Category: fiction prose
01/28/06 12:56 - ID#22037
He was old, in the way trees are old, when he played the piano for the last time. A pianist for over seventy years, there was little doubt that he knew he was not long for this world. His life flew before him as he walked out from behind the heavy red curtains to thunderous applause. His mind drifted back to the first time he had heard that sound, he was 15 again, and it was 2020, the dawn of a golden age. The horrible wars had ended, and it seemed the whole world was finding new life.
It was the pain that brought him back. It reminded him that he was a long time from then, and much older. He didn't smile or wave at the audience as he approached the grand piano. He never did. The collar of his tuxedo was spiked, and he wore no tie. He never did. He was, as he always was, The Virtuoso. But now he had to shuffle slightly in his mirror black shoes. It was his posture that held the image intact. It always did.
He sighed to himself as he sat before his life long friend. The beauty, which had seen him through six discordant marriages, with which he could creature such harmony, that it brought tears to the eyes of marble statues. His hands moved across its varnish. Reflected in its gloss, he could see where his hair had receded to a collection of white wisps that he allowed to stick up in all manner of directions as tribute to his predecessors.
The sheet music that he had told them he would be playing sat in its stand before him. It was a piece he had composed many years ago to celebrate the rebirth of reason, the arrival of the second renaissance. He looked the sheets of music over now, paternally turning the pages to their intimately known ends. After viewing all the sheets, he took them and, with a flourish, made confetti of their contents. The audience gasped, but then went silent, watching. To him those notes were already dead, insufficiently composed for this event.
With this done, and before the last torn page of notes hit the floor, his hands were at work on the keys of the piano. The audience gasped again at the explosive triumph of this beginning. The notes were violent; yet they harmoniously spoke of life as no words could. Each passing moment was filled with expressions of his loves, his losses; his life's passions incarnate in music. The whole of it seemed to be building, reaching for a crescendo, but waiting just a moment longer to reach it because he was not ready yet.
He played for nearly an hour, pouring himself into the creation, and then, as the audience wept with the joy of the piece. It crescendos in a blaze; completing and joining all the themes into one final exhilarating, but absolute, end.
As the fingers of his right hand played the final notes in a hall of silence, his left slowly closed the fallboard over the keys. For a second or two there was no sound, a final rest in the music, and then the audience stood with tears in their eyes clapping in joy, and with enormous grief. For in that moment of final rest The Virtuoso had laid his head down across the fallboard concluding his life and work.
Category: fiction prose
01/26/06 10:22 - ID#22035
The Odd Story of Bryan Green: Part IV
"I said that I think this is your stop, buddy." The accountant-looking fellow said and pointed out the window at the uncovered concrete platform. "Buffalo."
"Oh yes, thank you." Bryan got up and walked towards the door to get off the train.
"Hey!" Bryan turned to see the accountant-looking fellow holding up a suitcase. It was his luggage, not quite zippered with a few pieces of paper peeking out. "You almost forgot your luggage!"
The cab ride to the hotel through the gently falling snow helped him to relax. He opened his luggage and straightened his papers. They were exactly as he had left them. Unfinished, riddled with errors, and full of boring information. He laughed to himself at the honesty in that thought. No one was out in the city except a small fleet of cabs and police. The buildings of the city around him looked empty and worn compared to what he had seen in his...dream?
It had all been a strange dream then. No need to worry, his luggage was safe, his job was safe, his comfortable boring life was safe. The two talking cats had been in his head after all. Though part of him was disappointed. Business, he was reminded, was really not his type of adventure after all. How could he go on after realizing that? That much had not been a dream.
He began to wonder what else he could do with his life. When he finally reached his hotel room, he had decided that he would finish his proposal in the morning before the appointment at noon. He had also decided that that appointment would be his last. The past five years with the company had allowed him to put a lot of money away into his savings account. He began to wonder if it were possible to go find Lisa after all this time.
