Train of Souls
– Fierce Fiction by Lauryn Mercredi –
Since you left, I have become acquainted with the darkest hours of night. I toss and turn in the silent dark. I’m sometimes still up at dawn. I’ve become part of that shadow world inhabited by students and shift workers, by lovers and insomniacs. And mourners.
Tonight I’m restless at 3 a.m. so I grab Toby’s leash. The night is clear and starry. Toby, a chocolate lab, trots along beside me eagerly, sniffing the air and huffing. I feel guilty that I haven’t walked Toby as much as I should lately.
And tonight, I am drawn to the train tracks. I’ve been avoiding them. I’ve avoided even looking at them, which is hard because my living room window faces them.
We were just kids when Vancouver got its first commuter train, christened the Skytrain because it ran on a raised track for most of its route. Our family was there for the opening ceremony and I remember the thrill of that first ride. We climbed the stairs to the station and boarded one of the white and red cars, listening to the distinctive three-tone hum as the train started up, and the windows showed the city and mountains.
Do you remember that first ride? You must have only been four, because I was six.
I now find the memory haunting. Because that’s how you died, my little brother. Did you think about how I would feel, seeing those trains every day from my window? How could you do it?
I walk along beside the giant concrete pillars that hold up the tracks. Then I hear the soft whoosh of a train approaching. But the Skytrain doesn’t run this late. They must be doing maintenance or something. As the train passes, it glides along the track and glows with a strange phosphorescent light, like something at the bottom of the ocean. My breath catches. Somehow the silent glowing train is peaceful.
Then my vision blurs with tears, and I turn away as the train passes.
I remember your first day of school when our mother told me to look after you. You were my responsibility, she said. At home, I would pull you into my room when our father had too much to drink, and we would huddle together as he screamed and broke things while our mother pleaded with him.
And I held your hand at our mother’s funeral after she overdosed on her sedative pills.
After her suicide, our father turned his attentions on you. Why did you have to give him excuses? Why did you have to get bad grades, even though you could program our computer when you were ten? Why did you have to skip classes, smoke pot, shoplift?
You were thirteen when he started whipping you with his belt. I would hear the slash of the belt on your bare skin, hear you scream in pain. I felt crushed by the guilt that I couldn’t protect you. I would have preferred to be beaten myself than listen to it happening to you.
As adults, we both suffered from anxiety. I took medication and you refused. You said the only thing that helped was alcohol, but it kept getting you fired because you couldn’t wake up in the morning. You were such a brilliant programmer that someone always hired you again. Your personal life was tumultuous as well. You went through girlfriends faster than you went through jobs. But you always had someone to party with.
I find myself wondering about the train I saw. The next night I walk to the train tracks with Toby trotting beside me.
Mist streams from my mouth and nose in the crisp November night. At exactly 3 a.m. the train comes. Again the surreal glow.
The train passes me and pulls into the station. And stops.
I run to the station with Toby bounding beside me. The gates stand open. The moon is almost full, and moonlight puddles on the steps of the closed-down station so we can see our way.
And there is the train, stopped, with the doors open. And you step out into the moonlight.
“Oh God. You’re alive!” I run into your arms and you feel solid and real. We hug as tears run down my face, hot in the cool night. “I missed you so much!” I exclaim.
“I missed you too,” you say. And you hug me so hard it almost hurts, but I don’t protest.
Finally I draw back and look at you, running my hands up and down your arms. “I saw your body,” I said, “your poor broken body.” I choke, unable to continue.
“I’m sorry,” you say. “That must have been horrible.”
“But you’re alive now!”
“I’m not alive.”
I pulled back, swiping at my eyes and nose with my sleeve. “But you’re here.”
You put your hands on my shoulders. “Trains are special. They can cross between realms. They can pass through gateways and take you to other… destinations.”
I considered that. “But you stayed on the train?”
“Some of us stay, if we’re not ready to leave. I’m so glad you came here and found me.”
I swallow. “I want to come with you.”
You shake your head. “Only the dead can enter.”
“What are the destinations?”
“Maybe the afterlife. I don’t know.”
“Come home with me,” I say, tears slipping down my cheeks.
You shake your head. “I’m not real anymore.”
I squeeze your arm. “You feel real.”
“I can’t stay any longer.” Even as you spoke the words, I could hear the hum of the train starting up, and the glow intensifies.
“Don’t go,” I sobbed. “I love you.” I clutch him.
“I love you too. Please forgive me.”
“Don’t leave me.” My arms close in on themselves and you are gone. The train doors start to close.
“Wait!” I yell, throwing myself at the doors. They pause, but an invisible net holds me back. “I forgive you!” I yelled. “Go to Heaven or somewhere good. I love you!”
And the doors close. And the train pulls out of the station.
I go home and sleep for hours, and when I wake, something has changed. The hole your death made in my heart is still there, but it has ceased to be a black hole that pulls in everything else to its nothingness. The days pass and eventually I can go back to work, can function, even can smile and laugh again. I know you would want me to be happy, so I try to be. I try to ignore the space in my life where you once were.
But sometimes at night I wake up just before 3 a.m. And I get Toby’s leash and we walk to the tracks and together we watch the train go by, glowing in the night. And I know you aren’t on it anymore. But I hope someday I will see you again.
I pray that when I die, hopefully after a long life, I will board the ghostly train and go to my destination.
About the Author – Lauryn Mercredi
Lauryn Mercredi lives in Surrey, British Columbia with her husband and two cats. She loves to read books and stories in all genres. Her favorite things include Ferris wheels, libraries and dark chocolate.
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