I was trying to fall asleep on the uncomfortable oak seats as the train jolted around on the rickety tracks. Many settlers used trains and I was used to sleeping next to people, but this train ride was unsettling. They must have been rich men from the east, as they wore long over coats and long-brimmed fedoras.
There were about six or seven of them and they all wore white, from head to toe. Shoes, socks, pants, undershirt, overcoat, hat, and one even had white rimmed glasses.
It was just me and them, which was unusual. They were talking back and forth quietly when suddenly one of them abruptly stopped mid-whisper and coughed. He spied me out of the corner of his eye and spoke quickly to the man in the glasses and they all stood up and moved further down the train to the last seats. They whispered back and forth, until the man with white glasses shushed them all. They all eyed me for a second till I glanced at them, and then they tilted their hats down to hide their eyes.
The man with the white-rimmed glasses then stood up and dusted himself off. He walked up to me and I sat up to greet him. Up close he looked around fifty, but his eyes looked unnatural and they didn’t fit with the rest of this body.
Sky blue and rich, they were the only thing that stood out from him other than his scars and clothes. His scars covered his face and seemed oddly… specific. They seemed to mean something or follow a pattern, but they were too faint now to know for certain. He put forth his hand and introduced himself with a heavy southern accent.
“Hello boy, name's Doug, Doug Arona. I’d like to invite you to a… show.” I raised my eyebrows to him, and replied, “Sorry, I don’t have time for that... I’m late for something.”
He looked down for a second, and when he looked back up, got threatening close to my face. His scars seemed to deepen, his eyes got more sunken.
“I’m afraid no isn’t an answer…” He paused for a second, and the entire world around me changed. The train car looked grimier; everything seemed moody… as if it was night. The seats around me got splinters, the land outside was destroyed and barren. Seats were falling apart; the entire world seemed to be war-stricken.
The train had a gaping hole in its side, and blood splattered all along the train. I couldn’t make out words, but there was a pattern in the blood. Dark and menacing, the man continued.
“I’m going to take you to a magic show, and no is not an answer. Next stop, a special town, a special show… next stop is Arona.” His eyes shined bright for a second, then my skull felt like it was going to split. Against my will, I was forced down and my head hit the floor. As soon as my skull made contact with the rough wood, I was knocked out.
My eyes were blurred, and the room I was in seemed unnatural. A hammering pain in my head did not help me get my thoughts straight. I sat up and held my head up. It felt like it was pulsing, but the feeling soon faded. I looked up; I was sitting on a small bench in what appeared to be a train station. It wasn’t fancy by any means, quite the opposite. It seemed to be fashioned together last minute, as if someone was in a hurry. The bench I was sitting on had a cut foot, and it wobbled. The floor was full of splinters and holes where termites had begun their work. I stood up, the pain in my head still there, but much more subtle now.
I walked over to a small desk, where a young man was sitting. I mumbled a few words, “Uh... Where exactly am I?” He looked at me, and he spoke slowly, as if I was never taught English.
“You’re in Arona… When I got here you were taking a nap on the bench, I figured I had been taught enough manners to not wake a sleeping person.”
My eyes grew wide, and everything that happened came flashing back to me. My mind was in a whirl, and suddenly I got dizzy. I had to lean against the desk to sit straight. He started talking again, but it was hard to hear.
“I mean if you don’t want to be here, and you look like you could have some money on yah… You could buy a train ticket.”
I looked up and quickly said, “When does the next train come?”
He looked behind him, and frowned. “Sadly the last one came by yesterday. The next one doesn’t come for… thirty-one days, one month?” I stared, wide eyed, at him.
He looked back at me, “This isn’t a large town mister. Trains only come by when they have to.” I put my fingers to my temple, “Fine, I’ll buy the ticket then.”
He handed me a small slip of paper. At that instant a bell sounded. It was long and ominous, and it sent shivers through me. It rang in my ears for awhile, and I looked over at a clock behind me. It read 8 o’clock, and I sat there for awhile staring at it.
It seemed to stare back and all that mattered was the clock. I blinked quickly and turned around to mutter my thanks to the man, but the man was gone. So was the entire desk. In fact, the entire station seemed to change. It seemed like a riot had came through the station. The bench was completely flipped over, and the clock behind me was crocked. When I looked out the window, the landscape was dark and the grass dark and dead. Trees were cut and gone, leaving only decaying stumps.
