“Did I miss my stop!” he barked at a near shout.
“No, no. This is only the first stop,” Andrew replied with a reassuring tone.
“Oh, of course, of course. How silly of me,” he laughed loudly, sounding more like a donkey than a human. “Should’ve known better. I’m always the only one left on the train when I reach my destination.” He looked hard at Andrew with a peculiar smile.
“Umm, yeah. Sorry for waking you. I was just stretching,” Andrew shifted his eyes toward the ground, lamenting having woken the strange old man.
“S’alright. I was having a bad dream anyway. Damn robots stole—”
A cheery bell dinged over the intercom and the red light flashed on the scroll monitors. “Please remain seated until reaching the next terminal. Our next destination is Mauerspechte Station East Berlin, November 8th 1989, for general pass holders. Expected arrival time is… 10:35.” The artificial voice cut out abruptly with a robotic hiss at the end of the announcement.
This time the train lurched forward without any notice, causing Andrew to topple into the headrest of the seat in front of him once more.
“Dammit!” he blasted.
“Takes some gettin’ used to,” old man Kurt said with a phlegm-filled chuckle. “You excited ’bout seeing that wall go down?”
It was clear the old man had regained his composure and would most likely resume small talk for the rest of the ride, much to Andrew’s dismay. “Yeah, I guess,” he replied reluctantly.
“Don’t sound so sure,” old man Kurt guffawed again. “I saw it fall two times myself. Once on the East side, once on the West side. But guess what? The first time I saw it fall, I was there for real!” Spittle sprayed out from his gaping, excited mouth.
“You don’t say?” Andrew responded without the slightest ounce of sincerity.
“Sure did. Was there on business. Used to work for the Soviet government.” The old man leaned in close and lowered his voice. His stinking breath stung Andrew’s eyes. “I was what they called a Hard Passer. I’m American, but I worked for the Russians at the time to ‘dispatch’ spies. I know it don’t make much sense now, ‘specially since C.I.T.T.A. uncovered all the Russian connections with US presidents throughout the years, but it was a major position in the ’80s.”
The old man stared at Andrew like he was expecting some sort of amazed response, but all Andrew could do was stare blankly. He had no idea what Kurt was going on about, nor did he care. But there was something strange about the old man which deeply unsettled him.
“Anyway, I was there when the wall went down. I can give you a list of places you should see on your trip if you’d like?”
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m just, uh, going for the experience.” Andrew shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He didn’t like how interested this old man was in his trip or how he seemed to know so much about the time period.
“Suit yourself. Just thought you’d like to know—”
With a sudden ear-splitting screech the train slowed at a rapid pace. The lights flickered on and off in a wild frenzy and the remaining passengers became noticeably audible in their collective state of alarm.
“Ah daggonnit! Not again.”
Andrew perked up with worry. “What’s happening?”
“Damn power system is stalling. Happens some times, but it causes long delays. Last time I missed Washington crossing the Delaware. Assholes didn’t even refund my ticket, just gave me travel credit!”
“What? I can’t be late!” Andrew raised his voice, showing emotion for the first time since getting on the train.
“Don’t worry, son. The wall doesn’t fall immediately. You won’t miss anything.” Old man Kurt started laughing like he was completely carefree.
Andrew almost blurted out his real reason for going on the trip, but stopped himself before saying anything that would incriminate him. He needed to catch a flight to the US at a specific time and had a ten minute window to catch his birth parents dumping his two-year-old self off at the fast food restaurant—making sure to follow them back to the hotel. It was there where he was to intercept a package before they did. If he missed the interception he would have to do the whole trip over again, which he couldn’t afford. He only had one chance to do this right or the Russians would come after him.
The train came to a complete stop and blue emergency lights came on. Andrew grew noticeably distraught.
“You seem a little uptight, son. Want something to take the edge off?” Old man Kurt reached in the pocket of his dirty brown trench coat and pulled out a rusty-tan flask.
“No. No, I’m fine. I just—”
“We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please remain seated. These power errors occur periodically and pose no safety risks. Expect travel delays up to… one… hour. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Andrew nearly strained his neck with how fast he whipped his head towards the old man. “Will it really take one hour to fix?” he said, his lips seeming to move faster than a humming bird’s wings.
“Hell, no. It usually takes twice that time!” Old man Kurt brayed once more like the old jackass he is. “It’s okay, I’ll keep you company. As a matter of fact, this gives us plenty of time for me to write you up that list of things to see in Berlin. Trust me, you’ll love it!”
The blue emergency lights flickered as the car grew silent. Andrew peered out the window but only darkness looked back. He was stuck somewhere between time with a crazy old man. Why did I think this would be easy, he thought. Why?