I’ve been there exactly three times.
No one else has ever been. No one I know, anyway.
I Googled it, of course—checked every single forum, blog post, and conspiracy video possible. Literally everywhere you’d think there’d be shady, niche information, I’ve been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. No dice at all.
So if you’re reading this, if something in this story feels oddly familiar, it’s very possible that you might’ve visited the Midway Station. And I want you to know that you aren’t crazy, that it was real.
Trust me. Please. It saved my life.
My name is Riley. The first time I visited the Midway Station, I was twelve.
February 23rd, 2008
Ellie was already waiting for me when I knocked on her door.
She drew it open swiftly, ushering me into her room. Percy was already sitting on her bed, wide-eyed and innocent. Small. Faintly, I registered he was wearing his favorite pajamas—a Snoopy-patterned flannel shirt and matching pants.
“Riles?” Percy gazed up at me.
I can’t cry. Not in front of Percy. Not in front of—
“Perce,” I said, swallowing down a terrible dryness in my throat. And then I burst into tears.
“Don’t cry!” Ellie sounded panicked. She picked me up, grunting with the effort—I might’ve been skinny, but I was still twelve and her only fifteen—and set me on the bed next to Percy. “Don’t—shh, shh, it’s okay.”
“Riles, why are you crying?” My brother’s voice was tremulous.
“Percy, no, it’s okay, everything’s fine,” Ellie soothed, tugging him closer to her. She wrapped him in a blanket and then a firm hug. Percy didn’t cry, much to Ellie’s relief, but he sniffled a bit and leaned in closer to her.
I saw Ellie’s desk, still covered with homework material. Her headphones were thrown onto the papers, hastily discarded. She must’ve grabbed Percy first when it started. I should’ve felt bitter, but I wasn’t—Percy was just eight, after all.
I tried to stop crying. My bottom lip shook and wobbled, but I managed to stop the tears. Percy looked at me and leaned his head on my side. I wrapped an arm around him.
Ellie looked at us, and there’s a look in her eyes I shuddered away from. It wasn’t anger—it was tired and weary and so utterly worn down. It was a gaze that no fifteen-year-old should’ve been wearing. She made sure we were both comfortable before sliding off the bed, going over to the door and locking it.
“Oreos or M&Ms?” she asked us, making her way to her desk and withdrawing a box from under it.
I nudged my brother. “What do you think, Perce?”
“M&Ms,” Percy said, only he was half-muffled by the blanket so it came out sounding like em-nems.
Ellie procured a large, family-sized pack of M&Ms and tossed it over to the bed. Percy jumped on them. We stayed like that for a while—Ellie at her desk, Percy leaning against me and nibbling on M&Ms—and for a while everything was okay. Just the three of us.
It might’ve been not an hour later that we began to hear them yelling. Again.
Again about the drinking. I have a life, is that so bad?
Ellie winced, glancing over at us. Percy had fallen asleep just a few minutes ago. It was 11 P.M., after all, well past his bedtime.
I could’ve pictured it. Mom and Dad standing in the kitchen where I’d left them, the broken glass still on the floor from where Dad dropped it. They wouldn’t have cleaned it up. It would’ve had to be me or Ellie the next day.
You’re delusional. You don’t even care.
I wished they would stop yelling. I wished they weren’t so loud. Wished I hadn’t gone downstairs for a glass of milk earlier.
I’m delusional? You’re the one who wanted kids.
Beside me, Percy shifted, murmuring something unintelligible in his sleep. I shushed him, drawing the blankets up, and he bunched it on his own, cuddling it like he would with his stuffed bear.
What does that have to do with anything?
Their conversation slipped off, not loud enough to travel upstairs and down the hall. I buried my head in Ellie’s pillows. She looked over at me. “You doing alright, bud?”
We both knew the answer to that. She was trying, but maybe the two of us combined could protect Percy—neither one of us was strong enough to protect each other entirely.
I nodded anyway. She sighed and came over to the bed. “Scoot.”
