NIGHT COMES FAST in the month of February and soon the sun will gradually start to win the never ending battle. The train doesn’t care though, the autonomy of the path only cares about one thing, going forward.
“Do you think boredom is the death of life?”
“Curiosity kills the cat and boredom breeds curiosity, and if I’m bored and you’re the cat…”
“You want me to kill you? I could just take my hands and..” He slowly reaches for my neck, his eyes enlarge as his mouth grows into a twisted smile. I fail to react and his smile fades and he finally sees me, “Dude what’s up?”
“Have you ever thought about, you know..?”
“Fuck man, seriously?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ugggh” He inhales. This time it’s even louder, “Ugggggghhhhhhhh” his voice going up and down the register eventually ending in a quiet gurgling noise. I can’t help but smile at his childish antics. “I get it. I really do, when times are rough and you hold the notion that nothing might exist after this, well that sense of peace can be awfully appealing.”
“You really think there’s nothing?”
“I don’t know man, all I do know, is that no one knows.”
“Oh how very Socratic of you.”
“Well it’s true, and who cares? Right? I mean, if our self-conscious ends the moment our brain stops functioning, we no longer have the capacity to give a shit. If there is an ‘after-life’ "
“So you would rather have nothing then some form of after life?”
“No, I would be disappointed if there was nothing in death, but that is my conscious brain making that statement. The moment my brain stops, that disappointment no longer matters, nothing matters anymore, I’m dead.”
“That’s a sad thought, to think that nothing exists after life?”
“Only to those alive.”
“Ay, I still don’t like it. The idea that there’s just nothing. Poof! And all you’re hard work growing and learning is simply gone.”
“Of course you don’t like it, no one does. But when you’re dead it’s not like you’re going to say, ‘This sucks, I hate being dead, I wish I was alive again!’’
“Well let’s hope that’s not the case…Here’s my stop, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He steps off the train leaving myself to venture further north to a home I’d rather not call home. I stare out the window letting the city lights capture my attention and allow myself to be lost in the passing world.
“That was fun to listen to.”
I pull my focus back and gaze at the reflection of the train through the window seeing only myself and the man behind me who spoke.
“What you were just talking about with your friend, I agree.”
“That after life nothing exists. It’s where people truly become equal in death with no form of judgement. Everyone is simply granted the same thing, everlasting peace.”
“Well if you assume death does bring nothing, I guess you could equate nothingness to that of peacefulness.”
“There is one thing that death can’t offer you though.”
“And what’s that?”
“The small highs that only life can grant.”
“True and that’s why I told my friend that I…” my voice trails off due to the new image appearing in the reflection. A small black pistol pointing directly at the back of my head.
“Please don’t turn around, I enjoy talking like this.”
The automated voice announces that the train will be arriving at the next stop soon. Minutes pass without any words being exchanged and all I hear is my saliva thickening as I gulp it down my throat.
“How many stops till you get off?”
I slowly look up above the train door at the map that marks all the train stops. I count them slowly in my head, one, two…
“Oh how fun!”
He slaps me on the shoulder as an old friend would after delivering the punch line from a long enticing joke. The train starts to slow down, my eyes fix on the door hoping, praying, yelling inside myself for someone, anyone to come through that door. The doors open and disappear within the sides of the train taking with it my breath. I exhale frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness while the doors start to close. I feel a blast of hot air hit me in the back of the neck as the train starts to take off from the platform.
“Whew, that was close. Don’t you just love the taste of air? It’s like pure ecstasy sometimes. One down, two to go.”
“What…why are you doing this?”
“Why does everyone always want to know why? Isn’t it obvious? I’m quite enjoying myself if you couldn’t tell.”
“But why do this to feel enjoyment?”
“I don’t know, why not?”
He winks at me through our reflections after this last statement.
“What happens when we reach my stop?”
“You’ll get to see what death brings. Exciting right?”
The blunt flippancy creates feelings of anger and hope for swift justice towards this lunatic.
“Have others escaped your idiotic game?”
