Splash! Splash! It was a dark and rainy night. “Oh shit, oh shit!” The piercing noise of the boots on the floor echoed through the entrance of the train station as the girl dashed through the rain, trying her best not to fall on the floor. She ignored her bangs sticking onto her forehead, dripping with water. I’m late, I’m late... By the time she got inside the train station, she found the screen, blinking with lights and numbers. Though everything was written in Russian, she was able to figure out the right train as she quickly skimmed through, thanks to her basic knowledge of few words in Russian. Time: 9pm Destination: Moscow Train: 6327 Gotcha! Inside the train, dozens of dark silhouettes of beds and seats were aligned along the aisle. The lights were already out, and most of the seats and beds were occupied. Once the girl slowly approached her seat, she spotted someone waving at her. Ayaka was sitting across the girl’s seat, leaning her elbow on the table and her face on her hand. Ayaka chuckled and rolled her eyes, “Seriously? Marina Hirosawa? Five minutes before the departure? We bought our tickets this morning!” she whispered since everyone else was asleep. “I know, even I didn’t expect myself to be this late",” Marina replied. They booked their seats to travel together to Moscow right after they graduated from high school. Marina slowly looked around at their place while she stood there. Two bunk beds were above their seats that had small footholds. Between their seats was a little table, and a small window was next to it. The place wasn’t entirely luxurious since they were only able to afford the third class ticket. But that didn’t bother them. Ayaka was already in her pajamas. She was singing softly as she listened to her music. Marina wasn’t surprised by her beautiful voice since she knew that her friend was going to major in music for college. It was already dark inside, and Marina could see people’s toes peeking out of their beds. After grabbing her pajamas to go change, Marina looked to her left, only to find one man standing in complete darkness at the far end of the hallway. He was staring at them. Under the dim moonlight, Marina was only able to figure out his general physique; he was slender and tall, almost hitting the door frame. Anxiously, she quickly went inside the bathroom to change her clothes. Strangely enough, after she came out of the bathroom, the guy had already disappeared. She was confused, but she decided to climb to her bed and go to sleep. The next morning, Marina found Ayaka at their table, bobbing her head with a headset. Ayaka was humming a pleasant tune while she drank her orange juice. The only problem was, her voice was getting louder. Eventually, some other passengers were staring at her, frustrated. Marina took Ayaka’s headset off and whispered, “It’s getting too loud, buddy”. Suddenly, a short, grumpy-looking old man approached them from the hallway. It wasn’t the guy from last night. He put his face an inch away from Ayaka, muttering something in Russian. “Sorry, but I don’t understand",” Ayaka said politely, though she knew he wouldn’t understand her. He appeared to grow angry and said another series of strange words, from the tone seemingly questions. He smelled of alcohol. “Seems like he wants you to come. He said he has something to show you",” I told her. “Really? I wonder what it is..” said Ayaka, knitting her eyebrows in doubt. She placed her empty cup of glass on the table and followed the guy. After she left, a middle-aged woman next to their seats told Marina, “I don’t think she should go..” with a thick Spanish accent, pointing to the direction where Ayaka had left. “Well, if something goes wrong, I’ll go there",” Marina told the woman reassuringly. “If you can. Because they.. are stronger than you",” she replied. They..? What does she mean by ‘they’? “They just… want...” she paused for a moment, then added, “Fun.” The word “fun” just struck her head. That was when all sorts of scenarios started to frantically flash through her head: $1, abductions, tortures, or even worse, rapes. I need to get her back! Once Marina ran along the aisle and opened a door that led her to the second class zone, she bumped into a very tall guy. Then she blinked once, twice. Three times. Trying to register the reality of what just happened. This guy clearly was as tall as the top of the door frame! It’s him! The guy I saw the other night! Marina immediately froze and stared at him. Then she heard a woman scream. I “What’s going on there?” Marina asked. “It’s okay. Really.” He replied, blocking her way to get inside. “Move! I have to see what’s going on!” Marina pushed him out of her way and went inside the second class zone. She found a curtain at the end of the aisle. Her heart was racing like mad. She sprinted toward the curtain and pulled the curtain, almost ripping it out. The moment she saw Ayaka, she collapsed to the floor. It was her. She was singing on stage surrounded by people at their tables. Wait, what? The dining bar? Everyone was clapping and whistling with fingers. The tall guy finally approached Marina. “I saw you staring at us last night! What are you?” Marina asked. “I heard that girl Ayaka sing last night. Her voice was so beautiful. I had to ask this gentleman to invite her to the stage for all these customers to hear her sing",” he explained. Seeing her friend with all the smiles, Marina finally sighed with relief. This was just the beginning. Had she known at the start of that summer what was coming after this, Marina would definitely not have agreed to travel to Russia in the first place.