Reads: 101

"The Train to Life City will be departing soon. All passengers must be aboard and be seated on their chosen seats for the train to depart; goodbye and may you have a wonderful morning trip."


The telecom silences as many passengers board the train with their luggage and children, sitting down on the numbered seats corresponding to their ticket. One by one, the people waited and got their ticket given to them by the conductor, which was standing in front of the doorway of the train, inspecting every passenger before entry; operating at a standing desk with a computer.


Ryder Zean, a young man wearing a soft leather jacket and was holding a gray satchel — matching his hair and eyes — where he kept his phone and wallet. Ryder stood along the people that waited to get into the train, taking one step as one of the people received their ticket. After a short wait, only one person was left standing ahead of him — a woman that had jet black hair as far as Ryder could see behind her.

"What the hell is this?!" shouted the woman in rage, angry about something, "I used half my savings to buy the ticket online and you're telling me the seats are already paid for?!"


"I'm sorry mam, but there is nothing I could. Maybe you can come here tomorrow, the train is available first thing in the morning," said the conductor, trying his best to give the woman a smile.


"Forget it! This thing is probably a scam anyway!" The woman angrily rummages through her jean pocket, pulling out one short bond paper and crumbles it before throwing it away.


"You know, there is a fine for littering mam!" shouted the conductor.


"I don't care! This was a waste of time!" said the woman while she was leaving, storming out of the train station's steps.


Ryder was anything but bothered, he only cared about getting to life city, where he accepted a game to win a large sum of money — which he did not know how much, but anything is better than nothing. He replaces the empty space where the woman stood, getting his ID out of the pocket of his jacket, handing it over to the conductor; which was now calm and gave him a wide smile.

"Zean, Ryder. Is that correct?" asks the conductor after looking at his ID.

"Yes. Sir,'' replied Ryder.


"Hmmm, and what is your purpose for going to Life City?"

"Um, business, Sir"


"Ok then, everything is covered." The conductor types on the computer — presumably checking Ryder in the passenger list — the conductor then grabs a stamper and takes a small piece of yellow paper, stamping it with the words, "Ticket for Entry: 99" on the paper, handing it over to Ryder as he directs him to the train entranceway.

"Have a nice trip, Mr. Zean," said the Conductor with a wide smile and cheery tone.


"Thank you, have a nice day," said Ryder as he walks towards the train, boarding it with a ticket on hand; trying to find the seat where his ticket number was crusted into.

Ryder went through crowds of passengers, searching for his seat; peeking his head out of the crowd just to see the number of empty seats. Carriage by carriage he searched, going through the bar carriage and the carriage after that until he finally found it. In the 6th carriage — which was the dirtiest carriage he stepped foot in amongst all the others, but it was the cheapest— he found his seat surrounded by more empty seats except for one person, sleeping on a few. He slowly walked towards his seat, avoiding the pieces of trash that were scattered throughout the carriage; he arrives at his assigned seat which was beside a rectangle window of the train, and not to his surprise, it was embedded with graffiti and dirt; along with one piece of chewed bubblegum stuck on the seat. He breathes a deep inhale, and then lets out with relief; he opens his satchel and pulls out a large blanket, placing it on the seat. He chuckled and quickly sat on the chair, relaxing his bottom and back, and his head facing up with his eyes closed in his satisfaction. But as he places his foot down on the floor, he felt something — something squishy; as he looks down on his worn-out shoe, he sees another chewed bubblegum on the floor, which was now stuck on his shoe.

".... Damn," he said under his breath, annoyed but decided to ignore it as he lays his head back.


He breathes a sigh before he reaches into his satchel again, grabbing his old earphones to listen to music. He only places one of the earphones to his ear, knowing that the other was broken and could not make a sound; he lays back and rests his head on the window, listening to love and rap songs as he blinks his eyes, slowly and slowly falling asleep. As he drifts into a deep sleep during his trip, he dreams like always, but unlike the other nights, it was anything but a good dream — it was a painful memory. He sees himself as a boy, from when he was still a child; holding a damaged teddy bear as he stood still, looking through an open brown door that leads to the outside, and what he sees through, has haunted him through his years.


A man, wearing a dirty white sleeveless shirt, kneeling down on the street with his hands tied to his back. Ryder's eyes stood open while he looks through, seeing the man and a gun pointing at his head; with one slow push, a bullet flies through the skull of the kneeling man, going down after it finishes. His face lay bare on the wet street, facing Ryder as the blood from his head slowly sips down on the ground, slowly sipping towards Ryder's feet. His heart beating fast, trying to move, but he could not; being dazed while he stared at the blood as it forms into a face, screaming. He could not cover his ears, being forced to listen to the ringing scream. Ring, ring, ring; hurting his ears while he drops a tear. The ringing keeps getting louder and louder. The scream now sounded like it was many, and as he keeps trying so hard to close his eyes, he finally did; abruptly waking him up shaking, making his earphone drop down from his ear.


