Disappearances On The 29 Train

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This is a story I wrote in order to get into my ENG310 class in fall '09. It's based on a dream I had a year or so ago and I want to continue it. I can't tell when I will update, but I will try and compile it here.

Chapter 1: The Rumors Behind the Disappearances

The date was October 9, 1932. A very heavy fog fell across the city as I set out on my mission. The wind whipped through the trees with a rattling cold that danced around your arms and legs, sending a bitter chill through to your bones. I pulled the neck of my trench coat tighter against my chest, trying to protect myself against the brisk night air.

As I walked down the bleak sidewalks of London towards Kings Cross Station, I happened across a mysterious anomaly: although it was just an hour after dark, there was barely anyone out on the streets. The sounds of my high-heeled boots echoed out across the city and the sound sent goose bumps up my arms. I attributed the city's absence of life to the rumors that had been spreading throughout the city. These rumors weren't reported on by the mass media; you could catch no special stories of them in the post. The reason officially spoken was that no one believed the rumors and the stories just weren't worth reporting. The only credit the newspapers ever gave to the rumors were that they were mere coincidences.

I, myself, did not believe the excuses spat at the public. And judging by the lack of people out on the streets, many of the citizens of London felt the same.

This is where I come in. My name is Amelia Embridge. It is my job to report on strange occurrences. I am not a journalist or a private investigator. I am dispatched to uncover the secrets to rumors and stories such as these.

I am what you might call a time traveler.

Or, to be more specific, a time detective. I work for an organization that monitors the time and frequencies over a vast many different planets and galaxies. Agents like myself are sent out to ensure that time happens as it was meant to.

And at this time in London, things were not happening as they were meant to.

The rumors might be hard to come by at first. After receiving scrutiny from the press, a lot of people were unwilling to talk to curious strangers who came along asking suspicious questions. You can always tell when you enter a place where conversations were led in a direction where an outsider is unwelcome: all conversations cease when you enter the room. All eyes turn and focus on you as a deathly silence echoes along the walls. Your every move is watched meticulously until you either sit down or are safely out of earshot.

How I first learned about the rumors first-hand was from a local at a pub. I caught up to him after he'd already had a couple pints in him. I did not know who he was, but he seemed like a chatty bloke and I hoped that he would be willing to talk to me. I persuaded his confidence in me by offering to buy him another pint. Just like winning over the love of a puppy, I was his new best friend.

"People keep disappearing," he told me after he slammed his glass down onto the bar and wiped the foam off his burly mustache with the back of his greasy hand. The bartender sent him a warning look which got ignored by my new tipsy friend. I tried my best to ignore him as well as he retrieved my friend's glass from the bar.

"Disappearing?" I repeated back to him, making it sound like I hadn't heard the basic story before. Leaning in a little closer, realizing people around us were suspiciously leaning in, I asked: "Where do they go?"

"Who knows?" The man asked, behaving a little more boisterously than I would have preferred considering our company. "They just right out vanish— straight out of the sky!" He then snapped his fingers to show just how quickly they disappeared; although by this point, he was a little drunk and it took him three tries to make the sound. He leaned closer to the table, gesturing me to move in closer to him. I did, with a little reluctance. He whispered, "From what I heard, the only thing these people have in common is the train."

This had peaked my interest. At the time when I met this gentlemen, I had not heard anything from my superiors about a correlation between the victims.

"What train?"

"The number 29 train." He continued. "Beautiful piece of engineerin', that. Brand new. Started running outta King's Cross not two months ago. But it was when the train started runnin' that the disappearances started." Upon delivering his information, he turned his attention back to the bar. "Barkeep!" he barked, slapping the table with his right palm. "Another pint!"

The bartender glared coldly at the man and, when he spoke, his words were like ice. "I think you've had enough, Henry."

Knowing I had gathered enough information and not wanting to get my new friend in trouble, I got up from the barstool. "I'm leaving," I announced to the barkeep. "But please don't deny my friend another lager. It's on me." I placed the money for the beer and a generous tip on the bar before taking my leather carrying case and leaving.