I did. She sat down. “It’s not fair, you know.”
“What’s not fair?”
“That I have to be Mom, basically.”
“You’re not Mom.”
“I know,” Ellie said with a sudden vehemence. I blinked and managed not to shrink away. “I don’t want to be Mom, either. But I… I can’t just sit there and do nothing. I need to protect you. If it weren’t for you and Perce, I’d be fine. But you two…”
And then Ellie started crying. She never cried. Not in front of me and Percy.
Even as I tried to clumsily soothe her, offering hugs and pats, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was somehow my fault. Ellie crying, Mom and Dad fighting, all of it. If it weren’t for me, Ellie would feel less pressure. Maybe Mom wouldn’t have to worry about the bills that much. Then they wouldn’t argue as often.
If I hadn’t gone down for that glass of milk…
Ellie fell asleep soon after her tears stopped. It was maybe midnight when I trudged back to my room. One A.M. when I finally fell asleep, tears still drying on my face, Ellie’s desolation still clear in my mind.
If it weren’t for you and Perce, I’d be fine.
Riles? Riles, why are you crying?
When I woke up, I wasn’t in my bedroom.
The floor was hard beneath my back, and there was sunlight shining on my face. For a second, I thought maybe I’d rolled off my bed in my sleep, that it was morning already.
But then my eyes fluttered open, and there was an unfamiliar woman peering at me, looking concerned, and I yelped in surprise, scrambling backward.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” the woman said. She had a vaguely British accent. I thought of Mary Poppins—we’d watched the movie together earlier that month, piled together on our couch, and Percy had giggled in delight when Ellie and I’d tried to pronounce Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But she wasn’t Mary Poppins—she was a stranger, and I was in a strange place, and where was Mom and Dad?
“Riley. It’s alright.” The woman had her hands outstretched, as if to calm me.
“Who—Who are—Where am—” I stammered, scrambling to my feet. I looked around my surroundings. We were standing in the main hall of a large, almost cavernous building, with giant windows stretching to the ceiling, letting in sun.
There was no one else in the building but us. My confused words echoed in the empty air, bouncing off the walls.
“Riley,” the woman said. She had brown hair, coiled neatly on the top of her head, and a prim blue suit jacket over a flowing dress. Another, more pressing thought crossed my mind—how did she know my name? “You’re okay. Calm down.”
I gulped down air. “Where am I?”
The woman looked thoughtful. “That depends.”
Instead of answering, she reached into her pockets and pulled out a wrapped piece of candy. “Here.”
I eyed the candy warily. “I shouldn’t take candy from strangers.”
That earned me a smile. “Smart kid. I promise these are safe.”
Still shaking my head, I backed away a bit more. “So where am I? Who are you?”
“Where do you think you are?” she asked me, pocketing the candy. “Does this place look familiar?”
Frustrated that she wasn’t answering me, I looked around the building again. Slowly, it began to look clearer. A wave of nostalgia swept through me as I recalled a trip our family had taken to New York City when I was just ten—we’d visited all the tourist attractions; Central Park, the Empire State Building, all of it.
Back then, Mom and Dad didn’t argue—at least not in front of us. Everything had been fine.
“Looks like Grand…” I struggled to remember the name. “Grand Terminal.”
“Grand Central Terminal?” The woman looked thoughtful, and nodded. “You know what? I see it.”
The colors began unfolding—the slight golden hue that the station had, along with the turquoise-blue of the ceiling—and my eyes widened as Grand Central Terminal coalesced before my eyes. “Is it magic?”
“Kind of. But not really.” She smiled at the expression on my face. “I’m sorry. I know you want answers, Riley. Sometimes I just can’t give them to you. Although… You did ask who I am.”
“If this is a train station, Riley, then I would be the Conductor, I suppose.”
“So you can get me home?” Home, where Percy and Ellie and Mom and Dad were. Where the crying and yelling was.
“If that’s what you want, yes.” The woman—the Conductor—offered me a hand. “Come. Let’s walk.”
