The Matryoshka Curse. Ch 1

Flinders Street Station. August 16, 2016. 10am.
Sophie and Belinda stare at the people in the carriages, as the train in front of them passes by. It’s a chilly winter morning in Melbourne and the two twenty-seven year olds are waiting for a train that will take them through the city loop.

Suddenly, just as the last carriage has passed them, they are knocked backward onto their backs by a very strong, invisible force.
Their handbags contents fly across the tiled floor; lipsticks, pens and tampons roll in all different directions. Sophie and Belinda sit up slowly.

Their surroundings have changed and Flinders Street Station looks completely different to the way it looked two seconds ago. Instead of trains travelling on the tracks alongside the platforms in the distace, there are now floating tube-like trains, hovering above the ground aligning the platforms, that has been concreted and painted. There is not a single metal track in sight. Large white capital letters have been painted over each space of ground stating which platform, the platforms are.

“Girls! Are you alright?” A young woman, dressed in a long satin orange dress with clear shoes, asks them.
Sophie and Belinda stare at her, taking in her weird fashion sense and friendly nature. Most people standing on train platforms would normally be very antisocial.
“Umm, I think so,” Belinda says, picking up pens and tampons and her bag and putting everything back in order. The friendly woman drops some pens and tampons into Belinda’s handbag and smiles.
“What happened? Why were you on the ground?” The woman asks, curious.
“I dunno. We were waiting for a train and then something pushed us backwards and we fell over,” Belinda says, pushing her brown fringe out of her brown eyes.
“Are you allergic to the magnets?” The friendly woman asks.
“What magnets?” Belinda asks.
“You know, the magnets. You know? The ones that drive the trains?” She says.
“What? Umm, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Belinda says.
“Where have you been living lovey? Under a rock?” The lady laughs.
“Umm, no.” Sophie says, rolling her blue eyes.
“Well, as long as you are both okay, I have to go. This is my train.” The friendly lady says, boarding a floating tube, once two doors have opened.
“Yeah. We’re fine. Thanks.” Sophie says. “What the fuck is going on?” She adds, looking at Belinda.
“Soph. I have no fucking idea. Where the fuck are we? Am I tripping?”
“We must be.” Sophie agrees, and the two girls sit down on a silver metallic bench closest to them.
The station is very futuristic. The trains no longer run on tracks but are pulled by magnets, as they have just learned.
And all of the travelers around them look extremely weird and wear very futuristic clothing. One thing the women notice is that nobody has a mobile phone, and they are all talking to themselves. A man chats to himself about mergers and acquisitions, and uses a bunch of business terms the girls are unfamiliar with. A mother nearby soothes her baby on her chest and then places her back into a pram, that doesn’t have any wheels, but somehow, is floating, stationary in mid-air. A woman wearing a purple feathered jacket, has earplugs in her ears, and seems to be the most normal person in their immediate vicinity. When she spots Sophie and Belinda, she rips out her earplugs and bounds over to the girls haphazardly.
“No way! You guys have phones? Where did you get those? That’s so awesome! How cool are these earplugs? I found them at the bottom of a box at a garage sale last week.” The girl says, and then adds: “I’m Daphina!”
“Hi,” Belinda says cautiously.
“I’m Sophie. This is Belinda. Where are we?” Sophie asks Daphina.
“You’re at Flinders Street Station. Derr.” Daphina smiles.
“We know that, but like, why does it look so weird?”
“What do you mean? It doesn’t look weird.” Daphina is nonplussed.
“Two seconds ago, we were waiting for a train, that moves on tracks. And now, we are at Flinders Street Station, and all the fucking trains, move, well, they fucking float. They’re like flying!!!” Sophie says, annoyed.
“Yeah, and?” Daphina thinks Sophie is crazy.
“Since when do trains fly?” Belinda stares at Daphina, annoyed.
“Since like six years ago.” Daphina says.
