They say that when the Train was developed, millions would pour into the small town of Jersixe to see the marvel. They would stare and point at it with their fingers; they would look at it all knowingly and wished they had the money to buy themselves a one-way ticket. But no one wished more than Douglas Hallens, for he praised that train, and wished he could get on it himself. And he would.
Doug had a long history of disappointment. Born into a family in poverty, given no education, no job, and his possible immigration to America was rejected. In this world, the rich were kings and the poor were pawns, the weakest pieces on the chessboard of life. With this, all would be right again. “Start your life over again,” the advertisements would chant monotonously. “Turn over a new leaf, for a new day, for a new plant.” This statement enough was able to get millions, billions of people interested. Including Doug.
However, tickets wouldn’t be on sale for a month and would be under auction. The starting prices would be high, as any man knew. It would be a great achievement to claim one out of the twenty tickets available for this trip.
After waiting in line, he finally got his turn to marvel at the Train. It was beautiful, made out of what looked like iron, but he couldn’t be sure. Doug had heard that it could reach up to 185,000,000 miles per hour, which was insanely fast.
He didn’t even vaguely understand how this could make the train “move through time.” He went with it, though, because he knew it was better to believe the lies than to fight for the truth. He knew instantly when he touched the precious metal of the Train that he had to ride it. He must. He felt as if his life depended on it.
He worked hard to earn the ticket, but all the while other people worked hard as well. They knew the rich would be uninterested, since they were hesitant to give up their pompous lifestyle just to see what the future might hold.
The time of the selling came, and everyone gathered at the building, including Doug. Every man was prepared to waste their fortunes to make new ones, prepared to give up their past to make a new future. Everyone silenced when Dr. Gavis, the head of the Train company, started talking.
“I know that everyone gathered here has different reasons for wanting to be on this Train. Most, however, are here for a better life, or another chance to life. However, those who are chosen will deal with the most ambitious gamble of their lifetimes: will you find a better life here, or in the future? Since we cannot travel back in time, even we do not know the answer to this question. It’s something you will see for yourself if you travel to the future.” He left the people to question the gamble for a few seconds. About a fourth of the crowd, after hearing the statement, left.
Dr. Gavis continued, “Now, I know this is a big risk. As we’ve said already, we don’t know what the future will hold. All we know is we’ve built a Train that can travel forward into time 200 years. And for those twenty of you who get in, I hope that you find a better future 200 years from now. This is your one chance to travel through time itself, and you will be the first pioneers through this field.”
“That being said, there are some other precautions. Since you are the first, there might be an accident or some other emergency that we will not be able to save you from. And, as you know, this is a one-way ticket. There is no way to travel back in time, so you will be in the future, forever, until you die.” He waited again, and now about an eighth of the room left the building. But not Doug.
“I wish we could supply thousands of tickets instead of just twenty, but otherwise the weight of the Train would be shifted. If this happened, we could not be able to reach speeds fast enough to travel through time.”
He stopped as one of his managers came up to him and whispered something in his ear. He nodded then faced the eager audience. “We… seem to have a change in plans. Only eighteen tickets will be available tonight. One was taken by NASA for research about the future world, and one was… uh….” He looked back at his manager, who, in turn, looked at him back expectantly. Dr. Gavis picked up the microphone. “The twentieth ticket will not be on sale because our scientists have been running calculations, and have decided that twenty passengers might have some danger with the Train and its speeds.”
He looked back to his manager who was nodding his head slowly, and so Dr. Gavis continued. “Let the bidding begin!”
The scramble that followed could only be described as chaotic. People yelled everywhere, screaming inaudible numbers a the top of their lungs that keep getting higher and higher, and holding their hands up into the sky. Doug constantly tried to yell out what he thought was a high price, but this would only be drowned out in a sea of higher prices. The prices got so high, that when it got to the point of $1 trillion, only the wealthy man could claim the ticket. This angered Doug. Why should a wealthy man, who has everything he could ever need, give it all up for a place that a poor man deserves?
However, this pattern didn’t continue. Soon, the rich had backed off, letting the poor buy the tickets. This was Doug’s chance. He soon started calling out a high price, but it was still replaced at prices higher than his. Gradually, the final selling bid started to get lower and lower and lower.
After they had sold ticket seventeen, Doug was starting to get desperate. After waiting for the perfect moment, Doug shouted out, “Fifty thousand!” And this time his words were not drowned. A silence came over them, and he was declared to have that ticket. He knew that he was now in an exorbitant debt, but it didn’t matter. He could pay it off in the future to Dr. Gavis’s future generations, and he would tell Dr. Gavis this.
Doug stood up on the podium with the other recipients and breathed a sigh of relief. He knew that his situation would improve. He would get another chance, a better chance, in the future. He would. He must.
