The Long Ride – Part 4

Hello there, everyone. Day four is officially over, and it was a strange one to say the last. It was, however, similarly terrifying as the prior day, for… various reasons.

As I said, I hadn’t slept and even after I’d typed out the day’s events; I wasn’t able to. Before long, the first people on their way to work entered the tram, and I damn well knew I wouldn’t get the chance to catch some sleep for the next hour or two.

And so, before things grew too crowded, I set out for another toilet break, and also to change my clothes. I might be a bit of a weirdo, or hell, an idiot for doing this Long Ride, but I’d try to at least not look and smell like a freaking hobo.

It didn’t take long and once I’d pushed my used clothes to the bottom of my backpack; I set out for the tram again. Needless to say, it was packed by this point, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Once the tram approached the city’s outskirts, I could finally return to my trusty row of seats.

Once there, I put in my headphones, turned on some low-fi chill mix and settled down for some sleep. I guess I really was exhausted because I promptly slept through the rest of the morning and almost the entire early afternoon. When I woke up, I had a stiff neck and a painfully twisted back. Those damned tram seats really weren’t comfortable. I cursed at myself for not investing in a travel pillow.

It was around four in the morning, after another one of my short, hourly updates, when my friend Derek hit me up.

He asked if I was fucking with them by posting old videos, or if was I still at it.

I assured him I was. After all, I told him; I set out to do this for an entire week. I mentioned, however, I’d see how it goes, given certain things that had happened.

When he asked me what I meant, I thought about telling him about what I’d seen last night, but there was no way he’d believe me.

He said he was out in the city right now, and asked when I’d pass our city’s central mall. After a quick check, I told him I’d be there in about an hour. He was quick to tell me he’d join me for a couple of stations and see how I was holding up.

The moment he said this, I got an idea. Sure, I still had some sandwiches left, but, to be honest, I was sick and tired of the same ham and cheese ones by now. So I asked Derek if he could get me a few supplies.

He told me to just get off the damned tram and get them myself, but I told him that would be breaking the rules. Then I offered to pay him double for anything he’d bring me.

We ended up exchanging a few more messages before he yielded and said he’d do it.

I thanked him profusely before I gave the time my tram would arrive at the mall station.

And wouldn’t you know it, there he was, holding two shopping bags in his hands. He noticed me the moment the tram arrived and sat down in the row in front of me.

“You know you’re a freaking idiot, right?” Derek said, laughing. “You’re really set on doing this an entire week? Why?”

I shrugged.

“Made it half-way already, so I can’t call it quits now.”

“This really is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done. Also, you look like shit, dude.”

“Can’t sleep for shit on a tram, you know?”

“Well, duh, idiot,” he said, shaking his head before he handed me the grocery bags.

The first bag contained an assortment of snacks, some canned food, and even a few vegetables. When he handed me the second one, my eyes grew wide. It was full of cans too, but the best kind: beer!

When I stared at him, he gave me a shrug.

“Thought you’d want to have a drink every once in a while.”

“Sure do man, sure do. After the shit I’ve seen…”

He raised his eyebrows, but I gave him a dismissive gesture.

“It’s nothing.”

“Well, I got to go. Still got a ton of things to do, and not everyone can keep doing stupid shit all day. You know, some of us got jobs and all,” he said, giving me a wink.

“Yeah, whatever, man,” I said, laughing, and gave him the finger.

He left and the next station and I was on my own again. Got to say, it felt damned good to actually talk to someone. Most of the Long Ride was pretty damned boring.

I guess today would be slightly different, though, I thought as I pulled out the first of the many beer cans.

It was late in the afternoon anyway, so I might as well have some fun.

Now there’s a rule against getting plastered on the tram, and technically against drinking at all, but no one really cares to enforce it.

So, cheers, and bottoms up!

I did my best to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I still noticed a few glances from people here and there. Especially the hardworking, productive members of society on their way home from work couldn’t help but frown at the idiot happily drinking his beer at five in the afternoon. Yeah, I felt guilty.

As the evening progressed, and I got drunker, I noticed strange things again. Same as the day before, I noticed the same people getting on and off the tram at various stations. Some I’d seen before, others I hadn’t. They all crept me out, even in my drunken state.

The tram also passed weird places again. It felt almost as if the longer I was on, the more consecutive hours I spent huddled in the same place, the more my reality wavered, and the more surreal it became.