“Six years ago? Six years ago was 2010. I don’t think so.” Belinda says emphatically.
“2010? If it was 2010 six years ago, I wouldn’t be standing here. What planet are you from?” Daphina says.
“What? Either, we’re tripping, or you’re trippin’. Do you take acid?” Sophie asks.
“Yeah, I do, but trust me, I’m not tripping. It’s 2046. I’ve gotta go man!” Daphina walks off.
“What? 2046? What fucking planet are you on?” Belinda shrieks.
“Earth man. I’m on Earth.” Daphina ignores them.
“Belinda! Did we have any acid last night?” Sophie asks.
“Nope. We were at your house. We had dinner with your parents.” Belinda says.
“Why did she say it’s 2046? It’s 2016.” Sophie sooks.
“Does it look like it’s 2016 to you?” Belinda huffs and puffs and sits back down.
“No, it doesn’t.”
Belinda’s phone rings and she answers it.
“Hello?” She says, sighing.
“Mum – where are you?” A male voice asks her.
“Mum? Who the fuck are you?” Belinda shrieks.
“Whoaa. Why are you swearing? I just woke up, and you weren’t home.”
“Who are you, and why are you calling me?” Belinda screams into the phone.
“Mum – what the fuck are you on? It’s James, and I’m calling you because I was worried.”
“James? I don’t know a James…” Belinda says, and Sophie is frowning with curiosity as Belinda has James on loudspeaker.
“Mum – are you okay? Where are you? I’ll come and get you.” James says.
“James. I don’t know you. Who are you?” Belinda says, very slowly.
“Oh my God. Mum. I think you have dementia. Where are you?” James asks annoyed.
“I’m at Flinders Street Station with Sophie.” Belinda says slowly, looking at Sophie.
“Who is Sophie? Why are you in the city? You hate the city!” James says.
“Something really weird is happening. James – how old are you and when were you born?”
“Holy shit Mum, you really have lost it. Stay where you are. I’m coming to get you.”
“No, no, no. Wait. Just answer my question.” Belinda says, enunciating each word.
“For fuck sake. I’m eighteen and I was born in 2028. What is this? A game?”
“No James. I’m not playing any games. I will come to you. Where are you?”
“I’m at home. I just woke up. Do you want me to call dad?”
“No, no, no. Do not call him. I don’t even know him yet. Where do we live? What’s our address?”
“Mum. I think you have dementia. And I think for your sake, you need to stay where you are, so that I can come and pick you up.”
“I’m with Sophie. I’m fine. I just need to know how to get home.”
“Use your hand. On the train.”
“My hand on the train? What do you mean my hand on the train?”
“Holy fuck.” James exhales loudly. Mutters something incoherent. “Mum. Get on the Kinglake Train on Platform One.”
“I’m on Platform One James, but this train doesn’t go to Kinglake. It goes to South Morang.” Belinda says, frustrated.
“Mum, just listen to me. It goes to Kinglake. Get on the train, touch your hand to the fucking wall, stand in one fucking spot, and get off the train at Upper Plenty.” James is frustrated too.
“Upper Plenty? Far out! Is that where we live?”
“Yes, Mum. Last time I checked. I’ll see you in twenty okay? I will pick you up from the station!” James hangs up the phone.
“Twenty minutes? It’s gonna take more than twenty minutes to get to Upper Plenty! It takes an hour to get to South Morang. What is this kid on?” Belinda screams at the phone.
“Well apparently, he’s your kid. So I’d take a wild guess and say acid?” Sophie laughs.
“Sophie, this is not funny! Get on the train. This is so retarded man! He said touch my hand to the wall? What fucking wall?” Belinda yells, stepping onto a train with Sophie and looking around the carriage.
“Where are all the seats? Why is everyone standing up?” Sophie says, looking about the carriage.
Belinda waves her hand in front of a square on the carriage wall. The square looks like a blue ipad embedded into the interior.
“Nothing’s happening.” Belinda says.
