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There was a scarlet engine pulling into the station, and just one compartment followed behind it. “Well, it is the only train that comes through here… this has to be it”, I thought and moved toward the opening doors. Just as I was about to enter, I slipped, and tumbled into the compartment..!
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in the 21st century now… what you witnessed was the effect of a simple banana peel. We call it the slip-n-tumble effect, when the platform itself, at times, had trash on it”, said a familiar voice as I picked myself up and sat on a vacant seat.
“Welcome to the Future Express, mister!” he said, taking the seat next to me. “You look surprised. Anyways, you’re coming with us till the train returns tomorrow. I’m the guide… learnt all of this past through my ancestors.”
“You mean I’m actually headed to the future, or to the past? And who are you?” I demanded.
“I’m James Baskin-Robbins. My great-great grandfather was a soccer commentator. I take my voice from him, I think…”
“Oh you’re the ice…” I started but he cut me off.
“No, I’m not that ice cream. And yeah, we’re headed to the 22nd century. This was the last stop. Glad you stumbled in, he-he! We’re here, time sure flies fast!”
The automatic doors opened, but I didn’t feel anything had changed. We’d just arrived back at the same station, only difference was that the platform was very crowded. The brick walls, the wooden benches, the greenery around the station, all were very much unchanged. I turned to James, “Are you sure this is the future, man? It looks so much like the old station!”
“We kept it the same. Some things are beautiful without change”, he said, “Come on! I’ll keep you company till the next train out.”
Outside the station, the parking lot had become bigger. There stood many vehicles, but strangely none of them had wheels. “Well, hop on! Hovercrafts are the thing now. Rubber became too much on demand, and the vehicles using wheels felt too slow”, James said. Just as he lifted off the ground, another craft hit the rear of the vehicle. “You lunatic driver… wait till I’m out of the space!!” he yelled. Oh no, he scratched the bumper! I’d just got it repainted.”
The air felt clean as we hovered over the city, and the craft was quite smooth. “Earth friendly fuel, friend… no smoke and less pollution. Forgot to ask your name, what is it?”
“I’m Calvin. It seems nice here. The future turned out better after all… If you see the world I’m in, apprehension is justified”, I said, admiring the view as we passed above a lake, but I may have spoken too soon, for he braked suddenly and I nearly went over!
“Damn this rush hour traffic… the air highways ought to be clearer I feel”, James cursed. I’d a sense of déjà vu as I saw the long line of hovercrafts ahead. Looking below, I saw some cars drive past on the road below. “Can’t we descend, and use the road, James?” I enquired of him. “Traffic rules… We’ve to be at least a hundred feet above ground level”, he replied and I knew the wait was endless. I was used to that by now…
“Let’s stop at Luigi’s for coffee”, he said, as the traffic finally cleared. He flew in to an open cafe, and said “Two coffees to go, one without sugar” into a speaker. “Are you diabetic?” I asked him, taking a sip of the coffee that came. I spat it out, just as he shook his head. “That sugarless one is for you, man! You look like you need to cut down on calories.” I turned to look at the menu on the wall, and saw the sugarless coffee was the cheapest. “Even in the future, people are stingy. This guy is worse than Maureen! At least she makes me eat right”, I thought to myself. I took care to bump into him, and a shriek gave me satisfaction, as his coffee fell on his leg.
As we headed out later, I saw the hoardings had posters of movies which were famous in my world. “Don’t be misled. The movies now are fantastic, just that these old hits are popular with the previous generation”, James said. I just nodded. It was bound to happen. The movies were going below par even in my world, to my delight, they had gone even low then. “Score one for our time”, I said to myself. “If I say one time, I say a thousand times”… the echo rang through the air. “RIP OFF!!!” I thought to myself! James didn’t notice me or the hoarding, as he soared right through it. Moments later, I was laughing as a rotund cop handed him a digital ticket to appear in court!
“I ought to dump you someplace. You keep ticking me off, Calvin. Last chance…! Keep out of my hair!” he shouted. We pulled in to an assigned space over a huge stadium. The scoreboard read, “Air soccer night! Devils 0 – 0 Falcons… Referee: Kip Kipper. I watched as 24 hovercrafts flew though the air. Each player guided his craft quickly and with agility and then positioned himself for the kick. The match saw three black cards, and a single goal as Roon Wayney scored then fell of his vehicle in celebration, leading to a black card.
“Is that a Blackberry?” I enquired, seeing his mobile after the match. “Nah, those phones are obsolete! No privacy in them. This is the latest Gooseberry dude. Fully hands free and voice controlled. That keypad is just for decoration. Watch”, he said and folded the set and placed it in his ear! “Susan Evilley”, he spoke. The stadium resonated with the ring and the sweet sexy voice that answered, “Hi my darling cuddle bear! Where are you? Missed me? Mwaah!” My laughs were lost in the crowd’s laughter. “So much for privacy Jamie… it has a wonderful speaker though!” I mocked him as he pulled out!
The craft sped through the air as we headed back to the station. “You can sleep on a bench there! I’ve had enough!” James fumed. I couldn’t care less. A minute out, he braked. The traffic in front stretched to a mile. “Hey Jamie… looks like we’re stuck here for a while. The President will be passing by soon, so they’ve halted all traffic till then!” a girl in the next craft said. Ah, that déjà vu again! “Good Lord, these politicians… they want the nation to move forward and they halt it every time they pass by!” he cursed. “Now I will be late…”
“Are you awake, honey?” Maureen’s voice drifted in as the announcer’s voice sounded, “Train number 1313 to Greater Manchester will be late…” I rubbed my eyes and stretched out. I was at the station still, sitting on that very bench. Three suitcases were between me and Maureen, who was nonchalantly playing Sudoku on her mobile. “Go back to your nap if you wish. These trains are never on time. Even in the future, I don’t see it happening”, she murmured, “and this mobile is not that nice. You’ve to buy me a Blackberry soon.”
I leaned back on the bench and closed my eyes.
“Sure. Be the wonderful wife you are, and I might just get you a Gooseberry…”