"There" was a place that could go by no other name. With no landmarks, no history, no interesting facts to learn or sights to see, it was only there, and that's how it was meant to be. Everything was certain. Predictably on time. Doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing, exactly the way it was supposed to be done. There could be no mistakes because there was nothing that could be mistaken. The strict schedule was impossible not to follow. The train arrived at exactly eight o'clock every morning, picking up the same fifty-six people, bringing them to their monotonous jobs on time, so that the rest of the world could go about their day in an orderly fashion. It returned to the station only once more each day, only to drop the citizens off, to settle in for the night. From janitor to gas station attendant, bartender to policeman, everyone's only real job was to keep the world exactly as it always was and to make sure that it stayed that way the next day. Everyday was preset, every move was dictated and along with the rest of the world. I was happy with it all. Until it stopped.
When the train arrived only seconds late, the world stood still, and then it fell to shambles. How could one fulfill their only purpose in life, when it has already been defeated? And just as fast as it had been erased, certainty was restored in the form of an innocent child who, unlike the 56 confused citizens around her, skipped joyfully aboard the train, oblivious to the muddle. And, as if a spell had been broken, everyone followed suit, instantly forgetting the event that had just taken place. Everyone except for me.
Instead of clearing the cloud from my mind and letting me be on my way, the little girl's appearance only confused me more. Only the train's shrill whistle had enough power to bring to my attention the short seconds that I had left to board the train. Taking quick strides, I ran through the closing doors and took a seat near the window, watching the prairie grass roll by as the train sped across the flat and lonely land. With every screech, from the wheels against the steel tracks, I saw the little girl, skipping, leading everyone else towards the rest of their days, the rest of their lives. It can't have been coincidence that she was there and had such a influence over the rest of the world.
All other thoughts were brushed away as the grassy scenery changed into a cemented block of buildings, the doctors' quarters. With its tinted windows, iron doors, flowerless, and empty; it was possibly the gloomiest place I had ever been. But why was I only noticing this now? Yesterday I could have cared less, but now it seems like a place I would avoid. Nothing here is what I could have called friendly. And in reality, even without considering its appearance, it was a dreadful place.
The 12 digit entry code was more foreboding than bars on the windows ever could have been. I had never once questioned why such a lengthy combination was required, but now it seemed illogical and unnecessary. Once it had been typed in, I walked briskly down the bleach white halls towards the room I knew to be mine. They say that white is supposed to be calming, but today the blinding paint agitated me beyond belief. Was it really necessary to be calming at a mere medical clinic? This was not at all an asylum!
My job consisted of nothing more than injecting shots, every so often, to a variety of different patients. To me they were never a big deal. Everyone got shots, once a year to strengthen their immune systems. I, for one, took them with dignity, despite my great dislike for needles, and the thought of them poking deep beneath my flesh and injecting an almost unknown substance. I found it almost alarming how many of my own patients would struggle frantically, trying to escape, from the, obviously necessary, needle. Because of my own "tender heart," as my associates called it, I would inject only the needle, and not have to worry about restraining them. A job I was happy not to obtain. Hearing their screams and watching them throw themselves against their confines, trying to get away, haunted my every nightmare until slowly I got used to it. They were only needles after all.
As I entered my painfully neat office it felt different, almost as though everything was a little clearer. The clouds of my mind were blowing away leaving only a thin layer of fog to muffle my thoughts. I was so close to finding out something… but what that was I had no idea. Left to the devices of my own thoughts I didn't hear the scuttle of one of my fellow doctors entering my room. Only when he commenced rooting through my drawers was I jolted out of my thoughts.
"We need to go now!" he said bitterly, still searching, "They've added a new patient to today's list, and doubtless we'll miss the train tonight if we don't start as soon as possible." He pulled out a pair of rubber gloves and a clean syringe.
Without waiting for a response, he grabbed my arm and led me out of my room, into a smaller, whiter room and closed the door. After handing me my supplies he turned his back to me and started to mutter. After working with him for endless years I had gotten used to his nonsense and his muttering, but I could hear an edge of bitterness attached to the one sentence I could actually make out. "They'll need a new replacement." He continued to mutter as he opened a cabinet under sink, pulling out sedatives and a length of rope.
