I remember how the wheels of the train made a clicking noise against the steel rails as it rolled down the track. It almost made it sound as if it was an old steam train making its way through the plains of the wild west. I was aboard the 73 heading to Chicago. At the time I was working for a big game manufacturer out of New York. I was head of the video and graphic design department in charge of new game concepts. I was struggling at this point in my career and my job was hanging from a thread. A very thin, very weak thread.
My team had not come up with any original ideas in months. So my attendance was required at the corporate offices for a meeting with the companies big wigs. They asked me to bring any new lay outs I might have so I could present them to the board in person. I knew they were upset with me because it was the first time they had asked me to come meet with them without sending me a plane ticket. My annual bonus was withheld and my rent was passed due. My cable was shut off and I knew my electricity was soon to follow. A train at the time was all I could afford.
I had a few ideas, none of them very good. I collected a couple of prototypes to bring with me and stuffed them into a small carry on bag. I knew it was the last trip I would be making to the windy city. Nothing had been going right for me that year. My girlfriend left me for of all people, a professional golfer. My mother had passed away and I was getting buried deeper and into debt.
I ordered a ginger ale and took a couple of pills the doctor prescribed for me to calm my nerves. When I looked around I thought it was odd how everyone aboard seemed to be by themselves. No one was talking, no one was moving about the train. They all just sat there quiet and motionless. The old man who was in charge of taking care of the passengers walked up and down the aisle way. He approached me and said, “We should be in Chicago in three hours Master Paul.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Master Paul?”, I said. He said, “The passengers get a kick out of the formality”. I told him I found it a little creepy and he just smiled and kept on walking.
As the pills started to take their effect, I figured I would try to take a nap. This is where things got a little fuzzy. I woke up in a daze, not sure how much time had passed. I noticed that quite a few of the passengers had left the train. I waved down the conductor and asked him where we were. He told me that there were complication with the engine and we had to make a slight detour. It had set us behind by two hours. This meant that I would miss my meeting. I freaked out. I was yelling and screaming, upset that I was not awakened in time to at least call and try to reschedule the meeting. The man tried to calm me down. After venting my frustration very loudly the man sat next to me and asked me what kind of work I did. When I told him he asked if he could see one of my games.
I showed him one I designed called “Terror Flight”. He asked me how it worked. I explained to him that it was a reproduction of an airplane cockpit and it came with a video screen where the windshield should be. The player could simulate flying an aircraft into various buildings. The more destruction caused, the more points. “Well that’s just the most terrible thing I have ever heard of.” He said to me.
I sat there for a while feeling really depressed about my life and looking down at the game on my lap. I redirected my stare out the window just as we were passing a sunny yet very drab hillside. The heat on the horizon made a blurry line which turned to an orange smear as my eyes teared up from a mixture of my lacking sleep and of my growing despair. I pulled down the glass of the window and tossed the game out into the wind. I knew I wouldn’t have a job when I reached my destination. I knew any hope was pointless. I would lose what little I had left in my life. I closed my eyes and fell back to sleep again.
When I woke I found that I was the only one on the train. I stood up and yelled to the conductor. “How long have I been asleep?”. The man came down the aisle and said “Just a little while sir”. “Where is everyone?” I asked. “Well they reached their destination already”. I felt like I was losing it and tried very hard to stay in control. “I don’t understand, where are we? Where the hell are we going?” The conductor sat me down and explained. “Well you see my friend, your on board the Goodtimes Express. For some reason or another someone felt your deserved a second chance. This train will take you anywhere you wish to go, and in time you wish to be there.”
I told the guy he was crazy. Still very drowsy from the pills, and figuring that this man was a bit off his rocker. I was too tired to argue and so I played along. I said “Than take me to paradise train man. A place where I don’t have to deal with all this crap anymore. I place where I can start this thing all over again and this time get it right.” The man laughed and gave me a big smile. As he walked away the clicking of the wheels seemed to get louder and louder.
Moments later the train had stopped and the man walked over into the doorway, He slid it open and stood there looking out. I walked up behind him and looked out over his shoulder. What I saw was beautiful. He stepped aside and let me step down off the car. As I looked around I couldn’t believe me eyes. I was standing in what looked like a very elaborately designed landscape. The trees were huge and full of large birds. The grass was emerald-green. Flowers of every color caressed the fields that laid like carpet under the clear skies. The warmth surrounded me and reminded me of the comfort I felt when my mother use to hold me as a child. I turned and looked at the man and said “This place is incredible. Where are we?”
And as the train appeared to be fading away right in front of me the man said his final words.
“Why you’re in Eden Master Adam.”
And the man, and the train, vanished.
(Somewhere on the horizon of a Saudi Arabian desert two teenage boys ran through the sand playing American cowboys and Indians with toy wooden guns. When out of nowhere a strong wind came roaring through the hills. Khalid and Nawaf covered their eyes from the sand and when the wind hand stopped and they looked around and saw that there was a strange box lying just a few feet from where they stood. One of the boys ran over and picked it up. On the cover where the words. “Terror Flight”.