The Long Ride – Part 1

I came up with the idea for the Long Ride a few days ago. My friends and I had met up on Friday evening to hang out, share some stories, and, of course, to have a few beers.

Before long, I ended up completely plastered. As I sat there, trying my best to not fall off my chair, my friend said something that got the gears in my brain turning, albeit slowly.

“I’m sure I can do it,” I brought out drunkenly.

“Do what?” one of my friends, Alex, asked, turning to me.

“What that Punchy guy did, the thing Derek just mentioned, about riding the subway back and forth.”

“It’s Pynchon, dude,” Derek corrected me with a sigh. “And he didn’t do it. He just wrote about it in one of his books.”

“Yeah, whatever, but I’m sure I can do it, too! And I can do it for an entire week,” I slurred.

“The hell you even talking about?”

“Riding the tram back and forth without getting off,” I said.

“Why’d you even do that?”

“Because I fucking can!”

“This has got to be the dumbest thing you ever came up with…” Derek mumbled.

That’s how it started. The next I woke up with a head-splitting headache and utterly hungover, but, of course, I remembered what I’d said, and, of course, I was set on doing it.

When I hit up my friends via WhatsApp and told them I was going to do it, they were less than enthusiastic, and didn’t even seem to care.

I was, however, and I spent the rest of the weekend getting ready for the Long Ride. I’d spend an entire week on the tram without getting off!

Well, almost getting off, I thought, and came up with a simple set of rules, which I promptly shared with my friends in a newly created WhatsApp group.

First, no getting off the tram, not to go home, and not to get supplies. The only exception was to go to the toilet, which I only allowed myself to do at one specific station.

I also told my friends I’d update them with a short video every hour, so they’d know I was still on the tram.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right my friends were. This really was the dumbest thing I’d ever come up with. Yet I was also very, very excited about what might happen.

After what happened today, what I saw, and what else I might see over the course of this week, I decided to share this journey with you guys.

This morning, at 8am I entered my tram line of choice, line 4. It was by far the single longest line, going from one end of the city, all the way to the other, a single one-way trip lasting roughly an hour and a half.

I also made sure to come prepared and stocked up on pretty much anything I might need. I’d gotten my Kindle ready, a couple of books, three fully charged power banks, enough food and water to hopefully last me a week, and a single change of clothes just in case. All of this, I’d put away in a gigantic camping backpack half the size of a person.

In the early morning, the city’s trams are a crowded hell, filled to the brim with people going to work and students on their way to school and university.

Having been lucky enough, I found myself a seat and settled down with my giant backpack. Then I put in my headphones and blasted music into my ear to drown out the general bustle around me.

That morning, nothing strange happened, and I was quite happy when the tram grew emptier, and more people got off until only a dozen remained.

For the first time in a long while, I actually looked at my surroundings, the city, and the other people on the tram. Usually, I was occupied with my phone or my Kindle.

Yet the first hours of the Long Ride went by relatively uneventfully.

The only thing of note that happened was that an older lady sat down near me when I took out one of the many sandwiches I’d prepared for myself. She ranted on and on how I wasn’t allowed to eat on the tram, and pointed at a row of prohibition signs above us.

I simply ignored her and continued eating with a slight grin on my face. Before long, she left me be, shaking her head and went away shaking her head and cursing how us ‘young people don’t know no manners anymore.’

Yea, fuck you too, lady.

She was on the tram for another half hour and for the entire duration, she stared daggers at me. Yet she at least didn’t follow through on her promise to inform the driver and have me kicked off. That would’ve been a rather anticlimactic ending to the Long Ride, I thought, laughing.

The first truly strange thing, and the reason I’m posting this happened in the afternoon. Even now, though, as I’m typing this out, I’m not sure what I saw.

In the afternoon, the tram filled with people once more. Some are students from the nearby university, others people getting of work, and of course, children on their way home after a long day at school.

One group in particular caught my interest. It was a group comprising seven kids, a loud group. They were laughing, yelling at each other, blasting music, and jumping around.

I hated them.

As I watched them with growing disdain, I noticed that two of them looked exactly the same. Brothers, I reasoned, most likely twins.

The behavior of the two, however, couldn’t have been more different.

One of them was as energetic as the rest while the other just stood there, not moving at all, watching the rest, who seemed to ignore him entirely.

At first I thought nothing of it, but the longer I watched him, the stranger the whole thing felt. Then slowly, ever so slowly, the child’s face grew from a dejected, uninterested look to a grin, an almost hungry grin, one directed at his brother.

This went on for almost fifteen minutes. His friends never noticed his weird behavior, and similarly the child never noticed me staring. As much as I told myself he was just a child being a child, I couldn’t help but find the entire situation weird, surreal, even.

That face-splitting grin. It wasn’t normal. This wasn’t what a child should look like. Hell, could look like!

I leaned forward, took out my phone and was about to take a picture when the tram came to a halt. Amongst the general bustle, I lost track of the kids who left the tram amongst a multitude of other people.

Eventually I saw them again, outside at the station. I noticed something right away. By now, there were only six of them, not seven.

One of the brothers, the twins, was gone. The other just stood out there next to his group of friends, not doing anything.

A second later, the tram doors closed. In that instant, the kid’s head jerked in my direction. His eyes were wide, his face still distorted by the same twisted grin, and he was staring right at me, and only me. And then, he opened his mouth, wider than should be possible, and jumped forward, as if to throw himself through the glass.

I cringed back in terror, away from the window, almost toppling over my backpack and sending a handful of supplies onto the floor of the tram. Within moments, and thanks to a few helpful other passengers, I was quick to pick everything up.

When I stared back, however, the kid was gone, and was now hurrying after his group of friends, seemingly without a care in the world.

Even now, I don’t know what to make of this. I told myself he was just being a kid, just being stupid after he’d noticed me staring at him. That face, however, that mouth…

The thing that has me most worried, however, was the number of kids. I knew there had been seven before, and only six of them got off.

For long minutes, I scanned the interior of the tram, trying to find the missing kid and to see if he’d stayed behind on his own. Yet there was no hint of him. He seemed to have vanished.

The general bustle of the day soon evened out as afternoon turned into evening. Then picked up once more when people set out to hit the bars, or to meet up with friends.

I nodded off at about eleven in the evening.

I was jerked awake long past two in the morning when I was almost pulled off my seat. When I opened my eyes, I found myself face to face with some asshole who’d tried to take a hold of my backpack.

Yet I was no idiot. Before I’d gone to sleep, I’d made sure to carefully wrap the backpack’s strap around my arm.

For a few seconds, the guy just stared at me, a dumbfounded look on his face before he realized what was going on. A moment later, when the tram came to a stop, he rushed away and outside.

I could only stare at him. The fucker had just tried to steal my shit.

After he was gone, I checked the backpack’s contents to make sure none of them were gone.

Then I took out my phone and typed this all out. And now, I’m just sitting here, trying to catch some sleep.

If I witness any other strange things, or something else of interest happens, I’ll keep you all updated.

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