A Wishology Storycoin
Young Adult (YA) / Dystopian
The train sped along its rails at a steady pace. The clacking of its wheels over the separation between each steel beam was its metronome to a rumbling song that only it could sing. A straight path to a sure destination. An unwavering confidence. Its resonance boasted of everything she had hoped for but never found.
“Two cuts,” a man demanded of her with a gruff voice.
“Two? For a city hop? Your brain is dust!” she shouted.
Her sister looked up at her with worried eyes and a quivering lip, clinging tighter to her ratty old plush frog. With all the rips and ceaseless squeezing, it was a wonder how the toy had any stuffing left in it. But even it seemed to be begging her with its one eye.
“Please, Lain, just pay him. I don’t want to jump again,” her sister pleaded, tugging at her denim jacket with the hand not occupied by Frik the frog.
The self-proclaimed conductor of this particular train car turned his black eyes to Lain’s younger sister.
“I accept any age for payment,” he smirked as he grabbed the girl’s forearm.
Her sister barely had time to cry out before Lain locked her fingers with Faye’s and shoved the man back a few steps, causing him to release his payment. He whipped a knife out of his sleeve and stopped short of Lain’s throat.
Without looking down, Lain unwound her fingers from her sister’s and ushered her behind her back. She stared directly into those deep black holes in the eye sockets of his face and lifted her arm, revealing a grotesque collection of thin red lines embossed on its surface. Each one was a memory. A defeat. Anyone would have found them too jumbled to count as they overlapped and redoubled their paths up and down her arm. But she knew the number.
“You’re 99 and 100. Congratulations,” she chided him.
He answered with a cruel smile. The reflection in his eyes changed from the mirror image of her face to her arm when he latched a hand onto her left wrist and used his other hand to slowly draw his knife across and deep into her skin.
She wouldn’t cry. It was never any less painful, but she had made a promise to herself to not give red wine drinkers like him the satisfaction of seeing her tears. In fact she barely even flinched. Maybe it really is starting to hurt less, she thought.
He held a small flask underneath the first incision and drained her blood into it until the cut wasn’t flowing as well. He rested the knife against a different location on her arm, depressing the skin but not slicing it and looked into her eyes once more.
Before he could break her skin, the train locked up its wheels, throwing the three of them down to the front end of the metal box. The screeching of metal against metal filled the air as Lain and her sister pushed themselves into a sitting position against the wall. The wine drinker was laying belly down on the floor at their feet. Lain rolled him over just far enough to confirm that he had run his knife through his own chest when he fell.
“He’s dead,” she shouted over the screeching. “Stay right here!”
Her sister pulled some stuffing out of Frik, who she had managed to hang onto, and poked it into her ears. Lain used the wall to climb to her feet and clawed her way around to the open door of the shaking train car. Pushing her head out the door and into the frigid air felt like ramming herself through an infinite wall of ice.
Several miles ahead of the train she could see City D bulging up from its island, and the track was curving just enough for her to see the reason for the train’s futile attempt to halt its forward march. The only bridge over the water that connected them to the city of their last hope at a somewhat normal life had been destroyed. She could see chunks of it in the distance still exploding in sequence and collapsing into the water. Whoever had done this was thorough.
Lain delivered the news to her sister. “We have to jump, Faye!”
“Again?” her sister screamed.
Lain looked back at her sister who was cowering on the ground and cradling Frik. She was always having to ask her to do something against her sweet nature. Asking her to hold a weapon. Asking her to ignore a dead body. Asking her to be something other than just a child.
Making her way to Faye, she took her by the hand, and led her back to the door. They were almost to the end of the track, where a cliff would usher the train and all its contents to a watery grave. Now, she would have to ask her little sister to leap into death’s arms.
“We have to jump now,” Lain said staring at the blurry ground rushing past them.
Faye looked up at her, nodded, and closed her eyes. Lain let go of the wall, and with Faye in her hand and the webbed foot of Frik in Faye’s hand, they jumped. Lain should have been worried about hitting the ground, how many of their bones would be shattered on impact, or if they would survive at all. But only one thought was on her mind when they leapt from the train.
I will make the 100th line myself, and it will be my last.
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Featured illustration by Ryan Rehnborg