NIGHT COMES FAST in the month of February and soon the sun will gradually start to win the never ending battle. I climbed aboard the last car of the train which was completely vacant. As the train took off, I stood there wondering where I should sit, wishing more people were in the car allowing my decision to be made a little easier. I finally choose a seat in the front half of the car next to the window. I sat down and stared out at the brightly lit city when a very peculiar feeling enveloped me. A thought crept into my mind, “this might not have been the best seat to take.” I felt vulnerable but not only that, I felt as though I was about to be shot in the back of the head. “There’s an odd feeling one doesn’t feel too often.” I quickly turned around to see if anyone was behind me but to my surprise no one was, for why should there be, the car was empty. The train was quickly furthering me along to the north and I still couldn’t shake that feeling from before. As I stared out the window the city lights captured my attention and I was soon lost into a passing world. My eyes pulled back and focused on my reflection in the window. What I saw in the reflection would’ve surprised anyone, but all I could do was finally breathe a sigh of relief. That feeling I had, had finally left. There was a man somewhat taller than me wearing a yellow and black winter coat. He looked like a cougar. I wanted to observe the coat a bit more since it was an odd looking one but my eyes were quickly drawn to the 9mm pistol that was inches away from the back of my head. The train’s automated voice announced we would be arriving at the Chicago stop; neither of us moved.
“Hello, Mr. Cougar man.”
He didn’t reply nor had he said anything since his mysterious transportation behind me. I wanted to turn around but some invisible barrier was keeping me from doing so, most likely this barrier had to do with the gun. A long moment passed without much happening.
“Are…are you going to kill me?”
“I believe so.”
I almost jumped out of my seat when he answered,unfortunately he didn’t sound like a cougar nor was his answer all that relieving. Instead it sounded harsh and raspy as though he was still trying to catch his breath after running to make the train.
“I see, well can I ask you why?” I hadn’t moved yet and my butt was starting to go numb. We both remained in our motionless positions and stared at each other in the window.
“Boredom is the death of life, don’t you think?”
“The death of my life or yours?”
“Ha, you know I’m not sure.” In all honestly I wasn’t. I had thought I was talking about his life being wasted away from action-less moments with this one being excluded of course; whereas now, I’m the one with a gun pointed at my head.
“You…you seem to be excited?” He asked basing this assumption from my rapid pace in talking. I hadn’t noticed till he mentioned it, but he was right. I had an overwhelming sensation of excitement and couldn’t sit still any longer.
“I am, and this may seem trivial to you, but I’ve had this feeling that you were coming, well not you exactly, but how can I explain it…I was waiting for this moment which now that it has arrived has brought me a great sense of relief as well as an intense amount of excitement.”
There is nothing more confusing than when two opposite feelings envelope your body. Crying while yelling with anger, laughter with hysteria, and now excitement with relief. After I stated this, I realized I was out of breath, was it the gun that pressured me? Or something else?
“You realize that the aspect of death isn’t as transparent with a gun to your head, yet you’ve grown excited.” The tone of his voice had hinted that something excited him as well.
“Yes, you speak well under such circumstances, mine being different than yours but nonetheless, we’re here together, experiencing the same time and moment. If you like I can try to explain further for I don’t think anyone is going to be interrupting us any time soon?”
“Well you see I have always had a fascination of death, not in a cult like way but speaking philosophically. A great philosopher once said that ‘philosophy was the practice of death’ and throughout the centuries other philosophers have tried to grasp this concept of death. Of course he was on his deathbed, well actually he was on a bed getting ready to by man, same thing? A question for another time perhaps. Who knew if he really meant what he said, we all seem to say odd things when faced with death. I can now attest to that…” I stopped and looked at him in the window to see if he followed along with what I was said or if he was just being amused with me. All he was did was look at the back of my head with no expression of amusement or nervousness, actually he held no emotion whatsoever.
“And this is where it gets exciting because you see no one can explain death, it is the unknown. Of course there are many who have explanations on what they think is after death but no one knows for certain and it won’t be known until it happens. It is life’s mystery, and here you have given me the chance to explore that very mystery.”
“If death is so compelling to you, than why have you waited for me?”
“Ah, well you have hit upon my dilemma. You see I enjoy my life and there is much that is unknown to me in this realm as there is in the next, and once I am through with this life either from my time running out or I cannot go any further then I shall jump head first much like a man into a pool. A death diver you could say.” The memory of myself as a child rushed into my mind where I was standing at the edge of a pool at night mesmerized by the flowing water lit up by underwater lights. So beautiful were the waves, that I could have stood there all night watching the light bounce around them. Before I knew it I was sailing head first into those very waters, not because I wanted to but because I had to. I just floated there, accepting the fact that I didn’t want to be wet but there was nothing I could do. I can’t get out of the pool and yell at the perpetrator so hard that I magically become dry again, or turn back time and move out of the way. You just have to accept it, and here I am again standing on the edge of a pool, mesmerized by an unknown mystery. The train was coming closer to my stop yet we were both quiet for some time
“I want you to stand up and face me." He looked much older in person and his eyes looked as though he hadn’t slept in years yet they were fixed on something, something deep inside of me.
