Off the rails

Jonathan sat in his allocated seat on the XPT on its way to Melbourne. He was going there to see his mother whom he hadn't seen since the previous year. He hated long train trips. Hell, he hated long trips full stop. But he had prepared himself. He pulled out an iPod and plugged in the earphones. He pressed play as the train jerked into motion and began the journey. Are you gonna be my girl by Jet was playing. Jonathan read the first few words of a much-loved Tom Clancy novel, and with that he sank further into the padded seat.

With the music he slowly consumed the pages of the book. A smile now stretched across his face. The journey wasn't all that bad.

As the train neared the state border, he got up to stretch and loosen the joints that had stiffened. He stepped out onto the aisle and walked down towards the back of the train, searching for the toilet. He crossed from one carriage to the next until finally he sighted the toilet in the last carriage. The last carriage was almost empty except for an old couple asleep and a man in his forties, with a dirty beard and a bottle of scotch in his hand. The man took large swigs of the bottle, some running down his beard and soaking in. He opened the cubicle on the right that was intended for the men, stepped in and closed the door. The cubicle was small and almost made Jonathan feel claustrophobic. He unzipped his fly and started doing his business. After a while there was a banging at the door, He was startled and a small splash hit one of his legs, but he couldn't just turn off the tap and leave. The banging continued rather loudly and he thought that this would wake the old couple.

"Hey quit that" Jonathan called back. He then heard the lock being turned from the other side. It sounded like the lock was being unscrewed, but Jonathan couldn't move. The door swung open and through reflex he turned to the bearded man. The man grabbed Jonathan's shoulders with both hands and turned him back in the direction of the toilet and then he closed the door. The man's stench filled the small cubicle and it was almost impossible to breathe. The period of 30 seconds in which they stood in the same position seemed to last longer, as if some higher being wished to prolong Jonathan's suffering. Jonathan left without a clue what to do turned to face his attacker. But by the time he reconsidered his actions, he was already locked in a paralyzing stare. His eyes were dark green and he felt naked as the eyes had the usual piercing quality of your everyday psychotic and irrational killer. Not only did his green-eyed stare hold him in the confrontation, but also there was a stench of old scotch fermented into his beard mixed with his strong body odor. The combination of smells was suffocating and almost gave him the lightheaded feeling after you've sniffed white out. He felt awkward, trapped and confused. He couldn't move and didn't want to, he was wondering what the attacker would decide to do next. They stood locked into the paralyzing stare until the train jolted. The train seemed to resist the surge in speed, and with the protest, Jonathan and the bearded man were sent flying into the wall of the tight cubicle. They crunched against it with a loud crunch. He not only hit the wall hard but he also rebounded and hit the bearded man sending him flying to the ground. The man lay still hunched on the ground of the cubicle. This was Jonathan's chance to run, get out of this situation and back to the comfort of another Tom Clancy novel. He seized the chance and with a clumsy effort, he climbed over the still man and opened the door back into the clean air and the expanse of space that was the rest of the carriage.

The couple still lay in the same position that they had been before, asleep and dreaming of their younger days no doubt. The commotion in the cubicle didn't wake them. Jonathan stood less then an arm's reach from the cubicle and before his mind had the time to send the message to his legs to move, a stiff hand grabbed his leg. He attempted to break free but the grip was to strong, like steel handcuffs, if only he had a hacksaw. One moment out wasn't enough, the bearded man's hand pulled on his leg trying to pull him back into the hidden confinements of the toilet cubicle that contained a choking mixture of smells. He refused to give in, and attempted to throw the free parts of his body as far away from the cubicle as possible. The attempt was pointless. His right ankle acted as an anchor and pulled him back to reality as he fell flat on his face. The hit not only knocked the wind out of him, but also knocked all confidence from him. He was now fermented in his melancholy view that it was all coming to an end. He didn't resist as the bearded man dragged him back into the cubicle and closed the door hiding them from all who tried to find them, which was no one anyway.

They were back in the cubicle, Jonathan wait in anticipation for what was going to happen next, the suspense was driving him crazy, but nothing was happening, they sat on the floor doing nothing. The bearded man's eyes has had changed from intimidating to scared themselves. His knees bounced in nervousness, and this frightened Jonathan more than when they had been locked in that stare or when he had been dragged back in. What was going on? Why doesn't he just cut me up or shoot me or bash me. Was he planning something more sinister? Thoughts rushed through his head faster then the train was moving. The fact that the train was moving abnormally quick scared him to, and then he though at this rate we should be in Melbourne very soon. It seemed the only activity going on was Jonathan's thinking and maybe the bearded man's head was also buzzing with thoughts. What was going through this old man's head? The silence and the tension was unbearable, he could have screamed, but didn't. His eyes twitched, his own knees mimicked the man sitting opposite, and he began to crack his knuckles one by one. As the time ticked by it seemed the train's momentum was faster, and it seemed like the time was going forever but in fact they had only spanned a few minutes, until the train reached breakneck speed.

