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Penned In

By Graeme White All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

THE BEGINNING

He checked WhatsApp again but no message from the Ex. The message he’d sent days ago was still unread. That solitary little tick icon next to the text told him so. He felt so lousy.

She’d left him, said she was happy and that unhappiness wasn’t the reason for their breakup but he knew that wasn’t true. He had spent countless hours mentally replaying scenes from their time together, realising it was the drinking that had ended their relationship. His casual but heavy boozing had been an end to what felt like a good relationship. It had been a beautiful relationship. They’d done so much together. They’d shared so many happy times but many also spent with him hungover or slurring his words after some day drinking with mates. She had seemed happy but she hadn’t been had she? She really hadn’t.

He felt empty without her. There was physical pain emphasised by emotional anguish. He missed her so much, but it was how she had ended it, lovingly and abruptly. The final line of her message: “Goodbye, Steve. I hope you find happiness.”

He thought he had.

Two months passed and the reply never came and nor did any other romances. Steve lay on his bed. He was still fully clothed and too tired to do anything about it.

Work had been a real struggle; that last call he’d taken had been unnecessarily harsh. He wasn’t directly responsible for the IT system that had failed but the irate team manager on the other end of the line had lambasted him as if he was. He had remained professional and polite to keep his job but customers like her seriously damaged the incentive to remain employed. His negative thoughts grew.

“You live with your parents still! You’re not moving on in your job, your crappy, crappy job and you lost a beautiful relationship. YOU messed it up royally and now she won’t speak to you. She was the one you know! Worse you cannot even get out of this thinking to talk to that cute girl in the cafe, the one with the beautiful hazel eyes. You’re losing at life, mate, you really are.”

Such miserable thinking was best resolved with a short nap. It was only 6pm but he felt knackered. Stale adrenaline kept jolting him awake but the slumber was inevitable and several minutes later he was asleep in the safety of his room in his parent’s house. He was lying on his bed over the duvet while being watched by something in the same room near the foot of his bed.

Steve started to snore.

Dreams are wondrous, aren’t they? You can be taken from your bed to anywhere in this world, or any other you care to imagine. You are limited only by a limitless imagination. They are a point in time when our actions have little consequence.

Steve dreamt about work.

When he woke up he had an unpleasant sweaty feeling from falling asleep fully clothed. It was completely dark which was disorientating and he was struggling to focus on a familiar piece of the room. There was some strange noise going on around him but he thought that was just the central heating making a racket. Things seemed unusual. After a couple of minutes, his eyes appeared to be working and this place really didn’t look like the room he fell asleep in. Did he wake up and move somewhere else? This was a different room in the house, right? He found his mind starting to race and yet stalled at the memory of where he fell asleep. Wherever he was now was not right. Really not right at all.

Steve was really starting to panic. He was not lying down but was seated and not on his own bed. Now he was sat somewhere unknown on a piece of furniture his body was not accustomed to. Somewhere nearby was this loud roar of a noise which wasn’t helping the unsettling pressure that was growing within his head. His heart was racing, he felt dizzy and sick as adrenaline started to course through his veins. Was this the descent into madness or a stroke! Oh good God, he did not want it to be a stroke.

Then light hit his eyes and the shock made his shoulders go rigid. His chest lit up as his heart went into overdrive. The shock surged through his body pinning him into the chair in which he now knew he was sat. A multitude of thoughts raced through his mind while he scanned for familiarity and any immediate threat.

He was sat on a train. It was the carriage of a train.

This helped calm him, as there were much worse places to find yourself and at least this place was cushioned. Still dazed, he tried to establish why he might be there. Had he taken something before sleep which had affected his memory recall? Why was he here? Maybe he was forgetting some recent trip he’d planned. Maybe he was now heading to visit some old friends he’d tried and failed to keep regular contact with. Maybe having made plans with them one drunken night. That made more sense, although wasn’t this a weeknight and who had he last spoken to that lived a train journey away?

The carriage was empty save for himself, and was impeccably clean.

Peering out the window he could see the train travelling along a huge truss arch bridge arcing to the left. There was no sign of the ground below, just a thick mist. It was celestial. Maybe this was Switzerland, he thought. That had looked pretty fairy-tale-like in the online brochures he had once glanced through.

Then things took a startling turn. As he followed the carriages with his eyes through the window, he gazed at the front of the train and it was not normal. There were no wheels, no compartment, and nothing like you would normally expect. It was more like the jet stream left behind by a rocket or aerial formation jet plane; a white beam of light with a stream of swirling cloud hurtling through the air, spinning, diving and whirling around. What was unsettling was the track only appearing after this orb had passed over the area it should be. This stream blended into carriages seamlessly. The effect was easy on the eye, beautiful, and hard to process. His emotions were stuck between panic and wonder.

Was this a lucid dream? What exactly was a lucid dream anyway!

His inquisitive thinking was short-lived as the train began a sudden, unexpected and rapid descent. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and his stomach lifted as he experienced what felt like being in a plane trapped in a nose-dive. The train continued to hurtle downward at break-neck speed for what seemed like a lifetime. Steve’s white knuckles nearly burst through the skin around them as he clutched at his chair to stop himself getting flung about like a rag doll. The train would swing violently from side to side like an agitated crocodile still on its crazy descent, which convinced Steve these were his final moments.

This was messed up and he wished he was somewhere else. He felt foolish and was now regretting those long drawn out nights in the pub with the same set of mates, unable to socialise with other people; telling again those same conversations and jokes. At this point, he knew he would rather be there than here in this uncertain circumstance.

It cannot have been long, but the uncertainty made it feel a lifetime had passed, before the train settled, having levelled with the ground and soon after began to reduce its speed coming to a stop. Once stopped, the undeniable sound of doors opening was heard and Steve took his cue vacating the train gladly and shakily.

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