I took her hand, and she led me down the main hall. It took only a few turns until we reached a train terminal, completely empty.
“This is your boarding terminal,” she said.
“I can go home?”
“Hang on, Riley.” The Conductor smiled at me. “Every hour, two trains come into the station. One will take you home. One will take you away.”
“Away?” I blinked. “Where?”
“Wherever you’d like to go,” she replied. “You’d just keep going.”
A lyric from one of Mom’s favorite old songs popped into my mind. She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere. I wondered if that was what she meant. I’ve always liked the idea of going anywhere—I liked the idea of travelling the world.
“I wouldn’t have to listen to them argue anymore?”
Her face suddenly turned sad. “No, Riley. You wouldn’t have to.”
“And I could go anywhere I wanted?”
“Anywhere,” she agreed. And for a second I wanted to board the away train. I didn’t want to go back home, where I would have to clean the broken glass up and pretend everything’s fine with Mom and Dad. I wanted to leave, go somewhere new, where I wouldn’t have to worry about Percy or make Ellie sad.
“But,” the Conductor added, “you wouldn’t be able to see them again. Ever.”
Never see them again?
I frowned. “I don’t want that.”
“Are you sure?”
Home, home, home. I couldn’t imagine a world without it, of course. Even if it hurt, it would always be home to me.
“Yes,” I said, stepping away from her.
The Conductor smiled at me, and it was an ineffably gentle smile. As if on cue, the faint sounds of trains arriving started increasing in volume. “I do believe that’s your ride, then. Don’t forget—it’s black to go back.”
She extended the piece of candy to me again. I didn’t even see her reach for it. “A snack for the journey.”
I hesitated, then accepted it. Unwrapped it.
It was an M&M.
Despite myself, I giggled, and looked up to find the Conductor gone.
The train came roaring into the station, and the force of it knocked me backwards. It was a very typical train, save that it was entirely black, gleaming so bright it seemed freshly painted. The doors were already open.
I boarded the train. As it pulled out of the terminal, I strained to catch sight of the receding station, but I started feeling sleepy. The seats were soft, the train was warm…
I fell asleep before the sunlight even hit the train.
I cracked my eyes open, feeling the familiar softness of my bed. Percy was knocking at my door. “Perce?”
“Wake up! Dad made brownies,” Percy shouted through the door. I heard his footsteps sounding, presumably running downstairs for said brownies, which I could smell in the air already—chocolate and vanilla and coffee. My mouth watered.
For a second, I thought it’d been just an odd dream. Then I sat up groggily, and my hand landed on something that crinkled beneath my palm. The candy wrapper from the Conductor.
I held it up to the sunlight, gaping at it.
“Riley!” Dad called from downstairs, cheerful and loud as if last night never was. “It’s first come first serve!”
“Coming!” I yelled back, stomach rumbling. Going over to my closet, I found an old shoebox that I put the candy wrapper in—just in case I needed prove to myself again that it did happen.
But first things first: Brownies.
It wouldn’t be for years after that that I realized if I’d taken the other train, I would’ve never woken up. Percy would’ve found me on my bed, lifeless and unresponsive.
I thank gods I don’t believe in every day that I chose to board the black train that night. Percy would’ve been so confused, Ellie heartbroken, and my parents…
Twelve-year-old me wouldn’t forget about the Midway Station, although it wouldn’t consume my waking thoughts like it did after the second time. I suppose when you’re just a kid, everything seems a whole lot more easily acceptable than they are.
Santa Claus? Sure. The Tooth Fairy? Yeah. Magical train stations? Well, why not?
I visited the Midway Station again when I was sixteen. It was less pleasant that time.
July 19th, 2012
There was already a bottle of pills on my bedside counter, along with a cup of tap water and a folded note. The note had been carefully penned over the course of several nights. There was a candy wrapper tucked in it.
I tried Skyping Ellie again, fingers fumbling on the keyboard of my secondhand laptop. She didn’t answer. Again.