The train then threw them around the cubicle again, as it was going round a turn, it seemed. There were momentary surges of an incredible sound. The sound bounced of the train station walls, which lay underneath Melbourne. His phone beeped. A message. And the bearded man instantly reacted to this, his scared expression reverting back to the stare when they first locked eyes. He jumped to cover the door, looking down at Jonathan, waiting. Jonathan then took the phone out of his pocket, and read the message. It was from Taylor, his girlfriend. She worked in the Intelligence force for the government. The message read "Babe get off that train, someone is going to hijack it, now I'm serious, call me as soon as you get this". That put the pieces together in the puzzle; it solved every answer, except one. Why aren't the terrorists Muslim? Maybe that was Jonathan's prejudice due to the media, but he was still awestruck by the fact it was an Australian man, drunk on scotch holding him captive, holding the one with the girlfriend in intelligence. Then why did he get the message so late? He looked back down at the phone and looked at the message again. "Message sent: 10:05am". The time now was 11:30am; Optus' black spots had caused the death of every person on this train. As he answered some of the questions it all sank in. He was heading to his death and there was really nothing he could do about it, it was all to late, and even so the bearded man stood at the door determined to keep the rest of the train hidden to the revelation that they were all going to die. The thought frightened him more then anything else. He was 26 and it was all coming to an end pretty soon. The frightening thoughts scared him but also sent him into a rush of fury as he realized it was the bearded man and whoever was driving the train who were causing his end. He jumped up ignoring any logical thoughts. He was going to die after all, it was worth a shot, if he died in the struggle to escape it wouldn't really matter because he was going to die anyway. His burst of fury sent him up onto his feet and caused Jonathan to grab the man's throat with tight gripped hands. The shock and the pressure put the bearded man in a position of paralysis, he then directed his anger to pick up the man, turn them both around and throw him into the wall. Jonathan then didn't hesitate from bolting from the cubicle. He managed to glance at the old couple before leaving the carriage to the next. They were now wide-awake, their faces etched in confusion and terror. He ran through more carriages each presenting different walks of life, but all experiencing the same terror, the same damning fate. Finally he reached the first carriage and stopped at the door to the driver's compartment, he paused to take a look outside but couldn't see anything because it was all a blur. He ripped open the door and burst in.

On the floor was the driver. He sat slouched on the ground. His face dripped with blood from the cavity in his head. The gun, Jonathan suspected, belonged to the man now sitting in the driver's seat. He sat their totally focused on the track ahead. Jonathan had to listen more carefully to hear what he was saying. It was some sort of foreign prayer, but he couldn't recognise the language. It could have been some European language. Jonathan was then forced to rethink what he had assumed earlier; perhaps they weren't Australian, but people of European decent. No matter what country they were from it wouldn't matter when the train finally came to a catastrophic halt. Everyone's blood splatters the same, everyone's brain crushes like any other, no matter what religion you follow or what country you come from. He paid no attention to the driver now, just focused on what was ahead, he couldn't pull himself away, didn't want to die with his back turned. He knew what was happening, but couldn't stop it, as it rounded a bend too quickly and held his breath as he expected it to fly off the tracks into a building as it exited the subway section and out onto the open tracks. With pure luck the train held tight on the tracks and kept spearing towards its path to a national crisis.

Jonathan seized at the chance and tackled the driver off the seat and tried to hold him still. As this happened the train headed into the next turn the same speed as before. He hadn't thought about the brake, but the hijacker had, the throttle and brake were messed with alright. Wires and levers were strewn around everywhere, and a clamp holding the throttle down for this reason. No citizen was going to be the hero and foil their plan. The struggle for control over one another continued, neither seemed to able to be winning over the other. Then out of nowhere the hijacker pulled a knife out, he stretched a free hand up so Jonathan could see it. Jonathan jumped back straight away and walked up against the back of the driver's compartment. He was in no position to argue. The hijacker resumed his seat as it neared its destination, Melbourne Central. As the train neared closer and closer to the station, Jonathan's horror climaxed as the hijacker lifted a compartment near him to reveal an array of explosives. In there he could definitely identify some C4, but nothing else seemed familiar. He pressed a couple of buttons, and Jonathan wasn't too sure what he did, but he knew it wasn't good when he heard the beep-beep of the countdown, like you do in the movies.

The train closed in closer to the station, and he was sure it was going to explode when it reached the train station. He couldn't work out how far, because the pace and panic of the whole situation, distorted his thoughts. And then it happened, the explosives beeped erratically and Jonathan's heart matched it. The train sped into the train station. One last thought crossed his mind as he stared at the hijacker, before the bomb finally exploded and tore all reality apart like a stuffed toy being stolen from a child. A revelation that didn't count for anything in his last split second. "They're not all Muslim."