The architecture of the train itself was an amalgamation of scientific breakthroughs and emergences.

Consciousness Pirates (Sci-fi short story)

Erik Marty van Mechelen
6 min readSep 25, 2017


“Have you heard?” the pointy-nosed adolescent squealed softly under his purple buret. His scrawny fingers worked fluidly, equipping various hinges in the train’s engine compartment so as to better stoke the blue-red flames that anachronistically fueled our transport. If I didn’t know the specific time and place of our journey I might have thought the oxygenating licks a mere nostalgic ornament, a subtle nod to an indecisive prehistory where trains like these could not cut between places or swim underwater currents. The fact that the pilot was using the flame was disconcerting, but I pushed bad thoughts aside. I was prepared for this journey. I imagined the burning coals urged us toward the Baltic’s counterfactual place.

Nevertheless, a noisy dissonance grew in my ear like buzzing mosquitos in the frozen swamps of the Neo-Petrograd we’d left behind. Even though I knew where we were, it was my first approach to what my branch of psycho-consciousness theory regarded affectionately as the Alternate Tracks.

After my land journey northward to the former Window to the West, I’d found the station in the subterranean swamps beneath the frozen bay, also known as Alt-Leningrad (the city’s epithets mirrored the dualistic histories and visions). The perpetual train had set off under the ice, carrying me and its various passengers seeking alternate routes and venues for myriad scientific studies. Some desired alternate political horizons, or branches out of Darwinistic evolution, or remixes on capitalism, while I sought a filtered lens to the newfound clues of consciousness’s origins.

The architecture of the train itself was an amalgamation of scientific breakthroughs and emergences, some so on the verge of indescribable as to be deemed alchemical by lay-person reporters. Waiting for our departure, the soundtrack’s nostalgic beat, a sound of the old trains with smokestacks from another, far-flung past, brought to the surface a comfort, just as a stranger’s smile can do. Humans are comfortable on trains, or there is something human about being on a train. We have trains of thought. But what does it mean to lose one’s train of thought? Why do we say, in the very next moment: now, where was I?

This getting lost and found in a fountain of thought was among my early realizations about…