As he undressed he turned out his pockets, emptying their contents onto the small table next to the bed. Then he crawled into bed and slept. He dreamed of the Phoenix, and felt the apprehension of starting a new life. For a few moments in the dream he was frightened when he burst into flames. Though it did not hurt, instead it seemed to boil away the fear, and apprehension. The voice of what-if screamed in agony, but he felt only comforting warmth. The golden light of the flames shined in his eyes, and he was annoyed that he couldn't see properly.
He awoke with the golden light still shining in his eyes. The sun was out now and it streamed into the window, glinting off something on the table next to the bed. He reached out and picked up the small piece of hard parchment. On one side the words on it were embossed with gold foil, and it smelled of jasmine.
New York Central Railroad
Grand Central Terminal, NY, NY.
On the back of the card was a message written in black ink. The scrawl of the words was familiar, but strange to find in that place. The message was addressed to him.
Second chances do not come around too often. This may be your last chance to be the explorer you always want to become. I hope you will read this and decide to take the risk. To join me, come inside the Central Train Terminal on the east side of the city when its clock strikes noon.
He shot out of bed. The covers of the bed were still fluttering to the ground, as he got dressed. The clock on the television read, eleven o'clock. He had an hour to find and reach the Central Train Terminal. Looking around the room for a moment in thought he jump across the room, and pulled open the drawer next to the bed, removing the phone book.
Bryan flipped quickly to the section he was looking for, Tanning, Taverns, Taxes, and Taxicabs! His finger held the spot on the page while his other hand dialed the service. They told him that a car would be around in twenty minutes. Packing his luggage unceremoniously he made way to the lobby to check out of his room. Ten minutes later, after a gruelingly slow attendant checked him out, asking repeatedly if there was something wrong with his room he was finally outside waiting for the cab.
He watched the hands of his watch tick slowly around until the taxicab was late. The sun was bright against the newly fallen snow of the night before, and the sky, a pale blue. The air was crisp, but did not bite the skin too deeply. For the first time in Bryan's memory he did not feel abused by circumstance, but instead he resolved himself to succeed. Thinking quickly he jumped at a passing opportunity, and in the process nearly scared the man leaving the hotel half-to-death when he shouted.
"Excuse me! If you're not too busy, I am willing to offer you..." Bryan flipped through his wallet extracting a wad of cash to count, "Three hundred and fifty dollars, If you will drive me to the Central Train Terminal on the east side."
"What? You must be joking." The man laughed, and began to walk away towards the parking lot.
"No! Please, no this is important. A woman I love dearly, and... well just trust me when I tell you that it is important that I get there before noon and no later than noon." Bryan looked at his watch, there was thirty minutes left. "Please, I'll pay you up front." He took the man's hand and slapped the wad of cash into it.
"Ummm..." the man deliberated in shock, but then came to the realization of cash in hand. "Sure, follow me."
The ride through the city streets was slow, it seemed that every street sign, and stoplight was trying to make him late. The closer to the terminal that they came the worse off the neighborhood became until there could be no doubt that the terminal was in one of the poorest sections of Buffalo that Bryan had ever seen. His driver did not say much during the trip, but instead seemed to be watching the clock for time, and the road for police.
"This is a very bad place to meet your girlfriend, Mister...umm"
"Green, my name is Bryan Green. It was her idea."
"I'm just saying that the last time I was to this place they had a huge security fence around it, to stop vandals from breaking into it." Bryan's heart momentarily sank with fear. What if all of this was an elaborate mental break down? He would loose this account, and... for the first time in his life, he didn't care. He only cared about reaching her in time.
"I'll figure it out when I get there. Thanks for the thought though," He would simply decide what to do when that time came. The car arrived at the security fence, as the massive clock face on the Terminals singular tower turned to five minutes to noon. Bryan shouted thanks to the man, as he got out of the car with his luggage, and surveyed the situation with keen eyes.
