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The Tracks

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The buzz of chainsaws vibrated through the forest, a distant roar that echoed through the core of the woods. Men slaved over the trees, cutting through the meat of the giants in order to get chunks of wood to take back with them to the sawmill. As the lumberjacks loaded up the bounty of the day on the bed of a large truck, the chainsaw motors slowly died, and the men took a look at their work. Tree stumps littered the ground, showing the hard labor that the group had done that day. With a collective, content sigh they all headed back to the Mill.


The Mill, as the family who owned it and the lumberjacks called it, was a large building kept in good condition- the paint was barely chipped on the wooden walls, the mechanisms inside oiled properly to make them run like new, and the smell of fine pine filled the noses of those who worked there. The afternoon was a cool, peaceful one disturbed only by the ringing of the lunch bell that greeted the lumberjacks as they rode into range of the Mill, bringing a chorus of satisfied men. The lumberjacks all piled out of the truck and headed toward the lunch area where food would be served to them as a reward for their hard work, however, one man walked away from his fellows to his employer's house.


He was a fine looking young man with tousled chestnut hair and inviting green eyes that matched the color of the evergreens surrounding the Mill. He held himself with a certain pride, but, at the same time he seemed calm. There was nothing cocky about his movements or any signs of intimidation, despite his large and muscular stature, but instead he gave off the personality of a gentle giant as he moved to the front porch and stepped up to the large door. Before even being given the chance to knock he was interrupted by the door opening suddenly, which caused him to take a quick step back. His eyes adjusted to who was standing there and he saw the employer's wife, Bernice Welsh, staring at him with a disapproving look.


She stepped out of the house with a cluck of disappointment, "Young man, you best be patient," an older woman scolded, standing behind the screen and casting a disgruntled look with her hands on her hips. Her graying hair was pulled back into a sloppy bun and she wore a little too much foundation, her skin was a chalky color and seemed to be pulled too tightly over her bones.


"Aw, Mrs. Welsh, I am patient. I was just thinking it'd be rude to make a lady walk in this chilly weather," he replied, trying to defend himself. Under her scrutinizing gaze he shifted uncomfortably and continued to speak, "Did I mention you look absolutely lovely today, ma'am?"


"Flattery will get'chu no where fast, Abel Hillard, now run along she'll get to y-" Mrs. Welsh was interrupted by the door opening and she turned around to see who it was. A young woman stood there, perhaps in her late teens, with vibrant, slightly curly red hair and bright gray eyes that sparkled in any light. Her clothing was pretty, a canary yellow summer dress that had thick straps on the top and flowed down to her knees, she also wore a hat to match. There was also a basket on her arm, which meant lunch was prepared and when she appeared, Abel immediately stood open with a charming smile on his face and he offered his hand to her.


"Hey Gail, I've been missin' you," he greeted. Gail returned his smile and stepped forward to take his hand, she shot a look at her mother as she passed.


"Momma, you haven't been giving him no trouble, have you?" The girl flicked her hair over her shoulder, one eyebrow raised accusingly at her mother.


"Gabrielle, you ain't got no right to lookit me like that," she scoffed, but, not wanted to have any more trouble with the two, she went back inside. Gail cringed as her mother used her full name and stepped closer to Abel, wrapping her arms around his torso and burying her face in his chest.


"Nightin' Gail, I'm all sweaty, you really don't wanna hug me," he protested lightly as she did so, however, Gail did not let go and she looked up at him with a small smile on her face.


"Y'know that I don't care," she retorted, kissing him very lightly then giggling as he had to duck down under her hat in order to return it. Gail moved away from him slightly and produced the basket, "Now, I made some sandwiches with some potato salad and baked beans," as she listed off the items she pulled them out of the basket and then put them back inside, "there's some lemonade too!"


"You've gone and outdone yourself," Abel pulled her down from the porch and as the sun caught their hands their engagements rings glistened, the vow between the two finally becoming visible, "where are we eating today?"


"I figured by our spot," she suggested and without another word he began to lead her to where they had claimed their "spot" was. It was a small bridge that did not cross a river or stream of any sort, but instead stood high above the main railroad track that led right by the Mill. It was used frequently during the afternoon, but, it seemed today was going to be a slow day as no train whistles had pierced the ears of anyone yet. As the lovebirds walked, they talked of meaningful things. Like say, the future, they discussed their marriage, the children that they would have, and even dared to secretly dreamed of getting far away from the sawmill and starting a life out in the city where there were people, parties, and events that they could attend.


