Binny came careening out of the dining hall and picked a direction at random. It was always left or right upon entering the grand hallway that circled the library. It was a ring after all. Binny chose right and ran.
And when Binny couldn’t run anymore, she stopped dead center, crouching and huddling as she struggled to catch her breath. She didn’t know how long she’d run, but she couldn’t face anyone. She’d finally disgorged the feelings that had been gestating inside her for the last days and weeks, and what had happened?
Nothing really. Binny, at least so far, hadn’t even gotten in trouble. She’d told everyone the truth and expected some sort of reaction. Anger, denial, recognition. Something. Not, indifference and apathy. Nobody seemed to care. She’d called Two the White Witch and even that hadn’t gotten a rise out of her. She’d just replaced everyone’s Turkish Delight.
Binny had told the emperor that he had no clothes, and nobody had cared. Except, except for Katniss. Katniss understood. And now Binny understood Katniss better. She had fought in her book to end one society that crushed the human spirit only to wake up one day to find herself in another. Except in this one, Katniss had no chance. There were no number of arrows Katniss could shoot in the Stacks that would make even the tiniest bit of difference.
So far Binny hadn’t been trampled, crouching in the middle of the hallway, but the crowd was getting thicker as people went from where they ate to where they slept. Binny couldn’t help but think of them as looking like cattle, moving from one pen to another.
Binny spotted a dark red door with a brass knob in the outer wall. She stood up, wiped her eyes and walked to it. Binny wasn’t prepared for the cold wind and the snow swirls that formed around her ankles when she opened the door. But in a way, they were perfect. The sting of the cold felt good to Binny. Cleansing. It helped her refocus her jumbled mind.
Binny walked through the door into a snow covered parking lot of a train station. It was nighttime. Binny had no idea where she was. Very old looking cars, all black, peeked out from under the untouched piles of snow that covered every available surface. Binny looked up at the sign over the main entrance to the train station, it read “Vinkovci”. Binny rushed in through the main doors.
At first she thought the station was empty. It wasn’t just dark out, it appeared to be very very late. The station appeared to have shut down. Ticket counters were closed. All the little letters were removed from the sign on which train arrival and departure times were listed save for one – The Orient Express, which given the time listed should be arriving soon.
Binny heard voices. She looked down the length of the train station to see three people having a discussion in the distance. Binny was drawn to the energetic argument. Anything passionate, even an argument, seemed like a welcome break from the realizations she’d been wrestling with.
Binny walked past empty benches that dotted the train station. No doubt tomorrow in whatever book she was visiting the benches would be filled with travelers. Though, the thick snow and heavy wind outside the station might have something to say about that possibility.
“We should have jumped from the Tower.” A raspy voice said.
“There’s no art to that.” A young man with a British accent said.
“Also, it’s so much work to even get inside. The ghostwood door. And we need the sigul. I’m just feeling too lazy for all that.” This voice was a young girl’s and had some sort of accent that Binny couldn’t quite place.
“And there’s an art to this?” The first voice rasped.
“It’s romantic,” British accent replied.
“How do you see that?”
“Well, death on the inside of the train, and death on the outside. It’s ironic.” British accent declared.
“It’s not ironic,” Girl said.
“Synchronistic?” British said.
“Nope,” Rasp answered.
“Look, we’re already here, do you have any better suggestions?” British accent asked.
A silence followed where apparently Rasp and Girl had no better suggestions. Binny decided this was as good a break as any to introduce herself.
“Hi. Sorry to intrude.” Binny waved a small wave.
The threesome spun in their spots to greet Binny.
“Oh hello.” The girl said. Her hair was bright red. On fire even. And two braids stuck out at 90 degree angles.
“What’s your name pet?” The young man with the British accent said. His clothes looked too big on him. He was young, but acted like an adult.
The third member of the discussion said nothing. Binny tried her best not to look unsettled, thought it was difficult as the man with the raspy voice was unremittingly ugly.
Binny hesitated for a moment, her training from her parents on not talking to strange people kicking in. But quickly Binny remembered, that nothing mattered. Kicking Turkish Delight in everyone’s faces, giving out your personal information to strangers, was all copacetic. So why not tell them exactly who she was.
“My name is Binny. Binny Jordan,” Binny said with confidence she wasn’t feeling.
“Positively delightful to meet you.” The ugly man said sounding like there was gravel in his throat. He sounded anything but delighted to Binny. “I am Grima.”
“I’m Jack.” The young/grown man said with a smile. Binny could tell he thought he was clever.
“How are ya? I’m Pippi!” The girl introduced herself.
“Of course you are.” Binny nodded and smiled at the girl. Binny thought about how just ridiculous Pippi’s hair looked in the flesh. She’d never considered that when she’d read the books as a young child, but here in person, Pippi just looked silly.