The fence was ten feet high with barbed wire on the top of it. It was nearly three hundred yards through an ancient snow covered parking lot, before he would reach the doors of the massive abandoned Central Train Terminal. He could see the broken windows, and cracks in the massive art deco building.
"What's going on?" a gruff voice behind him asked with authority. Bryan turned around to see that a police car had pulled up as he was looking at The Terminal. He turned pale. "Hope you're not thinking of trespassing." The police officer pointed at the sign on the fence that Bryan had overlooked. It advised that trespassing was a crime, and that trespassers would be prosecuted. Bryan turned away from the police officer and looked up at the clock that read three minutes until noon.
"No," Bryan said calmly, "I'm just looking..." Then he ran at the fence and began climbing. As he flipped feet over head on the barbed wire, he heard the police officer swear, then he heard his coat tear as it got caught. The barbed wire sliced a bit into his writs, and then he found himself on the other side of the fence hanging from his coat. He struggled out of the coat and fell to the ground as the police officer got to the fence.
"Are you out of your mind?" the officer asked.
"I don't know," Bryan shouted back, "But I need to find out!" As he ran towards the front doors he could see that he only had about a minute left. He slid on the ice and snow into the doors as his watch began to beep. It was noon. Getting up he shook the chains on the two center doors, swore, and then noticed that one of the side doors was open. He pulled it wide and stepped through.
The grand promenade of the Buffalo Central Train Terminal was littered with rocks, dust, and broken glass. He wandered around the massive room looking up at the vaulted brick ceiling, and the destroyed pedestal on which something grand might have stood to greet the travelers. Expletives written in graffiti defaced nearly every surface. The whole of the place was a testament to the greatness that had once been there, but it had become a mausoleum holding the cold ashes of a former time. The sun shined sadly through broken windows down on the dead ticket counters, and nearly crushed Bryan's heart. He dropped to his knees with the weight of failure; he must not have arrived on time.
"Tickets, Mr. Green?" The voice came from behind him at the ticket counter. He turned around to see Vanderbilt smiling as he stood in one of the windows surrounded by a brief flare of golden light. Bryan stood up, and walked to the counter.
"Yes, one please."
The waft of jasmine filled his nostrils, a prelude, but he didn't turn around. He had been wrong so many times before. "Make that two, Bryan." Hearing the sound of her voice brought him to tears. "You're not going to leave me here are you?"
Turning around he saw her standing there as though it were years ago in his living room. She had both his bag, and hers, at her feet. He ran forward over the broken glass and stone to embrace her. Kissing her deeply with his eyes closed, he felt the sensation of fiery warmth rise quickly from the dust around his feet. When he opened his eyes to look into hers, she was crying too, and to his surprise the Grand Promenade was alive all around them. Everywhere that he looked the Terminal was renewed. Though the people using the terminal seemed to be more eccentric than anyone he had encountered in the dinning car on Vanderbilt's train, including the talking cats.
A trail of nearly a hundred rats were making their way through the terminal, causing a number of brakemen, and ladies in long dresses to remove their hats and bow as though to passing royalty. A giant carrying a large steamer trunk under one arm was squeezing his way under a sign, that indicated the direction of the train platforms, with the aid of a platform attendant. Stranger still were a number of freight movers with a pile of well-carved wooden coffins sporting a signs that read: "DO NOT OPEN IN DAY TIME," and "THIS END UP!" Bryan stood up straight, and smiled at Lisa, who smiled back, putting her arm around his waist.
"Come, come, now!" said Vanderbilt playfully, as the women who actually attended the ticket counters shooed him away. He walked up to his two new employees, and smiled graciously. "Now onto business!"
"What's next boss?" Bryan asked, picking up his luggage, and following after Vanderbilt's brisk walk.
"We take our leave. We have a train to catch, and many new things to discover, about this world and ourselves, before we die!"
