It was a dark evening. Rain pounded on the roof, the lightning was dying out, and the sky was navy blue. The room was illuminated by the flourescent lights which brought out the color of the wooden wallpaper. Antoni tried to stay awake by watching a Youtube video of gamers playing the latest, popular Xbox game however, he ended up falling asleep a couple minutes later. As a gesture of courtesy, his sister took the iPod away from his hands and clicked it off so that it wouldn’t quickly run out of battery; also, so that it wouldn’t land on the floor cracked. At this weather, the iPod’s wifi signal wouldn’t work very well anyway. Brunon and Jacek were playing a game of cards out of boredom; sometimes they quarreled out of competiveness but they continued playing the game anyway. Filipina was reading Catcher in the Rye, a famous, classic yet controversial book that Cecylja hated but kept her contempt for it quiet. Lilka was absorbed in a new popular app game that she was playing on her iPod. It was all quiet except for the rolling of fading thunder outside, sounds from Lilka’s game and the moving of train cars. Cecylja liked it.
Cecylja thought back to “Lil Wayne” hoodie; he looked like he wanted to murder Cecylja and her cousins. But why? Was it simply because they made fun of his favorite rapper? Maybe not. He probably had another good reason to be mad at them. Based on what Cecylja knew from her life experience, grown men don’t punch someone for insulting their favorite musician; however, she also learned from social media that America was an easily offended society. She remembered that one time on Instagram she posted a “pro-life” post, someone got offended by it and posted a nasty comment. Cecylja really wanted to insult her back but what she did instead was post positive comments on their posts and “like” their pictures. In return, she got an apology. It is always good to kill with kindness because killing with coldness would only spark more anger and revenge.
Cecylja’s tummy rumbled and her eyes were closing; she didn’t eat breakfast that morning and all she ate for dinner[i] before she left for the train was three thin slices of pizza. She couldn’t wait for supper but she had no idea if supper was going to come or not. She was really drowsy but the problem was that she couldn’t fall asleep in cars, trains or planes no matter how hard she tried. Whenever she would be on the plane, she would pull out the mini-desk and lay her head on it but her mother scolded her for it. She never understood why it was wrong, people in middle school and high school always did it. Well, mom wasn’t here now and there was a table between the six of them so why not?
She took off her glasses and put them neatly on the table; folded her arms on the table and made a gap in the middle; she turned her head sideways; and laid her head in the gap. It wasn’t the most comfortable sleeping position in the world but if it made her fall asleep it would be worth it. The everlasting bags hung under her eyes and wrinkles always ran through her forehead from so much stress from life; they never went away no matter how much sleep she got. She was used to them. She gave out a great yawn but she didn’t bother to cover her mouth. She closed her eyes and tried to settle her thoughts down.
“Cecylja, is everything okay?” asked Lilka.
“I’m just sleepy.” her cousin replied with her eyes still closed.
Sleep brought her down like an iron anchor that fell to the sea floor. Her thoughts were becoming muddled and slurred. Her consciousness faded away into blackness…
BUM! The loud slamming of a giant fist on the table awoken Cecylja with a shock. She immediately sat upright and trembled. Her eyes were bulging and she was blinking very quickly. She looked around her and saw that Jacek and Filipina looked spooked but everyone else looked attentive. She was confused. She directed her eyes from the fist to its owner. It was him!
“Tickets please” said the man coolly. He was tall, muscular, and bald. It was “Lil’ Wayne Hoodie! What was different about him was that instead of wearing his hoodie, he was wearing a conductor’s uniform that seemed two sizes too small. He had the same grave look that he gave Cecylja and her cousins last time.
“What the… hell… do you want?” asked Cecylja in a frightened voice. He was stalking them. He definitely was following them.
“Are you deaf?” he retorted with spit flying into Cecylja’s face “I said: tickets please”
Cecylja shuffled her hands in all of her pockets until she pulled out what felt like paper. It was an old, yellowed paper that reminded her of some appointment from long ago. She dropped it and kept searching her pockets in a frenzy until she pulled out something smooth and crisp. It was the ticket. She slammed it on the table and stared at him with a spooked glare. He took it, examined it, then he clipped a hole in it. He did not give it back because he kept staring at the paper for what seemed like a long time. He looked up from the paper, stared at Cecylja, and returned the paper. He then asked for her realitives’ tickets and the same process followed.
After he finished examining the papers, he stared at Jacek, Filipina and Cecylja with murderous eyes. He hunched and put his fists on the table. Now, it wasn’t just the three young adults that were scared of him.
“Don’t make any trouble,” he warned.
“Sir, isn’t there supposed to be one conductor on the train?” asked Antoni.
