Alexander showed Chloe the train car beyond the restaurant and kitchen. It was similar to the car she first woke up in. It was full of rooms for passengers to stay with a long hall between them. The only difference was the rooms and beds were much larger. Mouse and Elizabeth sat together in the restaurant area keeping an eye out for the witch.
“This must be first class.” Chloe suggested eying the rooms up and down. She could see why Alexander and the others chose to sleep here.
“That was my deduction as well.” Alexander acknowledged. “So they have first class in the future?”
“Not really.” Chloe was surprised by the question. It was something she hadn’t thought about before. She only knew of first class on planes from old television shows and movies she had watched.
“So in the future we won’t have a class problem, that’s good to know.” Alexander sounded like he was making a joke.
“I didn’t say that.” Chloe shook her head immediately. “I’m sorry to say we still have homeless people, rich people, and everything in between. I just meant transportation there’s nothing like first class.”
“Do you even use planes?” Alexander turned his eyes wide. It was clear he was interested in the future. Chloe found it funny, given that she was struggling in her history class learning about the early 2000s, the era he was from.
“Most of us don’t.” Chloe wasn’t sure how much she should reveal. She didn’t like the idea of being interrogated about her life, especially if it could cause some kind of temporal paradox. “I’ve been thinking. Time travel is impossible, but time dilation is not. It’s possible that we’re on some planet where time moves considerably slower than on Earth.”
“I had that theory as well.” Alexander shook his head. “Until someone from the 1920s appeared after me. His name was Elijah. He didn’t make it through his first day. He went to confront the witch.” Alexander let out a heavy sigh as if mourning a friend. “There doesn’t appear to be any kind of pattern to what year people arrive from.
“I see.” Chloe wanted to argue more, as she was always taught time travel was impossible, but the evidence seemed to counteract that teaching. “How do you think we got here then?”
“I don’t think this is real life.” Alexander was eager to share his theories. “I think it’s a plane of shared consciousness. Do you understand?”
“You mean a virtual reality created by our combined auric energies. It’s plausible, but consciousness doesn’t transcend time. Even those capable of astral projection are incapable of projecting into the past or future. It’s more likely the rest of you don’t exist and this is merely a state of my consciousness.” Chloe said. She still hadn’t dismissed the fact that this was all a dream, yet, it was too real to be a dream. She feared she had slipped into a coma.
“I’ve considered that as well.” Alexander admitted. “The idea that only I am real, but I consider that normally. You mention auric energies, a term I have never heard of before. Astral projection, something that’s only fictional in my reality, seems to be common knowledge in yours. There’s also the theory that our previous lives aren’t real and this is reality. Or rather, our previous lives only existed in our own minds and this existence is our first shared one.”
“G, you’ve officially lost future girl.” Chloe had no idea what he was talking about anymore.
“G?” Alexander asked.
“Oh right, it stands for grats. As in, congratulations.” Chloe laughed nervously. She didn’t use much slang, but the little lingo she did use was probably as strange to him as Mouse’s.
“There’s so much I want to ask you about the future, but I understand how annoying that can be. Mouse is curious too. He says that’s how he got his name.”
“Mice are curious?” Chloe asked.
“I guess.” Alexander chuckled. “Anyway, most of these rooms are empty so pick whatever one you want.”
“Miss Chloe.” A girl’s voice said from behind her. She turned and saw Elizabeth standing there, looking shy as any eight year old girl would. “Can you stay in my room?”
“Elizabeth doesn’t like sleeping alone.” Alexander explained. “But she doesn’t want to sleep with boys either.”
“I can stay with you.” Chloe smiled trying to put the girl at ease. “So, which room is ours?” Elizabeth pointed to one of the rooms on the left side. “Good choice.” Chloe was never good with kids so decided to be as encouraging as possible.
“Mouse is still on witch watch, right?” Alexander asked. Elizabeth nodded slowly.
“I don’t like witch watch.” She murmured quietly, she crept between Alexander and Chloe until reaching her room and retreating inside of it. Chloe’s heart felt heavy thinking of such a young girl being forced into such a tragedy. “Well, now that you’ve shown me my room I’d like to take a look around.”
“What do you mean?” Alexander asked his voice suddenly heavy with worry. “Don’t go to the witch.”
“I’m not. I want to see what’s beyond this car.” Chloe stated walking down the hallway.
“I told you, the conductor’s room and the engine. We can’t get in there, we’ve tried everything.” Alexander explained calming down a bit.
“I just want to see for myself. If we can get in there maybe we can stop the train, or maybe find some more clues.” Alexander didn’t try to stop her. She was still getting used to walking along the bridges between train cars. They didn’t feel safe. A sudden turn could cause someone to fly careening into the desert. The door leading into the next car was shut. There wasn’t even a handle to open the door making it look out of place in comparison. It was just a dark metal wall, with bolts making the outline of where a door should be. Chloe placed her hands against the wall. She couldn’t hold them there very long due to the heat of the metal. Chloe assumed the train cars had air conditioning of some kind given how cool it was indoors in comparison to the scorching sun outside. The sun!
Chloe stared up at the sun hoping to see a red giant, or something other than the star earth orbited. The sun looked just like it always did though suggesting they weren’t on another planet or if they were it orbited a similar sun. She wanted to see the stars at night to check constellations, but one of Alexander’s rules was to never go outside at night. She would have to try from the windows indoors.
Chloe turned her gaze to the desert hoping to see any kind of landmark, but there was nothing. It was just an endless sea of sand. There weren’t even any rocks. The land was flat, no hills or bumps. It was unnatural how similar everything looked. There weren’t even mountains in the horizon allowing her to see for miles in the distance. Nothing changed for miles. Chloe returned to the train car feeling nauseous. The scenery made it hard to notice they were in a moving vehicle, staring too long made her motion sick.
“I’m beginning to understand why people jump out of the train or confront the witch. We’re stuck here.” Chloe told Alexander.
“Exactly. I’ve been called a coward numerous times by those zealous enough confront the witch, yet they never return and I remain. It’s possible I’m a coward, but I also don’t want to die needlessly.” Alexander said. The issue seemed to weigh heavy on him.
“What’s the solution then?” Chloe asked. “Have any of you tried talking to the witch when she comes to us?”
“We’ve tried, but she’s not very responsive.” Alexander sighed. “All she does is repeat her orders, it’s frustrating.”
“Well, we have to do something.” Chloe groaned. “We can’t just sit in these four train cars for the rest of our lives.”
“I’ve heard this all before, and it’s ended in disaster. Don’t do something stupid Chloe.” Alexander looked straight into his eyes. Alexander considered survival priority above all else. Chloe couldn’t live like this for long, the urge to find her way back home was already beginning to triumph her need to survive.