It’s been a while, but I’m slowly working my way back into it.
The Slow Train
By Ronald Cypress
It was a sunny day when the train came for me. The weather reporters had said that it was going to be one of the warmest springs recorded. I was actually able to enjoy sitting in the sunshine as I waited for the train to come. They had ordered me to be there by ten a.m. that morning, but there was no promise that the train would even arrive at the station that day. Everyone knew that the slow train was never on time, and I had heard about people being left to starve while waiting for it. It must have been the people who had been handcuffed or chained to one of the benches at the station after being caught defying orders. Luckily for me they had let me come to the station on my own and remain as unbound as I could possibly be while I waited.
The Sixth Council wasn’t going to have any problems with me. I had accepted my fate years before the slow train had become so popular. It was a motorcycle accident that put me in my wheelchair and in a condition that was desirable for the slow train. At the time of the accident, the Sixth Council had just started to be recognized as the new power and the slow train was just starting to run. The purpose of the train had was never a secret; The Sixth Council had made it clear that the train was coming to “clean up” the country, and certain people were going to be removed. Handicapped people were destined for the train.
The actual name of the slow train is Train 199311, but if you weren’t in a position of authority or absolutely committed to The Sixth Council you referred to it as the slow train. They had put down an entire rail system for the train, and it was reported that the new train system had the capability to break world records as the fastest train. There was no doubt the train could have gone at top speed, but for some reason it went as slow as it possibly could. They said that it usually ran around two to four miles per an hour. I guess they weren’t really in a hurry to clean up the country.
The train was almost eight hours late when it came to pick me up. The sun was gone by the time it arrived, and I was starting to feel sleepy but refused to nod off. The train moved as slow as they had told me, but once it stopped the workers were quick to get me onto it. I was lucky enough to have my brother, Ricky, with me at the station, and we were able to hug just before they took me off. Ricky was destined to be alone in the new world. They had taken my father because he had history of cancer. Our younger sister, Pamela, had been the first one they took; they took her for having a child out of wedlock. My mom was later put on the train because they claimed she had become a religious radical. Really, she had just become a more devout Christian after they took her daughter.
It was hard to say who was safe from being put on the train. The Sixth Council gave so many reasons for why one could get placed on it. As I’ve already mentioned, my crime had been being handicapped. They had an assigned car for people like me. I was in car H1. It was filled with people in wheelchairs and some confined to gurneys. There weren’t any seats in the car. They just sealed all the chairs and gurneys into place with locks that were on the floor.
The car I was put in was quiet, but I know there were some pretty rowdy ones. The car in front of us was filled with people that the workers referred to as the idiots. They were a loud group, and I got the feeling that they were likely people who were mentally ill or mentally handicapped. Some of their screams could often be heard on our car. At the first stop after mine, several of the people were taken out of the idiot car and placed on the platform where they were lined up and gunned down. That was the first real act of violence that I saw while on the train. That was when I fully understood how bad it was going to be.
I don’t know how many cars the slow train actually had. The train was long enough that I couldn’t actually see the end of it as I was getting on. People said that it had at least a hundred cars, and all of them were filled with people who had been deemed unsuitable by The Sixth Council. After seeing the people gunned down, I began to understand my new position. I was no longer a human. I was just a thing waiting to be exterminated.
I started to hope that my end would be fast and that it would come soon. The conditions of my surroundings had a good deal to do with my desire to be gone. There was a bad smell on my train due to some of the people defecating on themselves. There were guards and workers around to take us to the toilet that was inside the car; we were allowed to go at least three times a day. I tried to hold my excrements as much as I could, but other people just let themselves go. I think they knew what would be the repercussions. They were eventually wheeled out at some depot and slaughtered. The guards usually gunned them down, but the military had numerous ways that it eliminated people.
They set people on fire. I saw them do this often. One time they forced a man onto his knees, placed a bible in his hand and told him to pray while they poured gasoline on him. The man was still praying as they lit him up. I was actually expected him to stay in that position after being ignited, but the man got up and began to run around. The guards laughed and made a temporary game out of dodging the flaming man. This was only the start of the massacre that happened at that station. Shortly after the man on fire went down a group of heavy people were placed on to the platform. The Sixth Council had ordered people to not be obese. They had given the nation six months to lose weight if necessary. Everyone who had stayed in a physical shape that was deemed obese were quickly rounded up and placed on the train. I had heard that they had gotten rid of all the people they called the fatties long before I was placed on the train, but they were still around. The guards seemed to have a higher level of disgust with them, and all of them were sneering as they killed them off. I saw them strangle one woman. They bashed in the head of the man who was behind her in line. That was all I could take. I had to close my eyes.