Category: fiction prose
01/25/06 11:41 - ID#22033
The Odd Story Of Bryan Green: Part III
A bar ran almost the full length of the dining car on the left hand side. A fat bartender, who resembled Teddy Roosevelt without glasses, was pouring a drink for an organ grinder, whose monkey was filling its pockets with beer nuts. Up the right side of the car were a series of square tables with chairs, and to Bryans immediate right, next to the door, was a wood-burning stove, the cordwood was stacked neatly under the window. Half a dozen greasy men in blue uniforms and cloth hats sat around two tables sipping steaming cups of coffee. The rest of the tables were inhabited by other single passengers, each stranger than the next.
As Bryan made his way to the bar to take a seat, he passed by a table on which two cats were sharing a saucer of milk. He realized that he must have looked a moment too long because one of the cats spoke up.
"Is there something we can help you with?" The offer seemed to be kind enough, so he asked the first thing that came to mind.
"Where am I?"
"You are in the dinning car," The cat said as though it believed that that much should be self-evident. Bryan thanked them, but on the way to a stool at the bar he could have sworn he heard the cat snobbishly ask what his companion expected of a man who had obviously attended Harvard. How did that cat know? He might have asked had the bartender not been prompt to ask what he would like to drink.
"Ummm...actually, I was wondering if you might have seen an odd fellow come through here."
The bartender laughed heartily. "The only odd fellow to come through here lately is you. No offence to you, mister."
Bryan blinked at the bartender, and then, after looking around a second more, chuckled nervously himself.
"I suppose you're right. It's just that to me...I mean if you...oh never mind. I was looking for a businessman, with white hair, and dark eyes. He was drinking a can of Dr. Pepper, and I followed him to this car." Bryan was surprised at how quickly he had come to accept this clearly irrational situation. He did not know if he was proud of himself, or worried that his sanity might not be salvageable.
"Oh! Yes, yes," The bartender nodded, "you mean Mr. Vanderbilt. He has been after me to try to find a way to stock this beverage of Dr. Pepper for some time now. He is quite enamored by it. You will find him in his personal car, next one back." The bartender pointed at the wooden door at the back of the dinning car.
"Thank you." The bartender nodded and smiled, as Bryan walked to the end of the dinning car, opened the door, and disappeared again between the cars. He was prepared to meet another trip through endless darkness, but was confronted again with something he did not expect, a normal two-step distance in a generally well space between two ancient passenger cars. Two area lanterns illuminated the stylized wooden door and brass knob. The sound of the train wheels on the tracks below seemed to be rougher than they had been the...normal part of the train. They sounded as they had when he had taken a ride on an old steam engine as a kid.
The door had a hand carved image of an approaching train on it, and a knocker in the shape of a signal lantern. He lifted his hand to the knocker, as the door swung open leaving Bryan looking into the dark eyes of the white haired businessman.
"Do come in Mr. Green, I have been waiting to speak with you for most of this trip."
"Would you care for one lump of sugar, or two, in your tea?"
"One, please." Bryan said, he was trying to coming to grips with everything around him. The old man had a private car at the end of the train. He was clearly very rich, and given over to arranging strange set-ups for people to stumble into, which seemed to include hiring another passenger car full of strange anachronisms as well. But what about the talking cats? The voice of what-if did not have an answer for talking cats. Perhaps I'm drunk, or dead?
The old man brought the sterling silver tea tray over and placed it on the table before the small fireplace, between the two wing-backed chairs in which they sat. The rest of the car was outfitted with a desk, two bookshelves with locked glass doors, and a smooth, forest-green, carpet. The oil lamps in the car also sat in polished brass holders, but the curtains on the glass windows in the car were more expensive. Out the window next to the fireplace, Bryan could see the dark wintry landscape of Central New York quickly passing.
