SCENE 12 – Vista
"Mein Gott!" The Conductorhas stumbled along the coal, and storms into the cockpit –interrupting the goodly moment the two kids are sharing. "There is absolutely no kissing in the cockpit, not while the train is still running!"
Utena and Shinji break their kiss, with a bit of saliva left on her lips. Her heart is still thumping like a drum, and she's embarrassed about having been seen in a moment of intimacy.
"Utena Fraulein!" the Conductor goes, danubing towards her. "Are you trying to distract the boy? I will assure you that there will be consequences if the train gets derailed off schedule! That will be no goodly."
"I was looking for Shinji," Utena says. "When you took him away because he had no ticket, I think that's 'no goodly' too."
"Passengers without their tickets, whether it is due to mishaps or the what-not – they still deserve the journey, and so I bring them up here so they can help make the train run smoothly. It is like having customers serve as busboy and dishwasher when they don't have the money on them, ja? To be throwing people off is not in the Christmas Spirit making."
"I'm just glad he's still here safe and sound," Utena says.
The Conductor glances at the cockpit gauges, making sure well is in order. Then he says, "I see you have been growing attached to him. I know the feeling. It is love in motion. It always is a beautiful thing, love, when it blossoms, especially in a cold season."
"Have you ever loved?" Utena says, feeling her kiss with Shinji and the warmth chuckling within her once more.
"I have loved, and I am still loving," the Conductor says. "The woman I love.. she is on the verge of dying."
"Right now?" Shinji goes.
"Yes, right now. She is terminally sick – she had fallen down the stairs and bumped her head, and when I took her to the emergency room, the doctors pointed out that she was just about to fall victim to a new, strange sickness that lay silent inside her. If she woke up, it would take her in a week. So, with all the money I had, I asked them to put her into cryostasis."
Utena holds her breath for a second, and then asks, "Cryostasis..?"
"Yes," the Conductor goes. "Utena Fraulein, you are from December 1996?"
"And Ikari Shinji, you are from Tokyo-3, December 2015?"
Shinji nods. Is Utena from the past? "What are you trying to tell us?"
"You mengs have never heard about the cryogenics? The maschine which freezes the body into hibernation, in order to borrow time to save its life? It must sound like something from the Science Fiction readings to you, ja?" the Conductor goes. "Utena, Shinji, I am someone who comes from December of 2034. A different time from yours. A time when you are able to better save the people you love from Death, with the cryogenics maschines. From disease, old age, and bodily grievances. And I serve as the conductor on the Boreal Express, with the promise that Saint Nicholas will provide a miracle to my woman – a chance to save her from the sickness. Perhaps many others too who will fall to it."
"If Santa could save your lover," Utena says, her loss erupting up from her, "why wouldn'the save my Mom and Dad?"
"Utena.." the Conductor goes, "I am truly sorry. I only know that when St Nicholas had personally come to me, I was kneeling where meine Liebe was in one of the maschines, resting my head on the glass, still seeing her angelic face looking at me, and I felt my face resting in someone's lap all of a sudden. I saw, it was St Nicholas himself, in his red outfit, and all Time itself was frozen, except for me and him.
"He felt for my plight and said that while he cannot save people after they die, he can yet spare a miracle for me and my love, that we will be able to love each other again. I only need to complete my duties for the Boreal Express without problem."
The Conductor holds his head down in solemn thought. "I wonder if he will keep true to his word. I have already given much of myself for my love – I cannot bear to tear my heart away from her. He said that it would do me, himself and the Christmas Spirit good – with this train, it will be the first time St Nicholas is able to bring a large amount of people to his realm, Lux. I suppose he chose you two and the rest of the passengers for a reason. You must be on his goodly list tonight."
"He can't save people after they've died.." Utena goes.
"If this is a time-travelling train," Shinji goes – but the Conductor interrupts him.
