There were no dreams, only the sense of something being stolen.
A loud whistling sound shrieked throughout the entire train. Chloe sat up startled, nearly pushing a sleeping Elizabeth off the bed. Her heart was pounding. No matter what the others said, she would never get used to that. Chloe’s vision was fuzzy. She tried to remember what she was thinking about before she fell asleep, but that thought was long gone.
As if the jump scare from the train’s whistle wasn’t enough, Elizabeth let out a high pitched scream. Chloe scanned the room and joined Elizabeth’s screeching choir. Standing in the center of the room was a large figure in an old musty cloak. She had to be over six feet tall, with long black hair flowing down her back. It circled around her like a hedgehog’s spines. She stood there smiling looking directly to Chloe and Elizabeth. Her eyes were dark black. There were no pupils, just an empty void where her eyes should be. Her lips were blood red, like she was wearing lipstick, but that seemed unlikely given the setting.
“You don’t belong here.” The figure pointed straight to Chloe. The woman’s voice creaked like the wheels of the train. Chloe and Elizabeth stopped screaming. Chloe felt suddenly speechless, as if her breath were stolen away from her. The woman glided lightly closer to her, her feet barely touching the ground. Chloe tried to move but couldn’t find the strength as the woman placed her hand on Chloe’s arm and pulled her from the bed, leaving a startled Elizabeth behind. The door to the room slammed open. Mouse rushed inside followed closely by Alexander.
“Unhand her witch!” Mouse shouted bravely, rushing the woman that towered over him. The woman took her free hand and with a smack sent Mouse flying into the back wall of the room. Chloe, inspired by Mouse’s bravely, found her strength once again. She tried to break free of the witch’s grip, but she was too strong. Alexander was next, he tried going in low, attempting to tackle her legs. He grasped his arms around her, but the witch’s stance was too strong. She kicked him away as if he were a small puppy and rushed forward dragging Chloe behind her down the hallway. Mouse and Alexander hadn’t given up yet, they were hot on her trail. Chloe reached back and Mouse grabbed her hand. Alexander wrapped his hands around Mouse and the three of them pulled against the witch.
But even with their combined strength, the only thing they managed to do was cause Chloe to cry out in pain. The witch didn’t even turn the other way as she continued down the path to her territory.
“Please stop!” Chloe called out. She felt tears welling inside her. No one who entered the witch’s train car ever returned. Fear boiled within her heart. It felt like it was going to explode, like her body was going to give out long before she ever reached the witch’s room. Mouse and Alexander still followed behind looking as helpless as Chloe. Chloe could even see Elizabeth lagging behind them, crying from fear.
“You don’t belong here.” The witch’s voice was sterner now. It sounded so far away. The world swirled around Chloe’s vision as panic took over. She tried struggling. Doing anything she could to break the witch’s grip, knowing it was useless. Her body was operating on pure instinct now. Time seemed to slow down as adrenaline pumped through her. Despair ran through her, and for a moment, everything felt familiar. As if she had been dragged like this before.
With how fast the witch moved it wasn’t long before Chloe was taken through the lower class bedrooms. It would all be over soon. Her only hope was that the warnings about the witch were false, that it wouldn’t be the end. At least now her curious mind would finally see more of the train.
The witch slammed open the door leading into her train car. Alexander and Mouse hesitated on the metal bridge between cars. As quickly as she opened the door, the witch shut it once more and everything went dark. It took a moment for Chloe’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, as it was the complete opposite of the scorching sunlight outside. The witch flung Chloe into the room, relinquishing her grasp at last. Chloe couldn’t see anything as she tried to catch her footing. She stumbled and fell to the ground. The witch stood over her.
“You don’t belong here.” She repeated. Chloe looked around hoping to find something to defend herself. It was too dark to see anything but the outline of a bed. This train car was smaller than the others too, it was only a single room, but that made no sense.
“Please don’t kill me.” Chloe burst into tears. She didn’t even try to run. She just lay there pathetically on the ground pleading for her life. There was no bargaining with the witch. She was part of this simulation, her actions and appearance made that obvious. If it was some kind of game, then this was game over. Her only hope was she would find out the truth in the end.
“You don’t belong here. You will be expelled from this world and returned to your own.” The witch stated plainly.
“What?” Chloe asked. Had her wishes been answered, would she truly be returned home? Before Chloe’s questions were answered the door swung open casting a ray of light along the center of the room. Mouse came charging in from a full sprint. He threw himself against the witch, and for the first time staggered her. The witch took several steps back losing her footing from Mouse’s heavy charge. Alexander was next. He slammed into mouse, adding his momentum to the charge. At last, the witch giant fell backwards to the ground. She landed right next to Chloe with a large thump. Mouse lunged on top of her to hold her down. Alexander moved to Chloe, helping her to her feet.
“We need to go now!” Alexander yelled to the others. He grabbed Chloe’s hand, leading her back to the door. Chloe’s head was spinning. So much was going on it was hard to concentrate. If she ran now, she would be trapped on this train for all eternity. The witch offered a way out, a way back to the world she belonged in.
Chloe stood her ground, refusing to move. She had enough of being dragged around like a child for one day. She turned to the witch. Mouse was still on top of her, unleashing a barrage of punches to her face. The witch didn’t seem bothered by the attacks. She only turned to Chloe.