“Then what happened to the other conductor?”
“What other conductor?”
“There was another conductor, he looked like he was in his fifties”
“There was never any other conductor; I am and always have been the only conductor on this train.” Then without another word from the group or from the man, he left with one last threatening glare to Cecylja. The group did not talk to each other until the man had been far away enough.
“Okay, that guy is a crazy stalker and an imposter!” declared Jacek in a quieter voice. “You all saw it! There was a different conductor from the beginning of the train ride.”
“Well, maybe there are two conductors in trains.” murmured Lilka.
“No there aren’t Lilka!” snapped Filipina in a hushed voice “Didn’t you hear him? He clearly said there can be only one conductor in a train.”
“Don’t all of you remember the conductor that was helping Cecylja?” reminded Jacek “He was middle-aged, had gray hair and was really nice. This guy looks like he hates our guts. And don’t you remember Filipina? It was the same guy that gave us that Soviet hitman look!”
“You guys know this guy?’ asked a shocked Antoni as he stood up and pointed accusingly towards them.
“No, we don’t but what happened was – “ Cecylja tried to explain as she took her glasses from the table, examined them, and wiped them.
“Shut up Cecylja!” barked her brother “I wasn’t talking to you!”
A uproar of confusion and argument broke out between the six of them. No one bothered to talk quietly anymore. Everyone’s questions and comments suddenly grew into bickers and shouts; but before they could make a scene, Jacek kept repeatedly shouting “Guys!” until everyone calmed down. Then, he sat down, took a deep breath and serenely explained everything that happened before everyone got on the train. The teenagers hung on to his every word but whenever someone tried to interrupt, he told them to hold all their thoughts at the end. Once he explained everything, there was no one in the compartment who did not look alarmed.
All the fabrics and traces of calmness and sleepiness had faded away into thin air replaced by fear and suspicion. Brunon looked at the “conductor” who was taking tickets from other people and examining them. Then he looked at his brother with a facial expression of bewilderment and eyes that were full of panic. Jacek although he also looked scared he didn’t try to panic. Lilka also looked at the “conductor” but she did not dare try to make eye contact at him. Jacek and Filipina both nudged at their siblings to not look at him as if they were afraid the man would immediately grab and take them away somewhere unknown. Cecylja shuddered at that thought.
Suddenly there was the sound of screeching metal which was so earsplitting that it made Brunon and Lilka cover their ears with their hands. The six of them looked out the window and saw that the fast-moving trees and landscape outside were slowing down. The feeling of the train moving was becoming less bumpier and more steadier. The ceiling lights were shaking as well as everything else. Most of the passengers looked startled and some of them, like Lilka and Brunon, also covered their ears. This went on for ten minutes until the train finally stopped.
“Why is the train stopping?” asked a confused Filipina.
“If that conductor wasn’t so suspicious, “ said Antoni “I would say that he’s dropping people off.”
“Antek,” sighed Filipina “I have a feeling that they wouldn’t drop passengers off here because no one drops passengers off in the middle of the wilderness.”
“I’m just saying!”
“But even if that guy wasn’t so sketchy, the train wouldn’t stop to drop off people in the wilderness. “
“You think the engine just broke down?”
“I hope so.”
Suddenly, there was the sound of static over the speakers, then there was a terrified voice that sounded like it wanted to cry.
“Attention my dear ladies and gentlemen…this is your pilot speaking. I…I…I can’t do this.”
Then there were screams of agony, slapping sounds, and angry curse words.
“Say it, you dastardly coward,” commanded a furious voice in the background. Sobbing was heard and mumbled, gibberish words were pitifully blabbering over the speakers. After that, a punch to the flesh, a soft thud, and an electronic screeched through the speaker. The sound was so loud and awful that it was worse than fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. Then there was static and a clearing of throat.
“Since that lowly, subhuman was too much of a pussy to send this very special message to all of you,” spoke a smooth, gloating male voice with an Asian accent “I will tell it to you all sweet ladies and spineless gentlemen instead. My name is Jiling Miyu and I will be your co-host for today! Your ride has been canceled. That’s right! None of you suckers are going to Philly! While you wait, look at the beautiful view and don’t resist the kind men that will escort you outside the door. Also, here is some music to soothe your nerves.”
Again, on the speakers, there was the devastating screams of the pilot as he was being tormented by a man named Jiling. Cecylja and Lilka couldn’t take the poor man’s tearful yelps so they cried quietly. Lilka, Brunon, and other people tried to cover their ears but the man who pretended to be a conductor pulled out a pistol from his pocket and aimed at them. Out of fear, people kept their hands away from their faces so the man didn’t pull the trigger. After what seemed like an hour, there was a final gasp of breath, a soft clunk and then silence. The P.A. finally clicked off leaving the passengers with tears streaming down their face. Silence rang in the hallway and it made everyone freeze in time; no one dared to move a muscle or break the silence.
