With lethargic eyes, I stared blankly out of the window at the trees and fields rushing by. The gentle sway and rhythm of the train on the rails lulled me. Suddenly there was a jolt, and I sat up quickly, alarmed. Then I saw we were approaching the city, and the train now glided seamlessly over new rails. Buildings rushed by, brown-grey, drab concrete buildings. Buildings with windows, buildings without. Apartment buildings and warehouses. But they were all of the same hue, the dull color of concrete – cold, blank, and indifferent.
“I might as well live in the age of the black-and-white camera,” I thought dully, “so much color is there in the world.” And with other similar thoughts, I settled back in my seat as the train still slid seamlessly along the rails. I saw a dark, black tunnel ahead. Without warning, the train accelerated towards the tunnel. Faster and faster we went. Suddenly it was dark. Still we went faster. Becoming frightened, I leaned forward in my seat, trying to peer into the darkness of the tunnel. Still we zoomed along at this incredible speed. Then there was a terrific bump so big I thought surely we had come off the track. Then the train slowed, slowed, slowed and smoothly came to a stop.
There was silence. I looked around and waited.
Then over the loudspeaker came the words, “This is the end of the line. All passengers will please exit at this station.” I felt myself standing up and getting out of the train. There was a platform with a single bench. I tried to read the station sign because I couldn’t remember there ever being a station in the tunnel, but the sign was recondite, and I couldn’t read it. I saw a woman get out of the train further up the platform, and then without a sound, the train glided away and disappeared into the darkness. With confusion that grew by the second, I searched for stairs that would lead above ground, but I could see nothing in the intense gloom. Panicking, I tried again to read the station sign, but to no avail.
“If you’re looking for a way out, there isn’t one,” a voice made me jump. The woman I had seen getting out of the train stood next to me. “You’ll have to wait for the next train,” she said, peering at me through her hideous, pink-tinted, cracked glasses. Something about her glasses shook and disturbed me, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.
With a hoarse voice I managed to ask her, “How often do the trains come?” She paused and reflected a moment and then replied, “I can’t really say; they aren’t very consistent.” Terrified at the strange circumstances, the woman with her hideous glasses, the station sign I couldn’t read, and the train that seemed to have a mind of its own, I shivered and moved closer to the lone streetlamp shining on the bench. The woman moved with me as if she and I were one unit. I sat on the bench, and she sat down likewise. Shaking with fright, I croaked out, “What is the name of this station?”
She glanced up at the station sign and said, “You can read it for yourself, can’t you?” I shook my head. She looked puzzled for a moment, but then a look of understanding crossed her face. She took off her glasses and held them out to me. With horror, I shrank back from her. Still holding out the glasses, she said, “Try these on and see if you can read it.” Then I noticed that she had her eyes closed very tightly as if she didn’t want to let a single ray of light in. Trembling, I gathered up the shreds of my courage and took the glasses. I paused, then put them on.
Instantly, like a deflating balloon, all my fear left me, and I gasped at what I saw. Everything was a rosy pink color. I could read the station sign easily now; the walls of the tunnel had beautiful, bright murals painted on them. The station’s name was “Illusion,” but everything looked very real to me. The woman’s voice floated to me.
“Can you read the sign now?” she asked. I looked over at her and was amazed to see that her skin was pale blue, and her hair was a lovely pink color.
“Yes, I can read the sign,” I answered the woman in wonder, “and I can see such things!”
“Yes,” the woman laughed, her eyes still tightly shut.
I looked down at my own skin and saw that it was a dark, forest green; my hair made a beautiful contrast with a mix of silver and gold. I heard a rumbling in the distance and looked down the tunnel which was now ablaze with many colored lights. A magnificent silver train glided towards the platform, and as it moved, it reflected the colored light all around the tunnel. With the woman at my side, I boarded the train, and it moved away from the platform. I stared out of the window in awe as the murals flashed by. Here I saw a cheetah running beside us, there a splendid purple castle. Presently the train left the tunnel and emerged into the city. All the concrete buildings now were overlaid with gold and silver, and intense colored light shone on everything. Looking up into the green sky, I saw the sun, a sphere that shone first green light, then pink, purple, blue, silver, and gold. I gazed out at the pink city as the sun turned purple, coloring the city purple.
A thought nagged at me. Everything seemed so unreal. Even as the thought crossed my mind, the sun turned everything an intense blue, and the woman said, “Keep the glasses for as long as you’d like.”
Suddenly I was afraid, more afraid than I had been in the dark tunnel.
“I don’t want your glasses,” I shouted at the woman, and I started to take them off.
She pushed the glasses back on as the city turned a brilliant silver and said, “Please keep them on.”
“No!” I screamed as the city turned a radiant gold, and with a mighty effort, I tore the glasses from my face.
Instantly it was dark. I could see the end of the tunnel ahead, and the train rocked and swayed toward it. We emerged from the tunnel, and the drab, ugly, gray-brown concrete buildings greeted me. The woman was nowhere to be seen. I put my hand to my face and was surprised to feel glasses. I took them off and gazed out of the window. With delight in reality, I wondered at the stark and simple concrete buildings. They were beautiful.