Bold: what happened in my dream; as best as interpreted.
Not-bold: written to fill time gaps, create flow, and name characters; information dreams often overlook.
I’m at an old station. It’s rusted, rundown. Crowded. Bustling with people. All of them are at the start of their lives, but have already lived a lifetime's worth of turmoil. The next train is coming in on the right. The previous one is leaving on the tracks to my left. A group of girls who know me from around begin to give me grief. They make fun, make jibes at my expense. We are set to get aboard the incoming train. We will pile into dirty, glass-walled car and put up with each other for the entire journey in the closed off space. There will be no room to breathe; no room to move. But this is the routine. This is what we do, day after day.
They crowd me, I’m being pressed into the small portion of standing wall. A corner at my back, the edge of the station on my left. The tracks rumbling as the train begins picking up speed. The train is almost past us. The last car is missing a container, really it’s just bare metal and wheels. A beam and fasteners and little else. I don’t even think. I jump on. I hardly make it. My fingers find a ridge of the metal as my feet just miss the wheels.
I manage to pull myself up and lay lengthwise on the only solid part. It’s slightly narrower than my shoulders. As I look back at the platform, I take in the shocked faces of my tormentors. That’s when I realize what I’ve just done. I just bailed on my life. I just left my responsibilities. It feels oddly satisfying. It's something I’ve never considered actually doing. Tucking my hands behind my head, I watch the station disappear and feel the wind pick up.
I’m smiling to myself. A cute girl around my age steps into my view, stepping on the metal rods and such to navigate the train. She stops by my feet, on the beam, and crouches. I sit up slightly and take in the sight of her. She has short blonde hair, and she’s dressed much like myself; denim shorts, a tank top, worn hikers and a bandana around her wrist. Both of us are very dusty, simply from existing in this world. Unlike myself; while I only have a vest on my shoulders, she carries a pack with a buckle across her chest on the front straps.
She inquires as to where I’m going so suddenly. I look at her and shrug, “Where are you heading?”
“Australia.” She replies.
“Sounds good to me.” I smirk as I once again recline. She tilts her head at that, and I begin to think of the route she would have to take. At least one plane; which I certainly don’t have the means to fund. With this realization I ask just how far she'll be travelling by train.
At this, I hear a voice pipe up behind me. The voice reminds the girl that they don’t know me. She waves off her friend. She tells me of the two stops they will have to make in order to switch trains, and that in three days they will board their plane.
“Perfect. Much better. Mind some company until then? I’ll admit I’m not much prepared.”
She chuckles at that and settles herself by my feet. Her friend scoffs and looking over my shoulder I see she moves to the more secure part of the train. The part that actually has what you might consider a floor.
The train picks up speed and my hair and vest are billowing. I shift my hands just below where they were to wrap around the beam my head is resting on. And as I do so, I chuckle and arch my back. I’m not a heavy person and I have never felt lighter. I use the train's increasing speed to push off and the wind holds me up.
As I’m careful not to kick my newest companion I laugh, “I’m flying!”
“Are you now?” She smirks at my antics and shakes her head.
Grinning wildly, I repeat the action. I manage to stay up for a few fleeting, fantastical moments. However, as I’m goofing around, she secures herself and grabs hold of my legs. She grabs my upper legs and hips and grounds me as we turn a corner that I couldn’t see coming.
Giggling we sit up proper after the bend. And as she removes her hands we grin nervously at each other.
The high of my ridiculousness subsides. And as I take in my actions of what has only been –at most— ten minutes, I realize introductions are an order.
“I go by Joy. And really, I’m not normally this impulsive.”
“Natalie P., but friends call me Nat.” She extends her hand. “And my friend over there is B. She tries to keep me out of trouble, wherever it is I find it.”
Throughout the ride we mess around, keeping ourselves entertained moving about above the open wheels. Mostly it’s just the two of us who reside on this train section. Occasionally B joins us or informs us how much longer to the next station. Nat and I get along like a house on fire.
Eventually, conversation comes around to how we got to where we are and what we are heading towards. Nat tells me she and B are heading homeward. I tell her how I was actually supposed to be heading home to my family. I had news from town for my mother and sister. Rather depressing news, and unfortunately it wasn't what they were hoping for. Really, a couple day delay won’t mean much. So, what with the depressing news and nothing else right in my life at the moment; a train without my peers to torment me was looking rather ideal.
“Besides,” I say, “who could beat this company?”
She grins at that, and I feel proud of causing that reaction. We find out that while we have much in common for desires –such as places I've longed to travel—, she has actually been and gone to these locations. While myself, I have only read of them. Until this journey, I’ve never even left my city.
I’ve only known the crowds. The rubble. The dirt and dust that finds it’s way into every building, every crevice. The wind storms that cause the whole city to be more suspicious of when people DON'T carry something to cover their face with. As surely, they don’t belong.
At the first stop there is time between trains. We leave the station. Within the city central Nat helps me acquire some resources for my journey. Nothing much, only items that people will miss very little. Just enough that I am not a burden to her and B. When we catch up to B again, she pretends to believe such items were obtained legitimately, and asks no questions to indicate otherwise. The three of us make our way back to the train. We hop aboard a semi-crowded, open-walled, center-beam section. Again, close to the tail of the train.