"Its abilities are limited to the night of Christmas Eve," the Conductor says. "You were supposing I could travel to any day and bring back Utena's parents before they've died? No, that is impossible; tonight's train route is designed to accomodate only those on the list, each in a given time and place."
Utena sighs. It feels like her hopes have been dashed to little pieces, and she'll never get to see her parents, not now, not ever.
"Do not despair, Utena Fraulein," the Conductor says, beginning to smile. "Love can often work itself in mysterious ways – your parents must have really loved you, and they will continue to love you even after they're gone. You'll remember it, even if you might forget."
"As long as you breathe, it will never die. Even if you might forget it, or lose grasp of it, it will never die."
Then Utena notices her feet are shuddering, before she feels something vibrating in her gut – a lump of coal is doing the jiggly dance on the floor; the train itself seeming to rumble.
"Nein.." The Conductor peers his head out the window. "Nein! Alarm!" He rushes over to press the big red button on the cockpit, which sounds an alarm throughout the train, making two engineers pop up from under the tender.
"What's the matter?" the first engineer says.
"It is a proxy!" the Conductor tells. "It's coming from the left side, get yourselves into armaments, bitte!"
"Right-o!" they go, and they clamber up over the tender car and disappear.
"What's going on?" Utena asks, as her sense of anxiety grows.
"A proxy! It is Jack Frost! Belsnickel! They are badly, vengeful spirits who linger about, forever cursed and tied to Winter season! They make it colder than it needs to be, spreading the coldly, bitter air from place to place as they feel like it! St Nicholas has told me about them – they may ruin the journey faster than you'll know!"
The Conductor heads over to the intercom panel, and makes an announcement to the passengers. "Attention everyone! We will be encountering turbulence. I advise you to quickly return to your seats, fasten your seatbelts, and above all else remain calm. I will tell you when it is over." He brushes his forehead from sweat, before he pushes forward a red lever marked Throttle – you'd feel a forward tug like when the elevator dips downward, as the Boreal Express accelerates.
"Once we get to Lux, we'll be safe from them," the Conductor explains. "And the faster we can get there, the better. Hang on little ones, it will turn out to be a roughly ride."
The train's shuddering grows more and more intense. Shinji clings onto Utena's arm, while out the window you can see amidst the moonlit clouds a whirling dervish of unholy whiteness – the whiteness of frosted, caked-over hard snow; the kind of snow that feels more prickly and cold than fluffy. It's gliding towards the train in a glide so hauntingly graceful, a dancer using the wind currents to propel her very movement.
Eventually you can see her clearly. Her flowing white hair that seems to merge with her drooping, snow-radiant cloak. The blossoming cloud where her feet should be. And most of all, her face; the melancholy mask she always wears, where red tears seem to almost flow from her eyes.
"Mein Gott..!" the Conductor exclaims.
She stares at you fiercely, chillingly, with a coldness that penetrates into you.
That is, before a loud burst erupts from one of the cars, and the proxy jolts from being hit – tumbling like a kite that's been torn mid-air, before continuing towards the train as before.
"Shoot her, shoot her!" the Conductor goes.
Utena and Shinji are peering through the window, frightfully awed at the beautiful sight of the proxy, being hit, enduring every blow as if it were nothing compared. Then the proxy wails – the Siren emitting a pitch that would tempt you into a fascinated paralysis. A beautiful, unearthly song that infects you with its sadness.
The eruptions stop.
The axles of the train chug the the train wheels forward in tandem, not noticing that the people in the cockpit have become frozen and inanimate. All they hear is the song that drowns them, uniting them into her sorrow, their blood coagulating into frost.
someplace far away from here
to a true elsewhere
take me there
(The angel weeps.)
It is only after a few moments of pause from the song, that they regain their composure, and see that the proxy is floating just right beside the train's cars, from the back forward, inspecting the petite souls within – all the children must be frightened.