The old man sat in the chair across from Bryan, and for the first time he was able to see his face clearly. It was wrought with many years of wrinkles; his dark eyes spoke of an eccentric wisdom that Bryan could not fathom. He had a forehead that went clear up to the top of his head where a wild mane of white hair began. His suit was well tended, and without a spot of lint. The white collar was done up in a complex fashion that made Bryan glad he was not in business two hundred years prior. As the old man poured Bryan's tea he did not shake, but instead seemed to go about his business with, careful, unwavering, attention to detail.
"Now, Mr. Green, I have no doubt that you are overflowing with queries about the bizarre adventure you have just experienced. Please feel free to ask anything you wish, then I will explain myself in full."
Bryans mind lurched forward with every question that it had acquired since he had decided to chase after the old man. The talking cats, the tribal card game, the unusually long causeway where he had run into the brakeman, and his lost luggage, "I'm going to loose my job!"
"Precisely!" The old man smiled jubilantly.
"I intended to hire you, and you will have to leave your old job in order to be in my employ. How did you know you would have to quit your job?" The old man looked mildly concerned, and somewhat suspicious, "You aren't a mind reader are you?"
"Are you crazy? I am not going to quit my job! I am going to loose my job, because some nut job ran into me between the cars, and made me loose my luggage off the side of the train! It has everything in it, my clothes, my laptop, the numbers, even the address of the meeting!" Bryan waved his hands wildly as though he were drowning in the reality of it all.
"Oh, good, you're not a mind reader." The old fellow looked relieved.
"What? Who are you? What are you talking about? I've been kidnapped by a mad man!" He put his face down in his hands, surrendering to his fate, "I can't believe this is happening to me. I wish I was back home."
"Now, Mr. Green!" The old man said indignantly, "As my name is Cornelius Vanderbilt, I will not be called by other names, nor have my character assaulted by a man too clumsy to keep a hold on his own affairs. You have come fairly well recommended, and I was going to offer you a job, but it appears that your advocate was incorrect about the core of your character. You are not the strong free willed man that I had hoped to meet. Instead I find that you are a confused man who thinks that the world is happening to him. When presented with clear evidence of the fantastical, are you always in the habit of hiding your eyes with your hands, Mr. Green?"
"But don't you see? You can't be Cornelius Vanderbilt! He's been dead for over a century."
"And yet, here I am. No doubt you have also noticed two talking cats in the other car? Are you so insecure in your cognitive faculties that you will now deny that those cats exist too, or will you begin to make use of that mind of yours to discover what has changed to make this possible? Mr. Green, you are in a position to do one of two actions. The first, you can continue to believe that the world is happening to you. You can return to your life where you have chosen to be a victim of reality. In that case you will never know what is going on here. You will probably spend a good portion of your life in denial of your own mind. The second, you can decide, as you did when you choose to follow me to this car, to take responsibility for your life. You can take control of your life by choosing your own direction, rather than being moved like a weathervane by the events of the world. In that case, you may choose to take my offer of a job, and join my expedition to discover the strange principles that govern this strange world into which you have crossed."
Bryan stared at the old man. In his mind the word impossible was what the voice of what-if offered, over and over again. None of it could even been considered as reality. It was just another impossible nightmare that he couldn't wake up from, like when Lisa left him. No, he thought, that had been real. Bryan looked at his watch; it was nearly three in the morning.
"My stop! The train is going to reach my stop in a few minutes; I have to get back to the rest of the train. I am going to have to try to explain to my boss how I lost my luggage." He was speaking to himself more than to the old man, "I'll tell him that it was stolen. That's more reasonable. Maybe he'll let me stay with the company then." Bryan stood up in a daze, and began to walk towards the door.
"Very well, Mr. Green," The old man got up, and put an arm around Bryan, "take my card in case you change your mind, instructions for how to contact me are on the back. You will have until noon today to decide, but before you walk out that door I think you should take a look out this window. So you will know what you are missing."
