The last train arrived at about a quarter past one. By then, the stragglers had cleared the station, and the few who remained didn’t have anywhere else to go. It was winter, and they were all wrapped up to their ears in rags patched together haphazardly. One of them peeked out periodically from within his little cloth-cove, and the eyes widened as the train groaned in.
A single passenger stepped out. Dressed primly in a brown trench-coat, and carrying a briefcase, he looked rather out of place in this sleepy old station. He was well built, and had a smile on his face that betrayed wonder at the world around him: he stared at everything as if he had imagined all of it into being.
The man peeking out of his makeshift blanket jumped up from the floor and cried out, in a flurry of joy. The passenger kept his briefcase down gently and threw his arms wide in a gesture of impending embrace. The man scurried up to him then. Yes, scurried, rather than walk, for outside, he revealed himself to be a rat. A rather dirty, disheveled but one very happy rat.
“Bartholomew!”, cried the rat, tears in his eyes. “You’re here!”
“Isaac! Dear Isaac!”, chimed Bartholomew in a metallic, hollow tone. “So this is where you live! Fascinating!”
The rat jumped away, with a sneer on his face. “Are you kidding me, you lunatic? This is the station! Who uses trains anymore, anyway?”
But Bartholomew had paced ahead, now peering deep into the eyes of a beggar, who’d been rudely interrupted in his sleep. Presently, Bartholomew was stuffing his hands with five pound notes, and patting them, which were trembling with an alcoholic’s shake. “Go buy some more drink, mister. You look like you—”
But Isaac the rat had promptly snatched away the notes and were stashing them inside his red corduroy trousers. “That’s enough of that. Here”, he flung the beggar a single note, who caught it and fled. “What, are you out of your mind?! Throwing out money like you’re a character in a Dickens novel?”
“Who, or what, is a Dickens?”
“A guy who wrote about poor buggers. Listen”, said Isaac, and clutched the robot’s shoulders and gazed at him in the light of the giant electronic clock standing at one lone corner. “I’m very happy to see you, you old pile of bolts!”
“And I, you, dear, dear Bartholomew. Shall we embrace again?”
“No! We discuss why you’re here, before you set one foot inside my city?”
“Why, to meet Ursula, your daughter, and convince her that it’s okay to come back to Simulation City, now that the robots have taken over.”
“And how will you do that, my boy?”
“Make her fall in love with me!”
(To be Continued)
© Arnab Chakraborty, 2015