*This is my flash fiction piece in response to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Friday prompt. I used all three image prompts.*
“Dude, where are we going?”
“The stop is called Shin-Kiba.”
“I can’t tell what any of the stops are called. They’re only in symbols.”
“They should have American letters.”
“Not American, English letters, and those are based on the Latin alphabet.”
“Fine, Einstein. Do you see any letters?”
“No, only symbols. Which one is our stop? I thought you looked all this stuff up.”
“I did. Don’t be a jerk. The webpage said all the maps had English spellings. Our stop is S-h-i-n dash K-i-b-a. The resort is near there.”
“Well, I don’t see any letters I can read and can’t tell where it is. Why don’t you come over here and look at the map? We don’t need more picture of the station.”
A sigh emanated from the other side of the sign, and the sound of the camera shutting down pinged in the empty station. A tall, stringy young man with thick rimmed glasses came around to have a look. His nose crinkled, lifting the frames as he peered at the lines with various symbols representing the stops along the way.
“Huh. Well that sucks. I’d try to ask somebody, but I haven’t seen anyone for a while.” The thought sent him down another path of confusion. “That’s odd, isn’t it? These stations are usually filled with people.”
The other young man, much shorter than his counterpart, looked around and seemed to notice they were alone for the first time. “Yeah, that is weird. You know what though? I don’t care. Where is the stop? Can’t you tell by looking at the lines?”
The tall man looked back to the map. After a moment, he shook his head. “I’m not certain, but I think this one is our stop.” He pointed to the end of a line on the east side of the map.
“Great. We can just head that way and maybe there will be people who can help us there.”
The tall man continued to look concerned but nodded his consent. He was about to try puzzling out the schedule for the train when a horn sounded down the tunnel and a train came barreling out soon after. The brakes began to squeal, the train coming to an abrupt stop near the end of the station platform. No other trains stopped at this station, so it must have been theirs. The doors opened. No one exited. The men couldn’t see anyone on the train. They looked at one another, shrugged, and stepped on board.
The ride was uneventful, assuming one considered the fact that the train was empty even though it should have been full of commuters.
“Maybe it’s the time of day,” the short man mumbled after the third stop where no passengers got on and they couldn’t see anyone through the windows. “Everyone must be at work or something.”
The train slid into their stop and the doors parted. The two men again exchanged a glance and stepped out onto an old wooden platform, nothing like they expected. All the previous stops were modern, underground subway stations. This stop was above ground and the planks of wood creaked under the men’s footfalls. A set of stairs led away from the platform. At the bottom of the steps was a wooden frame. This side of the frame was blank, but the tall man expected the front side said the name of the station. Past the frame was a forest. A trail from the bottom of the platform steps meandered through the trees and out of sight.
“Is this where we were trying to go? It doesn’t look like a resort will be anywhere near here.” The short man said, the unease clear in his voice.
“I don’t know where we are. I don’t see any signs either. Maybe we should get back on the train.”
The short man nodded, but before they turned around the train doors closed. The locomotive rumbled off into the distance.
“What are we going to do now?” the short man whined.
“Let’s see what’s down that path.” The tall man pointed at the trail at the bottom of the stairs. “Maybe we can find someone.”
As they passed through the frame at the bottom of the steps, a cold gust of wind hit them. “Why is it cold? We’re in the middle of summer,” The short man complained.
They continued walking. Coming around a turn in the woods they stopped short, confused at the scene in front of them. A group of people, monks maybe, stood in a semi-circle facing away. They wore white cowls that shimmered in the light. Before the monks was an open pit that contained a smoldering fire. A soft chant filled the air. Off to the side of the path, was a series of cages, two were open and empty, but the others contained huddling men cowering as far from the doors as possible as though they could prevent their fate.
A fate the men witnessed when one of the monks broke away to open a cage and grab one of the prisoners. A growl emanated from the monk as he hauled his poor victim to the edge of the pit and tossed him in. The screams jarred the two tourists from their stupor and they both screamed along with the dying man.
The monks turned in unison to face the men. Their faces were obscured by the cowls but looked like unhuman beasts. The men thought they saw smiles spread across the faces of the terrifying monks. They backed away as the monks moved in their direction. They glanced at the two, now three, empty cages and gulped. Worse than the beastly, grinning faces, the monks continued to hum as they approached. The men’s feet felt glued to the ground, and they watched with horror as the monks approached them.
The spell was broken when a train horn sounded behind them. They turned in unison and bolted back to the train station as fast as their legs could carry them. The tall man passed through the wooden frame and up the steps first, followed soon after by the short man. The short man turned to look back at the monks, but they were gone. Then he ran into the tall man, knocking them both to the subway floor.
Both men looked around in shock at the station. Porcelain tiled floors and walls replaced the wooden planks and railings. A ceiling with fluorescent lighting blocked out the sky. Looking behind them, the men saw an escalator crawling up towards an exit above. On the tiled subway wall was a large rectangular sign that read “Shin-Kiba Station”. Signs for their resort were everywhere. People milled about, waiting for the coming train. A few stopped to stare at the two Americans falling over themselves and then continued with their lives.