Nat and I get more adventurous as we have more time to spend in the next station. We scout ahead, leaping on and over rubble and ruins. They had planned to spend the night and catch the morning train south. The three of us wander about, avoiding certain crowds and moving unnoticed amongst others. We eventually come across an old, somewhat intact building.
On the highest floor we find ourselves an empty, less-polluted room that faces the city. We push old wooden furniture against the door and more or less blockade the holes in the wall that a person could fit through. We settle in the evening heat and talk. I don’t think B likes me very much, but we still share a meal. She also doesn’t sleep with one eye open, though, so I suppose she must trust Nat's judgement.
We nestle ourselves close to the middle of the room and ready for sleep. After a few minutes, I find sleep eluding me. I hear B drift off, her breathe evening and a slight snore beginning. I listen for Nat and realize that she mustn’t have fallen asleep yet. I consider speaking quietly, but decide against it with B so near. Instead, I abandon the pretense of sleep. I quietly make my way to the edge of the floor where the wall is missing. Cautious of the jutting metal rods, I sit with my feet hanging over the edge.
I look out into the city, a dim glow hangs over it as fires illuminate homesteads and camps. Stars light the sky. There’s a vast darkness to everything below the horizon and beyond the fiery lights. A moment –or possibly an hour— passes with me looking out at the night; when I become aware of Nat sitting next to me. There’s little more distance than the width of a metal rod between our thighs. A minute space that I am quite aware of.
We sit comfortably in the silence. Words are simply not necessary in this moment. I notice there is just enough light to see her outline, with just a hint of her features. She looks content. There’s no smile, but her lips hold a hint of something. She glances at me, catches me watching her and a smile spreads. We both look back out into the night a while longer.
I’m lost in a pleasant thoughtlessness when I feel her fingers on my thigh. I look up at her and she gestures her head to the side and starts to stand. I watch as she walks to a part of the broken wall which is below a hole in the ceiling. She grabs some of the protruding rods and supports and, stepping in cracks and holes, she begins to ascend. I hastily follow her, climbing up through the missing part of the ceiling. I’m pulling myself up when I start to look around. The sky is brilliantly lit. Stars in every direction. Too many stars to possibly count. Too many stars to recognize any but the brightest of clusters.
We lay next to each other on the roof, away from the edge. I rest my head on my hands and look up into the sky. Up here we begin to speak in a whisper. I tell her about the star clusters I recognize, and the tales that go with them. She tells me of the ones she made up herself, because the others never made sense. Frankly, hers are more interesting.
We talk and stargaze for hours. The stars shift across the sky as we watch. Eventually she drifts off. Even though it’s a warm night, a cool breeze has picked up. She subconsciously seeks out my warmth and tucks into my side. I let her. I appreciate her warmth, myself. Also, she's very cute while asleep. As she settles her head on my chest, I dare not disturb her. When she shivers, I carefully adjust my arms from under my head and wrap one around her shoulders, protecting her from the cold. I drift off contentedly, relaxed by the pleasant rhythm of her breathing.
I wake as the sky got light. I try to stretch and can’t. I look down to investigate, and recall the stargazing of the night before. I take a moment to appreciate waking up like this. As the moment ends, I become aware of some rubble digging into my back. I quietly rouse Nat. She slowly comes around, fighting consciousness. When she eventually opens her eyes, she looks up at me and smiles. I smile back and move to get up. We move towards the hole and she ducks her head in to check on B. Quietly she starts to lower herself, descending into the room. Following her down, I sit myself at the edge of the floor again. I watch the city come to life while Nat wakes her friend.
We pack up and make our way to the station to catch the south train. We board as we have the past few times. Riding in the dusty heat, Nat and I sit next to each other. We sit just close enough for a bump to cause a lingering, accidental touch of skin against skin.
Before half the day is gone we arrive at the last stop. It is a large bustling city. Larger than I’ve ever seen, too many crowds to get lost in. With a day and a half left, Nat and B intend to spend the time making their way across the city to their flight. I’m not prepared to battle these crowds alone. As were I to accompany them to their port, I’d be returning on my own. I’d rather not leave this station, should I get lost.
We prepare to bid our goodbye. I notice there’s a nervousness about Nat. She starts animatedly talking to B a short distance away. Their words are lost in the noise of the platform. After the third time they have both looked and gestured my direction I start to feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t expecting much, I just wanted a proper farewell. I thought we'd become friends. As I offer a slight wave and turn to catch the next train, Nat steps over, stopping me.
She offers an apologetic look to B and declares, “I’ve decided to stay until my flight. If you’ll have me.”
I can't help but grin.
We see B off; they both assure me she's been here before and knows the way. Nat and I set off into the streets. She shows me the city, all the gems in the rubble; all her favourite places. She shows me the fixed up sections and the run down communities. We get into trouble here and there. We chase adventure as we go. We get ever closer. She pulls me by the hand in the direction of whatever catches her attention. It’s a whirlwind. I’m so caught up in the world she is showing me.
Things calm slightly, we find a rooftop that’s out of the way. As things get quieter realization comes; and so it comes up that we both have places we are due to be in less than a day. She starts to say she could catch a later flight. And I start to mention I really only need to make a phone call to clear my agenda. We notice how close we are, hardly any space left between us. I lean in, a breath away…
---And I woke up---