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The Last Ride

by Scarlett O'Neil 2 months ago in fiction
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Going Too Fast

His head was killing him. In the darkest recess of his mind, that was the only clear thought that was getting across. The headache. What he had to assume was the worst headache in his life. It was clouding his mind with a searing pain that he couldn’t stop. Hungover? Fight? Robbery gone wrong? Something worse? He didn’t know, but he didn’t think he would ever know unless he could get the headache to just stop. Was he dying? No. He wouldn’t go that far. He was still breathing, and the throbbing pain assured him very much that he was alive. He just needed to focus. Focus on something. Focus on anything. That would bring him back to the reality that he desperately needed to be a part of. He would wake up, take some pain meds, and sleep off the rest of the day. If there was still day left after the meds took over.

He took a deep breath. Breathing always helped. He just needed to follow his senses. First thing he tried concentrating on was hearing. He could definitely hear people around them. Shouting. The voices didn’t sound familiar, but he couldn’t focus on just one. There were just too many people talking at once. He could be at some party somewhere by the sounds of it. He drank one too many beers and collapsed, but that didn’t seem right to him. Smell. There wasn’t any particular smell that drew his attention. He could smell sweat. That much was clear to him, and he could feel sweat dripping down his forehead. It was either hot outside or he was nervous. Or it was a combination of both which seemed very likely. The world around him seemed to be shaking underneath him. He stretched out his fingers and felt carpet. He wasn’t outside.

“Is he waking up?” a female voice asked.

If he did get into a fight and wound up on the losing side, this wasn’t good news. He wanted to brace himself for the worst, but he didn’t have anything to protect himself with. He didn’t even know where he was. All he could do was hope for the best. He stretched out his fingers and cracked his eyes open. Sunlight from the windows shot another flash of pain through his system. His eyes clammed shut again. He wasn’t ready for this. He just wanted to go back to bed and try again later. Maybe the girl could come back in an hour or so.

Somebody got down next to him and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. If these people beat him up, they were calling it a truce.

“Hey, shut the shades,” a male voice said. “It’s hurting his eyes. I think. Are you okay man?”

He tried opening his eyes again, just in time to see the shades against a wide window block the cruel sunlight. The woman standing by the window wasn’t exactly a woman. It was a girl. She was just a girl, early teens at the most. Strawberry hair down to her shoulders, freckles covering her face and part of her neck. Her most striking feature was her emerald green eyes that were staring at him with an intensity that almost frightened him.

“I think you’re going to be okay,” the other stranger told him.

The man next to him was only a few years older than the girl. He had light brown hair that held messy curls around his ears. He never would have thought the two were related until he saw the same piercing eyes on the boy. These two had to be siblings.

“Where am I?” he asked. He tried sitting up only to be greeted with a wave of nausea that sent him back down. The boy caught him before he could fall all the way.

“Train heading through New Mexico my friend,” the girl said. She plopped down on one of the red seats and pulled a book out of her bag. “Gotta go see Aunt Leda every August. Lonely old lady wastes two weeks of my life every freaking year. Uh.”

“Sorry about her,” the boy said. “She can be a handle sometimes. Think you can get on the couch? Better than the floor.”

He accepted the boy’s help. He put his arm around the boy’s shoulders, and he was lifted onto the couch opposite of the girl. She wasn’t even looking at them anymore. The excitement of whatever happened to him already wore off.

“What happened to me?” he asked the boy. His headache was finally fading, but he couldn’t remember anything. How did he end up in New Mexico? That didn’t seem right.

“No idea,” the boy said. “You were sleeping when we walked in and right when the train braked, you fell off. Freaked us out. Thought you were having a seizure or something, but pretty sure you just bumped your head or something.”

He was on a train in New Mexico. Going somewhere. That didn’t answer any of his questions. Was he related to these kids? An uncle or something?

“I don’t remember,” he admitted. “Like, I don’t remember anything. At all.”

The girl looked up from her book looking mildly interested.

“Nothing?” she asked.

He shook his head. He didn’t even know his own name. The more he tried, the more distant those memories became.

“Maybe that’s because you bumped your head. Short term amnesia or something,” the boy said. “I’m sure it will come back. You don’t even know your name?”

He shook his head again.

“Here, let’s check your bag,” the boy suggested. “Bet your wallet has an ID in it or something. I don’t think the tickets have our names on it, but maybe we can look.”

