Rattling echoed all around Chloe. The world was spinning. A loud whistle pierced the void shattering the darkness. Chloe sat up gasping for air, awakening from a deep sleep. The rattling continued and the whistle let out another shriek. It took a moment for Chloe’s eyes to adjust to waking up. The world around her slowly materialized revealing strange plain room with nothing but a small desk. This wasn’t her room.
The wallpaper was a disgusting looking white color, stained with light brown colors suggesting it hadn’t aged well. Parts of the wallpaper were even peeling revealing rusted metal behind it. The only light came from the morning sun, casting its pale glare across the floor. Chloe’s heart beat fast as panic began to set in. Where was she? The last thing she remembered was texting her friend before falling asleep with her phone in her pocket. Her phone! She scrambled, pushing the bed sheets off of her as she reached for her pocket. Her father always told her never to sleep with her phone in her pocket, but now it could save her life.
It wasn’t there. She had nothing on her. Her first instinct was to scream, but she didn’t want to alert whoever kidnapped her that she was awake. She stood from the bed, inspecting the room further. The only way out was through a door. There was no lock on the door meaning someone could barge in at any moment. She turned to the window. With any luck she could escape this place and find the police.
Sand. There was nothing but sand. To make matters worse the sand looked to be moving! It took Chloe’s eyes a moment to adjust as she was still waking up and the light from the sun wasn’t making things any clearer. She realized that the desert around her wasn’t moving. She was moving suggesting she was on some sort of vehicle. She tried opening the window so she could peer out, but it was bolted shut. She was able to see parts of the vehicle to her left and right revealing a long train of cars. That’s it! She was on an old fashioned train! How did someone manage to take her from her home as she slept and get her on a train? There were no trains around her home at all, let alone one this old. She must have been drugged, it was the only explanation, but even that didn’t make sense. How long was she out for?
A loud slam made Chloe jump so high she nearly hit her head on the ceiling. The slam was distant, but was followed immediately by a closer louder slam, and then another. Doors were opening and closing in what appeared to be the loudest possible manner. Someone was systematically looking through every room on the carriage she resided. Chloe looked around her room for a place to hide. The bed was connected to the floor, sparing only a couple of inches of empty space beneath it. Hiding under the bed wasn’t an option. The desk wouldn’t provide enough cover. She stood like a deer in headlights as the slamming noise came closer and closer. She heard the beating of her own heart grow louder as it thumped painfully against her chest. It was coming for her and there was nothing she could do. She wanted to close her eyes and wake up back in her bed. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so terrified.
Finally it came. Her door was swung open quickly. Someone stood on the other end. He was a boy around her age. He wore a white shirt with dark brown overalls. His hair was dark black and greasy. He had a pale dirty looking face and stood barefoot. The boy nearly slammed her door out of habit but stopped himself just in time. He turned his head down the hallway on the other end of the door.
“New blood!” He yelled out. His voice echoed down the train car. He turned to face Chloe, his eyes running up and down her body inspecting every inch of her. “And she’s a real looker too.” He grinned. He had a thick Brooklyn accent, the kind Chloe had only heard in old movies.
“Excuse me?” Chloe stammered. Despite being called a looker for the first time in her life. This boy didn’t seem to have any kind of ill intent. He looked to be about her age, sixteen, maybe a couple of years older. As for Chloe she definitely didn’t feel like a looker. Her long red hair was a mess and she wore nothing but her purple pajamas decorated with different cats. She was thankful to have long white socks on so at least she wasn’t barefoot like this boy.
“The name’s Mouse.” Mouse held out his hand to shake hers despite her being on the other side of the room, her back pressed against the bolted down window.
“Mouse?” Chloe still found it hard to speak. She couldn’t bring herself to trust his friendly aura given the circumstances.
“That is what I said.” Mouse withdrew his hand. “So what’s your tale nightingale?”
“Um.” Chloe wasn’t sure how to respond. “Chloe.” She stated her name nervously.
“Good to meet you Chloe. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the gang.” Mouse waved his hand for her to follow before walking down the hall to the left. Chloe hesitated for a moment, taking once last glance at the endless desert through the window before choosing to follow Mouse down the long hall.
The carriage was made up of rooms similar to the one Chloe woke up in. They were all pushed together as tightly as possible to fit as many passengers they could. The floor was carpeted with a green and purple pattern. It looked ugly, suggesting this was the kind of place where poor passengers would ride. The loud whistle shrieked out making Chloe jumped once again.
“You’ll get used to it!” Mouse chuckled. “Only happens in the morning then at night.”
“Where am I?” Chloe finally built up enough courage to ask.
“Alex’ll explain all.” Mouse replied. His tone suggested that she wait before asking anymore questions. It didn’t take long to reach the end of the car. There was a doorway on the end. Mouse politely opened the door for Chloe, allowing her to walk through first.
“Watch your step.” He said. “It’s a real doozy.” The cars were connected with a thin metallic bridge. There were handrails on the side. Chloe felt the heat of the desert sun as she walked on to the bridge slowly. The train shook, threatening to topple her over the railing and into the sand at any moment. It was the first time Chloe realized how fast they were moving. She stepped carefully and slowly, an impatient mouse waiting behind her, and reached for the door on the other end of the bridge. As soon as the door was opened she threw herself forward nearly falling flat on her face. With a slam Mouse closed the door behind them.
Chloe took a moment to look around. This car was full of booths with tables in the center of them, similar to a restaurant. Each of the booths had a small window allowing passengers to see the scenery, or lack thereof. Only one of the booths was occupied. There was another boy who looked to be younger than Chloe. He had short brown hair and wore a strange uniform, like something from an old boarding school. He was the only one that had shoes. The other was a little girl no older than eight years old. She wore a thin white nightgown that stretched down to her knees. Her brunette hair was as thin as the gown she wore.
“Gang, this is Chloe. Chloe, this is the gang.” Mouse introduced her, taking a seat opposite of the other boy.
“My name is Alexander.” The other boy rolled his eyes at Mouse’s antics. “And this is Elizabeth.” He pointed to the young girl. She remained quiet, idly glancing up at Chloe.
“Come on, have a seat.” Mouse gestured for Chloe to sit near him. Chloe looked around unsure.
“It’s okay. I’ll explain everything we know.” Alexander’s voice soothed her worries. He seemed to understand how she was feeling unlike Mouse. Cautiously, Chloe slowly sat in the booth next to Mouse, her head dropping as she inspected the table. The cushion of the booth was surprisingly comfortable, at least more comfortable than that bed she woke up in. Once Chloe sat down Alexander took a deep breath preparing for the speech ahead.