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Devon let the icy air wrap around his body; he could feel its pressure against his face like cellophane. The forest flew past them easily, the sounds of nature no longer audible over the wind. His body lolled gently with the course of the train.
“Well what?” his voice hit a critical tone, almost a note. He raised his head and laid it against the wall of the car. His jaw shivered and his teeth clattered silently.
“Don’t give me that Devon. What happened after she found it? What did she say?!” Devon’s eyes lowered from the roof, to the other man. He sighed deliberately before bringing his eyes to the roof again.
“Nothing, I don’t think she knew what to say. She just hit me straight up, Hal. My own wife.” A silence separated the men; the chromium silver moon painted a ghostly white stripe in the space between them. Hal watched the reflection of the forest move around the base of his whiskey bottle. He leaned over the edge of the car and spat into the woods; tipped his head back and took a deep swig of whiskey. He leaned forward and offered the bottle to Devon, but he remained silent.
“So why are we here?” Hal said, rising and gazing out the car door, eying the mountains, stationary above the forest. Devon brought his eyes to Hal, and his expression hardened.
“You know we couldn’t stay there Hal, they’d be all over us in under a week.” his lips tightening, his voice suddenly firm, Hal whirled around and stared at Devon.
“Ya but what about me Devon! My family! Meg is six months pregnant! With my kid Devon, my kid!” Hal could feel his tears freeze before they could reach his cheeks. “You expect me to just walk away from that? To just forget everything my life has come to!?” A fire burned in his eyes, but he still shivered in his jeans. Devon breathed more quickly but said nothing. Hal waited, his whole body vibrating.
Suddenly, Hal screamed, his veins thick and red in his neck and forearms. He spun with full force and shattered the bottle against the wall. Devon froze, his body paralyzed with fear. Hal’s veins began to fade; he paused, and laid his eyes back on the forest.
“What about me.” Hal repeatedly steadily. “This whole thing was your idea. Ya sure it started out small, but where are we now? We’re two schmucks, riding stowaway on a train. We don’t have homes anymore. Where are we even going!?” Hal exclaimed, his voice suddenly raising, reaching a tormented pitch. “I’ve lived there my whole life. We just graduated last year! We have our whole lives ahead of us!” His voice cracked and broke into sobs. Devon raised his hand to his face, and wiped the grime from his ring. Hal’s breathing became convulsive, and shallow.
“I thought I could bring you with me” Hal said, heaving his words through weeps and cries. Devon could feel his resolve weaken.
“Bring me where?” croaked Devon, swallowing as he spoke. Hal’s face contorted into a dense and wrinkled mess and he gulped hoarsely and a cry escaped his lips before he spoke. “Out…” Devon’s face turned to an ashamed anger.
“Out of what?!” Devon bellowed. Hal turned to Devon, his expression frozen for a painful instant, and he burst into violent and convulsive sobs. He fell to his knees and rolled onto his side. He rocked back and forth, his cries reverberating in the interior of the car.
Devon lost his anger to pity and remorse and lowered his head. He felt alone and lost, but he was too scared to find out where he was going. His head began to bob as he wept into his hands. He collapsed sideways and slouched against a crate in the corner. Devon thought about what Hal had said.
“Where are we going?” he repeated in his mind. “Maybe we’ll find some place we can start over, her and I,” he mused, thinking of his run in with his wife, Vanessa. But he knew his chances were slim.
He felt his consciousness weaken as he blinked heavily from underneath his bangs. The last thing he saw, was his best friend Hal, vomiting over the side of the car.
Devon awoke, face first on an earthy knoll. He rolled around and tried to blink away the numbness in his head. He shielded his eyes when they met the sky. It had turned into a sickly deep maroon, the purple clouds lurching sluggishly around a dark crux directly above him. It cast a thick shadow over the landscape, the trees seeming to move with the winds.
Rolling to his left, Devon jolted as his face met the mangled torso of Hal. He hurled himself from the hill, facing his friend, and rearing in horror. Behind Hal, was the train, totaled against a bank of rock obscuring the tracks. Its front end was collapsed inwards on itself, compressed and bending in sideways like a snake. Devon could see the car they were in, gaping open and leaning over the clearing next to the hill. Its open side was chipped badly, and a piece of the floor was missing entirely. A dormant flame burned at the engine in the front car.
Devon paused faintly, his breathing slowing down. He lowered his head but froze, upon seeing a charred bar of metal protruding from Hal’s chest. He heard thunder resonate and echo in the clouds as he gaped at the atrocity before him.
