The 3:05 roared into the Hart Avenue station, smoke and soot spewing from the undercarriage and engine stacks. When the doors swooshed open, afternoon passengers spilled from the cars like a swarm of worker ants.
Porters appeared with bellman’s carts, brass shined and the signature red carpet freshly cleaned, ready to load trunks and suitcases from the baggage car. Bags were tossed to waiting hands in graceful arcs, a well-oiled assembly line of precision.
Making their way through the labyrinth of turnstiles and stairways, the disembarked found their next train platform, waiting to continue to their final destination. The remaining travelers on the 3:05 stared out their windows, yearning to change trains, to detour from their certain journey.
Magnus Easterland, the station master, strode through the main lobby, tipping his cap to the ladies, giving a sharp nod to the gentlemen. He took pride in his station, the hub for all rumination along the Convergent Thinking line.
There were quick runs leaving on the half hour, and longer commutes left on the hour. Under Easterland’s command, the 3:05 never arrived late, nor failed to depart on schedule. This day, a new line was connecting on its maiden run.
He had campaigned against opening it, but a majority of the station masters had voted in favor. Easterland argued that a Paranoid Thought train would be too perilous, too fraught with danger. He contended that any passengers buying tickets for that ride may never be able to afford a return trip.
What of the landscape the train would have to travel through, the desolation, the wild terrain, Easterland demanded. He cautioned that the infrastructure was too weak to carry the burden of such a massive engine and the interminable line of railcars needed to convey the number of passengers already clamoring for tickets.
The deciding factor was profits. The income expected from the new line would double the yield from all the other routes combined.
Easterland initially pondered resigning in opposition, but finally resolved to remain, working to make the PT passengers as comfortable as possible and to recommend bypass lines and more encouraging alternate routes. He had also initiated a companion program and encouraged other station masters to do the same. No passenger on the PT train should travel alone Easterland said.
He pulled his watch from his vest pocket and opened the silver case with a click of a button on the winding stem. It read 4:05. The first Paranoid Thought train was leaving the station on time.