I open my eyes but am unable to move, my head letting out a searing pain as warning every time I attempt to. It’s taunting me, letting me know that last night’s shots were not a smart idea. My mouth feels dry as I slowly unstick my lips from one another and attempt to swallow what little saliva I have in my mouth. Running my tongue along the gritty covering that has now found home on my teeth, I slowly sit up and instantly feel the sting of bile rise in my throat. God, the movement of the train is threatening to give my late night kebab a repeat performance.
Wait a train! What train! I didn’t get on a train! My mind goes into overdrive, trying to make sense of the random snippets of last night’s events. Cost cutting pre drinks at mine. Taxi to Olnetios bar, on to a club. Kissing some stranger at the takeaways and then nothing.
I grab my phone of the side, flinching at the overly bright screen which makes my already pounding head hurt even more, not a single picture or message passed midnight. My bag lies beside the bed, the contents strewn across the floor. I turn it upside down and let everything fall onto my bed; credit cards, loose change, phone numbers but no train ticket. The phone! Perhaps one of my friends knows what’s going on? I search through my phone before finding Nicolas number and hit dial. The comforting sound of ringing never comes. No signal. I move around the room desperately, holding my phone in the air like I’m re-enacting the Lion King but no luck.
‘Think logically Charlie’
The black of night surrounds the train covering every hint to where I am and ensuring that I remain lost, unable to see anything other than the occasional flickering lights in the distance. We hurtle at roaring speed towards an unknown destination as I turn my search inwards. The cabin is bigger than I first thought, looking more like a hotel room then a cabin on a train. I look for any clues I can in the seemingly plain space. The fake roaring fireplace feels the room with the sound of crackling and casts an eerie glow over the large pull down bed I had woke up on, the iridescent light creating monsters out of the duvet patterns. On the table wedged between the bed and built in closet sat a tea station and bar, fully stocked with all kinds of drink. Opening the door to the closet, I found the same white t-shirt and jeans with matching heels, all my size. I counted them, there were over 20! My hands are trembling as I weakly close the doors to the closet, I turn my back to it and eye the open doors of the ensuite toilet the sits just three steps away. It is pretty basic; a cream toilet, shower and cistern placed so close to each other that they were almost touching. I pull the contents of the cupboards out into the middle of the room; shampoos, conditioner and soap all sit in clear containers in the middle of the room.
Tears fill my eyes as I wrap my arms around my knees and think of all the possible ways I ended up in this prison. I keep coming round to a single thought: my drink was spiked and I’ve been kidnapped by some psycho who is going to take me to some desolate place in the middle of nowhere and kill me. A groan escapes my throats as tears overwhelm me, causing my body to shake. Images of the family I will never say goodbye too flashes before my eyes and I frantically try my phone again. The silence is deafening and I throw the phone against the wall causing it to smash. Feelings of defeat and self-pity consume me as my anger subsides.
The cabin door slides open and I back into the corner. The silhouette of a man fills the door; his broad shoulders block the light from the hallway making the room seem darker. I hold back a cough as the smell of alcohol and dirt fills the room. He steps towards me, his dark stubble and sunken eyes make something in my head scream “RUN”. I back up to the wall, feeling the wooden frame of the windowsill push into my back. I can’t scream, talk or make a sound as the man steps towards me:
“I won’t hurt you” his booming voice rung out in the silence reminding me of Brian Blessed “It’s just nice to get out of the room sometimes”. I stall as I realise his tense reveals he has been on this train a little while, the words catch in my throat as I ask the first of many questions.
“How long have you been on this train?” I already know his response and know that I won’t like his reply.
“I don’t know. A while” he says in a monotone voice dripping with despair.
“Does it never stop? Do you not see station signs during the day?”
“The Day? Hun, I haven’t seen a station in weeks”
“The names Jayme, not Hun, what do you mean you haven’t seen a station? The train must fill up to keep moving”
“Sorry Jayme. I’m Charles but everyone calls me Charlie” he stepped into the light and Jayme froze. His hair was short on all over, the black peppered with white streaks revealing his true age. He held his hand out, the two fading black sparrows strategically positioned between his thumb and ring finger.
“What were you in for?”
“Armed robbery. I was 16 and stupid.” His eyes dropped to the ground. Guilt. I let out the breath I hadn’t known I had been hiding.
“So the train never stops”
“Never. It just runs through an endless supply of fields. I’m so fucking sick of the colour green”
Despite myself, I laugh. If I don’t I will cry.
“How did you get here?”