The first one was a giant playground, one much bigger than any other I’d seen before. The tram rose past it for almost an entire minute. I saw a giant steel climbing frame that rose into the sky, and I saw an entire small town comprising nothing but wooden forts, ladders, and slides. It was nothing short of surreal. Even stranger, though, even now, in the dark of the night, the place was still populated by a multitude of kids. A shiver went down my spine as I watched the going-ons out there, and I was more than relieved when we finally left the place behind.

I saw the next unreal location, or un-location, as I came to call them about an hour later.

The tram made its way through the alternative part of town and rode past bars and clubs before it eventually approached a building I’d never seen before.

The tram rode towards it before it began sneaking around the place. Holding my can of beer, I stared at it in fascination.

The place was exclusively lit by red lights, and covered in an assortment of signs proclaiming it to be the ‘Destination of Dreams,’ ‘The Place to be for the Night,” and above it all, the name ‘Club Red’ sprouted from the wall in giant, neon letters.

The entire building was filled to the brim with people, even on a Thursday evening.

As we drove past it, I could hear music, but not just any music. It was a strangely warped, droning type of music, one you might call psychedelic, but it felt almost too random for that. It was nothing but an assortment of sounds, something trying to have a melody, but somehow, wasn’t able to get it right.

As I continued staring at the building, my eyes hurt. At first, I thought it was the red light, but the longer I focused on it, I realized it was the building itself. Things just… didn’t add up.

I don’t know how to explain it, but the layout just didn’t make sense. I stared at windows, one after another, but there were too many, too many to fit the front of the building. It was the strangest sensation.

Imagine a building whose ground floor comprises nothing but four giant windows. Now imagine the floor above has seven, seven windows of exactly the same size and equally spaced as the ones below. It shouldn’t work, be impossible. Yet there they were.

It was the strangest optical illusion I’d ever come upon, and while I saw it, my brain couldn’t handle it, couldn’t understand this warping of the laws of physics.

In all these windows, I saw people. They were pushing and shoving against each other. Some were dancing, others leaning outward, and here and there, I even saw some sitting on the window sills.

The building’s size, too, made no sense. It wasn’t big, nothing more than a handful of floors. At least, I thought so at first. The moment we were closer, and I stared upward, I could always find yet another floor above the one I was looking at. Each one of them became more and more surreal, bigger and covered in more details, sprouting more windows. I even saw balconies, bridges connecting different parts of the building, and staircases that snaked around the building’s outer walls and let up and down, in and out. It was an amalgamation of architectural impossibilities.

The people too, as well as what they were doing, became stranger the longer I watched. At first it seemed to be normal people, partying, but then… I saw strange figures doing it right there in front of windows or on balconies, their forms as twisted as the building they were in. At one point, I even saw what I assumed to be some sort of ghastly ritual or sacrifice.

Finally, I came upon rows and rows of seats, chiseled in the building’s front, reminding me of a concert hall or a stadium. It was packed to the brim with people, distorted people. They were all watching the street below, the tram, and maybe… even me. They seemed to go crazy about it, applauding, laughing and pointing as we rode by.

Each time we rounded a corner, I thought we’d be done, and would finally leave this impossibility of a building behind, but we didn’t. At first I thought we were circling it, but each corner greeted me with yet another part of it. Each one stranger than the last, and in each one more twisted and deprived things were happening.

Eventually, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. My head was hurting too much. I turned and watched the other side of the street. All the while, the building’s dim, red light still flooded the tram.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it was over. The red light was gone, so was the music, and the tram continued on its normal course. I turned around and stared back, but all I saw was a long, straight road, one that led through the city’s alternative area. All I saw were the same well-known clubs and bars.

I know I should’ve been unsettled, should’ve been freaking out, but somehow, I was almost used to the strangeness of these un-locations by now.

Or, I might have been too drunk.

A few minutes later, I took out my phone, and looked for a place called ‘Club Red,’ but I already knew what I’d find: nothing. There was no sign of any such club ever having existed in my city, and to be honest, I was more than happy about it.

Finally, I settled down in my seat, turned up my music, continued on my beer, before I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up, I felt slightly hungover, but still pleasantly buzzed. My neck was in terrible pain yet again. I cursed, and rubbed it for a good minute before I shrugged, and decided to have another beer. Who knows, maybe it would help me go to sleep again.

It was only when I opened the can that I realized the tram wasn’t empty anymore. No, it was packed.

As if this wasn’t strange enough, the tram was entirely quiet. No one was speaking. No one was moving. Everyone was just sitting in their seats, unmoving and staring straight ahead.