Bryan bent his knees slightly so he could peer out the window. The train was rocketing along its tracks through the outskirts of the city. The landscape around the city was dark, the ground was covered in a blanket of light grey snow. The clouds covered the stars in some places, and there was no moon. Yet he could see that there, in the clouds, was something very large. It was flying in parallel with the train, and was descending with its wings spread wide. Bryan gasped as the great flying creature came into focus. It was a giant bird with red and yellow feathers that seemed like flames. Its ruby like eyes gazed down as the train broke through the edge of the city.
The Great Phoenix flew low over, and burst into flames illuminating the city with an ambient golden light. The imperial height of the awe inspiring buildings on the shores of the lake were unlike the city that Bryan had come to know on his trips to Buffalo. Out the window they were majestic in the light of the Phoenixes renewal. They seemed to him to rise upward like a dream of love for what was, and hope for what might be in the future.
The train began to slow as its tracks lead it between the buildings towards the station downtown. The light of the Phoenix became the light of the electric lamps that edged the street, and headlights of cars, old, new, and never seen before.
"How could this be?" Bryan asked Cornelius Vanderbilt.
"A fine question, Mr. Green - a fine question, indeed. You have nine hours to determine if you want to help me to discover the answer. Now, please, do remember my card...This is your stop, buddy."
Category: fiction prose
01/24/06 08:16 - ID#22032
The Odd Story Of Bryan Green: Part II
"Hey, Whatchya doing?" Bryan looked up from his laptop to find the kid had come to hang on the armrest next to him.
"I am working on a sales pitch for a client in Buffalo, I sell insurance." He had hoped that boring the kid would help him get back to work.
"It's..." He looked across the car at the kids' mother, stretched out over two seats, sleeping. How did it always work out this way? Why couldn't this kid just leave him alone? "I have work to do." He said stoically to the kid.
"Because I want my paycheck, so that I can buy food to eat."
"What's a pay-check?"
"It's...Why don't you go sit with your mommy?"
"She's sleeping." The kid said, with a tone that really said isn't that obvious mister? Why else would I be running around unchecked? Bryan was beginning to hate that woman. She seemed like the kind of person who would unload her problems on the world, or in this case, unload her child on him. The kid grabbed Bryans digital voice recorder from his open luggage, and began to press buttons. "Sweet!" the kid giggled, as Bryans voice began to play:
We can expect to have a real risk of about...
Bryan stood up, and took the recorder. "That's not a toy," The kid's eyes were beginning to squint, but before he could so much as whimper, Bryan had packed all his work into his luggage, and made his way to the door that would take him to another car, far away from the disaster waiting to happen.
Pressing his hand on the push-pad that opened the door between the passenger cars. The door opened with technological precision allowing Bryan passage into the poorly lit causeway that was sealed in by a flexible tunnel. He could still feel the winter breeze blowing gentle in the passage. The sound of the train on the tracks was much louder in the passage between, and for a brief moment his mind wondered what it would sound like if he were to accidentally slip beyond all the safety measures; would anyone hear that brief pause in the offbeat rhythm of the train? He pressed his hand on the push-pad to regain his hold on himself. The door slid open and he walked into the next car thinking that the passage had taken entirely too long to accomplish.
The next car was almost completely full. A sign above every seat indicated that electricity and Internet access was available along the outside walls. Bryan nervously sat down next to a man checking his mail on a laptop. The whole car was a murmur of independent cell phone conversations, the sound of keys being pushed, and newspapers being rustled with precision - one page at a time.
He pulled down the tray table, and began to work again. This time as he poured over the numbers he began to notice that there were a few mistakes. He looked over at the man next to him, and self-consciously covered the spreadsheet in front of him when the man looked over. Bryan hated the mistakes he often made on the spreadsheets. The sheets always made him look bad in front of Knights of Business like the man sitting next to him. Another part of dealing with the job he hated, which included never seeming to fit in with those types.