The boy picked up a brown suitcase and put it next to him. He didn’t even recognize that, but it must belong to him. He undid the straps and opened it up. It was empty. It was completely empty. No clothes. No shoes. No books, and no wallet. The boy looked confused, but he checked underneath the seat and the overhead compartments for more luggage, but there wasn’t any. Why did he board a plane in New Mexico with an empty suitcase?

“Well, that’s weird,” the girl said.

“Maybe you just weren’t paying attention when you packed,” the boy suggested. “I wouldn’t worry too much about the ticket. I don’t think they are coming around to check right now. Anyway, my name is Leo, and this is my sister Aria. We were assigned to this cart with you, but I’ll stay with you until you remember your name. Like, when we ever get there, I’ll stay with you. Maybe take you to a hospital or something. Amnesia isn’t good.”

“If we ever get there,” Aria repeated.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked.

Leo sighed and glared at Aria. “When you fell because the train braked. Like, it was bad. Everyone kinda fell. We stayed in here, but lots of people were running and shouting in the hallways. Train is going again. Seems faster too. Guess trying to make up for lost time.”

“I think we should go look,” Aria said. “Like, they’re still out there shouting at each other and we’re sitting in here playing doctor.”

“I’ll go find out,” he volunteered. He was older than both of these teens. He didn’t know by how much, but he felt like he needed to be in control of the situation. He was fine as no one asked him for his train ticket. Or an ID.

“I’ll go with you,” Leo offered.

He stood up and went to the sliding door. The shouting was already getting louder. He didn’t know why, but he was feeling protective of the boy and his little sister. He didn’t want them getting hurt.

“Stay here with your sister,” he said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

He slid the door open and slid out into the hallway. It was a nice train from what he could see with separate compartments going down the hall. Most of the doors were closed. He didn’t know if that meant there were people in them or not, but he followed the ever increasing volume of voices he heard coming from the front end. A small group of people were crowded together by an opened seating area with a black door blocking them from going any further.

“I’m going to break this door down. I swear I’m going to knock it down,” a man wearing a tank top threatened.

“Sir, that won’t solve anything. Please return to your seat,” a woman begged him. “The authorities are already aware of the situation.”

“What situation?” he asked.

He felt like he was on fire when the group all turned to look at them. Four men. Two women. All staring at him. Stress was written across their faces. Something bad happened.

“Someone broke into the train driver’s cab,” the same woman answered him. “I’ve been trying to contact the driver since it happened, but he’s not answering. I don’t know if he’s still driving, but it’s odd that he isn’t answering me.”

“And that the freak that broke in isn’t back out here with us yet,” the tank top man shouted. “Did you hear what he was shouting? Death to the sinners? Cleansing the earth? I’m not just gonna sit back here and wait for whatever that luniac is planning!”

“We can’t let him break in the cab,” the woman whispered stepping closer to him. He could just smell the perfume she wore. Lilac. It would be a very calming scent if it wasn’t for these circumstances.

“Why would it be so bad to let him?” he whispered back. The tank top dude would break in, wrestle the intruder to the ground, and they would go back on their merry little way. Destination somewhere in New Mexico. He still didn’t have the slightest idea where he was going. He thought with all going on the memories would just come right back at him, but they didn’t.

“What if he has a gun or something? The last thing we need is for someone to get shot.”

“Do you work here?” he asked. She wore black dress pants with a white buttoned shirt, and he felt stupid for asking her when he saw her nametag. Kristen.

“Yes. It’s only my second week here. I’ve got to go find Shannon. She’ll know what to do, but I already called the police. They’re able to track this train easily.”

“Why aren’t you still on the phone with them?”

“Call was lost,” Kristen answered. “Happens a lot out here. Especially when we’re passing through the mountains, but it’s okay. They know where we are. They can stop the train.”

He didn’t want to ask how the police could stop a train. He didn’t know what exactly could, but he didn’t think it would be a group of officers shooting at the rails. He looked outside the windows to see if he could identify something, anything, that could tell him where they were.

There wasn’t anything outside that stood out to him, but that was probably because of how fast it was going. It was just one blur right after another. He couldn’t see any trees or roads.

“Just let him break down the door,” a familiar voice said.

He turned around and saw Leo standing behind them with his arms crossed over his chest. The boy looked much younger than he remembered, still very much a child in more ways than one, but his face had paled. Leo heard their conversation. He knew what was going on.