Percy. Outside my bedroom door. He knocked, then tried the door handle, which had its lock removed but was jammed nonetheless with my desk chair. “Riles, please.”
“Go away.” I slammed my laptop shut.
“Mom says she wants—”
“You can tell Mom to shove it—” My voice broke, and I laughed inexplicably, a dry and desperate sound. “Tell her to shut the hell up and shove it because I don’t even care anymore, Perce!”
She clearly didn’t care about me. Why should I?
Ellie leaving for university had been bad enough. Then my grades had started slipping. I’d gotten less sleep with every night that passed, which only made everything worse because my temper grew short and horrible. I was failing all my classes because I kept falling asleep in them, and failing my family because I didn’t know how to act otherwise.
Then Dad found out I’d been stealing sleeping pills from the bathroom and Mom found out about my grades. Ellie started ignoring my calls, or picking up and sounding disappointed. Percy looked hurt every time I snapped at him, which only made me angrier at myself—what happened to protecting him, Riley? What happened?
I heard a slump against my door. Sometimes Percy did this—sits outside my door, leaning against it, and falls asleep there. I’d only found out after I tried sneaking out of my room for the bathroom one night and he fell backwards into my room.
“Percy, don’t,” I said, hopelessly.
“Riley,” came the answer, small and scared. “Please open the door.”
Percy was too smart for his age. Too smart, too mature.
“Please, Riles.” He was crying now, and I wanted to bury my head in my pillows and scream, because when Percy cried I couldn’t help but cry, too. “Don’t—don’t lock me out.”
The darkness came suddenly, my muscles weakening and giving way. I collapsed against my headboard, overwhelming fatigue overtaking me, and my eyelids drooped. It was a familiar feeling that I loathed.
“Percy,” I tried to say. I’m sorry.
But I was already asleep.
Narcolepsy. That’s what the psychologist had said, my parents hovering over me at my school-mandated appointment. A condition that messed with my sleep and had me falling unconscious suddenly.
It’d explained a lot, but just knowing about it didn’t help. I still pulled unwilling all-nighters, still fell asleep in classes, was still labelled lazy and slacking. Useless. Hopeless.
Typically, I woke up feeling completely unrefreshed, but not this time. When I opened my eyes, I felt… rejuvenated, for the first time in a long while. That feeling alone was almost enough to make me laugh.
But then I realized where I was.
“This seems familiar,” I said aloud, standing up. I stared at the blue-green arching ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. The memory of my last encounter was shockingly vivid—but then again, how could I forget it?
“It should,” came a familiar voice.
I whirled and found Ellie standing right next to me. My first thought was dread, horror—no, she couldn’t be here, that would mean—
“It’s not actually me,” Ellie reassured. She was wearing the clothes she’d worn on the day she left for college—a flannel shirt and jeans. “Riley. You’re okay.”
Not actually Ellie. The dread and fear receded, quickly being replaced by another surging emotion. Bitterness.
Before I could think, the words had left my mouth. “You left us.”
My sister’s face contorted. “I didn’t have a choice, Riles.”
“No, no,” I pushed. “Ellie, you left me. You promised you’d protect me and Perce, but now it’s like you were never here.”
She hesitated. “I don’t understand.”
“You promised,” I seethed, “that you would protect us. And now you’re gone and you don’t even call and I’ve gone and fucked it all up, fucked it up royally, and I’ve hurt Percy far more than I can ever fix, and you promised you would be there for us but you weren’t.”
“Riles.” Ellie held out her hands, as if she wanted to embrace me, but withdrew them quickly. “Riley.”
I turned away. “Where’s the terminal, Ellie?”
A long pause. Then a sigh. “This way.”
We walked down the main hall, every footstep echoing tenfold in the still air. The terminal was as empty as the last time I’d been here. “When’s the next train getting here?”
“About fifteen minutes,” Ellie replied. She sat down on a bench. I stayed standing. “Do you want a snack?”
I shook my head no, looking pointedly ahead.
