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I can feel hundred of eyes surveying me – little, black spiders crawling up and down my body. They run across my skin, under my clothes, in my ears. They creep and crawl, and I can’t shake them off. I can’t prevent the paranoia that consumes me, the spiders that consume my body. At least… I think they’re staring. But the people I walk by in town today have no idea what happened yesterday. Not one of them knows what happened to Ryan or why my hands keep shaking or where my
That’s the train.
mind is. Nobody knows.
When I woke up today, the snapshot of his scared, innocent face shot through my brain. I wanted – no, needed – to go to the tracks. I threw on clothes and went outside. Now, the sweltering summer sun beats down on my back as I speed walk past the local market. I cut through the alley behind it turn left to face the rusty, chain-link fence that separates me from our town’s train tracks. Another memory swoops
Wanna jump the tracks?
in painfully, and I massage my forehead, wincing. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe what happened yesterday.
You know you wanna.
I scramble over the fence and run to the edge of the tracks. The moss and weeds that grew between the rusty metal rails still lay flat and windswept from the train that sped by yesterday. I hardly notice my feet moving as I make my way up the tracks, keeping my eyes glued to the ground, looking – looking for a clue, looking for a stain, looking for anything. For a while, all I can find are little black spiders, creeping and crawling around the ground. They make the grass shiver. Finally, after a lifetime of hearing only my echoing, shuddering breath, I see a red splotch on the ground. I know what – who – it is. I squat next to the stain, glancing around. The more I look, the more I see. There’s red blanketing the old, brown-green vegetation everywhere. Fresh little chunks of deep red scatter the ground. My pulse is pounding. I squeeze my eyes shut as
Chris my foot!
the memories slam
You’ve got to help!
into my brain like the train that killed my brother.
The weakness cripples me; the memory comes back.

Ryan and I just hopped the fence. It was the fifth week in a row of waiting daily for the mysterious train that runs by: nobody knows that schedule it’s on, when it’s coming, or where it’s headed. Since we were little, we’ve heard stories of the train; our grandfather told it the best. Ryan and I have sat beside him, letting every word sink in, for as long as I can remember. It was unexplainable, the awe we felt listening to stories about this train. Needless to say, we wanted to see it pass, and – since it was the summer before I left for college – it was our goal.
We glanced at each other as we heard an unfamiliar whistle.
He was giddy. “Chris, that’s the train. It has to be the train.”
“Fantastic,” I said, but I wasn’t as excited as I felt I should have been.
In my peripheral vision, I saw that evil smirk on his face. I didn’t like what he said next: “Wanna jump the tracks?”
“No!” I scoffed nervously. I could never keep up with his daredevil antics.
He stepped towards the tracks as second whistle blew, even louder than the first. I reached my hand out lamely, thinking of stopping him. I looked in the direction the train was coming from, and then back to Ryan. Something felt strange; my stomach flopped.
He turned to face me, his dark eyes glinting. “You know you wanna.”
Faster than I could protest, he grabbed my arm and hurled me onto the tracks. Another whistle blew. Without hesitating, I scrambled off the tracks. I threw myself on the other side and rolled onto my back, panting. I felt adrenaline slowly pulsing through me: he almost killed me! I glanced down the tracks. No, I was wrong; the train was still a speck.
“See, you’re fine!” He laughed.
“You’re turn, ya jerk.” I yelled over the third, screaming whistle. I stood up.
He glanced at the quickly approaching train. It was silver, monstrous, angry.
“I’m gonna wait until it’s closer…”
Something inside of me woke up. “Wha- what?”
“You looked like an idiot; I wanna look like an action hero.” He winked.
I tried to say “Ryan, that’s stupid,” but a fourth whistle screeched and shattered my words. It felt like my eardrums were about to explode.
The train was close.
Ryan took a running start. He leapt over the first track, then went to step on the second. He didn’t. He fell. I couldn’t see why until, “Chris, my foot! My shoe is stuck!”
I was paralyzed. What could I do? The train was so close. The whistle was so loud.
“You’ve got to help!” He reached an arm out to me and burst into uncharacteristically hysterical tears. “Don’t let me die.”
My brain didn’t fully understand what was happening. ‘Die’? Why did he say ‘die’?
The train was so close. It was too close. It was ten yards away. Nine- eight- seven-
Six- five- four-
I blinked.
He didn’t scream.
The train was gone.
So was he.

I’m sitting with my face in my hands, sobbing. I haven’t cried in the 20 hours he’s been gone. After this, I’ll probably never cry again. It’s my fault. He’s dead and it’s my fault. I move to bury my head in my knees, but I see little black spiders crawling over my skin. I brush them off, disgusted. I hear a quiet whistle.
“No,” I breathe, startled. Unbelievable. A second train? Right on cue? Impossible.
A crazy thought crosses my mind: should I just kill myself? No, that wouldn’t solve anything… or…
The strange feeling I got before Ryan died slithers back, coiling around my chest. My stomach churns again. The spiders are on me, in me, everywhere. I glance at the quickly advancing train, its clattering metal wheels come careening around the turn. It’s faster than yesterday; I can already see the whirling metal stokes. Would Ryan have done this for me? The train is close: it’s now or never.
I stand, facing my fate. I step onto the tracks and turn my back to the screaming monster: I can’t stare in Death’s eyes like he did. I shut my eyes tight, bracing for the explosion. The train whistles. It’s right behind me.
I die.

White light.
Black darkness.

I open my eyes; this isn’t heaven. Screaming whistle, winking brother - I realize where I am: Ryan is about to jump onto the tracks. But how?
“No!” I scream. Reaching my hand out to stop him.
He looks taken aback. “Dude, chill, I just want to wait-“
“If you jump you’re gonna get caught and I won’t help you and you’ll die!” My voice cracks: just the thought of seeing him die a second time…
“What’s wrong with you? The train isn’t even that fast.” With that, he laughs and leaps over the tracks.
His shoe will get caught. I need to help.
Without thinking – while ignoring his terrified screams as he realizes I predicted the future correctly – I lunge for his outstretched hand and yank him to safety. We tumble back onto the grass as the train whizzes by, murdering his lost shoe.
We lie there, breathing heavily.
After a few tense seconds, he props himself up on his arms and brushes little spiders off his pants. He looks at me, awed, confused.
“Thank you for saving me.”
I look back at him, the idiot I call my best friend. I couldn’t have lived without him, without my brother. Whatever parallel universe I’m in, whatever happened to me – I won’t question it. He’s safe.

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