Ion studied the other travelers. The fat man who overflowed from the seat beside Ion was sleeping, his head leaning back against the seat, his mouth slightly open in a snore. A student sat across from Ion, a thin young man whose glasses were barely visible above the volume of poetry held close to his face. Two old women sat by the window, talking in low voices.
Any of them could be informers. At least one of them probably was.
And one was Ion’s contact.
The train, already slow, shuddered to a halt. No one moved. Ion glanced out the window—bare fields, grass, trees in the distance. No station. Trains stopped for no reason—to wait for another train, to meet a schedule, to let a cow cross the track. The train is tired, Ion thought, and suppressed a smile.
But that was a dangerous thought. It could sound like criticism. Trains don’t tire, he corrected himself. They function perfectly, like all the efficient systems designed by our great leader.
It was a good habit, correcting subversive thoughts. Not that anyone was listening to Ion’s thoughts.
At least, he hoped not.
"What was that about the train being tired?" It was the student. He had put down his book and was looking at Ion.
"I uh . . . you heard--?"
"I heard it too," one of the old ladies said. "So you have a complaint about the train?"
"It was a joke," Ion said. "I would never . . . " Damn it, he thought. If only my contact would give the watchword I could give the countersign and--
"Complaining about the trains?" The other old lady. "Our great leader will reward us for eliminating you."
"I would never speak ill of the trains!" Ion declared.
"Engine, engine number nine." It was the fat man. And the watchword!
Thank God, Ion thought. "If the train goes off the track . . . Shit."
Opening: Lisavark.....Continuation: Evil Editor