“I think that’s like Myki. It’s not gonna work.” Sophie says.
“Are you having a problem with your ticket?” A woman who is actually a robot approaches Belinda to help her.
“Um. Yeah. I waved my hand, and nothing happened.” Belinda says, casually.
“Have you got enough money on you?” The woman/robot asks.
“Um, yeah. Last time I checked. I had twenty on it.” Belinda says.
“I’ve got the same problem.” Sophie looks at the ticket inspector.
“Let me just scan your hands.” The woman/robot says, taking it in turns to hold their wrists, to scan their hands with her hand.
“My scanner is telling me your chips have been removed. Have either of you removed your chips lately?”
“Nope. Not that I’m aware of.” Belinda looks at Sophie who looks back at Belinda.
“Right. Will there be someone to pick you up who can pay for your fare?” The woman/robot asks.
“Yeah. My son James is picking us up from the station. He can pay our fare then.”
“Where will you be getting off?”
“Upper Plenty,” Belinda says.
“Right. Find a place to stand and I’ll come back to you in twenty minutes.” The woman/robot walks away and Belinda and Sophie find a place to stand, propping their handbags on the ground in front of them. Invisible restraints encase their figures to the point where they feel like they can’t move. It’s a very claustrophobic feeling. Belinda and Sophie soon realise however, that the invisible restraint is to keep them upright. The train departs very quickly and within five minutes the women have stopped at Clifton Hill Station.
“Clifton Hill? How the fuck did we get here so fast?” What about all the other stations?” Sophie yells at Belinda.
“I know. I used to ask myself the same thing. Gone are the good old days when the trains would stop every three or four minutes.” An elderly woman of around seventy, who is standing next to them, says.
“Good old days? If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” Belinda is stunned.
“I am seventy years old lovey.” The woman smiles.
“Seventy? What happened to all the other stations?” Sophie asks.
“There’s no need for them. Not anymore. Not like there used to be.” The woman smiles, and walks off the floating train and onto the platform, a floating groceries trolley moves in front of her, as though it telepathically knows in which direction she wants it to move.
“Nothing around here has wheels.” Sophie whispers to Belinda. “Not trains. Not prams. Not shopping trolleys. How the hell are they moving?” Sophie says.
“I know. I’ve noticed.” Belinda says, just as they are stopping at Preston.
“Preston! We live in Preston. Let’s get off here!” Sophie says.
“No, Sophie. We can’t. We have to go to James.” Belinda says.
“Alright. And then I’m going home.” Sophie sighs.
“I somehow don’t think you will be. Unless you know where you live in the future.” Belinda laughs.
“You’re scaring me! Don’t you ever say that again Bell!” Sophie says, tears rolling down her face.
“Hey babe. It’s ok. We’ll be okay. I’m married with a kid. We’ll be fine. There are people in this world who know us. Don’t freak out on me. I need you.” Belinda says, smiling.
“We are in the fucking future! There’s nothing okay about that!” Passengers are staring.
“Well, that’s only because we are not used to it yet. We’ve only been here five minutes. Calm down. Relax.” Belinda says.
“Hey, did you feel that? The invisible seat belt, err, wall belt, err, thingy, has gone.” Sophie stares down at her torso, and then bends to pick up her handbag.
“Yeah. I think it’s letting us go.” Belinda says, bending down to pick up her bag nestled near her feet.
The two women step off the train and are immediately followed by the woman/robot/ticket inspector.
“Mum!” A man who is running toward them screams, enveloping Belinda in a tight hug.
“Oh! James! You’re James! James, can you please pay this lady? My hand wasn’t scanning on the train.” Belinda says.
James shakes the woman’s hand, the ticket inspector smiles, and gets back onto the train. The train flies off.
“Mum, you look different! And what are you wearing? And why do you look so young?” James asks Belinda, with his arm around her shoulder, steering her toward their floating car in the car park.
