“Welcome to the Dream Train.” Alexander said.
“Dream Train?” Chloe asked. “So this is a dream?”
“This ain’t no dream.” Mouse scoffed rudely.
“We call it the Dream Train because everyone wakes up here. It’s like a dream, but from what we can tell, this is real.” Alexander explained. “I have theories.”
“Don’t get this guy started on his theories.” Mouse interrupted.
“We’ll discuss them later then.” Alexander groaned frustrated. He and Mouse seemed to be polar opposites in terms of personalities. “Anyway, from what Mouse and Elizabeth tell me people wake up here unsure of how they got here. We’re fortunate you speak English, most of them don’t.
“Most of them? There are more of you guys?” Chloe inquired. Alexander shook his head.
“There were more. They didn’t follow the rules so they are no longer with us.” Elizabeth spoke for the first time. Her voice was very soft, making her look and sound like a cloud would.
“Let’s not overwhelm her.” Alexander tried to get back to his explanation. It seemed like he had done this multiple times in the past. “We’ll start at the beginning. As you’ve probably seen we’re on a train in a desert. We don’t know where the train is going, or where it came from. People wake up on this train, and if they don’t follow the rules, they tend to disappear or worse.” Chloe opened her mouth to say something, but Alexander held up his finger, he wasn’t done yet and he was tired of the interruptions.
“The rules aren’t some magical overlying laws. That’s just what we call suggestions to prevent disaster. For example, never leave a train car at night. Never go beyond the awakening zone, that’s where the witch is. And of course, never jump off the train. The awakening zone is what we call the train car people arrive in. You were just there. Then there’s the dining area, where we are now. There’s the kitchen, one car closer to the front, our quarters, a car beyond that, and then the conductor’s room that we can’t get in at the very front of the train.”
“I see.” Chloe stated timidly. She wasn’t sure what to say. Thankfully, Alexander appeared to be good at explaining things. She was beginning to understand why Mouse told her to hold her questions for him.
“Beyond the awakening zone is a train car controlled by the witch. We don’t know if she’s actually a witch, like with a cauldron, that’s the title Elizabeth gave her and it stuck. She occasionally comes here and asks us to assist her with something, but don’t go to her territory uninvited.” Alexander said.
“She’s kookie. Generally she wants us to fix up something in her room. If we don’t do what she says, well, those who don’t listen to her tend to disappear overnight.” Mouse said.
“The train extends far beyond the witch’s territory, but we haven’t found a way around her yet.” Alexander frowned.
“Every morning one of us checks the awakening zone for new blood. We have to get to them so they don’t wander in the witch’s territory.” Mouse said.
“This is all so strange.” Chloe stood up. It was too much for her to process. A witch, awakening zone, don’t fall off the train? Part of her felt like jumping from the train was her best option. Especially if no one knew where it was going.
“Cool it.” Mouse stood up placing his hand on Chloe’s shoulder. “We’ve lost far too many due to nerves. Most people don’t make it through a week here.”
“What happens if you leave the train?” Chloe asked.
“The claws.” Elizabeth whispered.
“There are creatures in the sand. We call them claws. They are hands that appear in the sand and pull people down with them. They may all be part of one creature, or separate. Either way, if you go into the sand the hands will grab you and pull you down into the desert below.” Alexander said.
“That’s ridiculous.” Chloe didn’t buy his story for a second.
“Is it any more ridiculous then waking up on a train in the middle of a desert?” Alexander countered. Chloe didn’t know how to respond.
“Most people don’t believe us. They try to make a run for it. The claws get them.” Mouse said.
“Panic is our worst enemy.” Alexander stated boldly. “We must keep calm, don’t let our nerves consume us, and figure out a safe plan to find out where we are and what to do.”
“Survival is priority, got it.” Chloe nodded. Her and Mouse sat down in the booth as she tried to calm herself down. None of this made sense. There were so many questions in her mind but she couldn’t figure out which of them to ask first. Her mind went to survival shows. If they were in a desert, they needed water, food.
“What do we eat? Is there stuff in the kitchen?” Chloe asked.
“We don’t eat.” Alexander said. “I’ve been here for over a month and have never gotten hungry.”
“I’ve been here even longer than that, and Elizabeth before both of us.” Mouse said.
“So to summarize: We don’t need to eat or drink. Don’t jump off the train. Don’t leave the train cars at night. Don’t go into the witch’s car. And if she comes to us, do what she says.” Chloe said. She was beginning to calm down. “What does the witch ask us to do?”
“You don’t have to worry about it.” Mouse said.
“The witch is old fashioned. She asks the boys to do mundane work to maintain the train, light tightening bolts and stuff. She lends us tools. I used one of the tools to bolt down the windows in the awakening room to prevent people from jumping outside when they wake up. It’s happened more often than I care to admit.” Alexander explained.
“What’s old fashioned about that? The dames shouldn’t have to worry about the handy work.” Mouse stated like nothing was wrong.
“That reminds me. Alexander looked to Chloe, staring her in the eyes. “What year is it?”
“2193.” Chloe said nervously. Why would they be asking such an obvious question?
“Oh my god.” Elizabeth murmured under her breath.
“Looks like you’ve been beat Alex.” Mouse laughed.
“What?” Chloe asked confused.
“I’m from the year 2010.” Alexander replied. “Mouse is from 1955. Elizabeth is from 1866.”
“That’s impossible.” Chloe nearly shouted. “Time travel has been proven impossible on multiple accounts. It’s common knowledge.”
“Yet, here we are.” Alexander said. “Before you I came from the furthest in the future. You’ve surpassed me.” Chloe grabbed her head, resting her elbows on the table in the booth. None of this made sense. Even as the people around her tried to comfort her she wanted nothing but to wake up from this dream.