“Yep, all it takes is for someone else to step aboard.”
“How haven’t you been caught?”
“Not many people can remember a reflection.”
“I should have said my stop was at the end of the line.”
His laugh explodes resonating through my ears to my now forming fists.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty, eh?”
The train’s automated voice announces the next stop will be arriving shortly. This voice, once a sound of displeasure and annoyance now is a symbol of heavenly redemption but also reminds me that I am one stop closer to having a large hole in the back of my head.
The train stops, the doors open and seconds pass like minutes, each one getting longer as still no one enters the train car. The doors close, the train pulls away, leaving all my hopes behind.
A fervent stream of breath hits the back of my neck again and with it an accompanying snort like laughter.
“Not many people out tonight, huh? Two down, one to go.”
Helplessness and anger form together and turn into a source of frustration flowing through every inch of my veins.
“Go kill yourself, and leave me out of your fucked up life!”
I start to stand when a sound, the clicking of the metal workings of a gun being tightened. I sit back down.
“Please stay seated. I’d rather not have to kill you earlier than expected. And why are you so scared, I can see you trembling. Moments ago you were talking about how in death you don’t have to worry about such things as being shot or better yet, death itself.”
“But I don’t want to die, I enjoy life.”
“I understand that, but why the fear?”
“Only those irrational enough to only believe that life exists after death, are the only ones who can eradicate said fear.”
The memory of myself as a child rushes into my mind. I was standing at the edge of a pool during the night. I was mesmerized by the flowing water lit up by the underwater lights. So beautiful was the water, that I could have stood there all night watching the lightning bolts surf the transparent waves; but, before I knew it I was sailing head first into those very waters, not because I wanted to but because I had to. I floated there, accepting the fact that I didn’t want to be wet but there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t get out of the pool and yell at the perpetrator so hard that I magically became dry again, or turn back time and move out of the way. I had to accept it.
“You’re right. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
I bow my head and slowly stand up, again I hear him tighten his grip and feel a hand press on my shoulder trying to push me back down. I slide the hand off and walk toward the door, standing there facing it, waiting for it to open, but no longer caring if it does. The automated voice announces for the third time, “We will be arriving at the next stop shortly.”
I see that the reflection followed me, the only difference is that were standing now.
“Well I guess it’s time to say goodbye, here’s your stop.”
My mind like a broken record kept repeating the reassurance that in death I won’t care that my future was stolen from me. That it didn’t matter that I would never love or be loved ever again.
“Come on, cheer up mate, you still have one more chance.”
Standing there, a sweaty weak mess of a human, my thoughts being chained by my own rationalization kept any heroic action from happening that may have formed in my mind.
The train slows down, creeping closer to the platform that everyday I have stepped normally on to. The windows were filled with blackness, I couldn’t even remember when the city lights were no longer visible.
The reflection’s head cocked to the side like an owl with eyes wide open while an increasingly growing grin spreads across his face.
The doors start to open, I look outside and see someone in the distance. Someone is running for the train, I couldn’t believe it.
“Well this is interesting, I wonder if he’ll make it?”
I fix my eyes on this person, no this hero, no this savior. A smile gently starts to form with the new attainment of hope that I’m going to live. Excitement and relief wells up inside bringing a warm sensation that could be felt from my head to my toes, even to my soul. The doors open, an icy blast of wind hits me in the face, and again I’m seized with the sensation of life.
“Whew, didn’t think I’d make it, excuse me.” says this wondrous human entering the train and passing me by. The man who I am completely and utterly in love with. My entire existence feels as though it has led up to this very moment to experience this powerful radiating emotion toward this stranger. I step off the train not taking my eyes off this beautiful gracious being who will never know what he’s done for me. He catches my eyes staring at him and smiles such an innocent smile. I can’t hold the sensation in any longer and smile back. The train doors close, my eyes widen, my smile conforms into a gasp.
“Excuse me sir, I was wondering, how many stops till you get off?”
A short story about a man who has to face the realization of his own philosophy. Will he accept it or reject it in the end?