The compartment’s door closed, and with it all noises were left outside. Slowly, everything around me toned down, and only the rusty wheels kept ringing in the night, carrying us to our destination. The night was still, despite the wheezing sound of the train and the gentle snores of the passengers.
I could never sleep while travelling. I get too excited, but a feeling like something bad is going to happen creeps out on me. I mostly day-dream: of losing my bags, of forgetting something behind, of getting off at the wrong station. So I sit in silence and wait, analysing my fellow mates in their sleep. I become a guardian.
The only problem is my mind. Lack of sleep attacks it and it starts producing weird images about those around me. Right now, the tall guy in front of me has something crawling under his shirt. A bulging shape, like a snowball, moves restlessly on his chest, sometimes jumping, sometimes just vibrating stronger and stronger until it comes to a sudden stop. Then it resumes its movement. Of course, he does not feel anything. And I cannot wake him up and tell him that his shirt has gone haywire, he would think me insane.
The rest of the group sleeps. I hum silently, keeping the nightmares at bay. From the corridor, a bit of light comes in the compartment, and the window becomes a mirror. I see my ghostly face, blank eyes looking behind. I can see limbs and clothes scattered on the benches. There are six of us here, in this cramped room. Five teenagers and an adult. The teenagers were drunk. The adult was being responsible. We were all singing old songs, songs that we learned from our grandparents, songs that now are mostly unknown. And we drank.
The girl’s hair has turned into golden daggers. They float around her head, hissing like snakes, turning into a dangerous halo. One of them touches the girl’s forehead and blood starts spilling. Not much, it just gets into her eyelashes, and on her cheek, and then it drips onto her blouse. Magnificent. It has such a lovely colour. The daggers stop for a second, watching the blood flowing down and then, with a hiss, they attack the girl’s face. Now there’s blood everywhere.
I remember having a conversation with the adult. There was not much talking, more body language and I thought he must be a lovely person. He seemed caring, charming, grownup. Something I was not. He took care of us, explaining how the world of trains was going, how to remember when we have to get off the train and things like that. He was civilized and mannered, looking as if he lived in a book all of his life. I guess he lived surrounded by them, seeing as he had several books in his bag and he talked about them with such fondness that it was almost scary.
A spider touched my shoulder, telling me to pay attention. I looked in the mirror and there it was, legs all over the place and eyes that were spinning fast in his head. He sheds more hair than my three cats put together. Is it normal for a spider to shed hair? Is this something I will see only once, just because I am on this train? He taps my shoulder again, urging me to face him. So I turn around and stare and he stops moving, just breaths in and out. All of his eyes are closed, but a dim light comes from underneath them, and it is warm and peaceful and it makes me want to reach out and touch it. I want to live inside that light.
I have always suffered from insomnia. Nights are just not made to sleep. I am not made to sleep, when all of these great things happen at night. Most of the time I am walking around aimlessly, surrounded by darkness. Sometimes there is the moonlight, showing the trail I have to follow. I rely on hearing and smelling, my other senses are paralyzed. The only thing I can do is walk and I know I have reached my destination when there is this warm feeling growing in my chest and all my senses come to life. I do not reach home, but whatever makes me feel safe now and then.
The adult in front of me has his eyes wide open. There are no pupils, just a milky white substance. He sits crossed-armed in his chair, his face paler than the moon. He talks to me, or towards me, but no sound comes out. His purple mouth is blurred and unfocused, but it moves quickly. The strong smell of earth surrounds him and everything starts smelling the same. It feels like we are travelling in a wooden box beneath the ground. Yes, my friends… a coffin indeed. The only sound I can hear now is the buzzing from his whole being, vibrating within the walls of the compartment. The screech of the wheels cannot be heard anymore, limiting my perception of the road to the adult in front of me. In a moment, the others are gone, only the adult and I sit face to face in a cramped compartment, white eyes starring into brown ones.
A rattling sound comes from outside the door. The coach attendant passes by, rushing towards the end of the coach, aiding one of the passengers. Something weird is happening, since at this time at night we should all be sleeping. Then again, as I boarded the train, a young couple with a baby took their places several compartments to my left, so I do not think it is curious that they had a problem. Babies cannot restrain themselves, so they become restless and loud if certain arrangements are not done before.
A soft weeping sound can be heard as I doze off, facing the windows once again. It is soothing, but alarming at the same time. Behind me, my fellow travellers sit still, not one of them moving. They are enveloped in a heavy mist, looking almost dead, as they accept their slumber with utmost precision. The weeping grows louder and louder, finally becoming the cry of an unknown bird. I think it is a bird, although it could be a wale or a cat for all it matters. The darkness does not let me see clearly. I can sense one of the boys moving in his sleep. His hand rests on his stomach, a fist tightly wrapped around the blouse. The compartment suddenly reeks of iron and salt. I do not know from where. As I watch him closely, he turns his head towards me. His hand reaches out for my face but stops mere inches away. Sharp claws gingerly touch my cheeks, leaving trails of blood under my eyes. The weeping cry never stops.
A bottle of whiskey falls down with a clank. We all jump, but they do not wake up. I remember drinking from that bottle, thinking that it is the only thing I can do while I am away from my parents, from the stupid rules they impose just so they can control my life. The bitter taste still lingers on my lips and a headache announces its visit. I try to forget about them, turning to my old friend, the window. The rising sun lights up the way, warming up my face and controlling the shadows that were my companions all throughout the night. Now, I can finally relax. In a few hours, I shall reach my destination, leaving the nightmares behind. I fall asleep for a few moments, thinking about the fresh air I will inhale once I leave this train.
The coach attendant wakes me up. I have less than five minutes to gather my luggage and make my way to the door. I thank him and look around to my companions. They are still asleep, ghostly smiles perched upon their lips. I leave them alone, knowing that they will protect those who choose to travel by train the next summer. As I make my way through the train station, five empty pairs of eye sockets stare down at me through the dusty window.