A silver train chugs along in the distant east.
First, the man: “Tonight—I see its windows alight.”
The wife holds his chilled hand. Its warmth tapers with the tides of the falling crimson sun, which now only briefly looms—the narrowest of slivers—among jagged mountaintops, stretching across the horizon line and into other worlds.
Tendrils of smoke billow from the traveling locomotive, piercing then dissipating into the desolate autumn air.
“It’s almost time,” the wife says.
She stares into the vast expanse of the mountainsides, searching until she spots again what she’s looking for. The silver train slips in and out of existence, trudging along sloped worlds of green and orange and red and green again. The locomotive glimmers in the twilight, like a chrome bullet.
“Five minutes.” He watches his breath, a cold smoke, roll from his lips and into the evening.
The train scales the broads backs of the mountains in its routine approach. A faint mechanical rumble sifts from the soil, down from the darkening skies above, from everywhere. Huge black clouds follow in the distance, tufts of fluff etched into a pale bronze sky.
What remains of the sunlight is a blood-orange hue, spilling over peaks of mountains.
Maybe a minute has passed. Maybe thirty. Neither of them are really sure. Its approaching rumble resonates deep in their bones, and it’s all they need, all that they want.
The train zooms into sight, less than two miles away. Its wheels scream against metal tracks, echoing into the heavens.
What fascinates him the most about the locomotive, time after time, are its windows—fixed square eyes stretching along its steel body. Dark, vacant hollows, entombed behind glass.
Tonight though, they are lit with life. This he knows.
And as they are, the man decides: we will jump.
Oh, how he longs to be a passenger on its hull. To glide along the mountainsides, traveling beneath pillars of cumulus gloom and a sky the color of heaven. To journey uncharted worlds beyond.
“Tonight?” the wife asks. Her grip tightens, nails digging into his flesh.
The train rockets into existence, now less than five hundred feet away.
The windows on the approaching train are even darker than the clouds above.
The man frowns. “No, not tonight.”
The metal tracks are close in front of them, almost within stepping distance. The passenger train speeds toward them and howls past them in the blink of an eye, vanishing just as mysteriously as it had arrived.
Was that a face in the passenger window? The man stares into the sky.
What cryptic business might a person have among that abysmal darkness?
The rumbling fades to silence as the train moves into other worlds. The air whirls with the lingering smell of steel and grinding wheels against metal tracks and other worlds.
Then he understands. They are the light.”Tomorrow night,” he promises, “tomorrow night will be ours.”
Matthew Evans is a college sophomore who has previously published work with the Ithaca Times.