Departures - Cover


by Jerome Norris

Copyright© 2010 by Jerome Norris

Flash Story: Paul could always tell when he was dreaming. This one was pretty weird, but he'd go along for the ride.

Tags: Drama  

It was only a dream. Paul knew it had to be only a dream because of the suddenness with which he'd found himself there. There at the train station downtown. The big gray building he almost never visited because, after all, who did he know these days who traveled by train?

It surprised him that there were lots of people milling around in the station. Far more traffic than he would have predicted. There couldn't be all that many passenger trains these days passing through this city. It's not like it was a major terminal or a junction point where trains might converge from many directions.

And it was strangely quiet there in the terminal, considering the large number of people present. Almost all of them were adults. Most seemed elderly. The crowd was moving about and the great open room with its elevated ceiling and cavernous spaces should have been full of echoes and voices.

But there were none. An indistinct kind of murmur was detectible, but what little sound there was remained subdued.

Paul looked about in mild confusion because most of the other people present seemed to be moving purposefully. Unlike him, they were on their way someplace. They struck him as being aware of their surroundings and intent on their individual missions.

"I'm dreaming," he told himself again. "How else could I suddenly just find myself here without the experience of having gotten into a car or a cab and transported myself here? One doesn't just open his eyes and find himself in a massive railway station."

Becoming comfortable now in his odd but seemingly benign dream, Paul watched the denizens of the depot as they moved all around him. On a closer look they seemed to be heading in the same general direction — toward a gateway — a series of wide double doors over which could be seen in large, three-dimensional block letters, the single word:


Going with the flow, Paul joined the others as they left the great auditorium and passed through the doors onto an outdoor platform. Two trains waited.

Everyone else seemed to know what they were supposed to do. Each of the passengers, most of them seemingly traveling alone, strode toward one or the other of the two waiting trains and boarded.

Confused, Paul approached a man in uniform standing at the entrance steps to the nearest passenger car. "Are you the conductor?" he asked.

"Indeed I am," the man replied.

"I, ahh, ... I don't have a ticket."

The conductor smiled. "For these trains, one doesn't need a ticket," he said.

"I ... I don't know which train I should be boarding."

"Whichever train you board, it will be the right one," the conductor said calmly.

"But ... Where are we going?" Paul asked.

"Why, we're departing," the conductor said.

"Yes, but..."

"Departing," the conductor said again. "Didn't you see the sign? The sign that said, 'Departures'?"

"Why is it that I can't ... hear anything?" Paul asked, a little alarmed now.

The conductor tilted his head slightly. Gazing into Paul's eyes, he said, "We have been talking, you and I, have we not? Haven't you heard my words?"

"Yes. Yes, I have," Paul said. "But. But I can't hear

... anything else. I can't hear the trains, or the people moving about. I haven't heard any announcements on the loudspeaker, or train whistles, or ... or anything."

"Don't worry," the conductor said, his voice warmer now, soothing. "Just ... find yourself a place on the train. This train will be fine. Climb aboard. Take a seat. Make yourself comfortable. There's nothing at all for you to be concerned about."

Inside the car, people were moving about, settling themselves in their seats. But again there was that eerie silence. No one seemed to have luggage, and no conversations were in progress. Paul saw one small boy, perhaps four or five years old. He was barefoot and wearing pajamas, and didn't seem to be in the company of an adult.

Feeling protective, Paul leaned over the empty seat next to where the boy sat by the window. "Are you with your mom?" he asked.

The little boy, who didn't seem the least alarmed, said simply, "No."

Paul sat down alongside the boy. He had never had a dream like this one. Not even a little bit like this one. "I'm going to wake up now," he told himself. "I don't like this dream. It's creepy."

But he didn't wake up. Soundlessly, the train began moving out of the station. The little boy looked out of the window, but there was a dense darkness and no details of the outside were visible.

They were departing.

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