Dragons In The Tram

I lazily walked into the tram after the other passengers departed. I liked to stand, and I took up my standard position opposite of the door, holding onto the rails. It was like any other morning: I was still half asleep on my way to work, and we were nearing my stop. The usual message stating what stop we were coming to and what connections could be found there played throughout the tram, but then there was an additional message.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Please remember to take your belongings….dragons? I couldn’t have heard that right, but it sure sounded like it. I must have just still been half-asleep. The tram stopped, I got out, and then went to work.

After I finished work for the day, I went back to the tram and was leaning on the wall when we passed by the central station. The normal announcement played as usual, but then again, I heard an additional message.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at this point. There was nothing else they could be saying, but it was too ludicrous. My laughter attracted the glares of some other passengers which instantly made me resume my silence, although I still chuckled on the inside. Several days went by, and again, I kept hearing this odd new message when passing by important tram stops.

It had been almost a week since this additional message started playing in the tram and I was going out for the evening with my girlfriend, who happens to be a native German speaker. We passed by another main stop and without fail, I heard it again.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

“Did you hear that?” I eagerly grabbed her arm, hoping for her to confirm what I was hearing.

“Hear what?”

“The announcement they just said! About remembering to take your stuff?”

She hesitated, trying to recall. “Umm, I suppose… Why?”

“Because it sounded like they said something about dragons remembering to take your things!” The way she furrowed her eyebrows together in slight confusion was a stark contrast to the boyish smile I had on my face.

“I don’t think that’s what they said…” She trailed off, not sure if I was being serious or not about my claim.

“They totally did! Listen next time he says it, you’ll hear it!”

We went out for the evening, and when we were coming back, I made sure that she was paying attention. She heard it with me this time, but remained insistent that I was just hearing it wrong. I figured she was probably right, and I dropped the matter.

A couple days later however, it happened. I got in the tram and there, standing like I usually did, near the next door, there was a dragon! Surprisingly enough, it was just standing there, looking as bored and annoyed as everyone else on their way to work. With red scales covering the majority of its bulking body, gnarled claws protruding from its hands and feet, it was the last thing I expected to see on the way to work.

It was slumped against the wall opposite of the door, its big underbelly reaching far out into the walkway. It was tall enough that it had to stoop down to prevent its head from hitting the ceiling of the tram, its long neck pushing its head almost 3 meters into the air. Its scaly arms dangled by its side, swaying back and forth with the motions of the tram. It had a dangerous looking tail which wrapped around its leg and crossed the walkway in the tram, almost going to the door itself, forcing everyone to delicately step over the tail and the spiked barb at the end. With its wings (which were smaller than I would have thought) pressed up against the tram, the morning sunlight was partially blocked out, further amplifying its ominous and intimidating presence by casting it in shadows.

I was afraid at first. I wanted to run out of the tram, but surprise and fear locked me in place, and I was stuck inside the tram with the dragon once the doors closed. What would it do? Would it attack anyone? Nobody else paid it much attention. How was nobody else as surprised by this as I was? I looked around the tram, hoping to see anybody else struggling with the situation like I was, but I only saw more bored and disinterested people.

The dragon wasn’t doing much, and just as I was starting to come to terms with the situation, it started to take in a deep breath. I could only think how that was was going to be the end, it was going to breath fire on all of us! But instead of turning the entire tram into an inferno, it let out a long, bored sigh, and then reached up and straightened its tie. A tie? I didn’t even notice it at first! I was too wrapped up in taking in the foreign, scaly beast in front of me, I didn’t even notice that it had a tie around its neck. It was a normal sized tie, but its bulky neck made it look more like a simple thread hanging around its neck, which is why I didn’t see it at first.

The dragon finally took notice of the fact that I had been staring at it for several stops. It slightly turned its head towards me and looked me dead in the eyes until our eyes locked with each other’s. Our eyes remained locked for a few seconds since I simply couldn’t look away until the dragon made a gesture by moving its head very slightly, but quickly in my direction. I instantly broke our mutual gaze and quickly started looking out the window instead, hoping that I didn’t anger the dragon into attacking me.

I awkwardly stood there, trying to look at everything else but the dragon, until we finally got to my stop. Shortly before getting there, the dragon had moved from its perch opposite of the door, and had shuffled over to the door, getting ready to disembark as well. As we approached the next stop, the familiar message rang throughout the tram.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Most people didn’t pay the message any heed, but upon hearing this, the dragon perked up, turned around and shuffled back to where it was previously standing. It then then reached down with a loud groan and grabbed a briefcase which it had apparently almost forgotten. The tram stopped, the doors opened, and I watched dumbfounded as the dragon, along with all the other humans, and even a dog, shuffled their way out of the door. With my mouth agape, I couldn’t help but stare at the dragon as it walked away with all the other people shuffling around it without any care. The doors then closed, startling me into action since I should have also disembarked there. By the time I reached the doors, they were fully closed and the tram was in motion, forcing me to go an extra stop and making me late to work.

It isn’t every day that I see a dragon on the tram, but on average, I would say that I see one every few days. They don’t seem to bother anyone, nor does anyone else seem bothered or surprised to see them. I wanted to approach one and ask them, but I am not even sure what language to speak to them in. They all seem to understand German due to understanding the messages, but my German isn’t perfect, and the thought of attempting to speak to a dragon in German is intimidating to say the least.

One of these days I might ask one of them where they came from, and why I have only started seeing them in the past few weeks, and why nobody else is even slightly fazed to see dragons taking the tram. But until then, I will just continue to observe them getting on and off the trams, sometimes forgetting something behind, but always being saved by the helpful announcement:

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Fin

This story was inspired by the trams in Cologne, Germany. A few weeks ago, the trams started adding an automated message right before arriving at some of the more important stops and hubs. They are kindly reminding people to grab their stuff, but what I heard at first was “Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen,” which would translate more or less as “Dragons, please remember to bring your personal effects” (Drachen means dragons in German). I asked my S.O. what they were really saying, and even they wouldn’t give a straight answer, sometimes saying “Bitte denken sie daran, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen,” and sometime “Bitte achten sie darauf, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.” Both would more or less mean “Please remember to take your personal effects with you.” Their indecisiveness has convinced me that I heard the announcement correctly, and they are just trying to hide the fact that there are now dragons taking the trams within the city. I tried many times to record it, but the ambient sounds kind of drown out the message. You can listen for yourself though by playing the following audio (unfortunately someone says something at the very beginning, but this was my best recording after several attempts):

Posted on December 29, 2016, in Short stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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