Short Trip (Alexander Perrin)


There is a hand-drawn tram simulator, beautifully drawn. You are in the role of some entity, appearing and not appearing human, and you walk him toward the waiting tram. He is — you are — not its passenger but its conductor, controlling the forward and backward movement of the tram. Along the tram route there are stops. At the first such station, you slow too late, having seen it not in time to ease in. This is no serious problem. You merely reverse the tram a few meters, slowly, back into the station, and pause, so the tram doors can open and waiting passengers step on. You do not pay much attention yet. The scenery is beautiful. You can hear birds chirping.

Another station, another stop. You are getting better, paying a bit more attention now, all so that the stops are more gradual and eased. At the third village you start to feel that the tram is far too crowded. Have not too many boarded? It is difficult to see inside the car to confirm. But you cannot recall any previous passengers disembarking, walking away into the village or their waiting homes, to hearths or children. At the next station, after paying attention to the slowing of the wheels, you now divert your eyes to the opening and shutting of the tram doors. Passengers are indeed exiting, this at least seems well. Except they are dematerializing within seconds of leaving the car, their sketched figures dissolving, dust blown into a wind you cannot feel on the skin but hear and hear too well. To stop, to allow disembarking, feels homicidal. You want to drive the tram nonstop forward, to stop no longer, to pass through the beautiful alpine countryside and small villages without even slowing. Except at each station, more are waiting to board as well — patiently, on benches, or perched against posts, sitting by the docks. To continue would be to ignore them, to prevent them their own chance at passage. You stop.

At the end of the line, there are no passengers left on board. You get out. You walk to a ledge near the station, a bit past a wooden outpost. You look out. You turn around. Can the tram be reversed? Yes. You become determined to give a second trip, a third trip, immortality to those who will take it. You drive the trolley back down the hill, to what was the last village stop. Except now you recognize not one of the figures from before. They are so indistinct, these sketches, mostly blank page, some outline. It had not yet occurred to you that their ghosts would not be waiting. Are these the self-same passengers you let off before?

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