Hillary awoke to a loud clanking sound. Her eyes opened, but the room was out of focus. She didn't know where she was. Hillary tried to adjust her eyes in order to look around. "Did I stay in Ryan's room again?" she thought to herself. She could have sworn she stayed in her own room.
As Hillary rustled around she could feel Ryan turn away so she couldn't disturb him any longer. Hillary felt dizzy, almost as if she was moving, like motion-sickness. Her ears popped. "It must be another ear infection," she thought, tired from the day's swim team practice. Finally her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. She was moving—on a train!
Hillary sat straight up. She tried really hard to figure out when they got on the train. Where were they going? It wasn't odd that they were on a train because Hillary and Ryan traveled home to visit his family in South Carolina during any college breaks.
Still, Hillary couldn't remember anything. She didn't recall boarding the train or why they were even going home. It wasn't a break, and they had class in the morning.
Hillary figured she was just tired and couldn't think clearly. She began to fall asleep, still feeling queasy. Hillary did not notice that she and Ryan were on a special kind of train.
The next morning, it was still pretty dark; Ryan woke Hillary with a shout. "Hillary! Hillary wake up!"
"Ryan what's your problem" Hillary grouched as she opened her squinted eyes. Her long, brown hair was a mess, sticking up in different directions, covering her green eyes.
"Babe, where are we?" Ryan asked in a panicky voice.
Hillary and Ryan had been dating for almost two years and she had never known him to act scared. He was physically and emotionally strong.
She shot up out of the bed. "What is it Ryan? What's wrong?"
"Look!" he shouted as he pointed all around them.
Hillary glanced around the room. It was unfamiliar. It was definitely a train, only real fancy. It was narrow like a regular train but it didn't have any seats, it had a nice bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room.
"I woke up last night and didn't know where we were" Hillary confessed.
"You knew we were here and didn't wake me up!" Ryan fumed.
She could see his muscles tighten. He clenched his muscular jar and Hillary could see veins moving by his sandy brown hair on his forehead.
"I thought I was imagining it, I was awfully tired. You know how I talk and do strange things in my sleep!"
Ryan needed answers. He walked over to the long curtain and slid it open. As he opened the curtain, Hillary gasped, "We need to get out! Hurry!"
The open curtain revealed water. Ocean waters every where, fish of all different kinds swam by.
"Ryan! Break the window! We need to get out" Hillary whined. No windows were breaking, the train seemed to be going straight forward and not sinking. It was oddly okay.
As Hillary was pacing and freaking out, two other passengers ran into the room. It was Pat and Trent, two of Ryan's college buddies. Pat was Ryan's room mate, who was tall and skinny, with light brown hair and brown eyes. Trent lived just down the hall from them, a heavier boy with long blond hair, always pulled into a ponytail and green eyes.
Ryan tried to get his questions answered quickly. However, Pat and Trent were just as clueless. All they knew was that they were somehow on an underwater train. It seemed safe, but that's all they knew. No one knew where they were, how they got there, or why they were there.
Ryan went to Hillary and held her in effort to calm her down. She was crying hysterically.
The four of them sat together curled around on the floor. The boys sat quietly as Hillary sobbed and sniffed.
Once Hillary calmed down the four of them decided to walk around. Maybe they would get answers. There could be other people on the underwater train.
The train had many rooms. Many cars on the train were a bedroom set up; much like the one Hillary and Ryan woke up to. Each bedroom had a kitchen filled with plenty of food; the living rooms had televisions and movies to watch.
The other cars, however, were set up differently. The train seemed endless. There had to be over 100 different cars on the train. Some were set up like a weight room and a cardio center or an obstacle course, while others looked like class rooms. They had desks, much like typical classrooms. The cars that looked like classrooms even seemed different from one another, like each room was a different subject. One had maps; another had calculators and math charts, while another car was filled with art easels. There was even a car that was a small resemblance of a church sanctuary.
The train seemed very up to date with all the technology and equipment.
As the group went through each room, they opened the curtains wide. It looked as if they were in a large fish aquarium. Only, they were in the fish tank.
As they entered the next bedroom, there was a large figured girl lying in the bathroom. She wept alongside the toilet. She had really short dark black hair for a girl. She must have heard the group coming and turned quickly towards them. Hillary recognized the girl. It was her best friend Sami.
Hillary and Sami grabbed each other and reunited. They hugged each other tightly, grateful that they had each other.
