In the cool morning air, Mr. Bokchito boarded the computer-run monorail and settled into a seat. He unfolded a newspaper and read it while the train accelerated with whisper-quiet efficiency. Through he was completely familiar with the landscapes of his daily commute, he glanced out the window from time to time, and it was after one of these glances that he turned to the stranger sitting next to him and said, “Did you see that?”
“There was a man out there on the wing. It was a furry ape-man. He opened up the engine cowling. I think he’s trying to sabotage the plane.”
“There’s no wing and no engine,” the stranger replied. “We’re on a train, not an airplane.”
“Of course,” Mr. Bokchito said. “I was only testing you. What I really wanted to ask was, you want to kill your wife, right? Well, I want to kill mine too. She’s a dreadful harpy who torments me ceaselessly; also, I stand to inherit several million dollars if she dies. But how to do it without being caught. We need iron-clad alibis. So what I propose is this: we swap murders. Criss-cross. You kill my wife and I’ll kill yours. There’s nothing to link us to each other. At the moment each of our wives dies, we will be miles away, in the company of many unimpeachable witnesses. Do you not think it’s a most wonderful event that you and I, who can be of such use to each other, should be sitting here today? It’s not chance that has us sitting next to each other, is it? I think it’s fate.”
The stranger said, “Well, I’m not married.”
Mr. Bokchito didn’t miss a beat. “Obviously not. That was only another test. Look out the window. Does it not appear that we’re traveling in circles, yet the train isn’t turning? Watch: there’s an automat, then a haberdashery, then a Pemex station, and then an Oxxo convenience store. And then the cycle repeats itself. Just those four things over and over again for hours: automat, haberdashery, Pemex, and Oxxo. Plus, we’ve been traveling for six hours, and it’s only a 45 minute journey from my suburban station to my downtown office. The conclusion is apparent: we’re trapped in some kind of closed space-time loop.”
“Of course we are,” the stranger said. “Notice too that you and I are the only people aboard this train, which consists of an infinite number of carriages.”
“My God, you’re right,” said Mr. Bokchito. “I’m going to go the end of the train to check.”
“No, wait,” the stranger interjected, but Mr. Bokchito was already through the doors at the end of the compartment, and, no matter how fast the stranger pursued him, he always remained two paces ahead, and obviously they were never able to get to the last car, as the train was infinitely long. Eventually, Mr. Bokchito, exhausted from the trek, settled into a seat identical to one he’d left days ago, and the stranger sat down beside him. Outside, a Pemex station passed by, then an Oxxo, both just a blur, first of green and white, then red and yellow.
“The monorail seems to be increasing speed,” Mr. Bokchito said. “Eventually it will attain infinite velocity.”
And, indeed, such seemed to be the case, because as they watched, the blur of automat, haberdashery, Pemex, and Oxxo, which for a while had been only streaks of incoherent color, now paradoxically slowed, so that at first the colors froze into a motionless multihued wall, and then, gradually, resolved into a tableau vivant of automat, haberdashery, Pemex, and Oxxo, all simultaneously occupying the same space outside their window, superimposed over each other with no loss of clarity.
The stranger turned away. “I’d like a strawberry ice cream cone, please.” The vendor scooped the ice cream and handed over the waffle cone, saying, “That will be 300 yen.” The stranger paid and complacently licked the pink confection. They were now traveling at such a speed that the strawberry ice cream reached a hypercritical state, its atoms compressed into superdense structures, so that a single ounce of the ice cream weighed first a pound, then two, then a metric ton, then an imperial ton, and so forth, increasing at an exponential rate.
Then the stranger turned to him and spoke, the timber of the words, burdened by the impossibly strong gravity, slowed and deepened to an almost subsonic bass during their passage through the degenerate matter making up the air and the interlocutor’s tympanic membrane and cochlea: “Would you pass that bottle of cherry quark-gluon plasma? I want to put some on my ice cream.”