A Matter of Perspective
Rapping. Tapping. Rhythmic beats between steel and wood slowly stir me from my slumber. I open my eyes to find my face planted against a window. I look to the table to reassure myself that my bag is where I left it. It is. My cellphone has no service, though. Perfect. I’m immediately greeted by a piercing headache and wince in pain. My left hand reaches around my head, in search for the source. I feel something brittle and pull it from my matted scalp. Dried Blood.
I look through the window at the passing landscape. Nothing but fields. I look to the other side of the cart, nothing. No cars, no houses, just miles of fields in every direction.
“Where the hell?”
I attempt to stand and fall back into my seat. My heart is racing now, seeming to take the tempo of the train itself. How did I end up here and where am I going? The noise from the tracks click faster than I can blink and every moment I blink feels longer and slower. I am tired but if I sleep, where will I be, when I wake? Every moment matters.
Am I alone?
I try to stand once more and fall. Something is wrong, I grab my calf muscle with one hand and with the other, my thigh; I prop my leg on top of the table in front of me. My swollen ankle protrudes the lining of my shoe.
I am being pulled along a joy ride with one track, one path heading in one direction, into the unknown. There is nothing for me to do but move forward inside of the ten-ton machine. I need to bandage this somehow, the swelling needs ice too. Where’s the kitchen?
“Can anyone hear me?” I exclaim as loudly as possible.
I feel pain. Nothing but the faint sound of clattering wheels respond to my question. No one is around me clearly, but there must be someone driving this train. I use the table to support my body to rise and quickly use the other hand to grab the top of the passenger seat in front of me.
I've been through worse, if I am to limp all the way to the control panels, I will. Truthfully, it might be best that no one is here with me, whatever got me in this situation wasn’t good, clearly. I make my way down the thin aisles, holding onto everything as I pass. My foot dangles in mid-air until I arrive at the restroom.
I open the door and find a child sitting on a toilet. I quickly close the door.
“I’m sorry. But, why is the door unlocked?” Nothing but silence follows for a few minutes. “Did you not hear me earlier?” The toilet flushes. The lock engages. “Hey, I need to go to the restroom too!” A few minutes pass. “Seriously, it would really be nice to pee and not on myself.” The lock disengages and the door cracks slightly open as if he wanted to let me inside but was not planning on exiting.
“Do you know if there is anyone else on the train?”
“No.” the boy meekly answered.
“Where are your parents?”
“Gone where? You can't just stick a landing off a moving train!” I was concerned.
“I don’t know.”
Clearly my constant inquisition wasn't going to do any good, the child couldn’t be older than seven.
“Well if you don’t mind kindly exiting the restroom, I really do need to go.” He looked through the cracked door to analyze me, so I fronted a smile. He exited the restroom.
“So, you might see that I’m not walking correctly.” I stated to be heard through the door, after I finished. “And I think I can fix that but I need your help to do this.” I slowly unlaced my shoe, trying to be careful as I remove it. There was no response, I was unsure if the boy had abandoned me or was simply quiet. I washed my hands and opened the door to find him directly in front of the exit.
“Okay,” I jerk my head backwards in shock. “We need a little more space.” I stated, without realizing the irony.
“We have the whole train.” The boy retorted, staring at me with no ill intent.
“That does seem to be the case.” I admitted, and began my journey forward once more. The boy followed me.
I stopped in the middle of the aisle and took several bandages and gauze, along with antiseptic spray from my bag.
I reclined, propping back against it, and slowly felt supported.
“Ok. We’re going to use these," I stated, displaying what tools we have to work with. "I just need a few favors from you. Do you think you’re up to the task?” He nods. “I need a big bowl, the biggest one you can find in the kitchen. I passed the car about three units back and I couldn’t carry it in my condition. Can you find that bowl for me?”
The boy lit up, excitedly and agreed. He took off faster than I thought the push from the train would allow, and quickly disappeared from my sight. I found myself swaying and straining to look out the window. Hills, now, almost as big as mountains; jaggedly align the horizon. I check my phone, still no service. There are a few houses spread between several acres of land. I see no people or cars driving on the road but everything looked so small, yet bigger from here.