After their reunion, the group continued to search the train. The five of them came upon the operating room. There was a girl sleeping by the control panel. She had short, curly red hair to her chin. She was really fragile and petite. "Hey! Wake up!" Trent yelled.
The startled girl looked relieved to see other people. "Are you in charge" Pat blurted out hopefully.
"No, no. Do you guys know what's going on?" the girl asked in anticipation, "I'm Tori, by the way."
When the group explained all they knew so far, they decided to head to a bedroom to relax and regroup.
The train simply went on its own. Looking out the window, the train was on tracks. They couldn't tell how the tracks were stable though. It seemed like their was more water under them.
As the group sat down in lost frustration and confusion, a loud voiced echoed over what seemed like an intercom system.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Aqua Train. I know you are confused at this point. Things will be explained. I'd appreciate if you'd turn your television on."
The voice abruptly stopped. There was a silent pause until Hillary ran to the T.V. set and followed the command given. When the television was on and clear an older, white headed man appeared.
"Hello and welcome again to Aqua Train. Congratulations! You have been randomly selected to participate in a new reality show series, Aqua Train Challenge. Because of your great academic success at your college, your grade level, and your interest to be on a reality show you were placed on a list to be chosen. Only two schools in your state are partaking in this new show, making the selection process at a minimum. MTV and HBO have collaborated to make a new hit series.
You will be on this train for a minimum of a month and maximum of two months and one week. The goal is to be the last person on the train. You will be separated into two teams of three. Everyday for a month, there will a variety of competitions."
The group looked around at each other in disbelief. After quickly glancing at one another, they returned their attention to the television set.
"Each car represents a new struggle or challenge. One car may be a knowledge based contest, while the next car is physical or spiritual.
At the end of the first month, one player from each team will be eliminated. The same process will continue. When two months are over and there is only one player from each team, there will be one competition a day for one week."
The group still looked skeptical. "Where are we?" Hillary still wanted to know. Ryan gently put his hand on her lap.
"Competitions will be announced at any given time each day. Listen for my voice. I will have you meet in a designated area to give instructions. The train is equipped with everything you'll need throughout these contests.
To determine who is eliminated, we have placed hidden cameras throughout the train. Three judges are continuously watching your competitions, as well as your daily lives. We hear what is said and see what is done."
Pat and Trent looked around the room, feeling uneasy about the cameras.
"When you are eliminated, we have suction panels that will take you away. They look like glass tubes and will use a vacuum-like motion to safely lift you. Once you have left the train, you will be in the safe hands of trained professionals to take you to land.
We assure that this surrounding is a safe environment. MTV, HBO, many other scientists and professionals have planned this high technology out for years. This train has been tested and can withstand exceeding pressure."
"Great" Sami said sarcastically.
"Your family has been informed. As you know, you signed a waiver and a contract to do some sort of reality show in case you were selected. You will have no contact with anyone outside of this train. The only form of communication possible is each other, myself, and one other form of communication, which will be explained shortly."
"You were brought here without knowing. 24 hours ago, we put each of you under, knocking you out completely. You were each put down until the train was 1000 feet beneath the water..
The group stared at the television in awe.
The winner of this competition will receive full tuition paid for their college years. This includes your first completed year, this past year, until you finish all your colleges' courses. This includes any loans or grants you have taken or would take out. We will also guarantee the Aqua Train Challenge Winner a job in their career choice.
Smiles covered the group's faces. "Thank god!" Shouted Trent. Ryan, Hillary, Pat, and Trent went to a very expensive Division III school, the award would help a lot.
The last form of communication that you will have is as follows. Because we are taking you out of your college classes, you school has agreed to have your professors teach you via satellite.
The teams will be, Pat, Hillary, and Sami on Team Shark and Trent, Ryan, and Tori on Team Whale. You will start tomorrow. Good luck to all of you."
Hillary's happy expression faded quickly. She wasn't on the same team as Ryan. In their two years, they always stayed together. They were a great team. "What if I go home without you?" Hillary said expressionless, tears filling her eyes.
(Note to readers: television viewers know that the participants are on a train simulation. It is a real train, but they are not in the ocean. The windows inside create that illusion and the simulation also creates a realistic train movement. The train and production of this set takes place in a warehouse owned by MTV and HBO.)
One morning the group was awakened up by loud, rock music playing over the intercom. "Please report to the weight training car wearing workout clothing and shoes . Prepare for a hardcore day" the announcer beamed over the music, emphasizing the word core. Once the group all entered the weight room, the announcer began listing the rules.
