by thefourpartland

This story was a dream I had, about two years ago. I wrote it up the next morning and then barely touched it since then. I’ve sat down and edited the material, and reading over it again I find myself fond of the material. For those wondering, I was reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series at the time, and I believe this train was inspired by the one in his world.

The train sped along the landscape, riding high. Tommy sat on the very prow, an elongated, twisted metal structure of sheet metal and piping and metal wires, looking out ahead, chewing on the peach that his friend, Frederick, had offered him. The two of them were leaving, running almost, racing from where they had been to Akobayi Junction, a dot ahead on the map that would offer safety.

Sights and sounds formerly unseen abounded here, riding amongst the canopy of the world on the top of this metal train. It had rolled into the station where they departed, grey and tall, narrow and long, two cylinders stacked on top of one another with a massive jutting jaw that hung near to the ground. Grabbing hold of the ladder and clambering up, the boys had settled themselves into that prow, protected on either side by perforated sheets of metal. It was then that Tommy had been offered his peach.

Winter hung in the air, and the snow covered the ground in great deep white swathes. There had never been a season but winter in the boys’ lifetime, but Tommy and the others clung to the notion of seasons, of a time called summer, when the ground was clear and the snow was gone. Why, they might even see the earth.

The cold of the air stung the boys as they rode along the train’s wide path, full in the brunt of the wind that swept across the snowy forest. Tommy looked down from his height, nothing below him but the metal grating on which he stood. Two hundred feet off the ground was his estimate, and the train was growing in size with each passing mile. The sights and sounds of the journey appeared and then disappeared, a giant creature that could be called a mammoth, orange against the white of the snow and the brown of the trees, ambling away from the train as Tommy and Frederick rode past.

This was all new to the boys, for they had never been above ground during their short lives, living underground, watching pipes and cables as they sputtered, shook, and sparked. Now they stood, compelled to examine their new surroundings, yet lost in a morass of fear all the same. Tommy knew that should his excitement ever dip, he would look down and lose himself. Distant cries fell across the lands, some from behind, some from ahead, coming from the tops of the giant trees. Each tree stood over the train, their branches and trunks bending away, a host of bowing giants, facing to the north, broken by the endless winds.

The canopies housed families of twisted, ape-like creatures, possessed of a wide, long face, wrapped in a host of grey fur, a frill tipped with red splashes, centred around the mouth and radiating outward in concentric circles. Hooting and hollering, they swung through the trees after the train. They clambered and climbed, swooped and howled, and Tommy hid his face for fear of the sight. Frederick cried softly, his life a childhood dream that had come back to haunt him. More than anything, he feared the great fall to the ground, one that got taller with every passing moment, as the trained stretched, filling the void between the grey earth and the blue sky, forming itself into a link as it sped onward, racing away from the gibbering baboons as the apes came on, swinging from the trees above to try and grasp the boys as they huddled, shaking, on their metal prow. Through the grating below, Tommy saw nothing but a dull blur, the ground as it sped past.

And it was there, in that moment, that the blur shifted, and a great white blanket settled across the landscape, smothering sounds and sight. A raised head offered vistas of rolling steppes, sunken beneath a layer of snow so ancient and deep that the world rested, hibernating until such time as it should again feel the rays of the sun. The distance offered a formless wall beyond which nothing was to be seen. Within Tommy and Frederick this bred a longing and an anguish greater than that instilled by the chittering attacks of the monkeys, for it was apparent that nothing would live and that nothing would play, and to a pair of small children that cost was too great to bear, and so Tommy and Frederick lay down to sleep, a small prayer of change escaping their lips as they looked out across the expanses ahead.

Passing down into a deep and pained sleep, neither boy felt the rolling of the train as it plunged over that formless wall, a great rift in the land that lead downwards, the tracks bending improbably and dropping, held fast to the side of the shattered lands. In time it would flatten out, and return to the normal orientation, but as before, this was only a prelude to a following rift. The boys slept as their train followed the giant steps downward, towards the heart of the world, wrapped in the layer of snow that laid across the boys as they hid in minds full of dreams. And so on into the night Tommy and Frederick sped, in search of Akobayi Junction and respite from a world of travails.


