I ride the handcar into a railroad tunnel at great speed and when I catch up with the old fashioned passenger car that I’ve been chasing, I board it from the rear. Inside there are no seats, no windows, nothing but the conductor. He’s facing away from me at the opposite end of the car, frozen. Literally. Rime covers everything, including him. The scene is washed in a dim blue light.
But the conductor isn’t human, I realize. He’s stamped out of metal as if he were a highway sign and this frightens me. I shouldn’t be here. I’m barreling through an icy tunnel inside the shell of a passenger car that’s coated with rime and obviously out of control because it’s piloted, for lack of a better word, by the sheet metal likeness of a man.
The cutout comes to life. Still metal, but three dimensional now and perfectly rendered down to the tiniest detail. Living steel, washed in blue and covered with flecks of ice. It turns to me casually, as any real conductor might in any normal passenger car to ask for tickets.