"Each team will have to do dead lift, squat, bench, and hang cling. Girl's split their body weight in half and add ten to that. That is what the girls have to lift in each center. Boy's will take their body weight and add fifteen pounds that is what they will lift in each center. Each player has to lift 12 repetitions at each center, using the correct body form. When all players from your team have completely finished, ring the cow bell that is placed on the file. If any player absolutely can not lift this weight, they have to run to the end of the car and ring the air horn and eight minutes will be added to that team's time. Each team can decide their own strategy. The winner is the first team to get all three players through each of the four centers the fastest."
Hillary looked at her teammates. She knew Pat could do it. He looked skinny, but he was totally capable. She and Sami lifted together in high school. Sami was a big, solid girl. If anyone had problems, it was her. "You guys, I might take a while, but I can beat Tori. Look at her, she's going to break. " The group looked over at the fragile figure of Sami's fragile figure.
"Okay, but we have to work fast. Ryan and Trent lift everyday for football" Pat said hesitantly.
When the clock began, the teams all talked first to decide a strategy. Team shark started. Pat went directly to squats and Sami went to bench. There strategy was for Pat and Sami to do one lift at different centers at the same time. After Pat finished, he spotted Hillary on bench as Sami went to squat. They continuously switched in this order. Team Whale all decided to lift on their own at the same time.
Pat and Sami both finished after Ryan and Trent. It left one player on each team to decide the winner. Hillary only had four repetitions of squat left, but was extremely fatigued. She began to slow down. Tori just starting bench and was working at a faster pace than Hillary. It could be either team.
After nine repetitions, Tori started to cry. Her arms were shaking profusely. Hillary had two repetitions on squat to go. "Hillary go! You have to go now!" Pat yelled. He was pissed; Hillary had rested for too long. Tori could catch up at any time.
"Go Tori! Come on! You can do it!" Ryan and Trent encouraged.
Hillary could see Tori lift the bar to continue. Hillary grunted as she lifted the squat bar above her shoulders again. She went down to 90 degrees again, legs shaking and sweat dripping down her eyes. She pushed up. She didn't know how many repetitions Tori had left, but Hillary went down one more time.
She lifted raised up, put the bar slowly on the rack. "Good! Good!" Sami screamed, "Come on. We have to run!" Hillary went forward to run as her legs gave out and fell. Tori had just finished and placed the bench bar on the rack.
Pat and Sami helped Hillary up. Hillary regained her strength and began running behind Pat and Sami. Her legs were weak, but Hillary could hear Ryan coming up behind her with his group. Hillary was determined. She pushed through the pain and sprinted.
The bell rang. Team shark had won by milliseconds!
Being surrounded by each other constantly was another story on its own. The group had its arguments, disagreements, and tiffs. They were usually solved quickly.
Since Hillary and Ryan were put on two separate teams, things became more difficult. They certainly loved each other, but the stress of competing against each other or sending each other home was wearing on them.
One day after competing against each other in scavenger hunt, Hillary and Ryan were the last competitors on each team. It was more strategy based than physically. Hillary finished just seconds before Ryan. Both really big contenders, it hurt Ryan that his girlfriend beat him.
Later on, Ryan confronted Hillary. "How could you do that to me?" He glared at her.
"Do what? I won fair and square buddy" she snapped back.
"You know that could send me home. I'm better for my team than you are" Ryan growled. Hillary was hurt, but most of all, she was pissed. She got up and left the room, leaving Ryan to feel guilty.
As Hillary sat alone on her bed, crying, Ryan came in a few minutes later. "Look, I didn't mean it that way. I just meant…"
"You meant that you're better than me at everything" she interrupted.
"I am not" he replied.
"Ryan, physically you are. That was strategy today. I'm not going to stop and hand it to you if I could do it. I'm sorry" Hillary told him point blank. "Look, you beat me on everything else, and that could send me home. How does that make you feel?" Ryan turned from her gaze.
After a few moments of silence, Hillary spoke, "Ryan, this isn't us. We're both big competitors, but not with each other. This is tearing us apart, I hate this!" Hillary's eyes filled with tears. Ryan wrapped his body around hers.
"We know we're going to get married in the future, right?" Ryan asked.
Hillary pushed out of his hug, "Yeah, why?" she asked hesitantly.
"Then it doesn't matter if I win or you win" he responded.
Hillary looked confused, "What are you getting at?"