  1. T.S. Bazelli on 04.22.2010

    I really like this one. It has a surreal feel to it, while at the same time, contrasted by images that ground: wires, pipes, metal. Great imagery.

  2. A. Scotney on 04.23.2010

    This creates a sense of enclosed space and motion in a vast setting. I imagine it like a cartoon in black and white with the huge train rushing by.

  3. Emma Newman on 04.23.2010

    Ooh, I really liked this, the pace of the narrative was reminiscent of the train on the tracks, and I really liked the peach detail. Great stuff x

  4. John Wiswell on 04.23.2010

    Beautiful header on the blog! Love the aesthetic, like a washed-out and earth-worn temple. The story is complimentary in its intensity, thick description that goes down rich.

  5. michael j. solender on 04.23.2010

    finely detailed and rich with visuals, this piece has a nice pull and undertone to it. It begs for elaboration and more story on either end of this gem of a vignette

  6. Gracie on 04.23.2010

    This is beautiful and surreal. Your narrative is lyrical and the imagery just breathtaking.

    I just want those two boys to have a summer day at the beach.

    Loved it.

  7. Marisa Birns on 04.23.2010

    You are quite masterful with description/details.

    Like Emma, I loved the idea of the peach, adding a blush of color to the landscape of this wonderful story.

  8. The Four Part Land on 04.23.2010

    I’ll try and respond to everyone’s comments as best I can, and explain a little more behind the story (what there is of it). Thanks to all for the comments.

    @TSBazelli The way I wrote it, it’s supposed to get stranger and more surreal as it goes along, with these weird ape-like beings attacking, but somehow moving nearly the same speed of the train, hundreds of miles an hour. Then the land just turns into this giant, apocalyptic staircase that obeys no known laws.

    @AScotney I always envisioned the landscape as this grey, brown and dull white place, where colour was just leached out and transformed into a vision of a surreal purgatory, or something similar.

    @Emma Wasn’t trying to make it sound like train tracks, but glad it turned out that way. I think if I’d tried, I couldn’t do it. The peach just seemed like something so normal that it would be the out of place detail in a world of surreal visions, that it was the inverse of normal life.

    @John Wish I could claim credit for the header, but it’s just a WP theme I found when I set this up. Fits beautifully with what I was looking for though. Very fantastical and old.

    @Michael I’m not sure I could make the strange setting stand up under a longer view. In some ways, I don’t want the story to ever get to Akobayi Junction, because then it’s over, or I need to invent another setting of surreal worlds for the boys to arrive in. I like it being this journey that just stops in mid-travel, with the goal receding in the distance.

    @Gracie In some ways, I’ve always thought the boys never wake up. They just sleep on as the train rumbles ahead, never arriving at Akobayi Junction. That’s because I could never see this world having the colour and the verve to have a beach, that something that evokes happiness would be beaten down and broken many years ago. Cheerful thoughts, I know.

    @Marisa Expanding on what I said to Emma, I’m not sure where the peach came from. It doesn’t “fit” with the rest of the story, and yet I think it’d be weaker if the peach wasn’t there. Perhaps there are a few bright spots left, even if the boys must flee. Never thought through this world in great detail, so I just went with the impressions that sprang to mind from the dream, which even as I wrote this was slipping away.

  9. Cecilia Dominic on 04.23.2010

    This seems like it would make a great animation. Everything is there — color, texture, and fear — but it’s also very surreal, as a previous commenter noted. There’s a nice contrast between the concrete experiences of the boys and the strangeness they’re seeing.

    Well done!


  10. 2mara on 04.23.2010

    What a vivid world… I would love to read more.

  11. G.P. Ching on 08.29.2010

    I enjoyed the descriptions in this. Nicely done.

  12. Vandamir on 08.30.2010

    Fascinating world you’ve created. Other than your lyrical writing style, it feels very much like Steampunk. I’d like to see more of this world as well. You’ve left us with intriguing tidbits – the underground cities, the apes, the steps that lead into the earth.

  13. The Four Part Land on 09.03.2010

    As I mentioned up above, it’s a dream that was inspired by Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Specifically that weird psychotic train that ends one book and begins another.

    It does feel a little steampunk, which isn’t really a genre I’ve explored much. I think it’s one I’d have a fun time poking around in. Might have to try it some more in the future.

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