It was Saturday night, late, probably around midnight. The house was full; its peak of occupancy had been reached much earlier in the day, making movement difficult. Several of us needed to get away, just for a little while, so we craftily found each other amidst the throngs of noders, and slowly drifted away from the main group.

It took about 20 minutes of walk and blab for us to reach our destination. From atop a bridge it was possible to see train tracks leading into a dark, mysterious tunnel. JP and I had been there earlier in the course of the weekend, and had been frightened off by the sounds of giant hammers forging some nefarious machinery deep in the walls of the tunnel. But this time we had no fear for the odd reasoning that there is safety in numbers.

With this reassurance, we clambered down a dusty hill to the tracks. Chris immediately took on the lead, a solitary being tramping down a path, blazing a trail for all the rest of us. Everyone splits up, running along different rails, taking pictures of others doing the same, more photos of graffiti covered walls. We reach the end of the tunnel. Souvenirs are taken. More pictures. Fireworks are lit and dance along the tracks briefly until puttering out in the rocky bed. The red lighting and mysterious, intermittent noises lend a sketchy atmosphere to the proceedings. Eventually, Chris forges on ahead once more, and we are forced to catch up. This time his intrepid] wanderings have led to a construction site. More opportunities to be naughty arise. Photos flare as we climb aboard an empty bulldozer. Poses are struck; hanging from different parts of the machine, everyone stuffed into the cab, playing with the controls, dramatic spy photography with water pistols and cocked heads. To top if off, I proudly paste an Edmund is timid sticker on the neck of the bulldozer. We have left our mark.

We leave the construction site at last, and make our way back through the tunnel. The other side brings us to an area underneath the roads above. Pillars are scattered throughout the area with tracks twisting around, heading off in different directions. I am reminded of disturbing scenes from a movie I had recently seen. We are mostly silent as we explore the secrets the darkness has to offer. I had run out of film earlier, and was attempting to memorize as much as I could before it was over. Juan found a pair of mismatched shoes lying amidst the rubble. Ponderings over the origin of said shoes are interrupted by the noise of a train approaching in the distance. We all assemble by the tracks in time to see an empty freight train come speeding by. Despite the velocity at which it was traveling it seemed entirely possible to grab a hold of the side ladders and leap aboard. Somehow we resist this temptation, and settle for more pictures. Shortly after, it is agreed that we must end our ramble among the tracks and rejoin the party from whence we had come. A most pleasant interlude indeed.

The Train: Escape To Normandy is a game for Commodore 64.

(Information from

The idea of the game is simple - I don't have a manual so this is from memory and observations: The World War II is Out There. You are a French rebel leader who has captured an armored train. Now, your job is to get a trainload of priceless works of art across occupied France to Normandy.

Most of the game is about proper care and feeding of the locomotive and watching the scenery roll by. Of course, it's winter and night so you don't see much, but the 3D effects are tolerable. There aren't many controls in the train though; For most of the time, all you need to do is to control the throttle and brakes, and, of course, shovel in some coal. You can, of course, do what everyone has always wanted to do: blow the train whistle...

You can also man the machine guns on either end of the train to shoot down the attacking airplanes, or watch the map.

The game also has some subgames: The most interesting one involves giving cover fire for a guy who goes to the train station (shoot enemies who appear on the station windows). As a reward, you can send telegrams to the allied forces and ask them to take over stations and bridges, or ask for repairs. If you fail, you die and that's not good.

Another subgame involves sinking of gunboats that are often found floating by enemy-controlled bridges. You need to sink them with a mortar.

All in all, it's a rather interesting game that I'd like to see cloned for PCs... (Microsoft Train Simulator might do it, but it probably doesn't have the subgames =)

The train jolts through the deep, green countryside. The thick mists clouding the forest floors and open fields muffle the noise of the wheels clacking across the rails. Aboard, the passengers are asleep or toiling endlessly, unaware and uncaring of their destination. The train lumbers where the rails will take it, and despite the track being fixed in place, for all the passengers care this destination could be anywhere. For all the passengers care, the train could wreck itself in an instant, spiral and tumble onto the grassy earth all around, lose itself in the fog, and nothing would be different.

Different carriages hold different contents, even if all the passengers are all identical, genderless, all dressed in grey jumpsuits. In one, the tables are adorned with glass tubing and powders of various hues, which are burnt, mixed, or ingested seemingly at random. Another is filled with musical instruments of all kinds, all broken, at which the passengers vainly pluck and grope, desperately trying to make a coherent sound.

Each night the whole operation travels a little further, the reflections from the moon illuminating the train’s way through ghoulish, off-white clouds. The sun is never seen – lights out is at exactly the same time as the moon disappears, and at any rate nobody ever looks outside. There is simply too much to be done, efficiently and systematically, as it is meant to. It is simply as if the day-time doesn’t exist, and never has existed – even if, in some part of their wrecked memories the passengers know that it used to.

One carriage has all curtains closed and all lights on, all day and all night. In this carriage, the passengers whose heads are not lolling on the headrests in restless sleep scribble furiously at their work. Periodically a steward, resplendent and dominant in blue and red uniform, will cast an eye over the efforts of the passengers, or bark the occasional vague order, but they are mostly left to their own devices, some struggling against the straps, others bent double over the tables working feverishly to complete before the deadline. Handing-in day is a cascade of loose leaf, the ink barely dry. Hoarse shouts and cries don’t spread far into the valleys and gorges through which the train passes, but inside the carriage the noise is deafening.

