Platform 13 (the train that never was)
There is no platform 13 at Greenfield Central Station.
Nor is there a platform 6, 10, 15, 17, 20 or any other number beyond that. There used to be a platform 17, but there was a suicide, and then there was a fire. It was rebuilt, but people just didn't want to get on a train there anymore. It was replaced by a café.
(People say it's haunted. I don't buy it.)
Greenfield City is a forest of concrete and glass, and its busiest railway station is not much different. The small shops are planted between sculptures of flowing lines, the voices of thousands of travellers echo on the angular roof, and the benches hurt your butt.
It still amazes me that people can live in this city. This grey monotony would kill me if I stayed here for longer than a day. I only come here for university and the many parties my classmates throw.
I love parties, I really do, but I hate going home at night. The trains are empty and lifeless. The railway station feels like a spaceship, except that the blinking lights outside are definitely not stars.
One night, when I was coming home after a party, I noticed something odd. I usually take the entrance near platform 19, since it's the closest to the city centre. My train, however, leaves at platform 3, so that's quite a walk across almost the entire station.
I passed platform 19, 18, and the café where the escalator to platform 17 used to be. I think I might've seen a moving shadow there, but it was probably just my mind playing tricks on me.
Platform 16, 14... and then right there, where there are supposed to be benches and empty space, was another escalator leading down.
I blinked, making sure I was seeing this right, and then looked at the number on the electric announcement board.
It didn't say where its train was heading to, but it would leave in a few minutes, at 2:31 AM. I crouched and peered down the escalator. There was a train waiting there, but I couldn't clearly see what kind. Not a high-speed one, and not the ordinary commuter train I took every day. Maybe an older model?
I looked around. There was nobody else there that could've noticed this strange addition. I was the only one.
Looking back, I'm not really sure why I did it. Maybe because it was the middle of the night, and the world seems different then. Unreal, somehow. Whatever you do in these strange hours would not matter anymore when the sun rises.
I stepped on the escalator. The train waiting downstairs for me was, as I expected, an older model. Strangely enough, it was clean and shiny as if it was brand new. The lights were on, so I could see that there were no passengers.
Hesitating I stood at one of the doors. It's been a long day, and I should really go home. Who knew where this train would take me? But maybe that was the reason why I should get in and see for myself.
My curiosity won, and I reached to press the button that would open the door. But before my fingers touched it, the door opened on its own. Still somewhat hesitant, I stepped inside to find a completely empty train.
Untouched benches, a clean floor and a faint smell of plastic. Outside, I heard the whistle of the conductor, and I quickly sat down. Before I could rethink my decisions, the doors closed, and the train began to move.
The train station glided past me and then the city appeared, with its endless illuminated skyscrapers. Although the screens that indicated what the next station would be were empty, we seemed to be heading in the direction of my hometown.
The train left the city, passed the suburbs, and entered the darkness of the countryside. For a moment, the only thing I could see in the black window was the reflection of my own pale face.
Then the lights started to appear.
Slowly and one-by-one, blinking lights started to emerge in the landscape. At first, I thought they were from farms, or from some other towns in this area. But there came more of them and soon all the windows were almost completely covered by them.
And that made me realise that these lights were somehow floating near the sides of the train and perfectly keeping up with its speed. But when I looked closer, I discovered that these lights weren't lights.
They were eyes.
And they were all staring at me.
I scrambled out of my chair and into the walkway. They were everywhere. Some of them looked human, others looked animal-like. Some had slit pupils, others were bloodshot. They looked at me for a moment, then they suddenly averted their gaze all the way to the back of the train.
Something was there. I couldn't see or hear it, but I felt something threatening.
I called out. "Hello?"
No one answered.
Or so I thought. The intercom turned on. I heard some static noise, and then the mechanical echo of my own voice. "Hello."
Was the train driver playing a trick on me? "This isn't funny," I said.
"This... isn't... a prank."
My own voice, but it wasn't an exact echo anymore. The eyes were still staring at the back, and my breath became shallow. The feeling of something frightening coming for me started to get worse.
I wasn't alone on this train.
The lights started to flicker. I felt my feet moving, and then I was running, just running, to the front of the train. I pounded on the door to the driver's compartment. "Help me, please! There's something here! Let me in!"
I turned around to see the light all the way in the back turn off. Then the next light turned off, and then the next. It was coming nearer.
I tried the door one more time. To my surprise, it opened, and I fell inside. I only saw a glimpse of a big shadow coming towards me before I quickly closed it.
The compartment was empty. No driver, no other crew. Blinking lights on the dashboard and infinite rail in front of me. What was going on? Who was driving the train?
Something knocked on the door. It pushed, and I quickly pushed back. On the other side, I could hear something scratching.
I held my breath while I listened. The silence continued and for a few heartbeats, I could hear nothing but my own ragged breaths. I looked outside the window and was relieved to realise that the eyes were gone. But in the distance, I saw a faint purple glow. The train headed straight for it.
It wasn't long before the entire night sky coloured purple. The scenery changed as well; I passed through the small railway station of a deserted, ruined town. A familiar-looking clocktower that had fallen over, a farm that had barely survived a fire. These buildings... I recognised them. They were part of my hometown. What happened here?
The streets were taken over by plants and in between their branches were lying dark figures. I stepped closer to the window to make out what they could be but jerked quickly back when I realised what I was truly seeing.
They were corpses. From the town centre to the farm roads, dead bodies were slowly rotting. The purple light made them look unreal, but I know what I saw.
I just didn't understand any of it. Had the world suddenly ended? Why was I still alive then?
Only when I touched my face did I realise I had been silently crying, tears falling on my hoodie. I was about to wipe them away with my sleeve when I heard something.
Scratching on the door. I still wasn't alone, but now I was glad for it. Whatever monster wanted me, it couldn't be as bad as whatever had taken these people. I couldn't stay here any longer.
Slowly, I opened the door.
The train was empty. We started to slow down, the purple skies outside fading to black. Again I recognised the buildings from my hometown, but now they were whole and as they should be.
I looked at the time. It was still 2:31.
"Station Oldenfolk." The intercom had its regular voice again. The train halted, and the doors opened. Hesitating, I stepped outside.
Somehow, this strange train had brought me home, as if I had gone with my regular train. Except that everything I had seen was impossible.
There still is no platform 13 at Greenfield Central Station. I went back to check the next day, but the escalator was gone. There was just empty space and passers-by who looked at me strangely.
This experience changed me in a way I can't really articulate. I look at the city without seeing it. Its people don't seem real or important. They're fabricated, but I can't tell by whom. Maybe I am the stranger here.
Or maybe I need to leave this city, and see how far the trains will take me.
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