Heavily breathing and heavily sweating, he wipes his face and neck, but while he sighed in his relief, the ringing started to sound again. His eyes are flung wide open, looking in every direction to find the source of the ring, then he feels something below him. He slowly looks down, preparing to run, but to his relief, it was just his cellphone ringing in his satchel. He exhaled, knowing he really was awake; he opens his satchel and gets his phone, turning it on to see the contact name, "Mother," on the broken screen. He quickly presses accept and places it on his ear.


"Hello mom, is everything okay?"

"Everything is fine dear, just calling to check up on you," said his mother with a cheery voice.

"I'm fine mom, I'm almost at the city. How is everyone back there?" Ryder asks.


"Oh, everything is going great! Your uncle has found a new job as a chef at a local restaurant that just opened up! Ava came back from school today with a lovely drawing of me, it was so sweet! Oh, don't be jealous dear, I'm sure she's going to make a drawing of you someday hehe," said his mother happily as she kept talking about what was going on back home.

"Hehe, that's great mom... How's Jacob?" he asks with a somewhat sad tone.

"He... he is fine dear, the doctors said they can fix him, so you don't have to worry about him; he will be fine," said his mother.

"...How much does the operation cost?" asks Ryder with a serious tone.


"Dear... you don't have to worry about th-"

"Tell me...mother!"

"....350,000 dollars," said his mother with her voice becoming quieter.

As soon as he heard the numbers, Ryder puts his other hand down on the seat, clenching into a fist while he grits his teeth behind his lips. Silence filled the carriage for a moment as he looks down in his own dismay.

"Ryder, dear, are you still there?" asks his mother, breaking the silence.

"I-I'm here mom, and don't worry, I will pay the bill myself when I'm done," said Ryder.

"Oh dear, you don't need to worry yourself about that, and what job are you applying to anyway? I'm a bit worried that it takes you far from home," said his mother worryingly.

"It's... a good job... mom, one that will solve all our problems," said Ryder vaguely.

"hmmm... fine, but promise me that It doesn't involve anything that brings you trouble!"

"I promise mom, it is a straightforward job, nothing else," said Ryder as he smiles as if his mom was there, but as he looks through the window, he sees a tunnel which the train is heading towards, "I have to go now mom, the train is about to go through a tunnel."

"Okay dear, please be safe when you're out there; I love you"


"I love you too mom, give my love to the others as well, goodbye." He presses the red call button, ending the conversation as the train goes through a tunnel.


Darkness filled the entire train as it goes through the dark tunnel, making silence the dominant sound. Ryder places his phone down on his lap, gazing at his small reflection on the side window, alone with his thoughts. But not for long. A loud slide of metal echoed through the carriage, Ryder assumed that somebody just entered the carriage, but who would dare to walk under the darkness. He clenches his phone, turning his head slightly to get a glimpse of who stepped in, but only darkness was in sight. He turns his head to face the front, calming himself down, thinking to himself that it might just be a draft. But it was not. Slight footsteps were heard, low but enough to break the unnerving silence and enough for Ryder to drop one tear of sweat. The footsteps kept being heard, and now, it was louder. It was closer. Ryder slowly turns his wrist for him to see the phone's cracked screen, quickly turning it on and putting the password for unlocking, but his fingers were stumbling. The footsteps now louder, Ryder assumed that it was now a few seats behind him; he quickly typed the passcodes while it came closer to him, trying to swipe down to bring up the hub, but the crack made it difficult. He swiped and swiped while the footsteps now felt so close to his ear, but the hub finally showed. He repeatedly tapped the flashlight icon until it activated, turning it over in haste, and shined the light onto the carriage. He turns around with the light, only to see.




He screamed, but somebody else was screaming with him in unison. He shines the light at the one who was causing the footsteps, seeing only a shocked man using his hands to block the light from his eyes. The man was wearing a blue polo shirt with a green tie and blue jeans, carrying a blue backpack with him; he had brown hair, black eyes, and pale skin.


"Jesus Christ!" gasped Ryder while he holds his chest.


"Can you please tone that down?!" said the man covering his eyes.

"Oh sorry!" Ryder covers the phone's flashlight with his hand but opened it enough to be similar to a nightlight.

The man drops his hand down to his body, standing up straight and blinking repeatedly for his eyes to get rid of small flashes of light in his eyes, "Thank you, I didn't know that there was somebody else in this carriage."

"Yeah? There is me and that guy sleeping over there behind you," Ryder points with his lips, directing the man to the guy sleeping on a few empty seats.


The man stuttered his head turn, but finally turns behind him, seeing the man sleeping as he snores softly, "Damn! I didn't realize, well, it Is dark; sorry if I scared you or something."


"Hmmm, it's fine; you just startled me that's all."


The man then places his hand inside the pocket of his blue polo shirt, taking out a yellow paper similar to Ryder's ticket; he reads it for one second, before raising his eyebrows to his surprise, "Ooh, I guess my seat is just right behind you." He turns his ticket over for Ryder to see.


"97," was the number shown in the ticket, which was the seat behind Ryder's. The man then takes the backpack out of his back and puts it down on the seat next to his, sitting down at his seat after he does so. Ryder turns off the flashlight icon, placing his phone back inside the satchel. He lays his head back to rest as he closes his eyes, exhaling to slow down his heart rate.