He keeled forward and staggered over to Hal, his stomach erupting and leaving hot bile in his throat. He dropped to his knees beside Hal. The bar had gone in roughly and had torn much of the flesh surrounding the actual wound. He brought his eyes up to the face of Hal, almost too reluctant to do so. His mouth was barely open, and his hair was almost entirely straight, splayed backwards from the force of the impact. Devon looked into his eyes and saw no longer the deep chocolate sheen that Meg had fallen in love with; they were pale and empty. He could see the reflection of the clouds more easily on their glassy surface. As it began to sink in, he shifted his weight and rested on his right haunch. He looked up from Hal and lost himself in the enthralling wick of the flame behind the hill.
His eyes widening, he lowered his head to the corpse once again; but he noticed something in the reflection of Hal’s eyes. He brought his face closer, cringing his nose to the stench. He scanned the eyes, and shifted his weight to try and find what had caught his attention before. Suddenly, he froze, in shock. Devon brought his hand to face, and caressed the curve of his cheek.
In the reflection he could see a singed gash on his right cheek, stretching from his chin to his eye. His exposed cheekbone was sprinkled with dirt. Parts of the wound showed evident burns, and the blood had dried in most places. He ripped his face back as his fingers felt his bone. Devon did not know what to do. He let his hand drop to the ground and forcefully closed his mouth. He did not bear to think what his exposed bone looked like while he moved his jaw.
Devon suddenly brought both hands to ground as he felt a distinct quake in the earth below him. He lifted himself from his knees and shuffled down the hill; as he turned he saw the body of Hal vibrate and slowly slide down the hill. Above him, the clouds began to swirl with awesome force, the thunder croaking even loader than before. He struggled to stay on his feet, and he raised his arms outwards, trying to balance. He raised his head to the horizon and he could see the land shaking against the stillness of the sky.
Over the hill he could see a crevice open in the earth, spewing out flares of magma. The train shivered towards the crack, until the rear car fell in, dragging the rest of it behind it in a lurching mess. He whirled around and tried to run, but another crevice opened before him. He could feel its heat burn at his wound. He turned again, but saw the crevice behind him had grown immense and had begun to swallow the hill. Devon felt himself sicken as Hal’s corpse fell into the abyss. Behind him a flare sped out from below and splattered onto Devon’s back, igniting his clothes. He flailed his limbs frantically, and collapsed to his knees. He rolled on the grass, but the flame did not extinguish; it spread across the grass surrounding him. He felt an airy hotness in his head as his hair went up in flames. He tried to scream, but only a meek gasp escaped his lips.
The world shook even more violently, and as the crevices opened, Devon rolled into the earth’s gap and tumbled aimlessly through the air. He writhed and sprawled in the air, until he twisted himself downwards and glared back at the churning magma below. He plummeted downwards, gaining speed, until he felt the vast hotness of the liquid meet his wounded cheek, and engulf the remainder of his body.
For that moment, Devon felt what it was like to die. He felt the magma burn through his skin on all sides in an instant. He felt his nerves explode inside his carcass, and he felt the last of his flesh be eaten away. He felt his very thoughts, existence, and emotions end abruptly. The very fabrics of his being that he taken for granted since the day he was born cut off. Devon’s brain, still in shock, was the last thing intact in his body.
Devon felt the omnipotent emptiness of death.
“Am I dead?” he thought.
Devon felt his muscles spasm, and he shot himself upwards, his eyes thrust open. He panted, and felt a weakness overrun his power, falling back to the floor. He heard muffled shouts, still sharp in his sub-conscious state. He lifted himself again, and felt a strong rap against his cheek. He felt the pristine flesh on his cheek cushion the blow. Alarmed, he brought his hand to his cheek. An overwhelming surge of dopamine and contentment overrun his thoughts. His eyes went into focus; around him was the familiar burgundy interior of the Boxcar.
A looming blue object suddenly obstructed his view. He brought his head back and saw the wrinkled face of a man stare into him.
“Get up!” he bellowed; the sound made Devon’s ears ring painfully. The man slapped him again, and raised him from the floor by his collar. He pressed him against the wall, and moved sideways so Devon could see Hal. Hal, alive, but in the clutches of another man, in the same uniform. The badge on his hat glimmered with a golden sheen in the late morning sun.
Devon could see tear stains under Hal’s eyes, as they brooded up at him. Devon did the same, but averted his gaze when his captor spoke.
“Devon Madras?” Devon paused.
“Your wife called. She says she’s sorry.”
Devon adjusted the ring on his finger as he was escorted to the police car.