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Peering off into the distance, Jonathan, standing in his dirty overalls, looks for the oncoming train heading towards California, the new land of opportunity. He looks around the train station filled with the homeless. Men, women, and children, surely from the ghetto, stand dressed in rags, reminding Jonathan why he must abandon his life here in Chicago and start anew. However, his heart burns for Chicago and the life he once lived amongst the paupers and the squatters.
“Jonathan,” says an old friendly voice. Jonathan turns to face the speaker, an old man bearing much resemblance to his deceased father. “You are Jonathan Peterson, no?” asks the man with uncertainty.
A sense of restful peace radiates from the man, filling Jonathan with hope and eradicating all fear from his mind.
“I suppose I have the wrong man, sorry for the disturbance,” says the old man as he turns away from Jonathan, reabsorbing any emitted hope.
“No sir,” says Jonathan as he rests his hand on the man’s shoulder. Jonathan turns uncomfortably cold upon this touch, and quickly removes his hand. “I am Jonathan Peterson. I was not expecting company, that’s all,” says Jonathan with a serious but calm tone.
The old man turns towards Jonathan and gives him a wide smile, revealing badly managed teeth. His teeth, chipped and yellowed, create a sinister smile, despite the feeling of restful peace still radiating from him.
“Well you are in good company, Jonathan,” says the man as if the two are long time friends.
Loud whistles ring from beyond the threshold of the train station, interrupting their conversation. The train, nearing ever so close towards the station, finally arrives before the two men shrouded in smoke from the train’s smoke stack. Jonathan proceeds to climb aboard an ordinary coach box, but grasping his hand, the old man leads Jonathan towards another box, a more luxurious one.
“I cannot afford to board this box,” says Jonathan embarrassed.
“Don’t fret over it,” says the old man reassuringly. “I rode this train’s path many times, and consequently I became close to the owners; we can ride for no charge.”
Just as the old man said, no one requests to see a ticket, and the two board without spending a penny. Jonathan, astonished by the sheer beauty of the interior, gazes in awe at his surroundings. Golden baseboards, sparkling in the sunlight passing through the closed window on the right side of a table, cling onto the walls of oak and the carpeted floors, decorated with an English design.
“Come along now, the train must depart soon and we with it,” says the old man as he motions for Jonathan to follow him.
The door behind Jonathan slams shut, and Jonathan follows the old man to a table suitable for five. Taking the seat across from Jonathan, the old man reaches across the table and grabs an already prepared cup of coffee.
“Something wrong?” asks the old man, who wonders why Jonathan decided not to pick up his cup.
“Mine’s cold,” replies Jonathan motioning towards the cup.
“Take mine then,” says the old man comfortingly. He slides his cup across the table, leaving a trail of steam in its path. “I hope you like it black like I do.”
“Black is fine.”
As he attempted to gulp some of it down, the old man put his hand in Jonathan’s face.
“Take slow sips, it will help you to enjoy the flavor of it more. We are in no rush,” says the old man.
Despite his irritation at the old man’s remark, Jonathan takes slow sips, allowing the hot coffee to run down his throat. A disgusting, unfamiliar taste fills his mouth, but instead of spitting it out as he usually warrants himself to do, he swallows it without making any facial displays of distaste.
“I didn’t have a chance to catch your name, Mr...” says Jonathan.
The old train moves it’s gears slowly, rocking its contents back and forth. Once flowing openly through the window, black clouds now prevent the sunlight from entering, and the place turns cold. Lights from the ceiling illuminate the box, casting shadows upon the old man’s face, but not Jonathan’s.
“How do you know my name, Sir Eid?” asks Jonathan.
“I’m well known in the ghetto, and I have known you for all of your life. I am surprised that you have never heard of me! I stood on your doorstep watching you when you were just a day old and I was well acquainted with your father,” replies Eid as he shows off his sinister smile yet again.
Uncertainty replaces the restful peace feeling that once radiated from Eid, who resembles Jonathan’s father now more than ever.
“I assume you have a purpose for conferencing me as I make my way to the promised land,” says Jonathan.
“Yes...” replies Eid as he looks down upon a golden pocket watch hanging out of his left pocket. “But before we move onto that topic, I want to ask a question. How is your father doing?”
A shadow casts itself upon Jonathan’s face, and the light that once shone on him now shines on Eid.
“He’s dead.” replies Jonathan in a clear and stern voice.
The train suddenly jerks as it heads forward with full speed.
“Well,” says the old man as he picks an old wound on his forearm. “I suppose it was his time.”
Jonathan stares intently on Eid, whose cold and rigid face shows no signs of sorrow for the death of his father. An uncomfortable silence follows for the next five to seven minutes, until Jonathan decides to break it.
“So you are well known in the ghetto?” asks Jonathan.
“Why yes, I am known by all who live there. I guess your next question is ‘How do you know my father?’ am I wrong?” asks Eid with a snickering tone.
Eid read Jonathan’s thoughts word for word, and Jonathan, who grew up without his father, wants to learn more about the great man.
“You’re dead on,” replies Jonathan.
“Dead on, huh?” the old man begins to chuckle. “I knew your father for quite some time; I would accompany him everywhere at an arm’s reach. Where he went, I followed, and during that faithful night when he crossed into gang territory, I was there to accompany him, just as I did all those years ago.”
“That’s where he died, isn’t it?”
“And you’re here why?”
Yet again an uncomfortable silence follows. Eid stares down upon his pocket watch as shadows playfully run from Jonathan’s face and onto him and his golden pocket watch, which glistens in the small amount of light falling upon it. Steam from Jonathan’s coffee enshrouds himself in a veil of white clouds.
“Excuse me for a moment. I have to use the toilet,” says the old man.
Jonathan nods approvingly, and the old man walks in a bathroom a few feet away from the table they occupied. Dazzled by everything that has undergone in his conversation, Jonathan takes a sip of his coffee to calm himself down; but the coffee turns unnaturally chilled, leaving Jonathan to wonder how his drink turned cold in a matter of seconds. After what feels like an hour’s time passes, Jonathan knocks on the bathroom door, hoping that the old man will come out soon. The door creaks open and Jonathan, who believes the bathroom’s occupant to still be in there, closes the door, which creaks open yet again.
“Eid, I hope I am not disturbing you!”
No one answers, and the thought of Eid suffering from an accident, such as a fall, frightens Jonathan, who slowly opens the door. A light flickers from above, painting the bathroom in shades of darkness. Much to his surprise and astonishment, he is the only occupant of the bathroom. Closing the door behind him, Jonathan talks to himself in the mirror, wondering if the journey he embarked on is nothing more than a drunken stupor created by a misleading dream. Moving a little ways off from the mirror, Jonathan sees the reflection of the word DIE carved into the bathroom door.
Turning around, he sees EID carved in a large print on the bathroom door, and a realization comes to mind: Death conferenced him, and he will soon wither away. When the train stops at its last destination, Jonathan frantically travels to a small town, where he sets up shop and begins a new life. But the constant fear of death at his side frightens Jonathan, who lives a life of solitude and prepares for the day when Death will come for him.
So he fortresses himself inside his house, concealing himself from the outdoors. Children sing songs about him and gossipers spread rumors, accusing him of murdering a man or other menacing deeds. Jonathan’s ill-fated life reaches an end when he does not wake one morning and his body is left in his home, his casket, with only the company of an old friend from Chicago.