The Long Ride – Part 2

Well, the second day of my little journey is over, the one I came to call the Long Ride, and boy, do I have to tell you a few things. Things took a turn for the worse, but more on that later.

After sitting in a tram for over twenty-four hours, I realized just how beautiful my city truly is. It’s breathtaking, full of old architecture, nice little parks, and a riverside panorama few other cities can compare to.

That morning, I actually took my very first toilet break. I don’t know how I lasted that long, but let me tell you, the moment I went, it was heaven.

The early hours of the day went by as usual. Once again, the tram was overcrowded, and a few times I noticed people staring at me angrily for not getting off my seat or at least moving my giant backpack aside.

Well, tough luck. This row is my home for this entire week. Before you ask, yes, I specifically chose where I sat. Second tram car, third row from the back.

The first interesting to happen that day was an encounter with an older man.

He must’ve entered the tram between nine and ten in the morning. I only remember because I’d just taken another short video for my friends, and when I looked back up from the phone, there he was, sitting only a few rows ahead of me. It seemed almost as if he’d just appeared out of nowhere.

Must’ve snuck in at the last stop, I reasoned.

Strangely enough, he just sat there as the tram continued on to the end of the line station, and remained seated as the tram turned around and went back the way it came from.

I couldn’t help but smile a little, but was also a bit confused. Were there other people who did the same dumb thing I did? Just riding the tram back and forth for no reason?

Well, who knows, maybe he’s just a bored old man with nothing to do. Maybe he just enjoys tram rides or the scenery, or, hell, he doesn’t mind getting on the tram early and taking a brief detour before reaching his destination.

I tried not to be bothered by him, but whenever I looked up from my book, he was still there, going back and forth and back again with me.

As I munched on another sandwich and some crackers, I couldn’t help but stare at the back of his head. It was two in the afternoon, and by now, he must’ve been on the tram for at least four hours. What the hell was he doing?

I’m not going to lie. He unnerved me a little.

A few minutes later, he got up, and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he was about to get off.

Instead, he came and took a seat near me and turned his bald head towards me. I noticed that something was wrong with him.

His eyes looked glassy, almost hazy. The weirdest part, however, was his outfit. It just… didn’t fit. Not on his body, I mean, but in the twenty-first century. It reminded me of something I’d once seen in an old family photo album, a style popular multiple decades ago, long even before the reunion.

“Interesting to see someone here for as long as me,” he finally said.

I just stared at him, surprised by the gentle, well-meaning tone of his voice.

“Oh yeah, it’s… I guess a dare between friends? To see how long I can last.”

“Young people these days,” he mused. “But I sure did my share of stupid things back in my days.”

“How come you’re on so long yourself? Are you enjoying the ride, the scenery?”

He was quiet, and for a few moments, he just stared outside, watching the city pass by.

“Well, you aren’t wrong, young man. I’ve been on here for quite some time, longer than I’d ever have guessed, but it’s interesting to see things change. New lines, new stations. Feels just like yesterday that I rode on line five to the main station…”

What he just said made no sense. There was no line five. Sure, there’d been one, but it was discontinued over two decades ago.

“Wasn’t line five discontinued?”

“Ah, yes, you’re right. But once you’ve been here for as long as me, you sometimes forget these types of things.”

“What do you…? How long have you been here?”

For some reason, I suddenly felt cold. Something didn’t add up. Not just his hazy eyes or his outfit, but the things he said.

“Much too long, young man, but that’s just how it is for some of us. We can ride on and on, but we’ll never reach our destination.”

“The hell’s that supposed to-?”

“You should be careful, young man. This place, like any others has its dangers, especially for those who stay on for too long,” he said, getting up.

I said nothing. I could only watch as he walked on and entered the tram car ahead of me.

Then, for only a single second, what I saw changed. It was only for the blink of an eye, but it made me cringe in terror and I felt myself break into a cold sweat.

What had been a nicely dressed older man before now turned into a mangled, twisted corpse. Its upper body was caved in, almost torn apart. Its arms were dangling at its side, broken entirely. The worst, however, were its legs. They were nothing but a mass of ground flesh and bone.

Then it was over, and once again, I saw nothing but an old man. He turned to me once more, a well-knowing, sad look on his face before he gave me a little nod as if to say ‘be careful.’