As they shared lunch the sun had warmed the afternoon considerably and beat upon their backs with uncomfortable heat as it rose higher into the sky, the only relief given to them was the cool wind caressing their backs. Gail turned her gaze to her fiance and she smiled, "Abel, y'know I love you, right?"


"Darlin', there ain't a day that goes by where my love don't grow for you," Abel whispered gently, ducking under her hat once more to kiss her cheek. He mispositioned the hat just enough for the wind to catch it and blow it off of her head and she let out a small cry as it fell to the tracks below, "Don't worry about it!" Abel said quickly as he scurried over to the side of the bridge where the wooden railing had been cut down previously to reveal a slope, so people could make their way to the tracks if they wished to. He lumbered down the slippery grass and landed unsteadily on the ground, which caused Gail to giggle.


She watched him chase the hat down the tracks trying to cheer him on, "C'mon, love, it ain't that hard!" she laughed. Abel continued to chase it, barely catch it in time when his foot got caught between the tracks. He groaned in frustration and tried to work it out of the hold, but noticed it was jammed in there tightly. Gail watched him struggle and thought nothing of it until she saw the smoke of a train in the distance, just around the bend of the tracks, "Abel! C'mon up here, boy, train's comin'!" The the chugga-chugga sound of the engine reached both of their ears and Abel quickly lifted his head, his eyes widening in terror as he saw the big engine making its way toward him. He began to work furious at tugging his foot out of the tracks, hearing the frantic cries that Gail was making as he did so, and then decided to unlace his shoe.


The train resembled a beast. The dark steel was blackened by the grease and oil that had collected on the surface over the years, the high-pitched scream of the whistle made both Abel and Gail recoil. Sweat was sliding down Abel's face as he tried to loosen his laces, his heart pounding an unsteady rhythm in his chest as the train pumped forward with an impossible speed. Gail's chest tightened and a cold fear constricted her movement as she watched the horrific scene take place. There was a glimmer of hope, as the train was breathing down Abel's neck he finally released his foot from his shoe, but all in vain.


"ABEL! NOOOO!" Gail watched as Abel's body crumpled under the train, the scarlet liquid spurted in little droplets on the ground on either side of the tracks. The train came to a screeching halt as the conductor had realized what just happened. The commotion had caused a stir at the Mill as several lumberjacks and Gail's family came down to inspect what occurred on the railroad tracks. Henry Welsh rushed toward his daughter, after he saw the blood and realized what had happened, as she tried to make her way down the slope to the tracks, and grabbed a hold of her.


"He's gone, Gail, he's gone," the older man tried to calm her down and take her away from the sight of the train and what had become of Abel's body. A young girl who looked to be in her early teens ran over to the pair and tried to take her Gail's arms as she struggled to get away from her father.


"Sissy, please-" she tried to speak.


"He's alive, Claudia! He's alive, he's hurt-! LET ME GO!" Gail screeched as she finally fell to her knees and sobbed hard into her hands as the pain of loss pulsed through her chest. It was so sudden, first they were laughing and the next moment he was gone. It was too fast. Claudia and Mr. Welsh were shooed away by Mrs. Welsh, who knelt in front her daughter and put her hands on her shoulders, saying nothing for there were no words to mend a broken heart.


The funeral was held a few short days after the incident and all of the Mill and Welsh family attended to pay their respects to so gentle and kind a man. Gail had not said a word to anyone and only showed herself when it was necessary. Her family tried to comfort her and reach out to her, but, it seemed as though the more they tried the more she closed herself to them. When she appeared in front of everyone her natural charm had been lost. There were bags under her eyes, she smelled slightly, and her clothing and appearance seemed very unkempt. During the service her family was at her side, but, before anyone got the chance to approach her shortly after the funeral, she left to the bridge and placed herself in the middle of the platform where she had witnessed Abel's death.


There was a high-pitched whistle and she looked around the bend of the tracks to see a cloud of smog rising which signaled to her that there was a train coming. Without any sort of rush, she slowly made her way down the slope and walked to the place where Abel struggled. Her hollow eyes looked around at her surroundings and then back up at the bridge to get an idea of what his last moments were like, and then, she saw it. The train. Slowly she turned to face it and took a long look as it sped toward her, then, without any sort of hesitation or regret, she proceeded to lie down upon the tracks and wait.





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