The Train by Jamie Choi

Image by Simon Lee

The train has never been this late.

I look at my watch for the first time in at least twenty years since they set up the train systems. I have class in five seconds, and the train takes me there in around 0.5 seconds. I still have plenty of time, but if I happen to be late, they close the station immediately, and I’ll probably be sent back, which can hurt. Honestly, it really depends on the respective train station inside of any home. Some are really old, and it can take up to a whole minute just to go from New Los Angeles to New Pangaea, which is ridiculous. I place my forefinger against the HALT near the threshold just in case I need to step back into my home.

I’m not sure why the train is taking so long. They do say that they have to change the central train system every one thousand years, but that’s not going to happen for at least another five hundred. I can’t believe it’s actually taking several seconds. I’ll just tune in for the Live Lecture at home, I guess. 

Wait, I’m getting an emergency signal. I just have to touch this… right here… and the urgent news should go live.

You watch him tap the glowing blue light on his temple that shines through the cluster of blood vessels, where the incision likely occurred. You note the color and size of the scar. His eyes go blank, and it is abundantly clear that he is the only one who can listen to the news at that moment.

Wow! The news made an announcement that the central train system is acting up and that they’re trying to fix it. Here, I’ll let you listen!

After he says this, his jaws unhinge, a massive maw. You can spot the faint blue light, similar to the one on his temple, indicating a speaker installed in his throat allowing the announcement to reach your ear, loud and clear. His eyes glaze over as though he is dead. You note the time of the announcement and the chip in his ear relaying the “news.” The chip in his temple emits a bar of light, blinking erratically, almost frantic.



His mouth fills with saliva and the drool almost spills over, but one of the many robots in his home catches it just in time and drains the pooling spit from his mouth with a long, skinny tube. He comes to, looking almost human, as the announcement stops.

Well, it looks like there’s nothing to worry about. All good here. Did you check out that speaker I got installed recently? It’s the latest and greatest in pure audio clarity and richness.

You nod, jotting down notes wordlessly. The model does seem adequately up to date. The voice announcements sounded clear and full.

Okay, well, if that’s all you needed, I’ve got an appointment in a second. I’ll see you around. 

You watch as the person you were observing exits through the train. You reach inside your pocket for the call device and ask for a teleportation back to the base so you can continue your observations from there.

(You are part of the famous and coveted Past, Present, and the Future exchange program. You came to the past to research the Central Train Crisis of Mars. You learned in the future that the train system was made of a massive live creature native to Mars. They told you, “It’s called a train for a reason. They trained the thing as a transportation system.” They had opened and exposed its large nerves which they utilized as a traveling system. Even now, as you stand at the observation deck, you can hear its cries, which are ear-splitting and horrendous across the entire planet. These screams have gone unheard since all citizens in this era are required to install an ear chip that replaces the cries with the news. You pack up your equipment and walk back to the headquarters of the exchange program. Your next Observation is the Central Train Collapse of Mars five hundred years ahead. The creature truly awakens then, and you will have to watch from space, since it swallows the planet whole.)

Jamie Choi is a Korean writer who loves to delve into the surreal, utilizing both fantasy and sci-fi elements in her work. She has self-published a short series of mock monthly newsletters called Foglost Biped Monthly, with a co-author with whom she has created a writing duo called Disorientalized.

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