Going back

It was early in the morning. I stood on the metro platform and I was reading a newspaper, only vaguely aware of the people around me. A girl with abundant black hair and a green skirt. A man with an umbrella. Two boys in their school uniforms.
So absorbed was I in my paper, that I heard rather than saw that the metro had arrived. A voice over the intercom said something unintelligibly, first in Catalan, then in Spanish, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I heard the doors open and I stepped forward.
Then a guy jumped out of the metro and clashed right into me. I realised I stood right in front of the doors. Normally, I hate people who do that: blocking the exit way for passengers who come out of the train. They should all be shot, I think. “Fool!”, said the guy who had come out. “Sorry, ” I said, hiding my face behind the paper and then I was in the train and the doors had closed. The train quickly gathered speed.
Only then did I fold my paper and sat down. And only then did I realise that there was nobody in the train. Except for one girl, who sat right in front of me. She must have been about 10 years old and she looked strange. She wore a dress that was much too big for her, and also much too adult. Like a grandma dress.
Meanwhile, the train was still going faster, and it didn’t stop at the next station.
– “Hello,” I said to the girl.
She pointed with a finger to me: “You should not be here.”
– “Why?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
– “So, why are you here?”
– “I waited too long. And then it was too late.”
I didn’t understand. – “So, where are we going?”
– “Back,” she said. Just one word. Back.
– “But…,” I said…, moving my hand to imitate the movement of the train which was clearly going forward. But she shook her head and indicated her watch, an old-fashioned golden watch. The watch was so small that I couldn’t read the time but only saw a blur.
I started to wonder what was wrong with this girl. Maybe she was ill. Why was she here, all by herself? And where was everybody else? More stations had passed by and the train did not stop.
I looked at her. On a string around her neck hung a pair of reading spectacles. Strange.
– “So, when no passengers are allowed,” I said, “Why did the train stop at my station? Why did it let me in?”
– “It didn’t”
– “Yes, it did. The train stopped.”
– “Not to let you in. To let you out.”
I shook her head. Maybe the poor girl was crazy.
But the train was slowing down. Another station passed by. And then the train slowed down some more and the girl pointed to the doors. I looked around. The train had stopped at the station where I had gotten in. We must have gone around in a circle.
– “Get out,” she said. It was an order.
For some strange reason, I didn’t hesitate in obeying her. I jumped up and out of the train. Some stupid guy, reading a newspaper was standing on the platform, just outside the doors. People blocking the exit should all be shot, I think. I collided into him and called him a fool. “I’m sorry”, he said and got in. The doors closed and the train left.
I looked at the other passengers on the platform, waiting on the train. They were looking at me now. A girl with abundant black hair and a green skirt. A man with an umbrella. Two boys in their schooluniforms.

The Big Change

LandscapeThat day, at 8:10, as every day since years, the man appeared at the metro stop. As always he carried the same briefcase under his arm and he had the same look on his face. At about 8:17 the subway train arrived and he got in, as always in the second but last wagon. Since it is one of the earliest stations of the metro line, there are always enough seats free, so we can always sit. As always, the man sat down on the bench near the door where he got in.

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I am in the metro, therefore I am

We can assume I was in a metro train. Right from the start I felt suspicious. For one thing, because of the other passengers in the train. They already were a dead giveaway about what was going on. For one, all of us looked the same: indistinct, underweight, sexless creatures were we, hardly more than arms and legs – two of both – each sitting in elementary chairs and looking in the same forward direction.

Also, we started at station A. Too bloody obvious. Certainly, after a certain “x” amount of time, we would pass station B. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to deduce at what time we would arrive at station C.

But what really made me understood all (where I was, who I was and why) was when I saw the ping-pong table in our wagon. It could not have been more obvious. Two passengers, as sketchy and sexless as the rest of us started to play and since the train remained its constant velocity – not slowing down, not speeding up -, the game proceeded as it would have if the train had been at rest.

Next, I noticed huge clocks next to our heads indicating the local times. The train moved at high-speed and when I looked out of the window, I saw one long platform moving past. On the platform, on equidistant intervals (or so it seemed), identical looking characterless figures stood observing us, and all of them were looking at enormous stopwatches they carried with them.

Yes, then I understood and I was filled with sadness because I knew I was going to die soon.

We were all going to die, as soon as we would arrive at station C and the problem of our arrival time would have been correctly calculated while taking into account all kinematic laws (first Newton, then Einstein). And then, with a final flourish and a flourishing finale, the teacher in front of the class would erase the blackboard and us (the train, the passengers, the ping-pong table and me) out of existence.

There is a world going on underground

It was just another morning, and as usual, I took the metro. I found an empty seat somewhere, without looking around. The metro stations passed by while I was still dozing in a morning haze but after a while something started to disturb me. I opened my eyes and saw what it was: someone was staring at me.

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What I should have said

‘I got it!’ I exclaimed suddenly. ‘They might have been my songs, but you all played it the wrong way!’

People started. I sat in the 8:13 train which was crowded and people hadn’t expected me to shout out like that. Looking at their faces, some shocked, others scared or at least reasonably annoyed, I felt that an explanation was in order.

‘No, you see. A few days ago I was in a bar. And a friend of mine said something to me and I didn’t know what to reply. And only now, three days later, I thought of an answer: “They might have been my songs, but you all played them the wrong way!” That’s what I should have said.’

This explanation, however, did not seem to satisfy my audience. A pretty accurate summary of the general point of view seemed to be: “who is this freak?” I realized that any further explanation would be useless and I got off the train at the next stop, before my destination.

Not for the first time, I learned that in life, as soon as you solve one problem, you create another one. Now I knew what I should have said three days ago, which was a good thing, but I could never take the 8:13 train anymore, for having made a fool out of myself. Which was a bad thing.

Who was she?

‘She sat opposite me, on the other side of the aisle. I thought I recognized her but I didn’t know from where.’

‘Did she recognize you?,’ the policeman said. His colleague had gone out of the room.

‘I think she did, but – like me – she couldn’t place me.’

‘And then what?’

‘Then nothing. I read my book.’

‘Did you notice at what station she got off the train?’ The policeofficer looked at me straight, without an expression on his face. As he had done since the conversation started. When I shook my head, he continued. ‘She got off at Platform A4. This we know. She was found on the side of the tracks, two hours later, with a pair of scissors down her throat and dead. Do you know anything about that?’

I shook my head again.

‘And you still don’t know where you knew her from?’

I shook my head.

The policeman sighed. Then his colleague came in and gave him an affirmative nod. They looked at me. The man who had questioned me, started talking again. ‘It turns out the DNA test was affirmative. Pieces of your hair were found on the victim’s body.’

I slapped my knee. ‘That explains it. Of course! I remember now. She was my hairdresser.’ I was glad we got the mystery explained.

Two train stories


1. The train that went nowhere

He never stopped explaining that what he really missed from his howetown was its metro network which had one metroline that only stopped in one station. The train would stay there all the time and people would come in, sit down and get out when the train had arrived which was always. He would use this line frequently with his friends. In the town he lived now, however, people got rather tired of hearing him going on about it.

2. Working the trainstation

He was a unique master-thief, specialized in one very particular trick of the trade. He would sit down in a train station, looking very respectable, and wait until someone would ask him to watch his bags while he was going to the loo, and then steal that person´s bags. Because of the extreme specialisation of his job, he only managed to pull this off succesfully once in his entire life. Well, twice maybe, but the second time they sort of let him do it, out of pity.