There were five of them in the small, cramped compartment. Five bemused-looking people, some standing, some sitting. Five pairs of eyes with five identical, blank stares.
A newcomer boarded the train and peered into the compartment. She was quite young, to be sure, twenty at the oldest. Her hair and eyes were the same shade of brown; almost like dark chocolate. She nervously hoped that all the others were going to Mayline as well.
"Mind if I join?" she asked politely. Her query was greeted with five indifferent looks from five heads, turning at the same speed. No answer came. The youth shrugged slightly and sat down next to a blonde man who looked to be about thirty. He didn't move as she sat, didn't seem to even notice her.
The young woman began to talk. "My name is Mary Wethersfield. I was told by my supervisor that I was to travel by train to a new company, because of a promotion. Where are you all going to?"
The silence in the compartment was eerie, the air strangely still. She was about to open her mouth to ask another question when an old woman said, without looking at her,
"You won't get off this shuttle."
"Excuse me?" Mary asked.
A middle-aged man with a large bald spot agreed, "You won't get out of this car."
There was something about their voices that raised the hair on Mary's neck. It was almost as though they hadn't spoken in years. They also sounded jarringly monotonous, Mary realized.
An uneasy silence fell. Mary opened her mouth to ask what in the name of the Lord was going on, when another young woman sitting on the other side of the blonde man said, "They speak the truth, Miss Mary."
This woman was about Mary's age, and her voice, while alarmingly dull as well, did not sound as unused as the others'.
"How do you mean?"
"It is not wise to tell, Miss Mary. See, they cannot remember anything. But I can, and jogging their memory will do horrible things."
"They can't remember what, exactly?" Mary was very interested in this new woman, who seemed to know what was going on. The woman beckoned her over. As Mary obliged, she realized that the other passengers didn't seem to notice her. In fact, they didn't seem to notice anything.
"By the way, I am Celia, Miss Mary," the woman said.
"Pleased to meet you, Celia," Mary said politely.
"This is not a train, Miss Mary," Celia whispered, "nor is it a shuttle, nor car. This is an illusion. To me, I am in a horse-drawn carriage, sent by my lord to another place. I do not know what is happening to me. I do know that all of the beings in this carriage were sent by an authoritative power to somewhere else, and no one ever gets off. See, we are traveling through time, not space. We are stuck in Limbo. And if you make a wrong move in Limbo, you will die."
"…What?" asked Mary, dumbfounded.
"If you are in Limbo for a while, you lose yourself. You first lose your voice fluctuations, then you lose your memory, then your motivation, then your will to live."
"How old are you?" Mary asked, suddenly, not really knowing why.
"Forty three thousand and twenty eight years, Miss Mary. I am young, much younger than the others. We do not age quickly in Limbo. You are a right infant, at age twenty. I am but a teenager, and the others have all outlived one million years."
"That is incredible," Mary breathed. "And the others do not remember anything?"
"They cannot remember why they are in the carriage, or the train, or whatever method of transportation they are using. They only know their destination."
"For example, what is yours?" Celia asked.
"The city of Mayl-," Mary answered, taken aback when Celia interrupted her in the middle of saying 'Mayline'.
"I was to be going to Mayline Heights, Miss Mary," Celia whispered, mouthing 'Mayline'. "The man next to you was going to Mayline County. It is the one word that jogs their memory."
"Then why shouldn't I say it? They should rememb-"
"No!" Celia whisper-yelled. "They cannot remember. Terrible things happen when their memory is jogged. I have seen it before. Do not say-"
"I am going to Mayline," Mary said, defiantly. She wanted these people to remember who they were; it was disturbing her and breaking her heart. But she didn't realize that she was about to be disturbed even more.
All five pairs of eyes started glowing, Celia's included. Hypnotizing rays of blinding light seared from those five faces. Mary watched as their human faces bubbled into strange, sharp, metallic features. Their skin had taken on an inhuman shine, like that of steel. Emblazoned across each unmoving forehead was a logo; a company logo, Mary realized.
Mayline And Sons
The chill air in the compartment became hot, unbearably hot.
"Report from Mayline and Sons spacetrack forty seven to Motherboard," began the automaton who used to be the old woman in a droning voice, "Human girl exterminated on date eight-fifteen-three thousand sixty four at time 14:58. Report over."
Five pairs of aluminum eyes closed on a confused and terrified Mary, who looked up at the former Celia in horror.
"What's going on? I'm sorry! I take it back!"
No apologies, sounded a robotic voice through the compartment, though no mouth moved.
It's in my head, Mary thought. I'm going to wake up and this will be a horrible dream.
KEEP WISHING, clashed the disembodied robotic voice.
Mary let out one long, bloodcurdling scream, and then the compartment was silent again.
Five iron faces softened to skin; ten marbled eyes moistened. Five company logos smoothed out.
All that remained were five bemused-looking people, some standing, some sitting. Five pairs of eyes with five identical, blank stares.
No idea what prompted this. R&R!