The Sixth Council could have just put us on the trains and left us there to die off, but for some reason they were keeping us alive and gave us what we needed to go on living. It was a strange thing to see an act of kindness. One of the workers was often gentle with me and helped me with my needs. She confessed to me that she didn’t completely agree with what The Sixth Council was doing, but she did believe they were going to give her a good life after she finished working on the train. She talked about how hard it had been before The Sixth Council came along. I told her that I didn’t think those times were so bad, and she tried to assure me that I was wrong. Those times had been horrible.
I can only remember happy times before The Sixth Council was allowed to come into power. Families weren’t constantly being toward apart. People were allowed to have voices. We had ostensible freedoms. But somehow the new way had been allowed to take over, and people were able to quickly become disposable. Even if I didn’t witness the carnage myself, there were horror stories coming to me every day. People were being placed under the slow train and ran over. Guards had a few cars that were designated areas for them to rape people. There was a guillotine in one car. People were injected with deadly diseases and poisons in another. It would be hard to believe if I wasn’t able to occasionally witness what they were doing on the platforms. A guy I had become friends with was removed from our car because he wouldn’t stop urinating on himself. They took him out of our car and escorted him forward so that he could be placed on the platform. Our car was a good distance from the platform, but I was still able to see the guards lift him up out of his chair and treat him as if he were doll. They had their fun with him, and eventually stripped him naked and forced him onto a woman before shooting them both.
Where was this train going? I kept wondering about it. No one ever said where the slow train ended. None of us were sure if it did have an end. I heard that it stopped in a big yard filled with warehouses. The people were taken into the warehouses and gassed. That was what we were to expect. I also heard that they didn’t use gas but set everyone on fire. One person told me that they didn’t put us in warehouse but left us outside so that planes could drop bombs on us. Whatever the end was, I kept praying that it would come quick.
One day, I was taken from the car I had been in and placed in a car that was closer to the front. I had to pass through several cars to get to my new destination. I went through the cars with those deemed idiots, fatties, religious fanatics, whores, shorties, and sordid addicts. Eyes followed me in every car, and I began to feel like I was guilty of something. The car they put me in was much nicer; it was actually luxurious. There was a train worker there to help me in and out of my seat. They placed me next to an elderly man. He was reticent at first, but eventually we started talking. I asked him why we had been placed in the car and if he thought they were playing games with us.
“Our council can be a very kind group,” he said. “You must appreciate all they have done for us and not question their motives.”
I wondered if I had said something that went against my beliefs but was agreeable with The Sixth Council. It was possible that the woman who had been taking care of me spoke up in my favor. My guilt only worsened as I continued to be in that comfortable car where I was treated like a human again. I kept waiting for them to suddenly pull the rug out and take me out to a platform to be murdered but it never happened. I was removed from the train, but they didn’t kill me. They wheeled me into the station and told me that I had been pardoned for the moment. Rather than go on riding the train, they were going to put me in a home, a place where I wouldn’t distract for the country’s new luster. It wasn’t as good as being free, but I accepted it.
They left me on a curb at the station, sitting directly in the sun as I waited for a bus to come get me. I didn’t know what day it was. My internal clock told me it should have been the beginning of fall. It was still warm outside, and I couldn’t help feeling good about where I believed I was going. I refused to think about the things I had seen on the train and focused on having hope for the future. The Sixth Council had promised to give us a high-powered world that went beyond anything that we ever imagined. We would crush all our enemies and then hit the moon as a vacation spot. Some of us would be living in buildings that nearly reached the peak of Earth’s gravity, while others were taking tours outside of our Solar System. Medicine would become so advanced that people would live to see a healthy and active one hundred and fifty. The Sixth Council made people believe that anything was possible and they could conquer it all. They just had to get rid of those who were dragging the nation down.
It felt wrong but I was fairly gracious that they let me live. Perhaps medicine would advance far enough that I could be cured. I fanaticized walking again as I waited for the bus. It arrived several hours late. I saw it coming down an empty road, its light just about as bright as they could possibly be. They prevented me from looking directly at the bus. I kept my eyes down as I waited for the bus to reach the stop. It took longer than I expected, the bus traveling incredibly slow. I was anxious to get on and start moving towards my new life, but the bus just crawled towards, keeping me in its determined lights.
It eventually arrived and the light went away.