“Do you remember that time we went on that road trip to California,” Ellie started after a few minutes, “and the car broke down somewhere in New Mexico? Dad was trying to fix the car, Mom wanted to call a tow service, and Percy climbed onto the roof to stargaze?”
I remembered. “We had to spend the night in the car.”
“Yeah, and it was miserable, wasn’t it?” Ellie chuckled. “Percy ended up sleeping on us.”
I knew what she was trying to do, but nonetheless I smiled. “He did eventually see the stars, though.” We’d woken up and panicked once we realized Percy was missing, until we found him lying on the roof. He’d been having the time of his life.
The nostalgia faded fast, replaced by quiet once more. I leaned against a pillar and waited for the white train to arrive.
If I didn’t wake up, Percy would be heartbroken. So would my parents. But they would recover from the loss eventually—slowly but surely.
If I stuck around… well, I didn’t think I could stand seeing them being hurt any longer—being hurt because of me. Couldn’t bear another disappointed look from my parents, another pleading glance from Percy. Better to amputate the limb before the infection spread, and all that.
I only wished Percy wouldn’t be the one to find me.
“I’m sorry things got worse after I left.” Ellie’s voice was soft. “I’m sorry you had to deal with that alone.”
The sound of the trains started building up—distant, but approaching.
“Riley.” Ellie sounded more insistent. “Riley, look at me.”
I did. She held out something wrapped in a napkin.
“Something for the road,” she said softly. I took it. Unwrapped it.
“Dad’s brownies?” Lifting it to my nose, I inhaled the familiar scent deeply. Dad always made his brownies with extra vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Back when he did make them.
Ellie was watching me, eyes wide. “You’re never alone, you know. Not really.”
The trains rolled into the station, black and white streaks, slowing to a stop. I held the brownie tight and headed for the white train. It was pristine and glowing, clean and pure. I entered the train and found an empty seat.
Outside the window, Ellie—the Conductor—was gone.
I took a small bite of the brownie. It was still warm, as if freshly-baked, and tasted of chocolate and love and a happier time. I could almost hear Dad calling us downstairs, Percy’s laughter as we fought over the corner pieces.
No, I couldn’t leave them, not yet. I had too much to say to Ellie, to Percy. To Mom and Dad. The note I left was filled with bitter words I didn’t mean, words meant to tear and hurt. I couldn’t have them thinking I died hating them.
The train began moving, leaving the station—my way home—behind. I leapt out of my seat, sprinting down the train for the first door I found. I tried the handle. It gave way, slipping open, and I stared down at the moving ground. The train was picking up speed by the second. All too soon, it’d a fatal leap.
Jump, Riley. Percy’s voice, desperate and raspy and right outside my bedroom door. Please.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
And I jumped.
I woke up sore and aching, but I woke up.
The clock on my nightstand read 3:19 A.M., and yet when I threw open my door, Percy was fully awake. He lunged at me, wrapping me in a hug so tight I could barely breathe. “Are you okay? Riley, are you—”
“I’m fine, Perce,” I gasped. “Air.”
He loosened his hold but didn’t let go. Voice breaking horribly, he croaked, “I thought you left.”
“I wouldn’t,” I lied. I almost did.
“Ellie left us,” Percy managed, and he was crying now. The kid could barely get his words out, but he did anyway, clutching at my shirt like it was a lifeline, like if he let go I’d disappear right there. “She left us, and it’s just you and me now, and Mom and Dad aren’t the same and everything’s changing and Ellie’s gone and I can’t lose you too.”
A dam inside me broke, and I held him tight. He was small, too small. I could feel his ribs through his shirt and I realized, belatedly, that he’d probably skipped dinner to camp outside my bedroom door.
“I’m not going anywhere, Perce,” I whisper. “I’m not going anywhere.”
A promise. One more promise. A promise that I would keep, this time.
And I did. I got better, the pain of jumping off the train echoing like a phantom hurt whenever I started slipping.