“I don’t want to die on this stupid train,” Leo continued. “I don’t really want to see my aunt either, but I definitely don’t want to die. I can’t get my phone to work either.”

He looked back at the door leading to the driver’s cab. The fellow in the tank top was already shoving his body against it in a sad attempt to break in. It didn’t look like it was working. The small group of people gathered around him were shouting out their opinions. Some told him it was a terrible idea while others cheered him on, but no one offered to help. What if Kristen was right? What if they broke open that door and found a pistol pointed at them? He weighed his options in the little time that he felt he had. He wanted to go back to his cabin and sit across from Aria. She would come up with a list of names and he would guess which one sounded most like him. Leo would tell their aunt about the kind man on the train and invite him over for dinner. His memory would return after a good meal, and he’d be on his way. Wherever that was.

That wasn’t the right choice though. He couldn’t just pretend that everything was alright. He didn’t know what happened to their driver, but there was an unpredictable man at the controls of the train threatening the lives of all on board. The man didn’t break in there to get a better look at the scenery. He had ill intentions.

“Okay,” he said to Kristen and Leo. “He’s right. We don’t know who’s in there, but he isn’t the driver. From the sounds of it, I don’t think he’s even mentally stable. We need to get him away from the controls and find someone else who can drive the train until help comes. Is there somewhere we can tie this man up after we get him?”

“The train is fairly simple to operate,” Kristen said. “You could probably even do it. Pushing the lever one way makes the train go. Push it in the opposite direction, the train brakes. Never done it myself, but I’ve watched other people do it. I mean, with the guy in there right now, it can’t be that hard. Right?”

He didn’t want to be the one driving the train. He didn’t like that idea at all. Maybe one of the people encouraging tank top guy could drive the train. If everything went well, he’d be back in his cart within the hour trying to relax. He was going to let the others deal with whatever damage caused by the intruder.

“Excuse me, guys,” he shouted over their voices. He raised his arms over his head to get their attention. All turned to face him except the tank top fellow who insisted on continuing to bang his body against the door. It wasn’t working. At all. “I think you’re on the right track. We need to break that door open, but we don’t know what’s on the other side. What if he has a gun or something worse?”

“We need to get everyone away from the door,” Kristen said taking some control away from him. He was appreciative of that. He didn’t know who he was, but he wasn’t a leader. “Back to our seats everyone.”

Kristen went to the small crowd, and one by one, they returned to their seats. Only a few chose to stay behind which was all they needed. The man in the tank top was still stubbornly pushing against the door. Two of the same men stood near him, both in their 40s. Leo also stood directly behind him. He didn’t like that. He wished the boy would return to his sister. If something went wrong and the boy was hurt, he would always blame himself.

“Okay, what’s the plan?” a man with dirty blonde hair asked. He was dressed in a suit like he was on his way to a business meeting or something. He never planned on tackling somebody that afternoon. It’s funny how life worked like that sometimes. “I don’t have a gun or anything. When we break down that door, we need to be armed.”

“Wait,” Leo said. “I have a baseball bat. Hold on.”

They watched Leo run off back towards his room. A baseball bat could hold the man off, and the strength of the tank top fellow should be more than enough to hold him down. He still didn’t feel comfortable though. He couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Okay, when he gets back, one of you should have the bat. Two of you can break the door open, third guy has the bat, and I’ll stand back here in case he tries running. Not feeling my best right now so I don’t think it’s a good idea if I handle the bat myself.”

No one argued with him. When Leo returned, he reluctantly handed over the baseball bat to the man wearing the suit. The other man took his place next to tank top fellow, and after they took a couple of deep breaths, they started kicking the door with their feet. The effect was almost instantaneous. The door cracked after the first kick, dented in with the second kick, and the third kick sent the door flying open. Tank top fellow didn’t seem to remember the plan. He ran into the driver’s room yelling at the top of his lungs. The other men followed him in, but he chose to stay back with Leo. He did move closer to the door just so he could see what was happening inside when a gunshot rang through the air. He ducked down, pulling Leo down with him.

“He shot me!” the man in the tank top shouted. “Oh my God, he shot me! He is fucking shot me!” His voice howled over the train’s engine.

“Don’t you ever use the Lord’s name in vain!” the intruder snapped back. “Everyone out of here please. I need to pray.”