It was two days later when I headed towards King's Cross Station. The number 29 train was on a midnight schedule and I had a ticket on me. One way or another, I was going to discover what had happened with these disappearing victims.

As I got closer to King's Cross, the very few brave people out that night were around the station. Those standing outside, either leaving or arriving, appeared very unsettled. Wherever they wanted to go, they wanted to get there as quickly and safely as possible.

It was quite a distressing sight to witness, remembering fondly how this old city used to be bustling with spectacle and excitement. I only hoped that my presence in this time would help change London back to the shining city it was meant to be.

Going inside the station, even the few people that were out of their homes on that night were not many in number. I stopped by the interchangeable schedule but it seemed that there was no need to do so. Train number 29 was the only train scheduled to leave that night. Making my way to the assigned track, I found the infamous train already there and waiting.

Although I had heard some suspicious and warning stories about this train, I couldn't deny what my friend Henry had said: it was beautiful. The crimson red color of the train glistened in the dim lamps that lit the tracks. It seemed to have it's own shining power. If I wasn't inwardly worried about the circumstances ahead of me, I would have been in awe of its indistinguishable beauty. It was the latest in efficient engineering and, if I was to speculate, it seemed a little ahead of its time. It had such an effect that it made every dormant train around it look like a century's old child's play thing.

As I stared at the train, the whistle from the engine blew and echoed loudly throughout the station. I jumped at the sound, my heart skipping a beat in my chest. I instinctively placed my right hand over my chest in a futile attempt to steady my heartbeat. I heard the conductor lean out of the front of the train and yell down the tracks, "ALL ABOARD!" There was a great hurry to get into the train. Judging by the attitude of the passengers, it seemed as if they wanted to get their trip over with as quickly as possible. There was a definite wave of anxiety that floated above the crowd and it seemed to intensify as it was felt by every passenger. Some glanced around them uneasily, others clutched their luggage so tightly that their knuckles turned white. There were one or two passengers among the group that tried to remain calm. It was only the small ticks that gave away their silent fear. One man had a nervous twitch in his left eye and another woman took to biting her nails and her bottom lip. As my eyes scanned over the crowd, I noticed that there were no children present. For that matter, I couldn't see that any of these people were traveling together. Everyone appeared to be alone. I had to wonder, if these rumors turned out to be true, why would these people want to travel on their own?

Being that the passengers getting on the train were no more than thirty in number, it did not take too long for me to reach the entrance to the train. Once we were on, there was an employee that looked over the tickets and showed people where to sit. However, he did something unusual for a ticket collector: every few people were scrutinized a little further. I was hoping that he would not look twice at me and would just direct me to my seat. I was, after all, supposed to remain under the radar. Unfortunately, when I handed the man my ticket, he stopped me.

Looking over the ticket with a careful eye, he finally asked, "Suzanne O'Reilly, is it?" It was always the Agency's policy to protect their agents by giving them an alias on every mission.

"Yes, sir." I replied.

Something in my tone of voice must have triggered more speculation from him because his head instantly jerked up as his eyes fell on mine. "That's not a London accent," he noticed. My heart beat painfully in my chest as fear spread out. I tried my best to remain calm. Stay under the radar, I kept thinking to myself. Stay under the radar. With a little bit of difficulty, I managed a smile and a response.

"No, sir. I'm not from around here."

"Where do you hail from, then?" He didn't sound suspicious of me and his tone of voice was soft. I felt a sliver of relief cascade over me as I realized I had just overreacted.

"I don't really have a home, sir, although I was born in Dublin."

"Ah, an Irish lass." The man nodded, handing me back my ticket.


