Sunday, April 7, 2013

Writing Challenge With Author, Jan Jacob Mekes!!

Your writing challenge: In 2000 words or less tell a story about a dream that you couldn't escape!

Jan Jacob Mekes

I want to get off this train.

That’s all I can think of as the sun slowly peeks over the horizon. An orange stripe, a glowing yellow orb, and finally a ball of white fire that illuminates the fields below. Endless flat, empty grasslands stretch out on all sides of this iron beast I’m on, held in check only by two thin strips of metal that seem to go on into the distance indefinitely.

How did I get here? I don’t remember buying a ticket.

I look around the compartment, for the first time noticing that, save for myself, it’s empty. I get up. My legs are bit wobbly, but I a minute later I’ve already adjusted and am walking around, finding that not only the compartment but the entire carriage is completely devoid of people.

My heart starts jumping up and down in my chest, pearls of sweat begin to form on my forehead as I advance into the next carriage.

Still empty, but I hear the faint tones of violin music. Is it coming from the next carriage? I decide to investigate.

I do not find the source of the music, which is getting louder, and now has some piano playing mixed in… but I do encounter a man in a white tuxedo.

“Some coffee, sir?” he says.

“Yes, please, that’d be lovely,” I hear myself say, although I can’t imagine why, since I hardly ever drink the stuff; tea is my drink of choice.

The man reaches into his jacket’s inside pocket and produces a full cup of coffee, which he proceeds to throw in my face.

Now I really want to get off this train.

Some invisible force compels me to go forward, however. In the next carriage, I finally discover where the music came from. There’s not an on-board orchestra in sight, I am disappointed to find. The music is coming from a set of speakers. Funny, it sounded almost real enough to touch, but now… utterly fake. I look outside at the clouds that roll by as the train steadily moves forward, and wonder if those are real. Perhaps they’re just giant wads of cotton, stuck onto cardboard painted blue.

These metaphysical musings won’t do me any good though. The train just keeps speeding up, and I find myself having to run to be able to progress to the next carriage, which really doesn’t make sense, because I should be moving at the same speed as the train I’m on. Then again, it begins to dawn on me that perhaps this isn’t a normal train.

As I enter through the next door, my suspicions are not just confirmed, but slammed into the back of my skull with an ice pick. I’ve reached the engine. And it’s empty.

I expect to feel panic, but I’m surprisingly calm. Everything around me slows down, even time itself is blurred as I sit down behind the wheel. I have no idea how to drive a train, but instinctively I know what buttons to press, what levers to switch. Even the order in which I do so is impeccable.

The console rewards me with a satisfying beep, and I lean back in the quite comfortable chair, happy with my achievements in taming this runaway train. My eyes close as I begin to drift away, when suddenly the reality of my situation hits me like a sledgehammer.

I haven’t done anything.

I can push buttons and pull levers all I want, but this train just keeps rolling towards a horizon that never comes closer. I lean back in my chair and close my eyes. My lips begin to curl upward. Not in a happy smile, but a sarcastic smirk. I shake my head. I open my eyes.

Still the same iron lines ahead of me, converging to nowhere. I throw up my hands. There’s nothing I can do here. I decide to turn back.

As I pass through the carriage with the violin music, I stop to listen. Despite the metallic, tinny quality, the music itself actually isn’t bad. After a few minutes, I even begin to hum along. My spirits lifted somewhat, I proceed to the carriage where I got coffee thrown into my face.

The man in the white tuxedo is still there.

“Back for more?” he asks, a grin on his face.

He reaches into his inside pocket, but I hold his hand. “Tea, this time.”

I half expect him to sit down and sulk, but instead he raises his eyebrows, smiles, and says: “Good choice, sir,” before putting a lovely, steaming cup of tea in front of me.

I sit down and take a sip, letting the hot, aromatic liquid warm my soul. I look outside. The landscape looks somehow nicer. There’s even a hill or two.

When I finish my tea, I get up and wander about, hands in pocket. The gloom of before quickly sets in again as the effect of the tea wears off. I begin to question myself, this train, the landscape outside. The last of the hills disappears out of my view. I’m back again where I was. In a train I don’t want to be on, surrounded by empty grasslands.

I sit down, close my eyes and sigh.

At least the tea has done me some good. I’m getting drowsy. I fall asleep.

I dream of being on a train against my will. In the dream, I try to escape, but my efforts are all in vain. I sit down and look outside. Another train passes. In it is a little girl, staring out the window, a silly grin on her face. When she sees me, she waves enthusiastically, confusing me to no end.

I wake up. I look out of the window into green emptiness. And yet… what is that dot on the horizon? It comes a bit closer, just close enough so I can see it’s another train. It’s still miles away, and a bend in the track quickly removes it from my sight again.

A shame, for I wished to have seen who was on it. It doesn’t matter though. Deep down, I know it was the little girl I just dreamt about. I lift my hand and wave back at her.

A yawn, a stretch, and I get up. I look out once more at the sun, which is in the process of donning and shedding a cloud. I smile. A hill appears in the distance. I nod. A tree.

“Well,” I say to myself, “this is my train, whether I like it or not. I might as well enjoy the ride.”

I look out the window once more, and a train passes close by. A little girl is looking at me through one of the windows. She’s giving me a thumbs up.

For more on Jan Jacob Mekes: - my site/blog, with information on my writing