I stood outside and looked left and right. Dirty trail rails went on for miles. When I walked off the platform, I saw a town. It was dark and filthy, windows were cracked, doors hung halfway off their hinges. People sat around and coughed. The sun wasn’t shining, it seemed oddly dark. A sign hung over a path beside the station; it was crudely painted and read, "Arona." The sign looked unkempt and battered. I bit my lip and continued into town.
A paper flew at my chest and I peeled it off of my shirt. It was a flyer for a magic show. It showed a woman and a man, the same man that I met on the ride here. The name of the show was scratched out, but I could make out a few other words.
“Lady Arona and her assistants will give you the greatest act in the world!” It said the show started at 8 o’clock P.M. I folded the flyer and put it in my back pocket. I turned around and starred at the bleak landscape and half-rotted buildings. I sighed and moved farther into town.
I took time to get an idea of my surroundings. The town had only six main buildings, and a dozen or so houses. There was a bar, a post office, an inn, and several other unmarked buildings. All the buildings were run down, with shattered windows and rotting boards. Their once bright paint was now dull and peeling. The people in town were all dressed in rags, and eyed me suspiciously. There didn’t seem to be enough houses to fit the people, and many people looked like they slept in the streets.
I decided the first thing I should do was find a place to sleep, as the ground was littered with shards of glass and forgotten trash. I walked into the inn, which was the least run-down building in sight. I walked up to the desk, which by some miracle was still standing. I rang a rusted bell sitting on the desk, and its chime echoed through the building. A tall and awkward man came out from a door behind the desk, and eyed me angrily.
“What do you want?”
I quietly replied. “…Do you have an open room?” He rolled his eyes and violently reached under the desk to grab the room key.
“You better have money.” I pulled out a few coins out of my pocket and dropped them on the desk. He picked up one and held it to the faint lamp hanging from the ceiling.
“The room at the far end of the hall way on the 2nd floor, you have for three days.” He dropped the key on the desk and retreated back into the room that he came from. I didn’t even have time to thank him, so I took the key and went up stairs to my room.
The rooms next to me were silent, but I could hear creaking and movement upstairs. I entered my room, which wasn’t luxurious by any means. There was a small bed against the wall, a chest, a small desk, and two grimy windows that let little light in the room. The only source of real light was a dusty lamp on top of the desk. I sat down on the bed, although uncomfortable, was better than the ground outside. I took a moment to breathe and think about everything. I was in an alien town, a complete stranger, and had almost no possessions. I dumped what little possessions I had into the chest, sat up, and walked back outside.
Outside, most of the people seemed to have disappeared. I ignored it and headed into the bar. The bar was packed, and almost every table was full. I took a seat at the bar and waited for the barkeep to come over. He was a big man, very tall and broad. He had a full beard and a booming voice.
He came over to where I was sitting and asked, “What can I get yeh?” I ordered a random drink and he disappeared to get it. Out of the corner of my eye I realized everyone had turned around and was watching me intently. After a few moments of silence, they all went back to their drinks and conversations.
While having my drink, the barkeep came back over to me. He started making light conversation. Instead of his once echoing voice, he was now in a whisper. “You don’t look from around here, and newcomers aren’t very welcome.
I don’t care, as long as you pay and don’t start trouble. But listen, people are going to look for any reason to pick a fight with you. Keep your nose clean friend.” I gave a slight nod and he slipped me a small piece of paper. “Don’t read it until you leave, and when you do, do so in private… watch your back; they have taken interest in you.” Before I could respond, he went back to serving drinks. I tightened my grip on my glass and couldn’t help feeling eyes on me.
After an hour, I gave the barkeep some money and he gave me a heartfelt smile. On my way out I noticed a man who sat at a dark table near the door. He wore a dusty trench coat and a long-brimmed hat. As I passed him, his hand shot out and grabbed me. Once more the bar got quiet. He said, “I know who you are.” And let go of me. He didn’t take his eyes off of me as I exited the bar. Outside I stood in shock. Not even a day and I was already attracting bad attention. I felt the note the barkeep had given me in my pocket, and went back to my room in the Inn.