As if reading Binny’s mind, Pippi said, “Yeah. I hate them. But it doesn’t matter what I do, cut them off, burn them, the next day they’re back. So this is what it is. And besides, sometimes they make things even more gruesome.”
Binny wasn’t sure what to make of Pippi’s last comment.
“What are you doing here in this sad cold train station, Binny?” Grima said.
“I was just going to ask you the same question.” Binny responded.
“Yes. But you didn’t. I asked first.” Grima responded.
Something felt awful about his comments. Every sentence was like a veiled threat. Like an even more poisonous version of the feeling Binny had felt with One by the fire on the ground floor of the library.
“Well, I did something bad. And I just had to get away. And this was the first door I saw,” Binny admitted, her cheeks pinkening.
Whatever uncomfortable undercurrent Binny had been feeling, suddenly seemed to disintegrate, as her three companions all got surprised wide smiles on their faces.
“Oh really? Do tell,” They chimed.
Why not? Binny thought to herself. “It’s just, this place. I think I’ve had enough,” Binny said.
“How long have you been here?” Jack asked with what seemed like genuine compassion.
“A couple of weeks,” Binny responded.
Pippi and Jack laughed heartily.
“That’s not very long, Binny,” Grima said.
“No. I know. It’s just hitting me how, well, pointless everything is here,” Binny said.
Three faces nodded but said nothing.
Binny continued in the silence, “We’re slaves you know,” Binny raised her eyebrows to underscore her point.
“Well done Binny. Well done.” Grima looked no less ugly, but his tone seemed genuine now.
Binny breathed a little easier. “You know?”
“We know.” Grima said softly, his voice seeming a little less raspy now.
“What are you going to do about it?” Binny demanded.
The question caught Grima, Pippi, and Jack off guard for a moment.
“They’re going to kill themselves,” A familiar voice said from one of the benches off to the side.
Binny turned to find Michel, standing, looking guilty.
“Michel!” I was looking for you.
“I’m sorry Binny. I know. I didn’t mean to leave you when you got in trouble.”
“Why did you leave then?”
“I didn’t think seeing you with me would help your case. And, there was just no more to do. I knew I would find you another time.”
“I wrote you a poem you know. That’s why I got in trouble. I understand now. I understand why you’ve been so sad here. Paris in the twentieth century, your Paris that is, and this place, what’s really the difference?” Binny said.
Michel nodded. His pain not removed, but at least no longer alone. Binny did really understand him.
And then after a moment she added, “Wait, what did you just say? They’re going to kill themselves?”
“That’s what he said,” Pippi confirmed.
“You too?” Binny was starting to get annoyed.
“She’s run into Anna,” Jack said to Grima.
Pippi rolled her eyes. “She’s so self-absorbed. It’s all about her.”
“To be fair, here we are about to throw ourselves in front of a train,” Grima said. “Not exactly original.”
As if on cue, Binny heard the long deep drag of the train’s horn in the distance.
“We better get going,” Jack said.
“Why are you doing this? What is the point of all this?” Binny’s face showed her deep frustration.
“It’s much like you said Binny. In a world where we don’t create our own destinies, in fact, where we don’t create anything at all, what choices are left for us but the manner of our own death?”
“They’ve made dying into an art form,” Michel said.
“Oh what do you know. All you ever do is watch.” Pippi chastised Michel.
“Come, we’re gonna miss it, and then it’s another night in this place.” Jack waved a small wave at Binny before he headed out the nearest door into the cold and the snow.
“See ya later.” Pippi followed Jack.
Grima said nothing, but did make a small bow in Binny’s direction.
Binny could no longer see Grima’s ugliness. All she saw was how sad he was as he held her gaze.
And with that, he was gone too.
“Come on. Let’s go. I don’t want to be here for this,” Binny said to Michel.
The two of them headed for the main doors and back toward the snowless grand hallway. Binny did her best not to imagine what the Orient Express was doing to Grima, Jack, and Pippi with her long braids. And besides, it didn’t matter anyway.
Just as they reached the door, Michel stopped Binny. “I wanted to ask you. I know they took it from you. But do you remember what it was?”
“It was silly.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t.”
“There’s a library full of books. Real books. Written by real authors. And you want to hear something written by me?”
“Yes please.” Michel nodded.
“It’s a haiku.”
“I’m sure it will be lovely.” Michel paused. “Please.”
Binny couldn’t say no anymore. Binny recited from memory:
Sorry for your Hopes
Maybe in the Stacks to write
“That’s lovely Binny.” Michel said.
“I capitalized ‘Hopes’. That really bugged them.”
“You were talking about my book of poems.”
“Yes. I told them it was a typo, and I was referring to my own hopes.”
“Very clever.” Michel smiled.
“Not that it matters at this point, but now I’m not sure I wasn’t.”