He was shielding Leo’s body with own, but he looked up to see the man in the tank top run out of the driver’s cab. The tank top man held his hand against his shoulder, but blood was pouring out from between his fingers. Kristen hurried over to him with a rag, but the tank top man wouldn’t let her get close. He grunted at her and went back down the hallway, presumably to his own room. The other two men that got to the driver’s room were backing out with their arms raised over their heads.

He pulled himself to his feet but kept Leo behind him. The kid didn’t look too happy, but he wasn’t going to let the boy get hurt. The other men joined them, and he got his first look at the train’s new conductor. It was an older man, late 60s, with speckled gray hair and dark eyes. He was dressed simply in jeans and a white shirt. He wasn’t a man that anyone would look twice at when passing him on the street. The conductor’s easily forgettable face wasn’t ringing any bells for him. He held a gun in one hand, and what looked like a bible was in the other.

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” the conductor told them, quoting the Bible.

“Why do you presume we don’t know God?” Kristen asked. She stood behind him next to Leo. She was afraid of the driver too. None of them knew what to expect. Leo didn’t like himself being front and center, but if the religious nut wasn’t stopped, they would all die.

“Sinners need to be punished,” the conductor said. He didn’t even seem like he heard her. “Sinners will be punished. That is the way of the Lord.”

“There’s children on this train sir,” he tried telling the other man. “Maybe we can stop the train somewhere and let the children off. We can talk about the matters of religion at another time.”

“This is the only time,” the driver said. “Time is the one thing that humans cannot control and never will be able to, but there is a time to live and a time to die. This is the time to die. We will die and be punished for sinning against the Lord.”

“Sir,” he tried again. “If we are talking about God, children are always innocent.”

“Even angels are capable of sin. If angels can sin, so can children.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment. However, if the little children haven’t sinned yet, they will have nothing to fear in death,” he said.

“He’s going to kill us,” Kristen whispered. “Oh my God. He’s going to crash this train. We need to get off now.”

“Can we jump or something?” Leo asked.

The nameless man looked out the window. They weren’t going to be able to jump. The train was going much too fast. They would be flattened like pancakes if they tried jumping. The sun was going down past the blur of trees. They weren’t going to live to see the morning if something wasn’t done. He wasn’t ready to die yet. No man needed to die without a name.

“We can’t jump,” Kristen whispered back.

“What’s your name sir?” he asked the driver.

The driver was still standing in the doorway with his eyes closed, but his hand was still tightly gripping the gun. They couldn’t jump him again without risking somebody getting shot. He looked up though after the question was asked.

“John,” he said smiling. “My name is John, named after one of the most famous disciples in the Bible.”

“John was famous for spreading the word of Jesus. He wasn’t famous for murdering a bunch of innocent people. I’m sure you can think of a better way to honor your namesake.”

“What’s done is done,” John said simply. “We will be meeting God momentarily. All we can do now is wait and pray.”

Leo sprung up from behind him and jumped on John before he could react. He got John on his back and was trying to wrestle the gun away from the older man. Kristen reacted faster than he could and was on her knees next to them. She held down John’s arms while Leo managed to get the gun away. He slid the gun away from John’s grasp. The blonde man wearing the suit picked up the gun while the second fellow took Leo’s spot on top of John to hold him down.

“It’s too late,” John said laughing. “It’s much too late. Just wait for God to send His angels to take us away.”

He leaped over John and the people holding him down to the driver’s cab. The wide window in front of the controls showed him the true speed that the train was going and it frightened him. The rails underneath the train were going faster than he could comprehend. He hurried to the seat and saw a little black box planted just on top of the controls. Ticking. Numbers going backwards towards 0. He took a step back, his eyes glued on the numbers that were getting smaller every second. 90 seconds. That’s all there was left. 90 seconds. He could cut one of the wires to disable the device, but which cord would he cut? People went through years and years of training to disable bombs. He didn’t even know where to start.

“What in the world are you doing Alex?” a voice asked.

He looked to the right and saw another man standing against one of the windows in front of a body on the ground. The driver. The real driver. He had a bloody gash on the side of his head that was dripping onto the carpet.

“Who are you?”

Alex sounded familiar. That was his name, but who was this guy? He didn’t recognize him at all. The other man had blonde hair and was dressed in a gray suit. Alex felt afraid, but that was only because this guy seemed to know who he was when he didn’t. The blonde man with a kind face stepped over the driver’s body to look Alex in the eye. Alex didn’t try to run.