“James. I can’t really answer your questions. All I know is I didn’t even know I had a son until you called me.”
“I think we need to see a doctor.” James says.
“I don’t have dementia James. I’m twenty-seven years old.” Belinda rolls her eyes.
“Okay. Well something fucked is happening right now. Get in the car Mum. And you. Whoever you are.”
“James. This is Sophie. My best friend.” Belinda smiles getting into an oval shaped vehicle, with coffee-coloured leather upholstery.
“Sophie… Sophie… That Sophie? You haven’t had a friend called Sophie for years!!! Years!!! Like, since before I was born!!!!”
James says, planting his thumb onto a small lit up screen in the car’s interior wall.
“Hello James Meldon. Where would you like to go?” The car asks James in a nice male British accent.
“Home please. I’d like to go home.” James says, and belts swing out from the leather upholstery, and around the three seated passengers, and click themselves closed, into place.
“What? The seat belts do themselves? The cars talk? The cars drive themselves? What kind of world are we living in?” Sophie says, shocked.
“It’s quite normal. I assure you.” James says, exhaling loudly, visibly annoyed wth the two women and their cuckoo antics.
“So our last name is Meldon? Really? And we live in Upper Plenty?” Belinda says, looking at her son.
“Yes, Mum. Really.”
“Who’s my husband?” Belinda asks.
“Dad. Dad is your husband. Well. You’re not married. He is your partner.”
“I’m not married. Why am I not married? What’s his name? Do I have other kids?”
“No, Mum. I’m it. David. That’s his name.”
“Cool. What does he do? How did I meet him?”
“No idea. He is a computer engineer. What’s with all the questions?” James rolls his eyes.
“I don’t know anything about my life darling. I am just trying to figure it all out. That’s all.” Belinda says.
“If you don’t know anything about your life Mum, you have dementia. Plain and simple.” James says.
“I don’t have dementia. I am twenty seven years old!” Belinda is exasperated.
“You are not twenty seven. Stop lying. You’re fifty seven! Get out. We’re here.” James says, flinging his legs out the side of the oval shaped mini-flying car, and waiting for Belinda and Sophie to do the same. The car door closes and locks itself. Sophie and Belinda peer up at the plain grey rendered front windowless facade of the house.
“James – why doesn’t our house have any windows?” Belinda asks her son.
“Mum – are you kidding? Get inside!”
“What? I wanna know. Why doesn’t it have any windows James?” Belinda asks as James waves his hand over a small pad on the home’s exterior. The action unlocks the door and it swings open, inviting the trio inside.
“Mum – for God’s sake. We have windows. Their off right now.” James says, kicking off his runners.
“Why doesn’t anything have wheels?” Belinda asks her son, following him to the front door, which he unlocks by waving his hand in front of a screen in the exterior wall.
“Wheels? Nothing has had wheels for at least ten years!” James says, plonking himself down on the couch.
“What are you doing? Who are you talking to?” Belinda asks James, as he begins having a conversation with himself.
“Mum, be quiet for one moment. I’m talking to Dad. Sorry dad, I can’t hear you. Mum’s very chatty today.” James says to himself, as though he is talking to himself.
“How are you talking to him?” Belinda asks. Sophie sits down on a couch.
“I’m using my headset. Shh for one second.” James is getting annoyed. “No, don’t come home. I’m calling the doctor. He can come and take a look at her. Uhuh. Yeah. I know. Alright. I’ll see you at five. Bye.”
“Mum, take a chill pill. You’re annoying me.” James says.
“I’m sorry darling, I’m just trying to get used to everything.” Belinda says, sitting down.
“Why are you sitting here?” James asks her incredulous.
“What do you mean? Where should I be sitting?” Belinda asks, confused.
“In your living room. This is my living room.” James frowns. “TV on.” He talks to the TV.
“Sophie, come on. I don’t think we are wanted here.” Belinda says, getting up and walking down a hallway that’s apparently hers.

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