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Clouds (Revised Edition)
The train continues at almost full speed down the mostly-straight track. The dusty plains of Texas stretch out as far as I can see on all sides. I grin, knowing that that will not be so for much longer. That soon, just near the horizon, the train station will appear; a shadow against the setting sun. I walk over to the control room. The original conductor of the train is stuck to his chair; his hands are tied behind the back of the chair, and a rope is tied around his chest, stomach and arms. There’s no way he can escape. I walk into his line of vision.
I laugh. “Don’t worry,” I say, taunting him. “When your train here crashes into the station, you’ll be given a quick and painless death. But think of all those poor people!” I laugh, cruelly. “Men, women and children, starving, depending on you to deliver food. But all they’ll get is the fright of their lives, injury, and death. And it’s all because of you. All because, while everyone else on the train struggled to fend me and my men away, so that you could turn the train to the right, you tried to hide behind a curtain! You’re the one killing these people.” I finish, smiling.
He just glares at me, but even through the glare, I can see sorrow, regret and fear in his eyes. I crave it. That look of complete helplessness and despair. I’m not quite sadistic. I am not a big fan of seeing physical pain. It’s the mental, and emotional pain, that makes me love my job. I don’t care if people call me evil, pathetic, revolting, psycho. I try not to be a very introspective person. If I did, I could change. I don’t want to change.
I can’t even quite remember what the purpose is of the organization I work for. I can’t even remember why I am the way I am. It’s like the memory is full of clouds. Dark clouds, dripping with years of alcohol, and drugs. I don’t put much effort into defogging it. Sometimes, the clouds part for a split second, and I can see a glimpse of the truth. All I remember is that I am, or was, trying to prove myself. To someone. But I can’t remember. And that’s fine. All I care about is that they hired me to kill and destroy. And I plan to do my job.
I walk out the back door. The sound of the engine and the air rushing by is somewhat deafening. While most people would be careful about crossing the gap between the cars, stride over it with ease. I’m not scared easily. At least I don’t allow myself to be.
Suddenly, as I’m thinking this, the clouds of my mind seem to part for a second. I see myself through my eyes... as a child. I am walking carefully up a set of stone stairs to the front door of a small house. I grab the doorknob, and stop a moment. More than a moment. I feel traces of fear from somewhere in my past. I turn the doorknob and step inside. “Hello, Son,” a voice says. And then, just like that, the memory is gone. Push the memory, push the fear, out of my head. I have no interest right now in searching for my past. When I walk through the door, Davidson is waiting for me.
“How’s everything going, so far?” I ask.
“Perfect, so far, sir. The bodies have been disposed of,” he replies. I can’t keep from smiling, imagining the twenty-or-so bodies strewn about the tracks at random intervals.
“You didn’t kill all of them before you threw them off, correct?” A look of concern flashes across his face, but he quickly makes it straight again. He may be my most trusted employee, but he doesn’t really share my hunger for fear.
He doesn’t quite look me in the eyes as he answers, “At your request, sir, we only shot half of them.” He looks like he’s debating whether he should add something or not. “Sir?” he inquires. “Why did you want some of them to live as they were thrown off the train? I thought you said... well, that you weren’t sadistic.”
“It is fear that I seek, Davidson.” I reply quickly and calmly, now gazing out the window. “Fear is key. The ones that live will go straight to one of the nearby towns. People will stare at them, and say ‘who did this to you?’ And then they’ll recite my little ‘fear us’ speech that I gave. When the town-folks hear that, they’ll be terrified, and will hopefully submit to us. You see, when you are trying to take over a region, fear is very important.”
He nods, seeing my logic. “I understand, sir.”
“Good. Now, round up all the men to the car right in front of the coal car. We’ll cut the coupler connecting us to the cars connected to the engine. Once the two parts are separated, we’ll-” But my commands are interrupted by the sound of gunfire in a train-car way back. One of the men bursts through the door a few moments later, panting.
“He’s coming!” he cries.
“Who?” But before he can say anything, the glass window behind him shatters, and he falls face-down with a bullet through the back of his head.
“Sir? What do we do?”