In this carriage, one passenger stops writing, and looks down in distaste at what he has wrought –

I desired to kiss an angel
Melt in her soft embrace
Lips of poison, perfume breeze
And her breath surrounds the night

Eyes of fire, long flowing hair
Blazing mind, red scorched skin

We will make
Peace from trust
Laugh wild away

He continues glaring for a few moments, then scrabbles at the paper in a sudden rage, tears starting to fly from his eyes. To let the stewards see this would be folly! The ink smudges onto his hands, patches of black and blue spreading across his fingers as the paper shreds. He starts again on a fresh sheet, gasping, trembling and glancing around in terror. The other passengers that have noticed are terrified too – what if the stewards punish the entire carriage?

How would you like to rule again?
Live the live you see others hoard
All you and I need to do is
Wipe the slate and clean the board
Seize all their ill-gotten gains
Relish in their downfall
Don’t worry about their pain
They’re not human after all

How would you like to see
Our country taking the lead?
The key advantage that we’d have is
We’d be rid of all our weeds
Don’t trust the Reds
All they want is bread
We dream of better things
Come with us

The rage returns to his fear-stricken face. His pupils dilate, despite the lights burning above. Blood rushing to his head, the truth floods his brain. Again, he scrabbles at the paper, his fingers seeking to undo their work. Another gasp of premature relief, and another sheet is set upon.

The sky is filled with water
The ground is wet with blood
Betrothed have finally come apart
Lying, silent, in the mud
They no longer wish to fight
But neither will they work together
To rebuild what they have broken
Neither dove will lift a feather

In my head
There is a void
Ripped, devoured by rage
In my heart
I can feel nothing
But the bars of my cage

He gasps yet again, as if reaching for air having broken the surface of the sea, and dives back in –

The bootmarks drying in the sun
The shrapnel rusting in the rain
The soldier lying, without his gun
The angel blinking through his pain
The holy man in his enclave
The saviour in his blood-red throne
The artist sinking in his enclosure
The young man with sins to atone

In my head
There is a roar
The silence is lost
In my heart
I can still feel nothing
But return feeling must

He sits back, triumphant. The stewards will like this. His neck suddenly weak, he slumps back into the seat, his head rolling against the headrest, eye held tightly shut, until gradually they rest, lighten, and sleep comes naturally. Those passengers that have been watching him shake their heads in disbelief, cross themselves and return to their work.

The dreams came to him, of pints of ale lined up on the bar, of crowded pavements and sneering, spitting schoolboys, and of her, she who he cannot write about for fear of cliché. To write about something as coherent and as real as a pub, or a city, or a girl – that would be folly, pure folly! Even as conviction flooded his sleeping body (I will write about her, I will describe her very core, and it will blow them away), his mind remained staunchly resistant. After all, there were more important things to consider on that train than loyalty, or love.

When he wakes, it is in the strong arms of two burly stewards. Their dark eyes belie little besides cold authority, as they drag him out of his seat and onto a surgical trolley, strapping him in so he can move nothing but his eyes. Rattling down the narrow aisles, he feels the eyes of a thousand passengers boring into his body. Are they envious? Are they scared? The doors suck open, and for a second he hears the dull, hollow sound of the valleys, a funereal moaning that makes him momentarily tearful before the stewards wheel him into the next carriage, and all is deadly quiet. Although his head is strapped in place, if he strains his eyes he can just about see a heavy walnut door, outside which the stewards have stopped and on which one has knocked.

The cabin looks like a traditional doctor’s office, heavy dark wood panelling adorning the walls, and a large framed certificate hanging next to the window. When the stewards release him from the trolley he can see the sun streaming in. It makes him blink, and it takes a while for the figure in the high-backed office chair to become more than a blur. Dressed in a lightly coloured suit, a large file overstuffed with writing paper sitting on the desk, the doctor – is he a doctor? – looks the passenger up and down, before nodding slightly to the stewards and spinning in his chair to face the window. Nothing is spoken – for all his literacy, the passenger cannot remember ever having uttered a single word, and the doctor seems impatient to get back to the sun. The stewards lead the passenger out, and to another room, sparsely furnished with spartan bunk beds. Gratefully, he chooses a bunk, and this time he doesn’t need to hold his eyes shut – sleep comes quickly and gracefully.

The train has stopped when he wakes. Someone has changed him out of his jumpsuit into a blue pinstripe suit, akin to the doctor’s – only this one is slightly too large. The shoes are too long and wide, and the fit of the jacket at the shoulders has been badly measured. He stretches and tried to rearrange his suit, before glancing out of the window. It is night time, and the train seems to have stopped at a quiet station, the platform underneath a dusting of snow. He opens the door, and walks to the end of the carriage, his heart thumping in his throat. There is no-one else around. He looks through the window to the next carriage, the one he has spent all those years writing in, and has to stifle vomit. The floor is black with old blood, and the seats are filled with the bodies of his fellow passengers, blasted holes stuffed with grey cotton in their chests. He turns away quickly, and exits the carriage through the side door, stepping gingerly onto the platform.

The moon is directly above. Snow crunches beneath his oversized shoes as he walks towards the station gate.

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