I was sure I was hallucinating when I first heard the train whistle. It was about time I started hearing things.
I had been following the railroad tracks for days. Maybe it was just hours. No, it must have been days, because that pale smokey disc that passed for a sun here had come up and gone down more than once. It's really hard to tell that it's there, unless you're looking at it. It doesn't actually do anything to illuminate this place.
I was on the tracks, stepping from cracked and rotted tie to cracked and rotted tie. It was awkward going, but if I walked beside the tracks it would be too easy to get lost. It almost happened once, when I first arrived here. I was walking beside the metal rails that gleamed darkly in the murky light. I looked away from them for only a second, and when I looked back they were gone. There was nothing but blackness and dust everywhere I turned. After several long minutes of panic I found the tracks again, and I haven't left them since. I even slept for a few hours stretched out across the tracks, like one of those damsels in distress in the old black and white movies, tied up by the dastardly villain waiting for the hero to rescue me.
There aren't any heroes here. There isn't anyone here except me.
At least that's what I thought until I heard the whistle.
Like I said, I thought I was hallucinating. I hadn't heard anything other than my own breathing and the sound of my footsteps for a long time, so that low wail in the distance couldn't have been anything but my imagination. But then it came again, drifting across the endless plain. I stopped and stared into the distance, cocking my head to try to catch the sound, and before long I saw a faint light - light that was actually light, and not like the flat light-less sun – far, far away down the tracks. I couldn't take my eyes off of it as it came nearer and nearer, impossibly fast. At first it was miles away then, only a mile away, and then it was right on me. I leapt off of the tracks at the last minute as the whistle blew, blasting into the silence, and the brakes squealed. Then it was just there, in front of me.
It was on old fashioned steam locomotive. I could hear the chuffing sound of the the steam rising from the engine. The cars were wooden and engraved with strange glyphs and images. The door to the car in front of me slid open, and silently stairs flipped out and landed on ground beside the tracks in a puff of dust. In the doorway stood a tall thin man with pale skin and even paler hair. We stood staring at each other for a long time, before he lifted one hand and motioned me forward with a flick of his long fingers.
I didn't say anything. Perhaps I should have asked what was going on, where I was. Maybe I should have just said Hi. But I didn't say anything, and neither did he. I climbed the stairs into the train car. The tall, pale man pulled the stairs in behind me and slid the door closed as I found a seat amongst the rows of empty benches on either side of the aisle.
When the whistle blew again, it sounded distant, even though I was now inside the train. The sound of the steam engine was also quieter as it revved up and the train lurched forward. I looked out of the window beside me. The railroad tracks were out of sight below the train, and all I could see was darkness.