"I had an Irish girlfriend once. Nice gal." He pulled himself back into reality and cleared his throat, as if to signify the end of the conversation. "Your seat is straight through there," he pointed to my left, through a door and down a long compartment. "It's not for a ways, I'm afraid. You're near the end of the train, you are. Just continue on through the compartments until you come to one that is looks like a tea room." I must have given him a quizzical look because he nodded once and said, "You'll know when you come to it."

I nodded my head, unsure what to say, and headed for the door. There were two more passengers behind me that he had to give directions to. Right before the door to the next compartment closed, I glanced over my shoulder. I caught his eye and he gave me a reassuring smile before I continued on.

This was definitely going to be a strange train ride.

The next compartment I came to was very unexpected. I had been on many trains in my time, but nothing that was built like this one. It was not only the exterior that was unique, but the interior was as unusual as one might expect. The compartment I found myself in was one that looked like a sports pub. There were comfortable chairs, a radio broadcasting the latest game play, and a barkeep behind the bar. There were a couple men inside the train. None of them I recognized as my fellow boarding passengers. I could only guess that the train had made several different stops before arriving at Kings Cross. There were a few gentlemen at the bar, one listening intently to the game with his left hand clenched tightly in a fist. There was even a man relaxing in one of the chairs reading a newspaper. Upon further investigation, I realized that he was asleep.

As I traveled through to the other compartments, things seemed to get the ever more strange. The second compartment I reached was a library. Floor to ceiling, there were books. Novels and encyclopedias all immaculately kept. There were two passengers in this compartment, both who were reading. Slightly more confused, I continued on.

The third compartment was the sleeping quarters. The entire compartment looked like an army barrack. Beds were built above other beds; maybe a half dozen stacks of beds, four beds to every stack. There were several people sleeping in there. Not wishing to disturb them, I continued on.

I passed through at least four more compartments, growing ever more confused and nervous as I went. The whole thing did not seem to fit. It seemed as though the inside was bigger than the outside; but that didn't make any logical sense. The more I saw of it, the more I was reluctant to believe. Each compartment was as unique as the last one. It was hard to believe that a train would deliver this much explicit detail to the inner compartments.

After wandering through the train for what felt like a good quarter of an hour, I found my own compartment. It was set up not all unlike a little cafe. There were regal oak tables covered with small and elegant looking table cloths. The walls, much like the library compartment, were lined with oak shelves. The books themselves looked more to be of a scholastic nature; whereas the library compartment looked to have a large assortment of every genre of books.

There were tea kettles and tea sets lined on every table. There was one other person in the compartment along with myself. He was dressed in a three piece tweed suit and was a little overweight. He had a receding hairline which he seemed to make up for with a very bushy mustache. I was a little surprised when I first noticed his presence because I did not seem to notice him when I first arrived. It seemed like he had seeped into existence from the corner of my eye. Looking directly at him sent shivers up my spine that I couldn't quite explain. I had seen many things in my work, but nothing that made me as nervous as this job made me. I was not one to believe in ghosts or monsters, but something about this scenario challenged my previous beliefs.

I took a moment to scrutinize the room a little more carefully. When first getting on the train, my goals were blocked by my sheer amazement at the train's interior; which meant that I hadn't been doing my job appropriately. According to all (albeit limited) information I had, this train was the clue. All I needed was to gather more sufficient evidence to prove that. The first task was to closely examine the room. The man seemed completely uninterested in me. The most recognition I got from him was a simple annoyed glance and then he went back to reading his paper. I didn't find it necessary to gage the man's attention so I continued my investigation. Picking one of the chairs by one of the oak tables, I sat down and continued my observations of the room.

The more I viewed of the compartment, the more I became uneasy. Everything seemed too perfect. No books were out of place, there were no teacup stains on the tables, the carpet on the floor was immaculate. Everything was shiny and brand new. Normally such an atmosphere would inspire amazement, but with the uneasy atmosphere present, the perfection of the train only made me all the more uncomfortable.

As I was looking around the room, I heard a distinct bell sound. Six clangs of the bell caught my attention and threw my thoughts back into the moment at hand. My gaze happened to fall back on the man in the chair; only the chair was empty. My breath caught in my throat as I stared at the now unoccupied armchair. The newspaper the man had been reading was laying on the floor. Looking around the room, I looked to see if he hadn't just left his seat for a short stroll around the compartment.

He was nowhere in sight. The only thing that remained that was proof of his presence was the jacket from his suit thrown on the back of the chair.

Chapter 2: The First Disappearance

Sitting in a pool of confusion, thoughts rushed through my head as I tried to rationalize his sudden disappearance. I did not hear my companion take off his jacket, much less leave the room. It was true that the compartment was not deathly silent but the train was not making enough noise that I wouldn't have heard anything. I had also been accredited in the past from the Agency by my attention to detail; so it did not make sense that he would have removed his jacket, dropped his newspaper and left the room all without me noticing.

As my thoughts raced, something unusual caught my eye. And on a train where everything is immaculately in order, something out of place was definitely an eye catcher. On the table next to the chair the man had been sitting in was an overturned teacup. A little bit of tea was spilled on the table and, judging by the spill pattern, it looked as though there had been an attempt to clean it up.

So why would the man have disappeared? Even more of this scenario did not make sense. Again, I tried to figure though the mystery. Perhaps the tea had spilled on his jacket and he took it off to prevent the tea stains from spreading to his shirt. Upon examining the jacket, there were no tea stains. Perhaps, then, he had spilled the tea on his shirt and took the jacket off to keep the stains from spreading onto his jacket. But then why didn't I see or hear him leave? And why would the newspaper be laying on the floor without any spill marks? The only tea present seemed to be on the table itself.

Still troubled, I thought this through and waited. I knew from my pub friend's information that the train was linked to the disappearances; but I didn't want to believe that my compartment companion really disappeared in the same way. It was more out of fear and anything. I was starting to worry that Henry had been right: the people just vanished. Did that mean that no one was safe?

Outside of observing the same scene in the compartment I couldn't do much for my companion. If he had disappeared, my only hope was to try and discover what had happened and try to get him back.

I sat down in one of the chairs that hadn't been occupied by the man. Opening my black case, I took out a large manila envelope that held all the clues from my previous employers. I had looked over the contents a couple times before, but I wanted to see if I could find any further correlations between the suspected latest victim and the others. Scanning through the documents I had been given (with pictures of the previous victims), I glanced over the information. Looking through them, I could understand why my supervisors wouldn't have found a connection. None of the victims seemed to be connected. There were women, men and even a few children. The people themselves were black, white, Arab, Jewish, Asian. Their ages ranged anywhere from fourteen to sixty-five. They all had different marital statuses, not all of them were from London or even the United Kingdom. They didn't have the same religion or height or weight. The only connection between their files was that they had been traveling somewhere; but the files did not mention their mode of transport, much less specifically the number 29 train.

I was starting to lose hope as my eyes flew across all the information we had obtained on this case. Nothing else aside from them being missing while traveling seemed to connect any of them. As I was just about to put the files away, my eye caught something interesting that I did not notice before. The open victim's file in front of me was a man twenty-four years of age. He was from Glasgow, Scotland originally. The file said he was approximately 170 centimeters tall. The file did not say why he was in England but, judging by his photo, I assumed it had something to do with being in the military. There was a little message scribbled in the report; almost as if thrown in there as an after statement. It read, "the only thing retrieved of the victim's property was a jacket." I sent a nervous glance over at the still empty chair. The jacket was still there.

My heart started pounding fiercely in my chest as a smile slipped across my lips. Perhaps there was a further connection between the victims after all. Frantically looking through the other folders, I searched for the same message. Out of the thirty two victim reports I had, only nineteen of them had the same message. That did not mean, of course, that the others did not have the same findings; the jackets might have just been overlooked.

As I started to put my information away, I heard the same sound from before: Echoing across the train, I heard six distinct rings of a bell.

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