I thought about the Station day and night for years after that second visit. Wondered if I’d just officially lost it. After doing some asking around, I realized I was better off keeping that experience to myself at the risk of being checked into an asylum.
By the time I was headed to college, my therapist had officially ended my antidepressant prescription. Percy and I, we’d celebrated with ice cream—I’d gotten chocolate with strawberries and marshmallows, and he’d bought a heaping strawberry sundae. He’d always loved strawberry.
I thought, back then, that my encounters with the Midway Station were over. I was older. I’d enrolled in college, kept weekly appointments with a therapist, and had medication for my narcolepsy.
It should’ve been over.
But then Percy got into that car accident.
And he didn’t wake up.
The third time I visited the Midway Station was the day we buried my brother. I was twenty-one years old, and Percy was gone.
January 23rd, 2018
The funeral was small. Quiet. It was me, Mom, Dad, Ellie, and a few family friends and relatives. None of us felt particularly like talking.
I stared at the tombstone. Percy Sonner, 2000 ~ 2018. He’d just turned eighteen, just got his official driver’s license—he’d been so excited about it, too.
Look where that got him.
“Riley,” Ellie said softly, coming up to me. “We’re going home.”
I should’ve been there with him.
“I’ll stay for a while.” I couldn’t look away. “Call an Uber later, or something.”
“Ellie.” I turned back to look at her, and instead I saw a stranger. I might’ve loved her, once—my sister, but now a stranger nonetheless, who I hadn’t yet forgiven for leaving me and Percy behind. “Ellie, go home.”
I sat down next to Percy’s tombstone. A few minutes later, I heard her leave. Again.
“It’s just you and me now, bud,” I said softly to the grave. “I’m not going anywhere.”
It was so quiet in the graveyard.
Percy would’ve hated it—he’d grown to love music and chatter and noise. He couldn’t stand the quiet. I had a guess that it reminded him too much of the quiet in the house that’d lingered when Ellie had left and I’d closed him out, all those years ago.
“I promised I wouldn’t leave you, Perce,” I told the empty air. The winter chill nipped at my face, my exposed skin. “And instead you left me first.”
A soft laugh. “Better it this way than the other, though.”
I leaned against his tombstone, hating how the cold marble felt but hoping, unreasonably, that maybe I could keep him company, warm him up. I thought back to Ellie’s bedroom, Percy leaning sleepily against me, wrapped in a blanket but wanting more warmth nonetheless.
I fell asleep that way, against the marble, seeking comfort from a brother who was no longer there.
The universe was either very cruel or very kind, I decided, when I woke up on the floor of the Midway Station. Very cruel or very kind to give me that last bit of hope, of redemption, before everything was irrevocably damaged.
Then I stood up, and realized that the universe just had a twisted sense of humor.
But not the Percy I knew.
This was Percy when he’d been eight, curled up next to me on Ellie’s bed. The Percy who had a chipped tooth and giggled when Ellie poked his nose, who I’d tried so hard to protect. Who I’d failed.
“Perce,” I murmured. My brother looked up at me, still wearing the pajamas he’d been wearing that night of my first visit—Snoopy and plaid.
“Riles?” he asked. I’d forgotten how small his voice had been back then.
“It’s me.” My voice broke. And of course I should’ve expected to wake up in the Midway Station, should’ve expected that it would be Percy.
It didn’t make it hurt any less.
“Why are you crying?” Percy sounded worried.
“I—” I wiped away my tears hastily. “I missed you.”
He blinked. “I missed you too—oof!” I enveloped him in a tight hug, squeezing so tightly he coughed.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “I should’ve been there—should’ve been there for you, I promised I’d be there for you and I failed you and I’m so sorry, Percy.”
All the words I never got to say to him.
“You didn’t fail me,” Percy said, voice muffled by my shirt.
It’s only a matter of time. I released him before I decided to never let him go. I took in the sight of him, my little brother, all wide eyes and Snoopy pajamas, before saying, “Let’s go, then. Lead the way.”
