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Drifter Train

by Robert Gene Gilland

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

“I am unsure,” she responded sadly, halting her kicking and swaying. “For as long as I can remember I have always existed as I am.” She didn’t look at me, only at the table.

“Are you a demon?” I asked, uncertain whether her answer and action were just another act of her deception. The waitress returned before she could give me a full response.

“Here you go,” said the waitress setting down our orders. She looked at me. “Did you want anything else?” I shook my head. “All right, enjoy; and if either of you need me, ring this bell.” She set a tiny dinner bell at the table’s edge, and she left us, taking the menus with her. My companion slid the slice of apple pie toward me.

“Apple pie is your favorite,” she said, releasing the plate. The pie sat before me deliciously beckoning, but my mind was restless. How did she know that? What more did she know? Was there more than what she was telling me? I grabbed a fork and prodded the pie, curious to see her reaction, but she didn’t give one.

“You never answered my question,” I said, watching her take a bite of her cake followed immediately by a bite of ice cream.

“I don’t know,” she responded distantly after swallowing.

“So what? You drift from place to place saving random people from death,” I said, glancing out the window watching her reflection, which also depicted her current disguise.

“No,” she muttered after taking second bites. “You’re the only person to notice me.” She was returning my stare through the window. “You and I are similar, perhaps even bound.” I began to look away, but her reflection seemed familiar. I stared for moments perhaps longer. Her reflection was unmistakable. But from where was it unmistakable? I shook the thought from my mind before returning to watch her silently eat all of the ice cream, but only half the cake.

“I doubt it,” I told her bluntly, almost distantly, as I took another bite of the apple pie. Her sorrowful expression rattled me. The thought returned viciously: her gaze and expression were unmistakable. Vacantly my jaw chewed the pie, but there was no taste.

“You don’t think we are alike, Tommy?” she asked and my jaw suddenly dropped. I looked away to avoid her face, but the windows held her reflection. My name, how did she know it? How did she know what I was called? Unable to avoid the memory I looked at her. A grinning smirk was on her red lips.

“Who are you?” I asked shaking.

“I am a drifter, just like you,” she said calmly, fully smiling at me. The smile was clear as day in every mirror, in every foster home. I scooted as far back into the booth cushion on my side as I could. Her smile didn’t fade, but it felt as if she was drawing nearer to me through the table separating us.

In a panic I shielded my face, trying to block out the memory entirely. Her hands gently touched my shaking arms. “Don’t worry; I’ll keep you safe; I always have.” Her words raced through my mind. I took my arms from her clutches wordlessly. It is believed when backed into a corner fear transforms into anger and that is what happened to me. Unable to think logically my thoughts turned to the burning emotion, rage.

“You’ve been stalking me?!” I yelled, slamming my palms onto the table, violently rattling the dishes. My sudden rage frightened her, forcing her to shrink back from me.

“I have, but it’s been for your own good,” she responded, returning my glare and conveying a desire I had never seen before.

“How long and why have you been stalking me?” I demanded, voicing my raging emotions.

“I’ve been watching over you ever since you were born,” she admitted, averting her eyes to the window. I knew she was sad, but I didn’t care. I had to know why she had been following me. Why she had caused me so many problems?

“Why?” I demanded when she fell silent, almost refusing to answer. When no answer quickly came, I repeated my demand again as I rose. She was shaken by my voice, and it sounded different to my ears.

She told me to, but I...” she began, quivering from the alteration of my voice. The train barreled into a tunnel and I appeared to glow red, like fire, in my window reflection. I couldn’t take my eyes from the window.

“What have you done to me?” I yelled, digging my growing nails into the table. My nails, I could feel them stretching, extending from my fingertips, and they immediately earned my quivering attention. I brought them to my face, nearly uncertain they were mine. This was a trick! It had to be a trick!

“Thomas, listen to me, you have to calm down,” she pleaded, reaching for me tentatively. I angrily retreated from her.

“I will not,” I yelled, getting quickly out of the booth. I took a rapid step toward the train car door.

