“GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!” Chelsi screamed as her body was suddenly lurched forward, buckling her knees and slamming them into the metal bench of the train’s third class passenger seating. But no one could hear her over the train’s screeching. She gripped the back rest of the bench and braced herself the oncoming halt of the train car.
As the trains pace quicken, the screeching soften so that Chelsi could hear her friend Jason’s wet laughter, “This mother fucking train! You just don’t know what the train’s gonna do!”
It’s true, in the truest sense of itself, Chelsi thought, gripping the bench tighter. It was hard to keep herself from relaxing. She knew, as soon as she let go the train would come to an abrupt halt, probably throwing me on to the ground. And sure enough, in a matter of moments the train car’s wheels let out a deafening screech, and Chelsi was jerked backwards.
Quickly, she relaxed her position and started re-stuffing her backpack before the train engineer decided to give ‘going forward’ another try. “Neal!” Chelsi called over her shoulder. “Are you still glad we decided to take the train back to Zambia?” She risked a quick glance over her shoulder to see his reaction.
“Are you kidding?” A semi-smile was stretched over his face. “This is great. We get to see the train derail, then we get to see it fixed. And look how fast and kind of efficient it’s getting fixed.” Neal took a quick glance at his watch, “We’re only a total of 18 hours behind schedule. Had the train derailed another 30 kilometers further, in Zambia, we would have been screwed.”
“But so, do you think this means we’re leaving the dining car behind?” Jason asked with a serious thread of concern in his voice. But before anyone could inject their opinion the train car door towards the back of the train slid open.
“If you could all go back to your first class cabin now,” a portly Zambian sounding man instructed them. “We will be starting again soon, and the next stop there are dangerous people. You need to go fast, fast.” His last fast, fast was covered up by the sudden forward lurch and screech of the train, and Jason, Sami, Neal and Chelsi being nearly thrown on to the floor.
When all had recovered the portly Zambian man gave them one more “fast, fast,” before exiting the car. Their group followed closely behind, with Chelsi at the rear. They reach out and steadied themselves using the back of the benches, when Neal turned around asking Chelsi to go back and make sure nothing was left behind.
She was double checking under the bench, when she heard the train car door slide open behind her. Looking over her shoulder she saw another Zambian man, a short skin one, compared to the portly gentleman of before. Righting herself, Chelsi made her way towards him and the exit to the car.
“Mad ‘am, I just want you to give me,” he started.
But Chelsi cut him off, “No, I’m giving you anything.”
“But mad ’am,”
“No!” She yelled, and the whole train car went dark. What did he mean when he said ‘there are dangerous people at the next stop? It had been a long time since Chelsi last felt uneasy in Zambia. When the train pulled out of the tunnel, Chelsi pushed past the man standing and front of her and hurried to the back of the train to be with her friends.
She reach first class cabin number six and pulled back the door. “Oh look! It was nice of them to remake our beds.” Chelsi surveyed the small cabin; two bench-bunks against either wall with a short table between, and above one more bunks above each lower bench-bunk. Laid out across the tight leather bound foam of each bunk was a blanket, bed sheet and pillow. “Neal can you help me get this up there?” Chelsi motioned her hand to the luggage compartment above the door way.
“Sure,” and he stood up, relieving her of backpack, hoisting it above his head and into the alcove. But before he could properly regain his seat, he was jerked back into it by the stopping of the train car. Chelsi’s shoulder was slammed into the door frame.
Jason laughed, “God damn, it was not like this when Tyler and I took the train last time.”
“What do you think that guy meant when he said ‘there were dangerous people’ at the next stop?” Sami ask push the blonde strands of her hair out of her eyes. Just then there was a sudden thud that shook the floor, but distinctly different from the lurching and jerking of the train so far. Chelsi peered out, down the hallway, to see 200 kg worth of rice sacking being pushed into the train car by a Zambian man on the train platform.
“Holy moly you guy, you’d better see this,” and Chelsi left the cabin doorway for the window just across, Jason, Sami and Neal closely behind. Hanging their heads out the window they could see a people mobbing the train cars at the head of the train, pushing all sorts of goods through the doors and windows; mattresses, bags of maize and mealie meal, boxes of dishwares, baskets of fish.
Neal turned back towards his friends from the window, “good thing that guy came by and told us to get out of there fast!”
“Looks like we’re not in Tanzania any more Toto,” Chelsi sighed.