The Middle

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“I’m not scared”, said Danyel. His mother smiled a little, but kept her brow furrowed somewhat after deciding that he looked like he was. “Well, good, because there is no need to be” she replied, and squeezed his little hand that she was already holding. They boarded the train and took a seat, him on her lap, her arms firmly around his front and back.

“Why are the seats in the middle of the train?” he asked. Her eyes widened and looked at the sides of the train before coming back to his. “To get us from London to New York very quickly, the train uses, well, a kind of magic really”. Danyel looked the train up and down suspiciously, paying attention to the yellow markings on the floor as his mother pointed them out. They were a good metre before the walls of the train. “But why do the seats have to be in the middle?”

The hazard lights began to flash and a speaker system crackled, squealing a little with feedback. A message was played and a warning alarm went off before the barrier went down either side of the seats. The pre-recorded message began, first in Chinese, then a poor translation in English.

“Please be advised that any passengers who cross into the yellow zone during transportation may experience the following issues”

Danyel’s mother started talking loudly, without any breaks or pauses, in an odd, hurried tone, mostly about Christmas. Her pace overtook that of the announcement.

“Blindness, Memory Loss, Accelerated localised ageing,”

He looked at her lovely face and wondered why she wanted to talk about what he wanted for Christmas. They’d only talked about it thirty minutes earlier.

“Immediate loss of limb”

He wanted a new dog. His old one was beyond repair, and the newer ones could go in the water without breaking.

“Molecular fusion with the exterior of the craft”

A few minutes passed. He looked around the train again. The adults were quiet and the only sound was of the train’s machinery, a series of banging noises that got faster and faster until they were constant. A man was jigging his leg up and down and Danyel imagined that the man might need to use the toilet soon. The faces of the people in the other seats looked worried, and when he looked up at his mother, her face looked the same; her eyes were shut, and oddly, she seemed to be counting very quietly. He could hear his own heartbeat in his ears.

His eyes wandered past the yellow markings to the edge of the floor, the metal plates bolted to the walls where words were printed in large letters, letters that he didn’t yet understand. He thought about how fast those new dogs could run and what he might call it. Bonzo, perhaps. Same as the last one, but that didn’t matter. Minutes later, his mother sighed, and was happy again. People started to move around in their seats and he heard a man say they were in New York.


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