“Where are you going?” she bawled, watching me with tear-filled eyes.

Rage consumed me. I had intended not to answer her, but I turned to face her. “I’m getting as far from you as possible,” I bellowed in that different tone, turning back toward the aisle’s ext. The waitress was just as startled by my altered tone, and she hovered fearfully near the door. I began to descend the aisle.

“You can’t leave me?!” wailed my companion rising out of the booth after me. She easily caught up to me, taking my hand. “Just listen, Thomas, you can’t leave without me, she’ll find out and punish us both.” I felt her dig her heels into the floor.

Heartlessly I tore my hand from her, causing her to fall flat onto her face. I ignored her repetitive wails, “Don’t leave me, please!” I flung open the car door and took the fatal step.

The door slammed and vanished behind me, leaving me alone. I stood on a vast, sandy ground with a blazing sun soaring high above me. I started walking. Something within me told me there had to be a door somewhere. Minutes turned to hours, those hours turned to days, and the days turned to weeks, but I just kept wandering without success.

Exhaustion, frustration, and perhaps even despair settled my rage, causing me to fall to my knees, unable to move and breathing hoarsely. I closed my eyes and remembered everything. All the time I spent in the orphanage, I was alone. But I was never unhappy, for she was there; at least her reflection always appeared to me in the mirror, watching me. My eyes reopened as I fully collapsed onto the sandy ground.

My eyelids covered my eyes once more. “This baby was found abandoned on a train,” rang in my ears, a voice from my distant past. Memories of each foster home, and all the time spent there passed over the back of my eyelids like flipping pages in a book, my book of life.

And she was there, as well, at each of them. Even though I hadn’t seen or noticed her then, as the memories were recalled I could see her as plain as my now-clawed hands. She was the one who brought that gutter down upon my tormentor, Emily of house ten! She tapped my last tormentor, Jack, upon the head and ignited his hair!

The memories receded as my eyelids fluttered with each shallow breath. After several blinks, she appeared winged and pale, with her tail worriedly scraping the sandy ground in her hideous black dress. “I told you the truth, Thomas,” she said mournfully, tears staining her cheeks.

I wanted to speak, I had questions and I knew she had the answers, but my parched lips released only raspy breaths.

She knelt down before me and turned me over to look up at her. “She told me to watch you and keep you safe after you were wrongfully taken, but I fell for you and I wanted you all to myself.” Delicately she took my head onto her lap and caressed my lightening black hair. “However, my beloved drifter, I must leave you for she is aware of my selfish actions.”

She kissed my lips, revitalizing my body. The tears from her cheeks felt colder than ice. I stared at her as she receded from me. “Goodbye, my drifter, I fear we will not meet again.” With that she was gone, leaving me alone. I remained lying there, staring at the vast open sky above me, pondering. Who was this she that my companion had been so fearful of? And more importantly who was she to me?

My heart ached for this unknown person and a desire to find her overwhelmed me. This new desire drove me to rise and begin my search once more. Over time I came to the conclusion that it had been my companion who summoned the doors. Eventually, after several failed attempts, I summoned the doorway onto this train. But I generally don’t remain for long, and I drift from train to train looking for her.

The train screeches into the next station. Passengers depart, and others board, but I refuse to leave; I feel something is different about this ride. Lifting my head, I survey the car, but no one is here. At least no one like me is here.

The train begins to move. I am about to rise as the train enters a tunnel. In the tunnel a fire still encircles me. I am aware of the tiny black horns present on my forehead; they have been there since I first entered the void alone. I can see everyone in the pitch dark, but none of the passengers see or hear me.

I head for the train car door preparing myself to traverse to the next train. My feeling is incorrect; she isn’t here. As I reach for the door, a firm feminine hand grabs my pale wrist.

“My little Thomas,” says the one I’ve been looking for. Suddenly the cruelty and sadness of my life are as if they have never been, or so I think. But the horrors of my true existence are just beginning.

Copyright © 2012 by Robert Gene Gilland

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