The Escapade

Kemono Cafe 003

Escapade. That was the name emblazoned on the side of the red engine only Sandy could see. She whispered the name quietly as she walked by the brass lettering. Sandy tried to take the whole of the train in by looking down the length of cars, but the tunnel it had emerged from was so dark she could only make out the distant glimmers of orange light from the windows. Movement drew her eye to the first car. Someone in a red uniform was walking inside the train with purpose and eventually hopped down to the tracks where no one was supposed to go.

She matched the train perfectly in that she didn’t match anything else she’d seen in the city. The boldness of her outfit reminded her of a children’s book and her hair was a fluffy, wild mess that would have gotten Sandy in trouble with her manager for sure. Sandy wondered if she should talk to her. She looked very busy. Curiosity overwhelmed her judgement and she approached the edge of the tracks, lightly jumping down to the tracks. The sound was more than enough to get the woman’s attention and she turned to look at Sandy with surprise..

I’ve already checked this a dozen times. When are they going to show up, huh? Excuse me! Do you work here? Ah! This is a beautiful train. Do you know where it goes? … That I do! And what a relief… you’re here. I’ve been waiting for hours. What…? But you don’t know who I am. That’s technically true. But the fact we’re talking at all is a pretty strong hint. Ok? So… where does it go? The Escapade goes as far as people can go. Sometimes a little further, if you let it. Oh good! So it connects to Low Point? Low Point… heh, well, I suppose it could. How much for a ticket? You look like you already have one. Just give it to me and we’ll be off. That’s so strange. I just found this lying around. And you said you were waiting for me. My confidence soars! You’re definitely the one I’m supposed to pick up. Get in. We’ll get you where you need to be.

The woman was a stout brown rabbit with even darker brown wiry hair wreathed around her head. Her top rim of her jacket looked like it was awash with clouds thanks to extremely puffy rabbit fur, like a collection of the engine’s steam had settled on top of her shoulders. She took the ticket and tucked it into one of her large coat pockets, tipping her hat to Sandy as she walked on board.

She obviously knew what she was doing. She set to Sandy’s comfort and asked for bags she could help lift. Sandy couldn’t help but notice the rest of the car she was in was completely empty despite all of the warm lights being kept on. Sandy wondered if she was expecting anyone else. The rabbit pulled a large, thick disk of gold from one of her pockets and popped open a lid with a flick of a genuinely huge paw. Sandy took a moment to marvel at such large hands but then quickly looked out the window so she wouldn’t be caught staring. But Sandy couldn’t help but wonder if the conductor had trouble living with hands the size of dinner plates.

ALL ABOARD! NEXT STOP, FABLE!

The woman called out loudly to the platform and to the empty cars. Sandy swallowed hard as she looked behind her, expecting crowds to manifest that only the rabbit had seen before. No one came. Suddenly the absurdity of what was happening descended onto her. Were there really no other passengers? And they weren’t leaving on a schedule… The rabbit seemed so satisfied to see that Sandy had appeared.

As if responding to the rabbit’s yell, the train lurched forward and began to roll. Sandy leaned into the row and saw no one in the engine. With a small panic, she turned around and saw no one at all. Brilliant white steam hissed out from the sides of the train and fogged up the glass. Sandy’s fear began to peak. She leaned in to ask the conductor what was happening when the train’s speed suddenly increased. And it never levelled off… The train kept gaining speed and soon the platform had vanished behind them. The dark tunnel was all Sandy could see on either side.

“Hey! Should we be going this fast?” Sandy screamed up to the rabbit, who had taken a hold of a handle near the baggage cradles.

“Yeah! Gotta make up for lost time!” The woman shouted heartily as the train bounced and shook. All of the lamps were rocking and swinging back and forth as the cars jostled left and right. She looked out the window in fear. There were boards and debris tightly packed against the walls racing by like they were taking off in an airplane! She didn’t even know where this tunnel went! A mighty crash made Sandy sit back from the window as trash bags flew by! The engine was smashing through things!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaannnd… AaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAH!

The rabbit turned and fake-screamed back at her, raising both of her large hands in front of Sandy’s face.

We’re off!

One of her hands moved over to the window and she snapped her thick fingers at the glass. Color exploded past the window at that very instant, first as a bloom of light and then it melted away to streaks of colorful paint.

Sandy watched, stunned, as the world tore away exactly like paper would, ripping along the edges and falling away like a shredded bill fluttering into the trash. Her eyes were locked wide and her heart was beating so fast she couldn’t breathe. It had to be a dream.

This had to be a dream.