The boy returned holding a 20 quart bowl in front of his face, with pride. Fully extending his arms to display the item more than clearly.
“That's great!” I exclaim. “Can you fill that bowl with water?” He tucked the bowl underneath his arm and opened the restroom door. I heard the sink turn on.
I place my ankle between two cardboard supports, hoping that it will hold in place. The boy struggles to carry the bowl and props it on top of a passenger table. “I need you to step right here.” I trace over my ankle with my finger in midair, “With your full weight.” The boy stood, blankly assessing me.
“Can you do this?” The boy looked hesitant. He inched closer toward me.
“I need you to be sure, can you do this?” He stuck his finger in his mouth, which was unsurprising but still disgusting. “PLEASE! Just step on me and get your finger out of your mouth!” The boy ripped out his thumb from his mouth and gave me a look of anger. He might not have liked that I called him out. He walked decisively up toward me and jumped on my foot. All went black.
When I came to, I was alone. I pulled myself into the seat, opened the bag and dipped the plaster inside the bowl of water. Wait for the bubbles to dissipate. I need my injury to remain aligned and away from contact and it seems my friend has already tired of me.
“Food.” A quiet voice sneaking from behind me stated.
I turn to see the boy standing, with a bag of chips in hand.
“Thanks.” I state, as I grab a chip from the bag, while the excess water was dripping from the now soaking slab, into the bowl. I guided the hardening surface, underneath my leg lengthwise. The boy watches.
“I need to wrap this, with this.”
I try to keep my phrasing simple, to avoid adding to the stress and demonstrated how to wrap my ankle with the gauze all the way up past my knee. “We can take turns after we wash our hands.”
“You fell asleep last time.” It was hard for me to hear him, he sounded so quiet at the time.
“That was from the pain, trust me. I won’t fall asleep on you again.”
“Ok.” The boy stated reservedly. He ate another chip.
“Are you hungry?”
“I eat when I don’t feel good.”
I sighed and took another chip. “You’re doing awesome, I’m glad to have met you.” The boy shrugs. I need more answers. “So, do you want to tell me your name? Or…”
I was pleased. "Henry! It’s nice to meet you, I’m Peter.”
"Nice to meet you too, Peter." He said as he kneeled down to sit beside me and took the gauze from my hand. "You should stay still." I couldn't help but to laugh slightly at how decisive he now was.
"Thank you, Dr. Henry."
"You're welcome." The boy stated, completely focused on his new task.
"So, Henry, do you know where we're heading?"
"Mom said that we were going to New York to see my dad. It's my first time seeing him since they split."
"Oh, that sounds fun! Where are you from?"
"Texas." Henry replied with pride.
"Is that where the trip started?"
"It's where we got on the train. You were already here, sleeping."
"Wait, you saw me?"
"Yea. You were sleeping." Henry stated with a matter-of-fact.
"Were there lots of people on the train with us when you saw me?"
"Not really, but my mom's always early for things and I fell asleep too."
"Do you have a ticket? I didn't have one when I woke up."
"My mom has it."
Of course, she does.
"And your mother is... gone?" Henry shrugged and returned to the quiet demeanor he had earlier.
"She wasn't there when I woke up. No one was. So, I got scared and hid in the bathroom." Henry looked down somberly. I lifted up his chin and saw that he was crying. He wiped his tears quickly off, attempting to hide his pain. The train kept driving us forward, but who was driving the train?
“You wanna see who’s driving this thing?”
“I guess.” Henry shrugged. It made me uneasy with how much spirit he seemed to have lost.
“Alright well, do me another favor,” I said hoping to spark a smile.
“Yea?” Henry inquired, unamused.
I pace myself and look him in the eye. “No more shrugging or crying, Dr. Henry. We have a job to do. We need to find the engine room."
Henry's energy returned. “Can I be the conductor? Choo-Coo!” He exclaimed, as he motioned that he was pulling the horn.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” I stated, unable to hide my amusement, and began to move forward faster but at the pull of the train, with a helping hand.
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab