Had a bad dream a few nights ago.
In it, my companion and I were fugitives trying to get to safety through a convoluted mess of urban landscapes. My companion was a woman who never did anything useful, but comforted me with her mere presence as she followed me about. We finally got into the countryside, bleak and barren, with a few run-down buildings amidst the tumbleweeds. Everyone was starving, but helped us with directions to a place to catch a train. From there we could catch a train to another place. It would be safe there.
It wasn’t a train station, where we went. The train tracks were elevated high above the land, on giant pillars, like the Japanese bullet trains. Unlike Japan, this infrastructure was not concrete, but covered with machine stamped, painted metal panels; falling apart, with flaking paint and dents, showing rusting guts beneath. We bought tickets for the train by inserting our tears into a small computer terminal on a post at the intersection of two dirt roads. My companion and I had to pinch each other to get the tears.
We were excited to be on our way, but the villager who brought us there watched us sadly. I thought it was because she was jealous of our escape. Turns out she knew better than us.
Our tear purchased tickets were inserted into another terminal, this one in one of the huge support pillars for the railway tracks looming above. An elevator door opened and we stepped in.
As soon as the doors closed on us, I knew we had made a huge mistake. The computers had identified us by our tears, and we were going to be arrested, I was sure of it. Like the exterior, the elevator was constructed of stamped metal, all coated with grease and grime, and the dirty walls pressed into us as the elevator climbed. Then we were in the train.
More stamped metal. No widows, only vents, oozing horrifying sludge down the walls. The train car had no seats: it was vault-like, but there were a few places to lie down: raised beds all formed of the same dirty metal, like prison cots. There was blood and shit everywhere. Some of it fresh, most of it old: pooled and heaped on the floor, and sprayed up the walls right to the ceiling. Then I noticed our fellow passengers. Everyone was naked. A heap of corpses filled one corner, and in another a starving, skeletal person was being attacked by a group: maybe being raped, maybe eaten.
Looking either way, the train cars stretched out before us, as far as we could see. There were more groups of people. Some babbling to themselves softly, lost in their own worlds. Some were helping others, trying to calm them down, to keep them from bashing their brains out on the walls; some simply comforting the dying. All trapped.
I realized then that we hadn’t been caught in a trap because we were wanted and pursued. We were not important enough to chase, that was all in my head. We were trapped then just because this is what the train does: it circles the land endlessly and sucks people up, collecting all those who buy a ticket hoping to find a better place. I supposed there was some manner of economy on that train; that by feeding more tears into a computer terminal, some food must be issued, so that there was some way to continue surviving, to continue feeding the machine your precious sorrow.
That’s what the train operators want, you see: the tears of the damned.
As I realized this, I looked to my companion, and really felt her for the first time. She was not afraid. She was in that world but not of it, as I then was. In her smile I realized the train was no more real than I was. To escape it, I need only let go of the illusion of myself. As I realized this, she grew into a light that melted me into light myself; then the train and everything around all became the same light; and I was lifted up and out of that world.
And I woke up.
Normally I have to wake up from this sort of affair by screaming and leaping around the room in my sleep. These are my night terrors. This time, I guess I figured something out.
So why do I write this now? Mostly to figure it out for myself. To do something with it.
But if you’ve read this far, maybe ask yourself: what train are you on? What about our society? Are you your mortgage? Your job that pays it? Your car, cell-phone, tablet, or blog? Or are we all simply feeding on each other and putting our tears into a machine that goes around in circles endlessly, for the benefit of some unseen masters?