For Children

Kristian Bailey

A World of Its Own

2006 7th-8th Grade Prose Winner

Silence. Darkness. Stillness. A rumbling is heard from far away. It gets louder, racing, roaring towards me. Lights, two of them, getting brighter and brighter. Illuminating the darkness, chasing away the shadows. WOOSH! A blur. Then silence.

As I sit there waiting for my train, I count how many expresses have gone by - 5. Thoughts bubble in my head. "I could've just walked." "I'll be late for school." "Should I call ahead and let them know?" As I pull out my cell phone, an echo draws in on me from the distance. The noise, reverberating and resonating off the walls, penetrating everything the way only noise can do. Ta-pit pa-pat, pa-pitpa-pat, pa pitpa pat. A gust of warm air rushes in. SCREECH! go the breaks. Stillness. The doors open. I step inside.

FLASH! I shield my eyes from the sudden fluorescence. It hurts. The doors snap shut and the train leaps forward, sending me hurtling through space. I'm falling, falling, falling. Lucky for me, there's a pole. I grab it. "The train is pretty full," I say to myself "I think I'll stand." And I watch in awe as a woman twice my size squeezes herself into a seat meant for a two-year-old. SCREECH! Sparks, the beautiful result of metal scraping metal. The train jerks to the left, and, being human, I do too. Thud! The pole didn't help me this time. I brush off my jacket and look around. Nobody noticed me. Nobody. How can I be in a place so full of people yet so devoid of life? I look around at everyone's faces.

People sitting, reading, waiting, spacing, writing, and playing, living. Everyone's so close, yet so far away. All lost in their thoughts, imagining, fearing, celebrating, eyes tearing, wondering, complaining, and creating, living. The bittersweet tang of too much cologne, the seductive aroma of perfume. Sweet smells, mixing with sugars and spices, a little bit of food, and the sweat of a hard day's work.

Music, all types, all around. Whether it's the twang of guitars, the tap of a bass, and the clashing of drums, collaborating as one unit in harmony, or if it's the multi-talented souls, blowing away on their pipes while strumming riffs on their guitars so fast and so intense, as if nothing in the world matters more, it's beautiful.

The train stops. Looking beyond, I see impatient faces. Faces of people waiting for this moment, so they can join me and get lost in this big silver blur. I see people running for the train. "That's right! Run, run! Sprint, sprint! You will surely die if you don't catch this train," I muse in mirth. I watch as about ten people shove themselves into a space meant for two. I am squished against the door. I watch a grown woman wrestle the doors open with her bare hands. Anything to get on the train. Outside, a few unlucky men have been sentenced to death. The doors are tightly shut. And after briefly pleading with the conductor, a look of disappointment appears on their faces. "I'm going to die!" they must think. Poor souls. The train moves on.

The headphone brigade must be on the train now. Headphones everywhere are shrieking. It's an epidemic. Crying out like upset babies. But instead of spitting up food, they spit up heavy metal, rap, hip-hop, pop, even polka. All sounds coming from different corners of the train, but all merging together to give me a migraine. I think they're working. There's feet tapping, finger snapping, head bobbling, hand clapping galore. One would think there was a concert going on. But no such thing is occurring. This is just the train.

Languages representing the whole spectrum all fill the air. Uniting and dividing people by culture. A pool so diverse that it fairly represents this wondrous city itself. Spanish, Italian, German, even Swahili all add a foreign air to the air. Even in its disorder, it's beautiful.

Happiness and joy overcome all other emotions. I'm happy to be alive. My spirits are running wild, faster than this train ever will. It's exciting. These little silver boxes linked and lined up in a row, rumbling and tumbling and pummeling forward, jerking and turning every which way. Snaking through the city like a maze, hurtling through the dark abyss, always bringing us safely to the light. Dashing and speeding at valiant speeds. Steel screaming and crying from the friction. Suddenly, the train screeches and scrapes and scratches to a hall. Stillness again. We're lost in the darkness. The conductor murmurs something about moving momentarily. I may not have faith in the PA system, but I do in the conductor. We're moving again. As the train gains speed, I soar, high, high above the streets. Flying through the city like an eagle. Sharp. Acute. Aware. I look around at my fellow New Yorkers. Suddenly, everyone is full of life that was not recognized before. Everyone's soaring, flying, dreaming, believing, hoping, wishing, and trying. And it's beautiful.