A Dream Subverted

The train rumbled through the brush leaving a wake of thick, dark steam. The two young firemen shovelled coal into the furnace, while the engineer looked on, yelling directions. In the carriages behind, lunch was being served – white fish, picked up from the last stop, on a bed of lentils.

The firemen looked up from their task as the engine seemed to jolt over something on the tracks. A loud crackling sound came up over the roar of the engine.

“Detonators on the track!” shouted the engineer. “It’s a warning, something is wrong!” He leant hard on the brake lever and the train began to slow, wheels screeching. In the restaurant car, wine spilled over the top of glasses, and fish fillets slid gently forward upon their pools of sauce.

Up ahead by the side of the track, a man waved a large red flag. The engineer brought the train to a standstill, and looked out of the cabin. The bushes nearby looked rather strange, he thought… and was proven right when they moved. A crowd of men, dressed in suits and carrying briefcases, threw off their camouflage and ran up to the train, then yanked open the carriage doors.

“Hey!” said one of firemen. “It’s an ambush! We’re being boarded!”

The flag-waver jumped into the cabin, and all three occupants took a step back and raised their fists. The intruder wore brown dungarees that hid no apparent weapons, and his smile was broad under a slightly ridiculous moustache.

“Friends!” he cried. “No need for alarm! We bring only messages and good opportunities!”

“You’ve impeded and boarded my train,” snarled the engineer. “What message could possibly be so important?”

“Why,” said the moustache’d miscreant, “there’s a sale on!”

In the carriages behind, the besuited opened their briefcases, revealing the latest designs in shoes, fashionable hats, small cans of wax polish, stationary supplies, dried fruit. When the passengers had recovered from their shock, the spieling began. Imagine yourself, imagine your lack, imagine how attractive you would be. All on special offer. Picture it, now open your purses.

In the cabin, the engineer, hands shaking with rage, waved a coal shovel at the moustache, who was cowering in the corner.

“No point getting upset,” said the frightened advertising man. “It’s how the world works now!”

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