“I woke up here. The last thing I remember was arguing and then I was here!”
“Who were you arguing with?”
“It doesn’t matter”
A small voice cuts through our argument like glass “He was arguing with me”. He moves aside, slowly, calculatedly and I see her. A little girl, barely 10 years old, dressed in a flowery summer dress and shoes that light up as she steps towards me. I start crying again. It was bad enough that I had been caught by this psycho, but she was just a little girl. I tried to hold it together, I failed.
“What’s your name?” my voice broke as the tears fell.
“My names Kimmy” her childish enthusiasm shone through
“How old are you Kimmy” I ask, the little girls eyes never break from Charlies. I watch his hands tense and loosen in anger. A maternal instinct within me screams out to protect her. I drop to her level
“Eleven and three quarters” she brushed her hair behind her eyes and the deep purple on her arm shone in the candle light.
“Wow. You’re so big for eleven. So, is this your dad?”
“Step” she replied without taking a breath. Her gentle voice changed to a fiery response, charged with anger. The response confirms my suspicions; I stand quickly and put a protective arm across her chest as I confront Charlie.
“So you like to hit little girls do you?” My fear has been replaced with pure rage. I want to kill him. I know he will deny it, they always do
“What?!?…No! I’ve never hit her” Pathetic.
“How did she bruise her arm then?” I feel Kimmys grip tighten, her nails digging into my arm, she is scared. I squeeze her arm in response. Charlie says nothing.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you”
“He pushed me down the stairs” Kimmy spoke softly, I bent down to hear her properly, my eyes fixed on Charlie. “It really hurt – look”. Kimmy lifted her dress and showed ribs coloured a magnificent purple and yellow colour. Tears run down Charlie’s face, the salt water leaving a clear path through the layer of dirt on his face
“It was an accident” his statement was barely audible through his racking sobs. The pity I feel for him disappears quickly as I feel Kimmy clutching my leg, her body shaking. “I was just trying to get her off of me. To stop her hitting me” Kimmys hand let go of my leg.
“You couldn’t control an 11 year olds tantrum so you pushed her down the fucking stairs. What is wrong with you?”
“It wasn’t like that! She came at me…”
“I don’t want your excuses. You make me sick. You’re lucky it is just a bruise and not worse. ”
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it but Charlie’s eyes physically flashed red as rage pulsated through him
“I’m lucky. I’M LUCKY. That little psychopath came at me with a fucking kitchen knife”. He came close enough that I could feel his breath on my face. His anger was terrifying, now I was shaking. “Sure she seems sweet enough. I thought so too. It was all smiles and kisses when I first started dating her mum and then the stories started” He imitated her voice “Charlie hit me. Charlie touched me. Charlie comes into my room. Miranda” – I assumed this was Kimmys mum but wasn’t brave enough to ask – “Miranda knew she was lying so punished her every way she could. No TV, sweets, computer, phone or parties. Finally I snapped; I know I shouldn’t but she just kept pushing and pushing. I slapped her! Just once and I felt so bad afterwards that I tried to apologise. That’s when she came at me with a knife”
I turned towards Kimmy, preparing to ask for her side of the story but Kimmy had changed. Her face was twisted in such anger that I questioned whether I had seen her right in the first place. She started to speak, the statement echoed with venom
“I tried everything to get rid of you but mum was adamant you were staying. You gave me no choice”
Her voice shocked me – it was so full of hate, of vengeance and in such a young girl.
“Ok so I understand you rowed and now you’re here but how did she end up at the bottom the stairs?” I directed this question at Charlie, still angry that he had raised his hand to her.
“When she charged me, I tried to restrain her but she is a slippery little bitch and got me. Right in the heart and, in anger and pain, I pushed her backwards. She landed at the bottom of the stairs, the sound of her neck cracking echoed through the hallway”. He had started crying again. Each of his words plunged into my chest and burned my throat. I placed my hands on the nape of my neck as I bent forward and vomited the kebab that I had been holding down all this time.
“If she stabbed you in the heart, and you broke her neck, then you’re both….” The word stuck in my throat. In a voice that was not entirely my own I continued “…dead”.
“Congratulations” Kimmy’s voice now showed no emotion, she truly was evil “it took us a lot longer than you”
The gaps that I assumed were caused by alcohol came rushing back; Walking out of the kebab shop laughing, trying to balance the kebab and count the money for the cab and then a blinding pain in my head that made the world spin. Now I was here, on this train, hurtling towards a destination that was both unknown and unwanted. I had so many more questions but, as Charlie said, I had plenty of time to ask them.