"I want to finish early today," he said suddenly, "I'm leaving this one for you to handle alone while I start on my own." Without waiting for a reply he pulled open the door and stormed out, his mutterings fading the farther he walked down the hallway.
When it had finally silenced, a new, even less pleasant noise filled the air around me. A scream, like a injured animal, tore through the my room as a bound man was dragged in by two heavyset men that I had come to know very well. He was struggling more frantically then I had ever seen, knocking about his captors until finally they tired of him. With a nod of acknowledgment before hand, one of the men punched him quickly in the stomach letting him drop to the ground writhing in pain. The two men left without a word, glancing back only to make sure the door closed behind them.
I was left alone, with a broken man, in incomprehensible pain, with nothing but sedatives and a fresh needle. Trying to sit him up straight was more than my body would allow so I let him lie on the floor whimpering. As I drew near with the needle he cried out.
"It was barely late. The problem was fixed! It wasn't my fault! It won't ever happen again. Not ever! You need me! You said you couldn't replace me! Please, Please. No!" with each word his voice got feebler until all that was left of his struggle was the panic in his eyes. Without any logical reasoning I closed my eyes, his pitiful groveling was only replaced with images of the little girl, skipping along freely. Suddenly I understood. That, along with his frantic breathing was enough to pull me over the edge. It was enough to make me scream.
Without even opening my eyes to face him one last time, I turned and ran, straight towards the door, letting my familiarity with the room guide me until I knew I was safe from the sight of him on the floor. I opened my eyes as I sprinted down the hallway and through the coded door. Not stopping until I was too far from anyone who could comment, or think, I ran passed the station, along the train track and through the dry swaying grass of the prairie flats. I ran until I could no longer move. My hair was slick with sweat, as was the rest of me. I was safe, or so I thought.
Nothing could stop the memories from coming back and swarming my brain. Who was that man? Despite everything else I had witnessed today, all I could think about was the train. It was late, was that the punishment? Consumed with grief I sat on the only thing worth sitting on, a level passing gate. My hands began to shake. Looking down I saw the needle, still clenched between my fingers. What poison was this? What had I been mindlessly giving anyone who walked through my doors? No longer did I question my previous patients' sanity; no longer did I feel dignified when I thought about the shots I had received. This was no medicine. This was not something one could be brave about. It was condensed death waiting for its next victim. And I was the executioner.
My head spun. Dropping the needle to my lap I gripped the gate hoping to hold on long enough for the dizziness to pass. I was holding on to it as though the gate was neutral ground in the war raging in my mind. In front of me I had the side of predictability, potentially dangerous, whenever the train would whistle by, but constant and unchanging. Behind me was the side of honour, as the wind honoured its own course blowing at its own will through the grassy plains.
I laughed at the thought of it all. It was a mad and confused sort of laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. Uncontrollably I continued until my laughter turned into racking sobs.
What had I done? This couldn't be right. This couldn't be fair! Why then was it being done? My whole life suddenly loomed around me. Did our society completely replace what was right, and honourable with something as trivial as knowing exactly what happens next, with being certain of the future.
The newfound realization embedded in my brain taunted me, for hours until finally darkness sunk in. still seated, with a syringe in my lap I had come to a decision. I stared briefly at the train, for the last time as it passed my seat, rattling my brain with its speed and vibrations. This was definitely the end. Choosing between honour and certainty was my last trial, and I chose without time to reconsider.
I felt I metal tip pierce my skin and numbness set in not because of the drug, which would not set in for another couple of minutes, but because of the future to come. I knew exactly what was coming next. As I slowly fell forward, sprawling awkwardly on the track, laughing silently at the irony that I had unwillingly created There I sat for the remainder of my time, feeling a cool breeze brush my skin, as slowly I lost the ability to analyze my own thoughts.
I hope I made the right choice.