As the crowd parted, Dr. Gavis came to greet the group. “Congratulations on the tickets, all of you. I know that many of you would be ready to head off to the future right now, but we have to do a few preparations to make before that can happen. You may come in a week from now, at this given location.” He handed out business cards to them, with his face plastered on to each one of them, as if the recipients needed a reminder of what he looked like.
Days passed, flew right by, in the blink of an eye on a cosmic scale. But not for Doug. He wondered nervously how the future would be like, how he would adapt to it, and how the trip on the Train would work. The media came several times a day to his shack in the slums, begging and pleading for him to give up information about the journey that would go in history. Doug would give none. He simply, bluntly refused.
The days grew shorter and shorter, as the nights grew longer and longer for Doug as he wrestled with questions. His mind was plagued with doubt. What if he didn’t make it to the future? What if the future was a horrible place where demons haunted the skies and monsters of all sorts haunted the ground? What if there were some effects from the Train ride that the scientists couldn’t predict, fatal effects?
When the day finally came, there were scars of sleep under his eyes. He lined up with the other recipients, all twenty of them; wait, twenty? Doug counted again and indeed found twenty people in line, including the NASA scientist. I’ll have to ask about that later, he thought as Dr. Gavis cleared his throat as began speaking, with the media tracking his every move with their equipment.
“Today, we begin a new era. We will witness a landmark of human achievement: time travel. For centuries, our ancestors dreamed of the future, the glorious, wonderful future, and what it would be like to live there. And now, our dreams have come true. Today, these lucky recipients will fly up in a rocket into orbit, where the track for the Train, and the train itself, have been laid out. They will then enter the Train and jump to lightspeed as the Train will begin to zoom around the track faster and faster, causing them to move forward in time.”
“One of the great parts about this Train is that your children, your children’s children, and their descendants beyond that will be able to see the Train at a time in their lives. It will flash on those tracks very briefly, then it will continue to catapult forward in time once more. When the Train finally reaches its destination, everyone will celebrate. There will be a grand festival for the pioneers you see today, and we will welcome them into higher society. They will live happily for the rest of their lives. And humanity will live happily for the rest of its reign knowing that we have beat even the most fundamental forces of nature, because humanity is unbeatable!”
An uproar of applause followed this statement. On the thousands of televisions sets and live streams on smartphones, people cheered. Dr. Gavis bowed majestically, but with an invisible, evil glint in his eye.
Once the applause had stopped, and the crowd had parted, Dr. Gavis and his team performed final checks. They checked everything they saw, verifying it or throwing it out. After this, he gathered all of the recipients together and spoke to them. “There will be two rocket ships you will fly in, the Achilles and the Odysseus. The Achilles will contain recipients one through ten, and then the Odysseus will contain recipients eleven through twenty. This is in the order of when you got your ticket, and it should specify on your ticket anyways."
Each reported to their own respectable rocket, with Doug going to the Odysseus. When he came near Dr. Gavis, he stopped to talk to him. “Sir, um, what happened with the twentieth ticket? I thought you said that it would slow down the Train?”
“We… we thought it would” he stated, “but we ran the calculations again and found that it was fine.”
Doug nodded and continued his path.
He got to his rocket and ran inside. Machines whirred around, buzzing and beeping as they prepared for takeoff. Doug and the others could only watch and marvel at the complexity of the tiny rocket. It sputtered and whirred as it positioned itself with enough firepower to get itself into orbit.
Both rockets were finally ready for takeoff when the final phase began, and Dr. Gavis picked up the communications system and began speaking. “Alright, rocket directors, do we have all passengers accounted for?”
“Yes,” replied both simultaneously.
“Do we have all machines up and running properly?”
“Yes,” replied both simultaneously.
“Is everything ready and set for takeoff?”
“Yes,” replied both simultaneously.
“Then we can liftoff. Start the countdown.”
The countdown began, and Doug sat nervously with his other passengers as they felt their hands tremble beneath them. When the countdown got to twenty, they heard commotion on the communications system. The rocket director for the Odysseus was saying through the static, “if the other rocket feels that they don’t have enough preparations, then don’t lift them off!” Then a reply from Dr. Gavis would come somewhat like this, “We do not have time for this; the problem in Achilles will eventually clear itself up! We are trying to do something revolutionary, and breaking for another check on the rocket for system errors in irresponsible of us. We must continue.”
Eventually, they stopped arguing and Odysseus’s engines automatically started. The countdown was now down to five, then four, then three, then two, then one. With a burst of energy and speed, both rockets surged from the ground and traveled up, up, up with fury and flames, hurling towards the sky with all of their might.
Then the rocket exploded.