"If you win, we'll both pay my college loans, if I win, we'll both pay you college loans," he said with a smile on his face.
They both sat quietly for minutes on end. "We both stay as long as we can," Hillary started, "but in the end you can beat everyone on this train."
Ryan looked hesitant. "Don't look weak now, this is your idea, and you know you can win, I know you can win. If I go home, the most we'll be apart is 2 months, we can do this," Hillary said reassuringly.
A smile grew on Ryan's face, he was confident. He reached for Hillary and began kissing her. They slowly fell down on the bed, touching all over their bodies.
"Ryan," Hillary whispered, "Ryan stop!"
"Ryan!" Hillary whined. He stopped and looked at her in confusion. "Do you really want your grandmother to see this? She doesn't even know we sleep in the same bed!!"
"Ladies and gentlemen," they heard, startling Ryan, "it is now time to kick one person from each team off the train. Please make your way to the elimination room."
Ryan sighed, and got off the bed. They made their way to the elimination room to meet with the other contestants.
They all sat around in desks, waiting for what could possibly be next. The same man who was on the T.V. the first day they arrived appeared on the screen in the front of the room.
"Hello. As you all know, two people will be leaving us today. One person from each team. It will be based on judges' opinions over the last months' competitions."
The group looked around in fear. Although the group had split into two groups, they usually stuck together as a support system in this new, dangerous experience.
Ryan and Hillary sat in two separate desks, clasping hands underneath. The last month again, was hard on them. They competed against each other many times, creating tension in their relationship.
"Tori, please step into our transportation tube. Pat step into the other tube please," the announcer said. Hillary was shocked. Pat was the brains and athletic talent of the team. The group's expression fell. Pat and Tori stepped into the tubes.
"Tori, it is your time to leave." Tori was slowly vacuumed up the tube. Her hair and clothing slipped up her body a little as she was removed from the room. When they couldn't see her anymore, they continued.
"Pat, say goodbye to Sami because she will be leaving us today." The voice said, creating confusion on the train. They weren't sending Pat home, Sami was leaving.
Over the next few months, the group as a whole was falling apart. The participants that still remained all attend an expensive Division III college and needed that financial help. They were going to fight to the end. Not only were the competitions aggressive not, friendships were being torn. Even team mates were going head to head. Ryan and Hillary stayed close, which made their team mates even more angry.
The month went on and the competitions continued. When it came time for elimination time, Hillary knew she was gone. She was slower and weaker than all the boys. The only thing she had on them was knowledge.
The four of the sat in the elimination room. "Hillary, please step into the evacuation tube," the announcer stated. Hillary gave Ryan a big hug and kiss. "Good luck baby, kick some ass," she told Ryan before entering the tube.
She stepped into the tube, tears running down her face. She left the group.
The anticipation among the boys was overwhelming. "Ryan, please step forward," the announcer spoke.
"What!" Ryan shouted in anger and slammed his fist on a desk as he walked forward.
"Because you are staying. Say goodbye to Trent" the announced finished.
Ryan paused. He was in shock. Trent and Ryan both said their goodbyes and Trent left through the evacuation tube.
The next week was hell. Pat and Ryan endured physical pain and mental exhaustion from the competitions.
At the end of the week, the two men were drained. They sat in the elimination room, waiting.
"Men, you have made it this far to the final round. You both should be very proud. But I can only choose one winner."
Ryan and Pat quickly glanced at each other.
"Both of you please step into an evacuation tube. The first person to leave us today is not the winner. The second person to leave the train today is our Aqua Train Challenge winner."
The boys stood nervously in the tubes. Both men started to move upwards. They both watched each other closely to see who would leave first.
Pat zoomed up the tube.
"Yes!" shouted Ryan as he shot upward.
Ryan waited to be submerged in water, when he was surrounded by people in a cement building.
"Congratulations!" said the announcer, walking towards him, "You are the Aqua Train Challenge winner!"
Ryan stood in awe and confusion. Then he spotted Hillary. She ran up to him and held him tightly. She whispered softly into his ear, "It's not what you expected to see huh?" She kissed him, "I'll explain it later, good job baby."
I would like to thank Terry Heller. He showed me that longer stories are usually better, even if they take more time to write and read. He also helped add great details to my story. I'd like to thank my classmates as well for giving me suggestions on what to add or change. Stephanie, Katie, and Paul gave me helpful suggestions that I used many times throughout my story. This story was actually a dream I had in the beginning of this process, and it turned into a fun, fantasy story.