Suddenly, the imposter in a conductor’s suit called for attention while still holding his gun at the passengers. Everyone’s eyes turned to him and no one broke eye contact.
“ Put your hands up in the air!” he instructed “Every single one of you!”
So everyone, including the six held their hands up in the air; everyone still kept staring at the man. The man then reloaded his handgun and held it with two hands. He started pacing around the room but he never took his eyes off the passengers.
“Tell me,” he spoke “How many of you wanted to go on vacation this week to Philly? Or how many of you have some business to get done at Philly? Come on now, don’t be shy.”
Only some people, including the six, raised their hand; the others were probably too afraid or suspicious to raise their hand. The imposter looked around scoffing in disbelief.
“That’s it?” he chuckled “Well, let’s hope your bosses are real nice. Those vacations are going to have to wait…a really, really, long time…that is, if you ever get to go to another vacation ever again.”
Those last couple of words did not surprise Cecylja. This man, the man on the P.A. and probably some other hijackers on this train, were obviously terrorists. Maybe they didn’t look like the dark-skinned terrorists from ISIS or even worked for them, they were undoubtedly dangerous. Maybe they did work for such Middle-East terrorist organizations, who knows? Anyone could work for such organizations. They could have been from an gang or mafia organization. It didn’t matter where they were from, these people were dangerous and something awful was going to happen soon.
Da-da-ring-ring-ring-da-da! The terrorist let one hand go from the gun and picked up the call. Even while talking, he was still pacing back and forth and keeping his eyes on the crowd. Although he was speaking English to the other person on the line, he was speaking in an English that no one seemed to understand. This type of English seemed familiar but it sounded very old. Where did Cecylja hear this type of English from?
“Yea, I’ve got those folks all round’d up. They are gasted out of their souls. Hast thou got the hostages rounded up yet? Are those lily-livered fustilarians giving thou any troubleth? Shouldst I taketh all of them outside anon? I’ll meeteth thee thither.”
Shakespearean! Of course! They were speaking in Shakespeare’s language! Some of those words brought back memories of reading Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth from high school. But what good was it to know that they are speaking Shakespeare’s language when Cecylja didn’t understand a single word they were saying? She doubted that her cousins or anyone on this train could interpret what he was saying. Cecylja did know one thing for sure – whatever he said, it wasn’t good. When the terrorist clicked the phone off, he immediately stopped pacing, aimed for a random man’s head, and shot. The man ducked leaving a smoking, small hole in the leather brown seat. When he picked his head back up he was covering it with his arms.
“Everyone get the bload-soaked, bleeding, blackened bloodbath out of here!” he barked menacingly with a scowl.
No one disobeyed him. The entire car train was a raging, panicking stampede. Children cried while some women screamed. The imposter shouted to all of them to shut up but no one listened this time. There was the bang! of a gunshot but luckily it didn’t kill anyone; however, the gunshot hit a man’s arm who tried to push a child out of the way. The hammering of the rain outside was even louder than before. As Cecylja and her relatives were shuffling through the crowds they were getting further apart. She tried to stay with Antoni, Lilka, Brunon – with anyone – but they all traveled away from her. She was being shoved, yelled at, and tripped over in the midst of the sea of strangers. The air was full of gunshots, screams, and luggage falling from the ceiling. Cecylja looked this direction and that direction but she couldn’t find any familiar face. She lost them and they lost her. Cold panic ran to her scalp. What if they got killed or hurt somehow in this chaos?
As the crowd moved out the door and out in the air, some people fell on top of each other, some scrambled on their hands and knees, and some ran out the door. People were spilling out the train like water bursting out of a leaking balloon. Rain was falling from the clouds like a waterfall; the wind was blowinghard which made Cecylja shiver and chatter her teeth so hard like never before. She had been outside for a quarter of a minute yet she looked like she just stepped out of the shower. It was raining so hard that Cecylja had to take off her dripping, wet glasses in order to see what was going on. She put them in her front pocket. Everything was blurry, not just because of her poor vision but also because gray specks of rain were falling everywhere she looked.
The green forests stood out in the darkness, the moon was still bright through the rain, and the grass had never been greener. The lights in the train were still turned on and the last batch of people were coming out of the train. Cecylja might have imagined it but she swear that she saw it - four dark sillhouettes inside the train were making hand gestures and passing three windows until they crouched down and disappeared. She waited three minutes for the figures to come back but they never did. Now everyone was out of the train and the crowd was massive and thick. Everyone was shivering, chattering their teeth and puffing out white breaths while soaking with nothing to cover their heads. Lil Wayne Hoodie and his accomplices were shivering but they were shielding themselves from the storm with umbrellas.
