Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Jessica Wildersen

Dear Sarah,

Apologies for my lateness, but the train that was to carry me to West Hampshire seems to have broken as I have been trapped in this tunnel with no power for two days. Don’t worry about me for I am doing very well. To be honest, I’m actually finding this quite liberating. Sure, in the beginning, I was annoyed, but after a time it felt quite freeing. We fall into these repeated gestures in order to uphold the standards of society, but for what? To appease some unspoken form of dignity? Why?

A nice young woman gave me a pair of jeans and a dark green tank top to wear (or at least I think it was dark green, I couldn’t really tell because it was so dark) so I wouldn’t have to sit in my formal dress the whole time. It was very nice of her and she just happened to be my size. I must say, the clothes she gave me are extremely comfortable and honestly, I may want to start reserving formal wear for special occasions rather than everyday. Thankfully my boots, though high in heel, are very comfortable and supportive. Though they look a little silly with jeans and tank top, they are certainly better than going around barefoot.

I know what you must be thinking. “Barefoot!? On a train?” Well, the change in attire did want to make me take my boots off and kick my feet up, but instead, I’ve been constantly bustling around, helping out with the hard work. Now don’t scoff at me, but I think I rather enjoy getting my hands dirty. I’ve been helping out where I can and being of use to people. I figure if that nice young woman can help me out, than I can help out too. I helped collect useless junk from the various cars to use as fuel to make a fire. It’s amazing how much old useless junk is left hidden away in the compartments of the trains and the non-passenger cars. All in all, we found quite enough that we should be able to make a few more days worth of fires if we have too.

Speaking of fire, some of the men set up a table near the fire outside the train and started a card game called poker. I must say, it was quite fun and they were kind enough to let me have one of their cigars and some whiskey. I must say that I did not handle them well. It was really awful and I cannot figure out why men smoke and drink such things, but they seemed to get quite a kick out of me attempting it. That’s when I noticed the girl who’d given me the clothes earlier. She was standing in the shadows smoking a cigar and had seen the whole thing. She laughed and then gave me something of a nod of approval as if to say that it’s okay. I laughed and looked away somewhat embarrassed. I’d like to be friends with this woman, but when I looked back up, she was walking into the darkness. I only ever see her for very brief moments, but when I do, she always seems to be helping someone.

I’m afraid I must let you go, Sarah. The postman is coming around to collect the letters. He’s going to get help and has offered to take any messages we have with him. Hopefully we’ll be out of here soon, though I am grateful for the experience. It has taught me much.

Your friend,
Jessica Wildersen

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Nothing to be Afraid of

Such a peaceful relaxing night it’s been. Sitting there at your desk digging away through the splendors of the internet; or perhaps you’re sitting upon your bed or a comfy chair sloughing through a good book. It doesn’t really matter what it is you’re doing at the moment. You could be working on a puzzle for all that matters. The point is that it’s an incredibly peaceful night. And it’s these nights, my friend, that are the most fear inducing.

No, it’s not those stormy nights like the books always tell tales about. The crash of thunder, the flashes of lightning, and the loud pats of rainfall are all joys to the mind that reassure it everything will be alright. No, my dear friend, it’s those quiet peaceful nights that cause the greatest fear, the most internal panic. At least with a storm you know something is happening, but not with a peaceful night. No. Those are the nights where upon you finishing your activity whatever it may be, your mind suddenly becomes aware of the nothing that is going on.

Take for instance this very thing you are reading right now. Chances are that you are reading this on your monitor late in the evening, perhaps with some other creepy tales you’ve found on the world-wide web. Perhaps time has passed and this has somehow made its way to the Kindle or print format. Whatever format your current fancy, I believe it is safe to assume that you were most likely bored and decided to read some tales to tickle your imagination. What you may not have noticed is that the odds are in favor of it being an unexpectedly peaceful night.

Sure, you may sit up and take notice out the window at this very instant and hear the conversations of passersby or the sounds of rain and thunder. You laugh as think to yourself, “Ah-ha! But you are wrong Mr. Storyteller. It is indeed a normal evening.” And you, sir, would be a fool. It is not the now when you shall notice the nothing, but the then.

As you continue to read, your mind will slowly, but surely, begin to forget the words that I have just laid before you moments ago. Perhaps it will be by the end of this warning or perhaps you will read a few more stories. Perhaps it may be an evening where you are performing another quiet but solitary activity, but mark my words, by the time you are done you will forget and then you shall notice the nothing.

I can tell you precisely when it will happen, too! It will happen when you are finished reading and decide to retire for the evening. It will happen when you turn off your monitor, power down your Kindle, or close your book. That is when you will notice the nothing. Not a sound will come from the outside. Not the sound of rain, nor wind, nor automobile, nor man, nor cricket. If there are street lights at your home, they will either work perfectly or not at all. Not a flicker nor moving shadow shall be seen from them. Creaky floor boards and pipes will be unusually silent unless you are the one to cause them to do so with heavy footsteps or a turn of the faucet.

You’ll probably go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, but the nothing that you have now perceived has caused your mind to panic, looking for things that aren’t there and listening intently for even the slightest of noises. As you turn on the faucet, it seems so loud. It should be comforting, but the knowledge of the nothing has caused your brain to panic and now the normal comfort of the sound of rushing water serves only to distract you from it. You turn it off and brush your teeth, watching the mirror with suspicion. You will freeze slightly under the feeling that you may see something from the other room in the reflection watching you.

You’ll laugh and tell yourself there is nothing there. And you would be right. Nothing is there. Nonetheless, you’ll rinse with relative quickness just in case. After perhaps doing any other bathroom business, you will make your way through the home making sure all the doors are locked and all the lights are out. And though you know for certain that nothing is there, your brain tells you that something is there in the nothing and as such, you have to look anyhow. Every window, every open closet, and the space between the bed and the floor is carefully eyed with cautious diligence. Just in case.

Getting into bed, you’ll probably chuckle about how silly you’re being. It’s just your mind acting up from reading ghost stories all night. But wait…you weren’t reading ghost stories this time were you? You were reading Huck Finn. Or where you up all night working on your taxes? It doesn’t matter. The point is, you could have been doing anything when you noticed the nothing.

You will get to sleep relatively quickly. Sure, you may be on edge a bit, but the nothing won’t keep you awake and you’re tired. In the morning you will wake up refreshed, most likely forgetting how unnatural the nothing was the night before. Or if you do remember it, you’ll probably have a good laugh of it with your friends and share a few stories.

The scientists say these incidents are our minds just playing little tricks on us and they would be right most of the time. Yet as disconnected as we may be, we cannot be fully separated from nature and everyone knows, albeit subconsciously, that nothing is completely unnatural. What if one night you were to learn that there really is nothing to be afraid of?