We are excited to announce the winner of the March 2022 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Monthly Contest is Daniel Rosas with the submission “The Next Stop.”
Daniel A.E. Rosas Ocejo is an experienced brand marketer having worked at Fortune 500 companies and global brands ranging from Coca-Cola to Kellogg’s, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott. He was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware where when he wasn’t on the soccer or lacrosse fields, he was huddled with his friends around a table scarfing down pizza while exploring vast new worlds and launching out on high-stakes adventures in the role-playing games that he is now bringing to life in his novels.
He currently resides in Middle Tennessee with his wife and two children.
The Next Stop
Markus Nilsson hated traveling. Whether by train or airplane it always started the same. His mum would frantically race about while his dad grumbled and his two siblings would wait ‘till the last minute to do anything.
Markus thought it odd that they needed to pack anything just for a trip to the train station. Maybe it was one of those, “spur of the moment trips”. Everyone would pile into the car, pick a destination and take-off. Like the time they tramped to an island off the coast of South Carolina that looked like they were the first people to ever have set foot on it. Adventures, his mum would call it.
The trip to the train station was short and Markus gleefully leapt from the car’s cramped confines. He grabbed his backpack and started towards the station. In the lobby a woman was seated by a side wall in front of a large black boxy machine. It had a series of white lines cutting across it with buttons and switches at specific points. She was talking into a headset and reached up a few times to push buttons causing lights to turn red, green or white.
Odd, he thought. No trains had run at this station in years. Markus chalked it up to the woman just having fun.
The family entered the lobby under glistening crystalline chandeliers and a stunning high domed ceiling. A circular glass window was set in the middle with a pattern that reminded Markus of a sunflower with rays of bronze light shooting out. They continued out onto a concourse where to the right was a shiny red and green steam locomotive. Chattanooga Choo Choo was written in gold letters on its side. They walked to the passenger platform then past several coaches before his mother stopped and motioned them inside.
Down a narrow corridor were doors on either side. His brother opened a door to his right and his sister took one to the left. Markus went to go with his brother.
“Get your own dork,” his brother said.
“Take the next one,” his mother instructed with a hint of exasperation.
Markus entered the next cabin. Light poured in through the open drapes. To his right was a long blue seat. Ahead a writing table. To his left was a sink with a mirror.
Markus set his backpack down and went to the window. Outside he could see a silver statue of a girl standing on a sphere in the middle of a fountain. Her head was thrown back and her arms were tossed out to her sides. Her dress seemed to ruffle just then in a nonexistent breeze.
“An adventurous spirit, isn’t she?” a deep, thick-accented voice said behind him. Markus gasped and spun about.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” the man said holding up his hands.
“You, you didn’t,” Markus said but he could feel the heat burning his cheeks.
“Who are you?” he asked the man.
“I am the conductor,” the man answered and tapped his name tag.
“I need your tickets or pass, please?” the conductor asked holding out his hand.
“Of course,” Markus responded, He reached into his pockets searching for his ticket hoping his mother hadn’t kept it.
“Here it is.”
The conductor took it, snapped it with a hole puncher then handed the ticket back.
“Where’re we going anyway?” Markus asked.
“Wherever your imagination takes you,” the conductor smiled and started to leave.
“Wait. What do you mean?”
“This train has but one destination; whatever you wish it to be. So, tell me,” the conductor said with a wink and a smile, “Where do you wish to go?”
Markus glanced back at the statue then looked to the conductor.
“Let adventure take us where it will!” Markus said and returned the smile.
Maybe he was going to like this trip after all.