"It's.." Utena says, the tears outpouring from her uncontrollably. It's indescribable, what she's just heard – as though if she could talk with the proxy about her own sadness, she would be speaking to kindred, a lost soul like herself – she'd be preaching to the choir about what is heartwrenching. And perhaps.. perhaps, in one way or another, just to be able to make that connection would satisfy.
"I have to get to the proxy," she says.
"What? Did its singing make you bonkers?!" the Conductor goes. "It will kill you!"
"The proxy isn't a monster; she's hurting like I am," Utena says, a determination gnawing inside her. "I gotta try and help her, I have to try."
Shinji is also feeling that this is so. "Utena!" he goes, as she's about to climb the tender. "I'll go with you."
So Shinji takes Utena's hand, and she leads him over the pile of coal.
"You are out of your minds!" the Conductor shouts, amidst the noisy winds. "Scheisse, that is not courage, that is asking for your funerals!"
On top of the train cars, Utena teeter-totters with Shinji. The railtracks behind seem to extend away dizzyingly in mid-air, where if you glance down at the clouds below, it seems like you can fall forever into the all-encompassing sky. (You'd better watch out.)
Utena wonders if she should shout at the proxy from this distance, if it can hear her, or if she should come closer to it before drawing attention to herself. The proxy is lingering by one of the cars at the back, peering through the windows.
Then the engineers pop up onto the top, just in front of Utena and Shinji. They're holding what looks like sawed-off shotguns, wearing bandoliers around their waists.
"Hey, you two!" the first engineer goes. "You should get inside quickly!"
"I.. don't shoot at it," Utena says.
"What are you talking about?" the second engineer goes. "That proxy's going to derail us if we don't off her quick."
The proxy hovers from one car to the next, gazing from window to window and allowing her fingers to brush over the surfaces, leaving a streak of beautiful, well-formed ice in her wake, as though she is just waiting for something to blossom from the frozen waters.
"It's not attacking the train," Utena goes.
"Not yet it isn't," the first engineer goes. "It looks like it's finding a sweet spot to hit, and I'm sure as hell ain't about to let it do that."
At a loss on convincing those engineers, Utena decides to brush by their figures, zipping Shinji along at hand – almost knocking away their weapons. ("Hey!" one of them shouts.)
She runs and runs, until she can see the proxy's weeping face upclose. It's stopping by a certain window, its attention caught by something.
"Hey!" Utena yells at the proxy, but the proxy doesn't seem to notice. It punches through the window and its arm stretches beyond proportion as it reaches inside – rummaging for what, Utena doesn't know until she sees its arm pull out.
The key it holds seems to glow under the moonlight.
"Hey!" Utena calls.
The proxy regards Utena and Shinji. "My love has left it behind." You still hear traces of that beauty in its whispering voice. "Now I can rest at last." It smiles.
Then a crack erupts – the key in hand breaks into two, and something pierces through the proxy's breast and icy blood pours out like a drinking fountain that is bleeding. Such a grotesque thing to see.
"Gotcha!" the second engineer glees. "Right in the heart!"
Then the most horrific, pained wailing you would ever hear – that once soulful song wavers into discord and screaming, and everyone must cover their ears lest it make black holes of their hearts and send them into despair.
The proxy consumed by its injury dawdles behind the train's pace and falls down into the abyssal sky, disappearing away as a vapour into non-existence. Its melancholy lingers even after its presence has gone, and the only consolation to Utena who has gone all this way is that the proxy has reconciled itself with its lost love, in its last final moments.
What about Utena herself? Such a fate seems to be more preferable than to endure the entirety of Living with an irreconcilable loss, to never know that love as she's first felt it, to grow up and become an adult in that material world filled mostly with vapidity and emptiness, a world that would never truly fulfil. One moment goes after another and you see people come and go in the familiar grey places, reminding you all too much about the most beautiful things that cannot exist anymore, but you hope for them anyway around the next corner, and that hope grows fainter and fainter as you grow old, until you all but forget what it is that you've been hoping for. But you still feel the impulse to hope.