3: Nila's Story - Final Destination
Nila and Alan didn't know where the road would lead to and had no intention going to the town. They only wanted to walk any road in front of them and stay together no matter where they went at this moment. The road seemed endlessly long but aside from that, they could have plenty of time to wonder at the views of the outside world that in the past could only be seen in the windows in Matilda's house. Nila stared curiously at the sky for she had never looked up upon it; it was always a wooden ceiling that she looked up at. She watched as the sky kept changing colors. From yellow to pink, from pink to marine blue, then from marine blue to purple and so on. She didn't know the sky was like this before when she looked out the windows in Matilda's house; the sky was always white at all times there. She began to wonder if it was typical for the sky to constantly change colors, or if the sky she saw from the windows when she was in Matilda's house was just different from this one.
Autumn leaves from trees alongside the road were falling, covering up the ground the children were walking on like finishing a jigsaw puzzle. The brown leaves were so crispy that they would crack beneath the children's foot as they walked on it. The children started playing with the leaves, stomping them on purpose just to make them crack. They raked up leaves with their foot, kicking a bunch of leaves onto each other and laughed when leaves got stuck on the other person's hair; having fun like any other kid should have. The road still seemed so long like there was no end to it. Gradually, the weather became colder but the children couldn't feel it. And then, little white dots began falling from the sky. Dead leaves that they were walking on became an inch of snow. Trees alongside the road became leafless, its branches covered up in snow. The children watched in awe at this environmental change that seemed magical in their eyes. They felt they knew so little about the outside world and it was so different from what they imagined or read from books.
The children finally saw a building at the end of the road. The building was linked to a railway track where a worker was shoving away snow with a rake. They went into the building. The train station was so empty that they could hear their own footsteps echo back at them. A white train with dark wooden edges waited in idle beside the platform. The children tried to get on the train as they had no intention to go anywhere else but were stopped by a man who stood next to the train door.
“Welcome aboard. But to come aboard, you must first have a ticket,” the man said.
“Can't you make us an exception please, Sire? We have come a long way and had lost all our pennies to it,” Nila asked him.
“Oh you need not any pennies to get yourself a ticket here,” he chuckled.
“How then, Sire, do I get one?” Nila asked.
“That, my little lady, is up to you to find out,” he replied.
The children wandered around the building looking for a ticket agent but there was none. They wandered outside near the entrance of the train station. There was a woman sitting on a bench by the building wall. Faint chiming sounds were coming from a music box that the woman held between her hands. Nila thought she had heard its melody somewhere before but couldn't recall. Not knowing why, she went to the woman on the bench and sat next to her. She looked at the woman, the woman looked about twenty to thirty years old and wore really heavy make up on her face.
“Do you like this music?” the woman spoke, asking about the music from the music box.
“Yes,” Nila answered.
“This music box was made by my husband as a gift for our first baby,” she continued talking about the music box.
“Is it a famous music?” Nila asked because she wondered why she felt familiar with its melody.
“No, not much people had heard it as this is the only music box in the world that plays it,” the woman said, then she glanced over at Nila and continued, “You look like her. But our daughter should be at least thirty years old now, wherever she is. My husband died in a year after she was born then I got really sick after that. I wanted our children to have a happier life, I left them in an orphanage so they could grow up in a better family.”
She handed the music box to Nila and said, “You can keep this if you like it because I'll be leaving this place soon.”
Nila took the music box from her and thanked her for it.
“You're welcome,” the woman smiled then messed up Nila's hair with her hand. She left the bench then waved goodbye at Nila before she went inside the train station.
Nila took a deep breath, white smoke came out along with her breath, then looked at the train ticket in her hand. The music box that the woman gave her had just turned into a ticket after she left. She felt that she had understood what the man meant by “up to you to find out” now.
She waved the ticker cheerily at Alan. He smiled back at her. The children walked back into the train station and gave the ticket to the man next to the train door.
“There's ya ticket. We have a long journey to travel later, so try to make yourself comfortable in there,” the man said as he winked at the children.
The train door shut behind them, then started to speed up slowly as clouds of smoke emitted from its chimney top. Nila sat on one of the benches that were of polished dark wood, lined in a single column against sides of the train wall. She turned her body to face the train windows and looked out, into the sky that was ever changing colors; this time it changed to indigo. She felt as though her life was about to turn to a whole new leaf after the train would reach its destination, where Matilda could never find them; she had never been so hopeful about something before. She turned back into the train, expecting Alan to be beside her, but no one was on the train except for herself. Staring into an empty space in the train, she slowly began to smile very faintly. She knew all along that no one was next to her on her journey. What she saw was just what she felt. She closed her eyes and heard nothing but the sound of train traveling on tracks sinking deeply into her heart. At last, her heart felt lighter than anytime else she had in her lifetime.