I knew instantly that something was wrong. Even though I felt cold, sweat broke out all over my body. For a moment, I just sat there, trying to hide my presence, but then drunken curiosity won over fear.

I turned my head to see the person sitting in the row next to mine.

What I saw made me freeze. Not normal. This was not a normal person.

What I saw was a face that was undescriptive. It looked almost like a… blank slate, as if someone had forgotten to add all the characteristics and details that made someone a human being.

Even though the person was only about a meter away from me, I couldn’t tell if they were a man or a woman, or… if they were human at all.

My drunken eyes wandered over the rest of the passengers near me, and I realized they were all the same. All of them were… empty, for lack of a better word.

Even in my drunken state, even though I’d downed nine beers over the course of the night, fear washed over me. Seeing these weird things outside was one thing. You felt strangely safe inside the tram, protected by its mighty steel chassis, but now, now it was happening inside as well! I felt very, very vulnerable, and very afraid.

I began shuddering, and had to will myself to be quiet, to not move.

What the fuck even were those things and why were they here?

Once more, my eyes darted around, but then I told myself to stop. Do nothing. Just sit here and wait till they are all gone or get off the tram. Don’t let them notice you. If they do, if they realize you are here, they might…

No, stop. Calm down. I put one of my hands on my knees to stop the leg from shaking. With the other one, I clutched onto the beer like a safety anchor, and continued drinking, or tried the best I could.

Then I turned to look outside, to watch my city pass by.

To be honest, I expected to find another un-location outside, and that I’d ended up at yet another different place, the place these things belonged to. This time, however, the outside was just… empty.

There was no city at all. All I saw was undescriptive ground. It was as empty as all the people around me. Another undescriptive blank slate.

Where the hell was I? How’d I ended up in a place like this?

When I saw the tram approaching a tunnel, I started shaking again. At this point, I almost lost it, and freaked the hell out.

This didn’t feel like the other un-locations before. This felt different. So far, there was one thing that had never changed. The tram was always outdoors, no matter how much its surroundings had changed.

But now, now… I wondered if this was the end. If this tunnel would just swallow me up, to never return.

I cursed at myself to stop once more. Just go back to sleep or wait till its morning. And yet, I couldn’t. All I could do was to watch as the tunnel’s dark, dilapidated walls passed by me.

Then, after long minutes, the tram left the tunnel behind and we arrived at a station, if you can even call it that.

It was a quiet, unrefined place. There were no lights, no details, no maps or departure schedule. It was nothing but a single, undescriptive platform.

Yet the moment the tram stopped and opened its doors, all the strange, undescriptive people got to their feet, and in unison filled out of the tram.

After only a minute, I was alone. I stared outside and watched as they walked away and vanished in the dark of the night.

It wasn’t long before the tram’s driver, a different one than the one I’d spoken to before, approached me. He hurried through the tram’s cars, his face distorted by a mixture of fear and confusion.

“We’ve made it, sir,” he brought out in a shaken voice. This is the end. You’ve got to get off. You’ve reached your destination.

For a moment, I just stared at him, then towards the tram doors and the dark, undescriptive plane outside and shivered.

“N-no, I can’t! I’ve got to get back to the city. Whatever this place is, I don’t belong here!” I almost screamed at him in my drunken state.

When he heard my voice, the man stumbled back. Then he measured me up and down, saw my backpack and the can of beer I was holding.

A few seconds later, he just nodded, and without another word, he headed back to the driver’s cabin.

We stayed at this strange station for a while longer, and I could feel the driver watching me via the tram’s security camera the entire time. I don’t know what this place was. I don’t know how I ended up here, but I knew I shouldn’t have. It was a place not on any map, a place that couldn’t be reached, yet it was still there. It was a place even further detached from reality than all those other un-locations I’d come upon before.

Or, maybe, I was just too goddamn drunk.

With that, I opened up beer number ten, settled back in my seat, and like clockwork, the tram’s doors closed and we drove on.

After only ten minutes, we were back in the regular city. It was an instantaneous change, one I missed entirely. At one moment I was staring at the same undescriptive plane outside, and then, suddenly, I stared at buildings cone more.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and finally, I began to drunkenly type this all out. It took way longer than usual, almost two hours, and by now, the morning’s bustle has already begun.

My head hurt, both from drinking and the noise of the people around me, but also from trying to understand what I’d seen tonight.

Either way, that’s it for today. See you all tomorrow. I know there’s more weird shit to come. The Long Ride continues, and I’m sure the weirdness does as well.

Trying to catch some sleep now. Wish me luck guys!

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