This one was an entry for the Reedsy.com prompt “Start your story with someone sitting on a crowded train and end it with them looking out over beautiful natural scenery.” and I wrote it while using an ambient noise tool so that I could hear the noise of the train. Its dark, there is implied abuse, running away, basically a guy on a train leaving a bad situation.
He sat pressing his right cheek up against the cool window. He had his arms wrapped around his messenger bag, trying to make himself as small as possible. He tried to focus on the rhythmic clanging of the train running along the rails, the rain on the window, anything to take his attention away from the claustrophobic number of people on the train. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum
He felt a foot tap against his and shifted to press his feet under his seat. It wouldn’t be sustainable for long, but the constant touch of bodies against his was almost as overwhelming as the smell. There were too many people and too little ventilation, and with each breath he had to resist the urge to gag as it felt like he was breathing their sweat.
He hated this train. Usually trains were better than subways or buses, but this train was unique. It was the only one that ran out to the suburbs, part of a cross country line. As a result it shared its track with freight trains, so it only ran during rush hour, and it was always packed. Usually he would have tried to leave early to make make this journey. He would have tried and catch the first train out, but this wasn’t a planned trip.
He hadn’t wanted to go. God he hadn’t wanted to go. He reached up with one hand and touched his left cheek bone, wincing as his fingers made contact with the hot flesh. Staying was not an option. He took a shuddering breath and looked out the window, watching the tall buildings of the city pass by.
He braced himself as the train shuddered to a stop, to prevent himself from leaning against this neighbour. He breathed a sigh of relief as with the outflow of people there was just a little more air. If only the woman in the seat next to him would leave he could relax.
She shifted, elbowing him in the ribs. He flinched in response, first from surprise, then from pain at the sudden movement. He couldn’t stay there, and he couldn’t go back. The train started up again, and he clenched his eyes closed as he heard his phone vibrate. Once, twice, three times. He shouldn’t look. Nothing could be said that would make this okay.
“If you aren’t gonna answer that, turn it off or put it in another pocket.” The woman beside him said sounding angry. The phone had been pressing against her side as well as his.
He sighed and twisted gingerly to reach the pocket with his phone. He pulled it out, and debated if he should turn it off. It vibrated in his hand, and the screen lit up showing previews of the messages he had missed.
“Are you alright?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It will never happen again.”
As he read them a fifth message came up.
“Please come home.”
He turned off the phone and jammed it in the front of his bag, zipping the compartment shut. It should never have happened at all. He had no idea what he was going to say when he got to the end of the line. What would he say? How would he explain this?
He pressed himself back against the window staring out, and tried to focus on the rhythmic clanging of the train running down the tracks. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.
Each station shed more and more people. The tall city buildings gave way to sprawling suburbs crammed with row housing, squat apartments, and little houses on tiny lots.
When he heard the call of the station signaling the half way point he looked around. The train was a lot more than half empty, but his little four square was still fully occupied. He spied two seats facing forward across the aisle and when the train pulled into the next station he went for it.
“Excuse me, excuse me.” He said, as, by the awkward shriek, he had stepped on someone’s foot in his rush to get out. He hauled himself into the aisle and then collapsed into the seat on the other side of the aisleway. He sat his bag on the seat beside him, but still kept it pressed close against him. He sat with his arms crossed, even though he now could have spread out. As he looked around he saw a glare aimed at him by his seat mate, whose foot must have been the collateral damage in his move. He ducked his head down, and pressed it against the glass.
He winced again, as his tender cheek made contact with the window pane, but didn’t pull away allowing the cold window to sooth it. Maybe it wouldn’t swell so much this way. He should have packed a bag; he didn’t even have a change of clothes. He wouldn’t be able to charge his phone when it ran low on battery. Maybe it was a good thing he had turned it off.
He could picture his keys in his mind’s eye, hanging by the door; he hadn’t even stopped to grab them. A clap of thunder startled him from his thoughts, and he was surprised to see it wasn’t raining anymore. The storm must be moving in the direction they had come from. A good thing too, as he hadn’t brought a coat or an umbrella.
The train shuddered to a stop, only three left to go for him, but they were further apart now. The tiny houses had given way to larger houses, on even larger lots. Rolling hills, and seemingly endless fields now filled the windows. He felt something loosening within him at the sight. He sat back uncrossing his arms, and closed his eyes listening to the train. Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.
He hadn’t even realized that he had fallen into a doze until he heard his station being called and was jolted back into awareness. Oof, he was sore. He pulled himself up out of his seat, and noticed the car was almost empty. He was the only one waiting at the door for this stop, and as he stepped off he could hear the buzzing of the cicadas in the nearby trees.
The sunlight was hot on his face, but heavenly. The train pulled away, it’s ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, fading into the distance. A chirping bird flew by, and what had loosened on the train unfurled completely.
He looked at the field of long grass, untouched and full of wildflowers that he could smell on the breeze. He took the first deep breath that he had in hours, and all of his problems seemed so far away. He was safe here, and the rest he could figure out later.
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One thought on “The Escape”
This feels like an interlude in a much longer story.