Man Rides A Train

                The train carries him further into the shadows, silently clattering, hung under stained glass rails. Looking out his window up at them, their colors melt and shimmer, beguiling his vision with their variegated shades. How long has it been since he left the station, he cannot say. Where he is headed he cannot recall. Where he came from fades further with each passing moment. Moments that fold round and around themselves into perpetuity. What lies in the cars just behind and just ahead of his own he does not know. For the whole ride he is alone.

                The man looks down at the sea that froths below the train. This is how he passes most days, if truly there are days or nights in this dark. In each drop of every wave that breaks against another, shattering with violent force in the endless ocean beneath him, another image lingers. Another moment familiar, yet also foreign to this lost man. In each drop, he sees himself. He sees a life he may have lived once, or is to live again. In each drop, he sees…

                …They dance cheek to cheek on the veranda. She in a red dress, he in a pressed tuxedo. White was traditional, but this moment is for them and they both thought she looked best in red. It matches her ruby red lips, perfect with no need for lipstick, and her intelligent emerald eyes seem wreathed by fire. The world fades from view, their awestruck family and friends lapsed into silence by their harmonious dance. They knew, this night was the mere beginning of forever…

                …Another day, another hopeless day, he hacked and in his lungs he felt death spreading. Though he dared not chance a doctor to confirm. He blinked in the perma-dark of the shaft, trying to find another moving shape in the gloom ahead. How long would he be trapped down here? Eking out a meager living. The same living that killed his father, and grandfather before him. How does one escape one’s life? What else was out there?

                …One moment was quiet in peace, and then another and hells erupts from the skies. The man next to him, no older than nineteen, shorn to bits by shrapnel. Cradled in his arms, another weeps from bleeding sockets, crying for a mother who might as well be a million miles away. The dull ratta tat tat, of gunfire grows louder, grows closer. He knows. There is no escaping this death. Not for him or any of his men…

                …He holds the mewling infant in his arms, and cannot believe something so beautiful came from him. Safe and happy in hands that had caused so much death. He looks at Eleanor, his wife, and wonders, would she still love him? Cherish their life? If she knew what he had done to secure it? If she knew how many bodies were buried in his soul’s darkest corridors?

                …He speaks a few words and the power flows into his fingers, crackling with electric hunger. The time for defiance was over. He advanced on the village with a smile on his lips. Already anticipating the scent of death, the tenor of their screams…

                …He stood over her grave, sobbing. But no amount of tears would bring her back. It wasn’t fair! He raged. They were supposed to have forever. If only… if only…

                …the train rolls along. And a dozen lives rise and fall, collapsing into one another. He wonders which ones are his own, if they are all his own. If they are all one. He wonders where he is headed. He wonders, at last, if perhaps he is already there.