THE TRAIN RIDE
By Jack Chan
I looked again and couldn’t believe my eyes. Lying on the seat was JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The train lurched forward causing me to lose balance and the next thing I knew, my bottom was squashing the book like a giant paperweight. I half-expected the other passengers to react to my early morning scream but they just went on with their own business, oblivious to the world around them. My shrieking and butt-slapping of Harry Potter could not turn their heads from their newspapers, smartphones and headsets.
Slowly I pulled the book from under me and to my relief, it was still in one piece and the cover was intact. Albeit a little warm.
It was to be a good 30 minute train-ride to work, just enough time to start reading Harry Potter. I saw all the films but my friends kept telling me, ‘you have to read the book, you have to read the book’. Mind you they never offered me their copy to read. Afraid I might sit on it or something.
‘Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such…’
Suddenly all went dark just for an instant. The internal train lights flickered back on. As my eyes readjusted to the light, something seemed very odd, very odd indeed. What happened to all the passengers, what happened to the colour of the train, what happened to all the rows of seats? I looked around to find that I was in a passenger carriage. I peered out the window and noticed steam blowing by. I also noticed fields and mountains as far as I could see.
Where on earth was I?
I sat back down, rubbed my eyes again, hoping that this was some kind of illusion or that I was having delusions. I opened my eyes. Nope, still here in the carriage. I looked for the book but that too was gone. I even pinched myself which hurt but didn’t change the situation. There wasn’t even a button to push to stop the train.
‘Something told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore Toto.’
What was I to do?
How did I get here?
How do I get out of here?
The only thing to do was to find a way off this train that was taking me to who knows where.
I opened the compartment door, stepped into the passageway. I then heard voices coming from the next carriage.
‘I’m Ron Weasley.’
Did he just say Harry Potter?
I slowly crept up to the carriage window and poked my head out just far enough to see who was talking.
A girl stool with her back to me, I couldn’t see who she was talking to. But when she sat down, there in front of my eyes sat the one and only Harry Potter, and that red-haired dude Ron Weasley. I kept looking in wonder and amazement. It was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Never in my wildest imagination that I could have imagined this.
I was in the realm of heroes and villians, monsters and magic, tales of wonder and darkness.
This was Harry Potter’s world.
Plus the fact that this was a good chance to get their autographs and do a selfie. Darn it, my iPhone had also disappeared.
With my mind racing with thoughts, I still didn’t know what was going on.
Oh well, here was my one and perhaps only chance.
Opening the carriage door I shouted out, 'Daniel RadcliiiiFFFe!'
The three looked at me in puzzlement.
‘Who’s Daniel Radcliffe?’ asked Hermoine
‘And who are you?’
‘He’s Daniel Radcliffe,’ I said and pointed in excitement.
‘My name is Harry Potter,’ the boy answered.
‘Are you the on-board entertainment?’ asked Ron.
It was clear to me now that this was no movie.
It was also clear to me that these kids thought they were the real deal.
And how could they not know who Daniel Radcliffe was?
‘Apologies, wrong car,’ I said and quickly returned to my own carriage to re-group and think things out.
Let’s see, Harry Potter train, Harry Potter scenery, Harry Potter himself, and…
Something appeared beyond my window. The sky had darkened and a castle-like building appeared around the bend.
Yes of course, Hogwarts.
I was definitely in the Harry Potter world, and it only cost me a train ticket.
Those theme park prices kill ya.
How I got here somehow didn’t matter for the time being. I just took it all in.
The famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This was so cool. Its gothic-like structure loomed overhead and it looked just like the one in the movies. But this was real, so real. If only Harry Potter knew the adventures that would become unto him. Only if they all knew. But I was in no position to tell them what the future would bring, the dangers that lay ahead. Telling them the future would cause a rift in the space-time continuum thus destroying the very fabric of the universe. Clearly I had watched one too many science fiction movies.
After all, I didn’t want to run the risk of putting them off from attending school and causing JK Rowling the stress of not having characters to write about.
I could just imagine her pulling her hair out as Harry Potter decided not to learn any magic, went to high school instead and got a real 9-5 job.
As the train slowed, I could see the giant figure of Hagrid on the platform, waiting eagerly to greet the new students.
I had to find some way of getting back to my world. I didn’t belong here. By my mere presence I could be changing the course of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. As much as I was in awe of what was around me, I had to get back home.
Plus I was no wizard. The only magic trick I knew was with a deck of cards where after 10 minutes of mathematical shuffling, I could pick which card a person was thinking of.
That would have looked good in front of the Hogwarts students and teachers hey?
‘Now as a show of my powers – pick a card any card.’
The train came to a halt. I had to think fast. How was I going to explain me being here?
There was no guarantee that the train would take me back to my proper home. My answer lay at Hogwarts.
Dumbledore, yes I had to see Dumbledore. Perhaps he could help.
The last of the students disembarked the train and I heard a tapping at the window. The large round hairy face of Hagrid peered through at me and pointed for me to come out.
After stepping out onto the platform, did I realise how giant of a thing this Hagrid was. I was tempted to ask him whether he knew anything about Bigfoot, but the surly expression on his face put me off that idea.
‘And just who are you?’ he asked firmly.
He placed his enormous hand on my shoulder with a thud.
Everything went blank.
‘Wake up sir, we have stopped,’ said a gentleman shaking my shoulder to wake me up.
I opened my eyes and I was back on my train, seemingly in my own world.
‘The train has stopped,’ he repeated.
‘Thanks, I must have dozed off.’ I replied rubbing my eyes.
He just smiled, nodded and disembarked.
Rubbing my eyes, I looked down and Harry Potter the Philosopher’s Stone lay in the seat beside me.
The train platform had its usual rush of commuters. No Hogwarts, no Hagrid.
I felt a pain as I rubbed my shoulder. I opened my shirt just enough to see a rather large hand-shaped bruise on my shoulder.
I picked up the book once again.