"So, what's your business in Life city?" asks the man, trying to get small talk going.


Ryder turns his head a bit, slightly annoyed by the question but decided to answer anyway, "A job," he said simply.

"What a coincidence! I too am also going to Life City for a job. What kind of job? If you don't mind me asking," said the man leaning his head from his seat.

Ryder gently grits his teeth, becoming more annoyed, but still decided to answer, only not truely, "Um, moving job, I move stuff into places," lied Ryder.


"Hmmm ok, a decent job, I like it"

"Yeah, maybe it is," said Ryder as he places his earphones on his ear to listen to music, but this time, he included the broken piece in an attempt for the man behind to stop asking questions. He was right. As the man was about to open his mouth and move his lips, he sees Ryder placing earphones on his ear, making him think he could no longer hear his voice. So, he stopped and laid his back on the chair, waiting for the train to arrive.


Ryder closes his eyes as he listens to songs from his phone, bopping his head to the sound of the beat. He slowly sings along with the singer, but low enough for the man not to hear. Singing only murmurs from the sound of it, but he was still satisfied as he taps his feet to the sound of the beat. A few minutes pass and he rest his head on the side window, gazing at his vague reflection again, he slightly shook as he sees the darkness disappear and replaced by hunks of dark oak trees; the train was now out of the tunnel.


"Well, would you look at that," the man said, looking out of the other side window.


Ryder hears him from the ear where the broken earphone was in, he slowly turns his head to the lights emitting from Life city. Large buildings lighting up colorful neon signboards and street lights, the city shined in the darkness of the night, and under the crescent moon. After admiring the shiny view, Ryder reaches into the inside of his jacket, pulling out a small piece of paper with an address written on it, "696, Macara St., Deville residence". He stares at It for a moment before putting it back inside his jacket, whispering to himself as he does so, "I hope this thing is real, or else I'm just wasting money on this damn train seat."

Gazing at the beautiful city as he laid his back against bis seat, placing his belongings in his satchel to prepare for his departure; for it was only a few more minutes left until the train arrives in life city. He wanted to call his mother before he arrived, but the signal type in the city was different from the type back at his home province; and he didn't want the man in the back to listening to the conversation. And so he waited, relaxing on his seat and staring at the address on the paper; remembering how it came up in the ad the day he saw it.

He was at an internet cafe, tired and wanting to escape; he went to the man who was looking over the cafe; seeing his expression change from happy smile to a frown as the cafe keeper saw him.

"Hey... can i get a boo—"

"No!" said the shopkeeper angrily, "You still have a lot of unpaid time, you're not going to lay a finger on one of those booths until i see a cent!"

"... Fine." Ryder placed a 20 pesos on the cafe keeper's table, making a loud sound as he annoyingly put it down, "One booth... please."

The cafe keeper looked down and saw the 20 pesos, then lifting his head back up again to glare at Ryder, "I don't see the money for the previous booths you order—"

"You'll get it by the end of this month, just as i promised you; now, can i get a booth?" said Ryder, staring down his eyes.

A pause of silence erupted between the two, making a minute pass by with the cafe keeper trying to make a decision, "... You can take the booth at the first set, the far right side..." He grabbed the 20 pesos, opening a drawer below the table before placing it in.

"Thank you," said Ryder, walking away from the table as he began to look for his booth.

"Make sure to pay up by the end of the month! Or else your ass is going to be placed on a stake!" shouted the cafe keeper before Ryder turned a corner.

Ignoring the cake keeper's outburst, he walked over to the first set of computer booths, then walked passed many of them until he reached the one at the very far right, just like what the cafe keeper said.He opened the booth and instantly saw a neat computer inside it; one of the few luxuries he could have, and it would have been better if he did not need to pay.

He quicklt pulled up the chair and made his butt fell on it, relaxing on the comfy cushion that laid on the seat. He booted up the computer, waiting for the screen turn on; and when afte it did, he immediately went to the browser and searched for funny videos in the internet, then browsing the depths of social media. He remained there for hours, laughing and forgetting about the things that made his head ache. After exchausting his eyes after so much time looking at the screen, he moved the cursor towards the x button of the browser. But when he clicked, it did not close; instead, a pop up suddenly appeared on the screen. The pop up was different, it was not like those pop ups thag just come and go in the bottom right of the screen; the pop up occupied the entire space of the screen, showing a full poster and an address on the very bottom.

Instead of closing it down, his mind turned surprise into curiosity; he moved his head close and squinted his eyes to read the poster.

"We cordially invite you to the Deville mansion, for games and fun; with money and prizes glamor. If you have what it takes to play in the games, then come on down to 696, Macara St. Deville Residence for the chance to sign and participate. Don't be late!"

And just like that, the poster had him at prizes, but although there was a part of him that thought it was a scam; he hoped it was not. As Ryder looked out of the window, he saw the train station, looking colorful and packed like the city. He placed his phone and earphones back in the satchel as he puts it over his head and shoulder. And there he sat on his seat, waiting for the new step of his feet.

"... Here we go then..."


Submitted: August 05, 2022

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