Cecylja desperately wanted to curse out her captors, to punch them, to show them a rude hand gesture but she knew that it would not turn out well if she actually did that. Despite the fact that biting her tongue was a struggle, she kept quiet anyway. She was so paralyzed with fear that she almost lost her faith in the Lord but she forced herself to get a grip and prayed many silent prayers. Then, she took a deep breath and slowly moved through the ocean of people to look for her relatives, hoping that nothing horrible happened to them.
The imposter and his four accomplices were five feet away from each other and lined up in a formation of a star. The imposter seemed to be the leader not only because he was in the center of the formation but also because his accomplices looked at him with admiration. While Lil Wayne Hoodie was Caucasian, the man on his right was Asian and the man on his left was Hispanic. Next to the Asian was a tan man that looked like he was from the Middle East while next to the Hispanic was an African-American. It was nice to know that they were diverse. Somewhere on their faces, the terrorists had two symbols imprinted on them, one was carved into their skins while the other one was a tattoo. The one that was carved into their skins was was an “S” shaped, red dragon; while the tattoo was a silver star with countless points and a gun, a sword, and a bazooka coming out of three corners. Most of them were wearing either casual clothes or train staff uniforms, except for the Asian man.
The Asian man was dressed in a tuxedo, a fedora with a white ribbon, and chalk white business shoes. He had a thick crimson ribbon tied five times around his hand with six inch ends hanging out; he was holding a black umbrella in his ribbon-wrapped hand and a golden bazooka in the other. There was also a gun-shaped bulge in his left, front pocket. He had an extremely attractive face, was thin, and had arms that were muscular but not too muscular. What bothered Cecylja the most about him was that he looked at a young woman with lavender hair as if she was something good to eat.
He left his bazooka on the ground and his chatting accomplices and walked straight to the woman in the crowd. As he was walking toward her, he untied one strip of ribbon from his hand but left the other strips alone. In front of everyone in the crowd, he wrapped one arm around the lady’s waist, placed his ribbon covered hand on her shoulder and held his lips to her ear. As he was whispering sweet nothings, his hand traveled from her shoulder to her bright-colored hair. The woman made a face of disgust as he ran his fingers down her hair continously. The woman stamped his foot, broke free of his light grip and slapped him across the face. She yelled at him for humiliating her and touching her without consent but the man just laughed heartily. His teeth were yellow yet perfectly straight; however, his smile was like a toothy, double-sided smirk.
“Attention!” bellowed the leader.
Everyone was shivering but they all turned their eyes and ears to Lil’ Wayne Hoodie out of fear. Even the Asian man turned around and returned to his pack. The purple-haired woman was glaring at him with contempt but the man continued smiling pervertedly at her. He picked up his bazooka and held it over his shoulder as if aiming at someone. Lil’ Wayne Hoodie looked at the Asian man, then at the woman and finally he turned his attention to the crowd.
“Listen up!” he spoke “I shall not repeat this again but you are going nowhere to Philadelphia. Most of you will be going with us somewhere very far away. You all have a very special person with a special surprise eagerly waiting for you. There is no running away from it because that is where your destiny lies. Whatever you planned for the future, what ever you planned doing in Philly is canceled by yours truly. Whether you are excited to find out or whether you’d rather be somewhere else, I don’t give too much of a care in the world about it. Most of you will be coming with us in the trucks but a few of you will not be so lucky. The few of you will go back to the train but you will be going to meet the Grim Reaper. Any volunteers?”
After he finished his short speech, everyone started muttering amongst themselves, some children started crying again. This was a nightmare but no matter how much Cecylja pinched herself or pulled her face, there was no waking up from this nightmare. Why must everything go wrong now on her vacation why was this happening? So many times she heard of terrible things around the world but she always thought that none of this was going to happen to her. She was wrong. What was worse was that her siblings or cousins were going to be taken to an unknown fate with the other captives or maybe go to “Hell” in the train. If anyone she knew was going to be taken, she would gladly sacrifice herself but she hoped that it would not happen the other way around.
“Well, no volunteers?” the man chuckled “We’re going to have to choose some people then. You there! The one with glasses, brown hair, white shirt and jeans, come here!”
