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Listen WKMS SHORT Short Storytelling Student Champion: Chellam Anthony

Chellam Antony is a junior at Murray High School and the winner of the student category of the WKMS SHORT short storytelling contest.

Round trip

When you arrive, you will not know you are there. The entrance has a large metal gate separating the outside world from its contents. The weathered concrete will loosely move under your feet, as the cold ground is felt through the soles of your shoes. A faceless man will greet you, asking for your name and birthdate. The rusted, creaky gates will open, revealing the interior: a dull train station.

Millions of souls will be scattered about, trying to get to their destination. Couples will be holding one another as hot tears escape their eyes and low cries escape their mouth. Children will be trotting helplessly, seemingly unaware of the concepts of childhood bliss. Lone passengers stand with a stoic demeanor, witnessing the melancholy atmosphere. Family members will be herding one another. They will be yelling for tickets, begging for an exchange. They will plead while holding on to their loved ones, hoping for a change for the better.

Across from where you stand, you will see a paint-flecked counter with yet another faceless man at the end. You must get in the lengthy line and wait your turn. People will be close, as your “personal bubble” is now non-existent. Warm breaths slowly being felt on the back of your neck will send unwelcome shivers down your spine. After waiting in the line for six hours, you will finally receive your ticket; and you must not complain, because arguing will get you absolutely nowhere. Achromatic ink leaves an askew stamp on the ticket in hand, indicating which numbered station you should find. You should go to the corresponding terminal and wait in yet another line, similar to the line you already stood in.

At the terminal, a black and red subway-like locomotive is stationed. The red color seems faded due to sun damage, but the black remains bold and poignant. You will board the drab train and sit in the stale compartment. The overwhelming essence of musk and desperation will surround your presence as you sit on the tattered upholstered seats. When the locomotive begins its motion, it will feel stuffy and distressing. Humid air will suffocate your lungs as every breath you take becomes shorter and shorter. Sounds of young infants wailing will echo through your ears, accompanied by shallow muttering. A light ringing in your ears will persist, though the origin of such a tone will remain unknown.

It will feel like months, or years, until the engine stops; but in all actuality, it will merely be a few hours. You will exit the train to arrive at the same gate at the same station--the same location as your starting point. Workers dressed in stained, rugged brown coats will motion you to move into another long line, and at the end of the line you will find the same counter you originally encountered. The same faceless man will greet you and hand you yet another ticket. The purgatorial process begins again: an endless loop of mundane discomfort.

When you die, you should be prepared. Notice I’m not saying if you die, but when you die. The inevitability of death should be accepted, and when it arrives, you must not be surprised. You should know that you are going to purgatory: an endless loop of mundane discomfort.

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