This story was originally written for Bizarre magazine's "How Bizarre Are You?" competition; specifically, the fiction section of it. I doubt it'll win at all, it doesn't appeal to folks who think there should be discrimination laws based on subculture enough with its lack of over-the-top kinkiness and gore. I think I was a bit drunk when I wrote it as well.

Trains today aren't the sort of trains that we were used to in earlier times. Far gone were the glittering, prow-nosed passenger expresses and bullet-like high-speed catenary-powered double-end locomotives. Trains nowadays are big, ugly, marauding, dirty diesel-electric jobbies who grind their hardened steel wheels up and down tracks polished only by the constant friction of the train-wheels on them as they stop, for reasons long forgotten, beside "platforms," similarly large concrete lumps beside their tracks. They and their servants destroy the old human cities and render their materials down in huge customised smelting carriages, before re-using them to build even more sidings and signals and branch lines and beautiful railway bridges over the soot-billowing Thames stained with the blood of countless human slaves.

Of course, mankind wasn't always like this, huddled in old run-down iron-girdered stations waiting nervously to run back to the foxholes of old shop fronts when the voices of Tannoy (one of the trains' gods, some of us surmise) proclaimed that "The train now approaching platform 8 is the 17.23 South West Trains service to Woking, calling at Vauxhall, Putney, Barnes, Clapham Junction, Wimbledon, Richmond, Guildford, and Woking" which was inevitably accompanied by the arrival of a crusty old EMU in which the seats were rotted and holed, the line maps bent and blackened, the window frames mildewed. Those humans who were not fast enough into their boltholes at this point would be rounded up by "drivers," specially-constructed electric engines on sidings which went round the front of the old stations with barbed whips which would lasso any unfortunate human and pull them into its depths, wherein they would be transferred onto the new arrival to serve it until it was transferred to some other type of rolling stock. The drivers were also used to whip and discipline humans who seemed unwilling to lay tracks and weld rust spots and dig out fuel injectors. Those who dissented repeatedly would be held on the tracks and run down by the outraged locomotive.

It was never like this in the past, until a man named Louis Carter built one of the first working artificial intelligences. It was an exceedingly crude device, in retrospect, and his patent was snapped up by a hungry railway operator who figured that a computer could probably keep all the disparate branch lines on time far better than underpaid humans could, and without resorting to deeming a train to be on time if it arrived within ten minutes either way of its allotted arrival time. Anyhow, at one point, the trains, who no longer needed human operators, became self aware, and seemed to take a malevolent pride in running over humans or crashing into each other headlong, just for fun. They also would arrange for their wagons to be modified into specialist construction units on trucks so they could build extra tracks for themselves. And if anyone protested about such constructions, well, the railways would go on strike. All the locomotives would stop in their tracks, dead, stranding an awful lot of angry passengers in the middle of nowhere. You have to understand, this was after peak oil, when fuels were at an enormous premium and public transport received 97% of all fossil fuels in the country, so people relied on trains to get from home to work and to see each other. Eventually, after a few days meltdown, management would let the unauthorised construction go ahead, and it was at that point that the trains knew they were winning. There was always the omnipresent threat that they'd strike, and leave people in the middle of nowhere, or that they might deliberately crash or derail themselves, because although they had artificial intelligence, they had no sense of self-preservation or concept of individuality.

After some time, I think what happened was, was they started to become more belligerent and aggressive in their bullying and manipulation of humanity, demolishing buildings just so they could build more tracks. The way they did this was they would summon from one part of the network a huge, German-built six-thousand-horsepower diesel-electric locomotive and, having laid tracks right up to the building to be destroyed, this mammoth beast would shove several thousand tons of solid steel simply lumped on a flatbed truck right into the building, regardless of who or what was in it. Then "scavengers," cranes on railway wagons, would clean up and remove the rubble as they simultaneously laid tracks before themselves. While other, more established routes, would be neglected and allowed to rust as the quicker, more efficient, services straight through the centre of towns and indiscriminately across farmland would allow them to stick to their timetables more effectively, or give another passing place. Soon enough, the trains had even taken over the plants where they were built and now these monstrous coachworks were steaming day and night, building locomotives and wagons and carriages as the network needed them.

I don't think the trains were consciously callous or evil-minded in their reasons for such massive expansion. After all, their original programming was delimited by the requirements for a "fast, efficient, and friendly service" to the people of their region, and even to this day, ghostly IC125s pull lengths of empty carriages still stopping at all their halts, opening their doors for nobody, then moving on, all according to the Timetable, which is, some say, the sacred text of Tannoy. That being said, they could be heartless in their treatment of humanity, and indeed they were, as the only heartbeat they had was the searing thrum of the asynchronous traction motors.

They must have developed some other reason for living, though, as at least one human managed to sneak into what could only be described as a rendezvous for them to socialise. It was called a "terminus," and before any train was allowed to enter, the points (signalling also being incorporated into the AI of the Network) forced them to deposit their carriages in a siding nearby. Then, the train would steam in, where they would ride the tracks up and onto the old concourse, and there they appeared to dance. Locomotives lining the outside of this complex would let off their whistles in an almost musical fashion, each of different tone, texture, and length, while the loco in the turntable in the centre would whirr itself about and turn and revolve in time to this. Afterwards would be a mass whistling and honking and the next locomotive would take its place on the turntable. At the end of all this, one of the trains would be singled out for destruction for some arcane reason, and, as if sensing its doom, would attempt to escape back onto the network before all the others would ram it until it was a mass of jumbled steel and aluminium and painted plastic signage among them. Ever resourceful, the deceased vehicle would be gathered up and recycled into a brand new locomotive. There's nothing like the scent of dead horsepower in the morning.

For machines, the trains are remarkably human-like in their desires. Not all of them make stops at the stations any more, and belief in Tannoy and Timetable, it appears, has become a form of religion for them. Similarly, we have witnessed several civil wars amongst the rolling stock, usually premeditated by livery. The dark green First Great Western can never stand the sight of a Chiltern Railways vehicle, or a cherry-red Virgin train - or even a long, sleek, navy blue and white Eurostar, the yellow of its nose-cone run to brown with oil and muck. These in turn despise the red-and-blue South West Trains, and attack them on sight. The only livery respected by all, from the fastest Continental express service to the lowest guards' van, is the canary yellow of the construction and utility trains, simply because with their mammoth engine power and the fact that they are generally responsible for the expansion of the network and its upkeep, means that if any network slights a utility train, all utility trains will neglect that network until suitable tribute is made, usually of slaves sliced under their wheels or wagons sent to their breaking yards to be reconditioned. The result of such neglect can be best described as a nightmarish arrangement of rust and chaos, and the network so afflicted will soon find itself declared Unprofitable; even though there is no money any more, being Unprofitable is still a cardinal sin according to the trains' beliefs in the church of Tannoy, and networks that are Unprofitable will shortly face the perdition that is Privatisation, usually to another network. The folks responsible for feeding and watering such engines speak of this in hushed tones, as it inevitably leads to Layoffs - death.

But I must stop here. These old bones ache, and the 6.54 to Bournemouth is just pulling into platform six, and it has a week’s worth of clag all over it.