Right at that moment, my phone vibrated, notifying me about a new message. I jerked and almost dropped it before I turned back towards the old man, or rather, where he’d been.

He was gone.

I scanned the train ahead of me, then behind me, but I saw nothing. He’d just… vanished.

I couldn’t help but shiver. What the hell had just happened? I thought about the mangled, twisted version of him I’d seen, the things he’d talked about. Had I just been visited by a freaking… ghost?

For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. In the afternoon, the tram filled up again, then emptied out before the process repeated itself in the evening.

As it turned late, I settled back in my seat, put on some low music, and prepared myself for another couple hours of rest, hopefully a few more than yesterday.

As I sat there, I watched the few other late night passengers on the tram with me. In my mind, I gave them names and made up stories about them.

Right there, a few seats ahead of me, sat Jenny, a young woman in her mid-twenties who was on her way home after a late shift at the nursing home. Further ahead sat old Rupert, a bachelor in his early sixties who’d just enjoyed a performance at the state theater with a group of friends.

It was strange, but I almost felt a connection with these people, as if they were my people, the citizens of Tramonia, a nation comprising nothing but this one lone tram, going back and forth forever.

A few minutes later, a group of guys got on, guys who were clearly drunk. They were a loud, rowdy bunch, walking up and down the tram car, howling obscenities, and dangling from handrails like the idiots they were.

Almost unconsciously I felt myself drawn to them, and couldn’t help but watch them. They were breaking the laws of Tramonia, I thought, and would need to be punished.

As I sat there, half-nodding off, staring at them, I tried to come up with ideas on how Tramonia would handle crime and how those who’d committed them would be punished.

I didn’t realize that one of them had long noticed me staring at them. His expression wasn’t normal, not one of mild curiosity. No, he looked pissed, or at least up for trouble.

“The fuck you staring at asshole!?” he called out to me.

I jerked up in my seat, averting my eyes, but I could already hear them coming my way.

Shit, now I’d done it.

“Yo, bro, what’s up?” one of them brought out as he sat down in front of me.

I didn’t say a thing, and instead tried my best to ignore them.

“Hey, we’re talking to you!” his friend spat at me.

“Nothing, just on my way home,” I mumbled.

“Oh yeah, is that so?” the one in front of me said in a sing-song voice.

I gave him another ‘yeah,’ and tried my best to stare out the window. This promptly landed me a slap against the back of the head.

“What the fuck are you-?”

I couldn’t even finish the curse because one of them grabbed me by the throat, raising his fist.

“You think you can fuck with us, asshole?”

Right at that moment, the driver’s voice could be heard via the intercom, telling them to knock it off.

The guys stared at each other in surprise, but didn’t move, and neither did they release me.

A second announcement by the driver followed soon after, this one more serious. He assured them he was ready to stop them tram here and now, and call the cops should they not back down immediately.

Finally, I was released, and after throwing me another set of insults, the three of them walked away. A few stations later, they thankfully got off the tram for good, but nothing without sending me a few more angry glances.

When we pulled into the end of the line station, a place where trams would occasionally power down during the late hours of the night, the driver approached me.

“Hey there, not to bother you, but I’ve noticed you’ve been on the tram for quite a while. What exactly are you up to?”

“Well, I’m trying to get home, but-“

“You’ve been trying to get home for the past five hours?”

Shit, he got me.

“All right, no. To be honest, it’s a bet,” I started, giving him an embarrassed little laugh.

He raised his eyebrows, waiting for me to continue.

“I told my friends I’d be able to stay on the tram for an entire week without getting off.”

For a moment, he just stared at me, then furrowed his brow before he spoke again.

“That’s the dumbest freaking thing I’ve ever heard,” he said, shaking his head.

“Yeah, it really is,” I agreed.

“Well, not like I can kick you off for something like this. You’ve got a ticket on you, right?”

“Sure thing, got myself a weekly pass just for the Long Ride.”

Once more, he raised his eyebrows, and I was quick to tell him it was the name I came up with.

“Well, it’s dumb, really freaking dumb, but as long as you don’t cause any trouble, that’s it. Just try to stay clear of guys like the ones before.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

With that, the conversation was over and the driver went outside to have a smoke or two.

About half an hour later, the tram started up again, and the ride continued.

That’s day number two, guys. See you all tomorrow.

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