“Here,” He slowly stretched out the gun as if to give it to me. “If you want out, you have to…” He seemed to have swallowed the rest of the sentence, but it was evident what he wanted. As he stood there his eyes awoke even more with each passing second. “People always say that death before your time is like giving up. But you, you seem to believe that it’s ok to die, that death is really just apart of life no matter when it comes. I’m not sure if I agree with you but whatever comes next, I know that I can’t do this without you.”
We both stood there again for some time as the train raced to the end. The moment I had stepped on this train I had a feeling that something was coming. I didn’t think it would be death nor did I think that it wasn’t going to be mine, for who imagines the death of others before your own? And now the decision of killing this nameless man was in my hands, and the thought came to me, maybe he was the victim. One who’s been ravaged by this world to the extent of wanting nothing more than a way out. But he simply couldn’t just open the door, he had to find it, unlock it, and then proceed through into the darkness.
“Sir, I’m sorry you must forgive me for asking but what’s your intended goal, for it seems as though you were about to hand over the gun?”
“My intended goal? I wonder what that really is too sometimes, and if I should follow through with it or steal someone elses’.” And with this statement, he retracted the gun back to his side to ponder further what he should do next.
I wasn’t really sure what was going on any more. “I don’t think I understand, but you should do what you want to do, whatever feels right.”
“And if none of them feel right? or perhaps the one that does feel right conflicts with what you want?”
“Now I’m confused, what’s going on here? You seem to know something, or even more so, you seem to know me to say you know what I want.”
“Forget it, I’ve had enough, why should I have to wait here and in the end be the one to grant passage for him? He is even excited for death, let him be the bottle to christen my voyage.” I wasn’t even sure who he was talking to anymore, surely it wasn’t me, but it certainly was about me. The excitement that had overpowered me before left me in a sweaty weak mess with my thoughts scrabbling to make sense of the situation.
The train was slowing down, and soon the automated voice would turn on and announce that we had arrived at our destination. But the doors didn’t open, and both of us just stood there in our own isolation. I stared at the doors hoping the harder I focused on them the sooner they would open. I knew for whatever reason that no matter how much time passed, those doors weren’t just going to open. The windows were filled with blackness, I couldn’t even remember when the city lights were no longer visible, was I even visible from the outside?
“What should I do?” he asked in such a tone that reeked of rhetorical nonsense.
Nervousness now masked cleverness and the only thoughts that arose were about how much I wanted to be off this train or at least not having a gun pointed at me. “I think you should do what you originally came to do. Why mess with the flow of things, it certainly seems to have put a great stress on you. So why not hand over the gun like you were going to do earlier?”
He stopped, and cocked his head toward me and just stood there with his eyes almost half shut, like a gaze you would get from someone who was thinking deeply about what you said, but really only taking into consideration their own intentions.
“Oh, really? His lips turned into a most horrifying grin. “Well now, isn’t that interesting, minutes ago you were talking about how magnificent death was, but you seem to be just as afraid as me, well more so probably since I’m holding the gun.” This last remark seemed to wake him up from his doldrums, like a mad scientist that just stumbled onto his greatest idea.
“You’re right, I did seem excited before, but I did say that I had much to live for as well.”
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore.” The way he said this, the tone of his voice was so neutral that I couldn’t tell what he was going to do next, and that frightened me beyond my sanity.
I tried to expel a laugh that would ease the tension and maybe transition away from the current conversation, but all that escaped was a small whimper.
“heh, well I think we should see if we can get these doors open, how about it? I don’t feel like staying here all night.” I walked over to the doors and wedged my fingers between the two and pulled with all my might. The doors didn’t budge but I wasn’t going to turn around and enter into a depressing dialog with him again. I would rather pull till my arms fell off than have to see him for another second. His very presence was making me sick to my stomach, and the more I thought about him the more I grew frustrated with the situation.
“They’re not going to open like that.”
“Well, what do you suppose we…”
I didn’t need to turn around to assess the order of actions, the loud bang followed by a red splatter told me what had happened. I flew forward into the doors and started to slide towards the ground. My hands and chest painted the rest of the door in red as my body conformed to the ground where I soon rested and with this the doors finally opened. I watched him step off the train and disappear into the darkness. A pool of crimson blood gathered around me. I picked up my finger and disturbed the calmness of my pool, so much heavier than water. I watched the reflections play off the small ripples being created, and I accepted that I was wet.
Take a one way trip on a train through life and death, coincidence and fate and see where you end up at the end. Are you able to escape that which is due? Or are you able to overcome that which has already been set forth?