Percy nodded solemnly, a kid taking his responsibility wholeheartedly. He took my hand and retraced the same steps I’d taken two times before, and we soon arrived in the terminal. It looked exactly the same. Of course it did. I was the only thing that would ever change here.
“Black to go back,” Percy intoned.
“I’m not going back.”
He looked at me. “You’re not?”
“There’s nothing for me back there.”
“There’s college,” Percy said. “And Ellie. Mom and Dad.”
“Yeah, but…” But I’m so tired. So utterly drained. I’ve taken everything life’s thrown at me but it just doesn’t end, Perce, and I’m so tired.
“Everything good I ever did,” I said instead, the words hard to get out, “Staying alive, getting therapy, getting better—I did it all for you.”
I did it all for you and now you’re gone.
“I wish you didn’t,” Percy said, surprising me. Seeing the confusion on my face, he pressed on. “Riley, I love you. But you should’ve started living for yourself a long time ago.”
I laughed bitterly. “Too late for that.”
“No, it’s not,” he said thoughtfully. So wise, for an eight-year-old.
The trains arrived soon, the two of us still hand-in-hand as they slowed and stopped. I looked at the one that would take me away, then back at Percy. “Come with me.”
“Onto the white train.” Stay with me.
“Riles, I can’t.” Percy released my hand. “You have to let me go.”
“I can still—”
“You can’t,” he snapped. It was odd hearing him angry. Through the years, he’d been many things—cheerful, sad, scared, hopeful, even desolate—but never angry. “If you board the white train, it means you’re letting go of all of it. Me, Ellie, everyone. That’s the whole point of the white train—you lose it all.
“If you board the black train, if you go back, you still have to let me go. But you’ll have everything else. The grief, maybe, and the pain—but you’ll have yourself, and your life ahead of you.” Percy’s eyes shone bright with tears. “You lose me either way.”
“Then I’ll stay!” I shouted, the empty terminal echoing my words back. “I’ll stay here with you—”
“No!” But the trains were already leaving the station. I watched them go with a sort of finality. Once they left, I knew, there was no going back.
“Riley, listen to me.” Percy grabbed my hands. “You promised me once you weren’t going anywhere. Your promise is fulfilled—you stayed ‘till the end, you stayed with me all the way.”
“I don’t want you to stay here.” He enunciated every word. “Do you understand, Riley? I want you home. I want you to live. You promised I wouldn’t lose you—and if you stay, I will lose you, because you’ll have nothing to live for.”
The black train was picking up speed. Percy gripped my hands tighter and I stared at them, at his small hands wrapped tightly around mine, and I tried desperately to memorize how it felt as tears blurred my vision. “Riley. I want you to live. Please.”
“I don’t want to lose you again,” I sobbed. But I understood.
“You won’t lose me,” Percy said. “You never have.”
Then he let me go, and I was running, sprinting for the black train before it left me behind entirely, running for the door, for my way back home. I flung my arm out. My legs burned with the strain of keeping up, but I ran like my life depended on it. It did.
I caught the edge of the open door. Grabbing hold with both hands, I gave one last burst of speed before hauling myself into the train, my heart pounding and muscles aching.
Stumbling to my feet, I tried to catch one last sight of Percy before it was too late, praying he hadn’t vanished like the past Conductors did.
Percy waved back at me from the terminal. He had a grin on his face—a wide, toothy grin, as if there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
You’re never alone, you know. Not really.
As I watched Percy wave goodbye, growing smaller as the train gained speed, I understood what the Conductor meant all those years ago. Percy would never really be gone. It wasn’t so easy. Letting go would never be so easy.
Once he was out of sight, I sat down. Dried the tears from my face.
Then I closed my eyes, and waited for home.
just another teenage daydream is now available on Amazon! Filled with poems, a couple of short stories (including The Midway Station), and illustrations, this small anthology is the story of a kid whose mind has never shut up. Hopefully, all those restless years will have amounted to something.
Thanks for reading, dear reader. See you around?