“You don’t belong here.” She repeated, her voice stammered from the punches. She pushed Mouse off of her with ease, slowly rising to her feet once again. It was clear what the witch was after. Part of Chloe wanted to give in and trust that the witch help. But given her disregard for Mouse and the others she couldn’t bring herself to trust her. Chloe looked around the room in desperation. Her eyes had finally adjusted to the dark. There was a large bed in the room. It looked even worse than those found in the lower class train car. There were also shelves with boxes. The boxes were overflowing with several archaic tools such as wrenches, screwdrivers, and hammers.
Chloe’s first instinct was to grab one of the hammers and hurl it at the witch, but that would only delay her at best. Chloe had looked at every inch of the train and knew exactly what tool she’d need. It would be a long shot, but she grabbed the largest wrench she could find.
“Get Elizabeth in here and stay in here. I have an idea!” Chloe yelled to the others. As if on cue, Elizabeth appeared in the room. Once she was secured in the witch’s room with the others Chloe retreated running along the connecting bridge between cars to the low class bedrooms. The witch was right on her trail, ignoring the others. Chloe broke into a sprint. For her plan to work she had to out run the witch. She ran until she made it to the kitchen car, closing the doors behind her as she ran so she could avoid the witch’s gaze.
She didn’t know how close the witch was behind her, or if this would even work, but there was nothing left to do but to try. Chloe ducked into one of the large bottom cabinets and shut it behind her. She held her breath and waited in hiding.
Chloe could only hear the sound of her own heart thumping loudly. A loud slam made her jump in fright. The witch had entered the kitchen car. Chloe listened to the witch’s footsteps the best she could. The witch didn’t spend long in the kitchen and instead continued forward to the next train car. The witch’s behavior had been predictable, poor artificial intelligence. Chloe’s plan had worked. She had successfully managed to get behind the witch. Now she had to get back to the others before it was too late, and preferably without being seen.
She opened the cabinet as quietly as possible. The witch would take some time exploring the first class bedrooms searching for her, she needed that time. She clenched her wrench tightly and ran as quickly and quietly back down the hall through the dining area to the others. She stopped outside on the bridge between the awakening zone and the witch’s territory.
“Chloe what’s going on? Where is she?” Mouse greeted Chloe at the entrance to the witch’s train car.
“There isn’t much time, hold my legs so I don’t fall.” Chloe told him. She pulled herself up on to the railing the bridge’s railing. The same type of railing she had tied pillowcases to in an attempt to fish out the claw. There wasn’t much time. Mouse did as he was told, grabbing her ankles. Chloe wrapped her legs around the railing like she had done with monkey bars when she was little, then fell backwards. Mouse held her to prevent her from falling on to the train tracks below.
The train cars were held together with one large screw underneath the bridge, and several smaller bolts along the bridge. Chloe had the wrench meant for tightening the main screw. She hung upside down, twisting her body the best she could so she could attempt to unscrew the cars and separate them from the witch. Once the main screw was loose the speed of the train would be enough to tear the two cars apart. Thankfully, she had grabbed the right tool. The wrench wrapped around the screw perfectly. She turned with all of the might she could muster.
At first the screw was stubborn. Chloe had to put in every ounce of strength she had in her small body to loosen the screw. Once it was loose, she began to turn the wrench as quickly as possible to detach the two cars.
“What are you doing?” Chloe heard the witch’s voice shout from beyond the awakening zone, but it was too late. With one final twist the connection between the two cars broke. There was a loud snapping sound as the smaller screws and bolts broke apart, unable to hold together from the force of the moving train. The bridge that connected the two shook wildly, but Mouse’s grip was strong keeping Chloe stable so she wouldn’t fall to her death.
“Help me up!” Chloe called to Mouse. She dropped the wrench into the sands below where it would likely be claimed by a claw. She swung upwards, and with Mouse’s help, was able to get back on to the bridge. The witch was running towards them. The witch was big, but she was also slow. She wouldn’t reach them in time. All they had to do was jaunt back to the witch’s room and they would be safe.
Chloe let out a yelp as the bridge beneath them collapsed. They hadn’t moved fast enough. The main portion of the bridge between cars was attached to the front end of the train, and now that it was detached it fell to the sands below, dragging along the dusty death. Chloe nearly tripped and slid into the sands, but Mouse was able to stabilize her and him by grabbing hold of the railing with one arm, and her in the other.
“We have to jump!” He yelled. Chloe nodded to him. With the way they were positioned she was first. There was no time to think about it, only to act. She broke herself free of Mouse’s grip and ran down the sloped bridge. She allowed her impulses to take over and jumped at what her body thought was the best time. She landed into a roll, rolling into the witch’s room before collapsing helplessly on the ground like a broken doll. Mouse was right behind her. Alexander and Elizabeth appeared at their side, helping to them to their feet.
“Are you okay?” Alexander asked. Elizabeth left them, peering out the doorway. Mouse and Chloe sat up as well. The witch was seen in the train car across from them. It was moving further and further away as the friction slowed down their section of the train.
“She’s finally gone.” Elizabeth whispered. “Finally gone...”