“We need to stop the bomb,” Alex said pointing at the black box. “I mean, cutting the wrong wire could be bad, but we need to do something. There are kids on the train.”

“We can’t do anything,” the blonde man said. “They made their own choices. All we can do is wait now. I know that it’s hard the first time. It will get easier.”

“What are you talking about man? We need to stop this train. Maybe if we can get it to brake or something, we can get everyone off the train in time,” Alexi said going back over to the controls.

“What’s going on?” Leo asked suddenly joining him. “They tied the crazy guy to one of the chairs. He’s still spitting out religious quotes. Weirdo. Is…what’s that black thing? The box?”

“A bomb,” Alex said, not wanting to lie to the kid. “I was trying to get the other guy here to help me, but maybe we can stop the train. I don’t know how to disarm a bomb, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.”

“Other dude isn’t going to help you,” Leo said. “He’s dead. I think?”

Leo went over to the driver and bent down next to him. Alex didn’t think he was dead, but he looked around. The cab was empty except for him and Leo. And the possibly dead driver. The other man was gone. His breath caught in his throat. He tried pushing that to the back of his mind. He couldn’t worry about ghosts. He needed to stop the train.

“Oh my God,” Kristen screamed. “Is that a bomb?”

“Take Leo and get to the back of the train,” Alex commanded with as much confidence in his voice as he could muster. He hoped they trusted him because he didn’t. “I’m going to brake the train if I can. Back of the train and keep your heads covered.”

Kristen nodded, but Leo didn’t look like he was going to leave. He stood back up and looked at Alex for the longest time. Words weren’t exchanged, but a quiet understanding went through the both of them. Leo hugged Alex, but time wasn’t waiting for them. John was right about that. Alex broke the hug and hurried Leo and Kristen out of there. He hoped that they would find Aria and hide somewhere because if Alex couldn’t stop that train, they would all die.

“It’s only harder when you talk to them,” the blonde man said suddenly appearing right by his side. Alex almost screamed, but he kept himself under control. He needed to find the brake.

“Please go away,” Alex mumbled.

“There’s too many people on here for you to do this on your own,” the blonde man said. “My first time it was only a few people. Enough to count on your hand. I’d say it gets easier over time, but it really doesn’t. Especially when there’s kids.”

Alex found a lever and pulled it back as hard as he could. Nothing happened. When he looked back at it, the stupid thing hadn’t even moved so he tried again. And again. No matter how hard he tried, his hand couldn’t grip it.

“We can’t change this,” the blonde man said. “30 seconds left, right? That can last a lifetime.”

“Who are you?” Alex asked. He was frustrated. A bomb was about to go off and this guy was going on with his little speech without trying to help at all. He was going to die too, unless he was a ghost.

A light that came out of nowhere outlined the figure of the blonde man wearing the suit. The light coming off his body was immense, but it didn’t hurt Alex’s eyes. A calmness swept over his being, and despite what the suited man said earlier, time did seem to finally slow down. Alex couldn’t hear the roar of the train or the ticking from the bomb. The only sound passing through his ears was his breathing.

“You should go to the children,” the blonde man said, putting a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “They know you. It won’t be as scary for them.”

Alex nodded and took the man’s advice. He went back to the main compartments of the train and walked slowly down the aisle. He peaked through closed doors and saw an older couple fast asleep in the first one. They had no idea what was coming. The second closed door he could just see the religious intruder, still quoting the Bible like that was going to save him in the end. Nothing was going to save him. Alex found his friends in the last compartment, the place where they first met. Leo was underneath one of the seats shielding his sister. Kristen was on the floor next to them covering up her head. They all looked up when Alex opened the door.

“It’s going to be over soon,” Alex promised them as he felt a glowing light surround his body. “Don’t be afraid. It will be over soon.”

Alex got on the floor next to them as the bomb went off destroying the train’s control. The train derailed from the track and crashed against a rock formation killing everyone on board. Alex did his best to make sure the children weren’t afraid as he took their hands and brought them home.


About the author

Scarlett O'Neil

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  • Carly Bush2 months ago

    Wow! This was absolutely incredible. Great pacing, characterization, and plot interspersed with vivid imagery. You're very talented. I'm going to subscribe.

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