re-wrap it with the bags I had.

Halfway to Chicago, I finally gave in. I slowly unwrapped it, being careful not to rip too much in case I could salvage its wrapping. If you’ve ever seen any sci-fi you probably have an idea of what sort of object I found inside. It was indeed a rounded cube, and it had branching, glowing lines along it. Those lines were only dimly glowing when I first unwrapped it, but it slowly started to glow brighter and brighter. At that point, I was pretty concerned about it, and started to hurriedly wrap it up again, but too late.

I felt the plane shift, but instead of righting itself as it usually would, it continued to shift. We were going down, and fast. Before I could finish wrapping the object, it flew out of the packaging and floated in front of me as I held on to my seat. “I’m sorry about the transport, but it was a necessary side-effect of my activation.”

“Who said that?” I asked. No one paid me any heed, as we were now almost vertical, and everyone was focusing on not falling forward, even though the cabin was almost in zero-g.

“If I said that I did, you would not understand. However, if I wait until only you remain, you will have to understand that this cube said it.”

“Seriously!? Until only I remain?”

“Assuming this transport continues on its current course, it shall collide with the ground at high speed, the laws of physics will take control, and everyone will die. However, I intend to protect you against such an outcome. The others are expendable.”

“How are you supposed to protect me? Your just a voice!” By now we had reached the point where the plane was perfectly simulating a zero-g environment, so now everyone was focusing on screaming.

“If you really do not trust me, perhaps you should float down to the bridge and try to rectify the situation, and once you have realized the futility of the situation perhaps we will have crashed. Then you will see that I was right.”

“Right, well, I’m going down there.” I had never flown a plane, and had no idea what I would do when I got down there, but I figured I would either die or be a hero. As I floated down through the cabins, the cube floated along beside me.

“By the way, you should know that only you could hear me. I just found it amusing to hear you talking to a cube like a madman. You can just think it to me, I’ll hear it just fine that way.” As I got to the cockpit and reached for the handle of the door, the voice spoke again, “You have fifteen seconds to right the transport, a physical impossibility given the transport’s shape and method of acceleration. Ten seconds. The people who built me will either be very proud of their acheivement, or you will be dead.”

“You said I would live!”

“I may have lied.”

Collision. Gravity. The front of the plane moves inward, becomes the middle of the plane. Death. Crushed against the front of the plane. Walls dividing. Split to many pieces. Fire. Flames exploding, engulfing the plane.