He meant Cecylja. Cecylja was at first too scared to come forward but she knew that if she didn’t come up it would do no good. She stepped forward out of the crowd that was staring at her. She was still wet because the rain did not stop pouring and her own fear made her shiver and chatter her teeth even more. She did not look at the terrorists as she was walking to them but she kept her eyes on the ground. She looked back at the crowd to see a familiar face; she saw her brother, Filipina, and Jacek but not Lilka or Brunon. Maybe they were there but she couldn’t see them.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Amen [ii]thought Cecylja to herself as she took a deep breath.
When she came to them she did not face them but she turned around to the crowd with her arms folded behind her back. There were people that were folding their hands and silently mouthing their prayers to God or Yahweh or whoever they believed in. There were other people who pursed their lips, crossed their fingers and put their bets on lucky charms. Many people just stood stiffly, hoping not to be noticed. Still no one has volunteered to go up on the train. The atmosphere was intense with suspense.
“The blond girl called Filipina and the tall, brown haired man called Jacek.” he continued.
Both of her cousins, had shock in their eyes and probably had a lot of questions in their heads. They hesitated at first, like Cecylja, but came up anyway. They too had their eyes to the ground and did not face their captors; when they came they stood by Cecylja’s side probably because they didn’t want to lose her again. Then he called up Antoni and he gave the same reaction as the three of them did. Lil’ Wayne Hoodie then looked at the Jacek and Filipina and laughed. Anger fumed up in Cecylja without knowing why.
“You two think that I will call up your siblings just like I called up her brother?” he questioned rhetorically “Well, that’s not going to happen; your siblings will not be with you anymore.”
“No!” they both shouted.
“You dastard!” retorted Cecylja accidentally. “Why are you tearing us all apart?”
“That’s how I work and that’s the way I like it.” he sneered.
“Let them go please!” shouted Filipina.
The man did not want to hear Jacek’s, Cecylja’s and Filipina’s pleas anymore so he yelled out for a man called Kaur. Kaur was a tall, strong Middle-Eastern man with a train staff’s uniform; unlike the stereotypical Middle-Eastern, he had no turban or beard but was cleanly shaved and had short, neatly combed back hair. He ran toward the three of them and knocked them down to the ground; after that, he kicked them with a heavy amount of force. The punches were like speedy, iron hammers that beat without rhythm. He picked Jacek up in the air and slammed him down the ground; he slapped Filipina from each side of the cheek; and he twisted Cecylja’s joints without breaking them. After the ordeal was over, the cousins were bleeding from their noses and mouths; bruises covered many parts of their body; and they were breathing raggedly. They were so flayed that they found it hard to stand up or even move. Luckily, Antoni was left alone unscathed.
Then the leader dismissed Kaur back to his position and waited until we stood up before calling out three more people. They were unfamiliar but they were diverse in race and ethnicity. One was an old woman with a hijab wrapped around her head; another was an Asian boy who looked to be about twelve or thirteen; and the last one was a white man who was in his thirties. The boy was holding a small wooden star in his small hands but the Asian man took that away from his and threw it into the forest behind the crowd. His eyes were welling up tears so he buried his face into his hands; no one comforted him except for the old woman who just hugged him and ran her fingers through his hair.
“You guys got any last words, goodbyes, or last prayers before you go to Hell?” Lil’ Wayne Hoodie asked the “volunteers”.
Cecylja looked away from him and looked down on the ground. No one said anything nor did they move. Lil’ Wayne Hoodie signed and waved a hand gesture of dismissal to his men.The accomplices went to the crowd and the “volunteers” and pushed them into opposite directions; the Asian man went to the purple-haired girl, grabbed her by the waist and grabbed a shorter red-headed woman. They struggled from his grip but he was too strong for them.
“Hey boss!” called out the Asian.
“What is it Mr. Miyu?” asked the leader.
“May I keep these pretty ladies for myself?” he requested with a sinister smile “I would love to take them to my bed tonight!”
“They’re all yours!” he answered with a wave of his hand. The women were screaming for help and wiggling from Jiling Miyu’s grip but in vain. The people behind them were being pushed farther and farther away from sight while the “volunteers” were being forced to kneel on the ground. Without warning, there was a smash! and pain shot through Cecylja’s skull. For a couple seconds her vision blurred and anger burst inside her like a shotgun. She felt herself being tackled and pinned on the wet, cold grass. Before she could react, a coarse hankerchief was thrust onto her mouth and nose. She accidentally took one breath before descending into darkness.
[i] In Poland, people eat three meals a day: breakfast, dinner, and supper. Breakfast is eaten in the morning; dinner is eaten at between twelve or four o’ clock (or whenever the person comes home from school or work); supper is like breakfast except that it’s eaten in the evening.
[ii] Psalm 23:4 New Living Translation, a bible verse from the Bible.