I look at all the men in our car. “We go straight into the fight!” I cry. I pull out my pistol, a grin on my face, and charge through the doorway with my men behind me. In the next car, three of our men are having a fist fight with two of the other side’s men. While my men wear dark green uniforms, these guys have blue, and seem to be covered in a black powder. Two more of our men stick back, guns ready, trying to get a clear shot.
“Everyone, charge!” I yell, and run towards the action. The two men join the stampede, and my fist connects to the man on the left as I pass by. The blow sends him flying out the door which was already ajar. He falls onto the tracks below. The men hold the last opponent still, while they fire a bullet through his head, and into the sky.
“Into the next car!” I scream. “We’ve got to overwhelm them!” I let all the others file past me, and, after a second, prepare to bring up the rear.
Then, as I look at my gun, the clouds part again. “Get over here,” a voice hisses. I’m being dragged down a hallway by my shirt towards a room that brings a sense of similarity. And dread. I look to my left and see the man’s other hand. It grips the barrel of a small rifle. And once again, then memory vanishes. I snap myself out of my daze, and prepare to run.
However, before I even move, another blue-shirt jumps into the car. We both stare at each other, guns up.
“Sam Silver. The ‘Hero of Southern Texas.’ Long time no see. How’d you get into the train anyway?”
“Train Crash Trevor. Long time indeed. You see, Trevor, you never checked the coal car.” He nods, unsmiling. “I knew it wasn’t Jack that stole all that food two days ago. Even when we played together as kids, I knew there was something up about you.”
Wait, what? We played together as kids? This thought slices the clouds open again. I am looking at Sam as a kid. I vividly feel and remember an emotion. Envy. Envy of... his family? But the clouds clamp shut again. Fortunately Sam did not seem to notice me zone out.
We continue to stare at each other for a few seconds. Then I pull the trigger. Both our guns shoot out of our hands; we shot each other’s pistol. We both charge. I bring back my arm for a punch. He ducks, but I’m ready for that, and knee him in the abdomen. When reals over, I’m ready, and send an uppercut straight into his forehead. He’s knocked back, but lifts his head just in time to see me leaping towards him. I end up flying out the door, but grabbing onto the handle. Then I see it. Sam’s gun. I reach for it, and spin around, ready to fire, but am interrupted as Sam delivers an uppercut of his own.
I fall over the edge of the railing. I scream and drop the gun as I see the tracks zooming below me. I expect to fall right into them, but Sam manages to grab my uniform, push my legs over the railing, and grab both my hands behind my back. Blood spews from my mouth and nose, onto the car in front of me.
“You struggle, I punch you, you fall.” He yells over the roar. He pulls a rope out of his pocket, and ties my hands, tight, with it. He picks his gun up with his free arm, and puts the barrel against my head. “Move,” he hisses. He leads me back into the train car and shoves me to the floor, the pistol pointed at me.
“Don’t move a muscle,” he commands, staring at me. After a minute, one of his coal-covered buddies runs up to him from the other car to inform Sam that we had been beaten.
Sam blindfolds me, and leads me to the engine. I hear the conductor showering him with thanks. Sam ties me to the chair in the same way I had tried the conductor, but without the gag. After a while, he takes the blindfold off.
“I see that you broke the lever after you put the train at its current speed. Tried to make sure nothing could be changed. But you forgot to destroy the steering.” He looks me in the eyes, smiling. “I turned it, and now, the train is now headed for an abandoned mineshaft. I’m going to steal your idea, and separate our train from yours. Don’t worry, it’ll make the train go faster, and hence, make your death faster.” He walks behind me, out of my line of vision. “You brought this upon yourself. Goodbye, old enemy.”
I hear him close the door behind him. The train picks up speed, as all the other cars that were attached to the train disconnect. I am alone. There is no sound but the train chugging us to our doom.
The urge hits me to look back. To think about how maybe I should have turned my path. About how maybe what I did was wrong. I am tempted to regret. I am tempted to fear. I am tempted to change.
But I am not a coward. I am not weak. I don’t regret. I don’t fear. I don’t change. I stay strong to the very end.