The carriage squealed and jerked round a shallow bend in the tracks. The close-packed buildings of The City crowded in on both sides. They weren’t pretty: people tended to present their best to the streets and the ends that faced the railroad were unkempt and unpainted. When it was hot rubbish blew along the sides of the tracks like tumbleweeds and when it rained the gullies turned into culverts, and torrents of dirty water scoured out the detritus and weeds. The only sign of life was the occasional railway worker; still as a statue, leaning on a shovel and grey skin glistening with sweat or wet with the rain, staring at the carriages as they clattered past.
Not everybody travelled like that, of course. Once the claustrophobic buildings of The City fell away, the first class railroad could be seen in the distance, flickering like candles through the haze. Passengers on the first class railroad were kept cool during the hot years, when the sun loomed large and yellow in the sky and the land baked and turned to dust. And during the wet years they floated over the rivers of mud that carried away the more unfortunate squatters. And during the cold years, when the sun turned blue and retreated among the stars, they would stare through the icy glass at the fairy-lights that lined the tracks. Passengers on the first class railroad were not affected by the heat or the cold, or the earthquakes, or the bitter-smelling winds or the morbid fogs and the creatures that crept within them. They did not experience The City; they observed it comfortably and from a distance. But to ride the first class railroad you needed either money or magic.
That was because the first class railroad was the best that money could buy and magic could build. It was designed by the best engineers, it ran on goblin-built tracks, and wafted through mists made of soporifics mixed by the most accomplished wizards. The first class railroad was built only for those passing through from one world to another. It skirted around The City - or more accurately The City and grown up avoiding it - and extended its fingers past the outlying scrabble of houses and gardens and into the desolation, right through to the portal-stones.
The second class railroad on the other hand, was built with the sullen attitude and uncertain workmanship of trolls. It existed to transport, and in the worst of times shelter, the refugees and the exiles from the fifteen magical worlds and the twenty three temporal ones. Those who found themselves here and who lacked the resources to go elsewhere, had simply stayed put and built the second class railroad and The City in this blasted wasteland, this most artificial of places, created by the great and the good from the Real Worlds as a junction between them, and buffeted by the tidal forces of whichever of those worlds held sway at the time.
Len's SatWE challenge this week: Using prose or poetry, describe a new world that might exist now, might have existed in the past, or might exist in the future. It can be Earth, one of our planets, or some planet in another solar system, galaxy, or universe. I want you to make up a world. I just want the description of your world that could be the introduction to a new fantasy or sci-fi book. No dialogue, no character development, nothing but exposition.