He began to adjust the spreadsheet in his laptop so that it would have the correct amounts. As he worked out the mistakes that he had made, the man next to him pulled out a copy of The Economist, and began to read. Bryan looked over at the magazine headline, Technology: New Frontiers in International Finance. Bryan always enjoyed technology columns; they were like reading about humanities dreams for tomorrow. The possibilities were exciting to imagine. He wondered if the accountant-looking fellow next to him was seeing the possibilities for new adventures, as Bryan saw them. No, it was more likely, Bryan thought, that his seatmate found adventure in the business of technology, the new frontiers of finance.
He looked down at his spreadsheet again, and came to a sudden realization. Perhaps business was not his type of adventure? Could that be why he found the numbers in front of him so depressing? What was his type of adventure, he wondered?
The sight of a man coming into the passenger car from the forward car that Bryan had come from interrupted his pondering. The man was a well dressed businessman, and would not have stood out in the carload of business people had he not been wearing clothes that were two centuries out of date. Bryan openly stared at the anachronistic man who, after taking a step into the car, stood off to one side to let a woman pass in the other direction, and then broke the time bubble he seemed to be standing in by clicking open a can of Dr. Pepper.
No one seemed to notice the white haired, dark eyed, man dressed like a nineteenth century railroad baron. No one, except Bryan, who continued to stare, and periodically look about to see if others had noticed yet. No one had.
"Are you alright, buddy?" The accountant-looking fellow had noticed his rapid head movements.
"What? Oh...yeah." Bryan looked back at the strange man at the front of the passenger car. The woman who had gone forward to the next car had returned, and she was placing her bag into the overhead no more than six inches from the odd old fellow, who seemed to be delighted to take the opportunity to peek down her shirt. "Hey!" Bryan almost shouted at the man no one could see, but he stopped himself by directing the word towards the accountant-looking fellow. "Do you see anything odd up there?" He whispered to the man next to him, only adding contrast to the previously shouted word.
The accountant-looking fellow peered forward at the woman stowing her second piece of luggage. "Just that woman putting her bag in the overhead. Do you know her?"
"But..." Bryan's social-awareness stopped him from uttering the rest of the sentence about the odd old man in nineteenth century clothing looking down the woman's shirt, effectively preserving the outward appearance of sanity. "But...man I wish I did," he congratulated himself on the save.
"Yeah," the man agreed, "she's nice looking, but she looks like a lawyer, be careful." He went back to reading his magazine, and was completely oblivious as Bryan watched the odd old fellow walk down the center isle towards the back of the train, and disappear through the doorway between cars.
Bryan's mind snapped out of shock when the door closed behind the odd white haired old man. He was immediately thrown into conflict with himself. He wanted to find out where the old man was going, and who he was, and why. More than anything right now he wanted to know, why couldn't anyone else see him? Yet, he scolded himself, you can't just jump up and chase after any strange thing that you see. What if...
He didn't allow his fears to complete the statement; he tossed his work into his luggage, and unceremoniously took off after the odd old man. He paused only briefly in front of the push-pad, but he didn't let the voice of what-if say a word, he punched the pad with his right hand, and plunged through the doorway.
Halfway through the third step into the darkness he knew that something was terribly wrong. The sound of the train wheels on the tacks was loud to either side of him, and there was no light between the cars. More frightening was that he knew three steps was one too far to not have found the other door.
He held his place clutching his luggage to his chest, in fear of the paradox of it all. Though before he could even ask how it was possible someone collided with him bodily, knocking the luggage from his arms. The other man shouted in surprise, and Bryan watched the shadow of his luggage disappear, falling too far out into the darkness to still be on the train.
The other man opened his bull's-eye lantern, and shined it at Bryan. "What are you doing out here?"
"I was..." Bryan stammered in shock and confusion. It had happened too quickly for him to come up with a better answer.
"Not going to kill yourself by jumping off the train, are you?" The other man asked with a suspicious voice of authority, but a serious voice by Bryan's estimation.
"Uh... no, sir?"
"Good, we brakeman have a hard enough time without your corpse stuck in the wheels."
"Can you show me where the door is please?" Bryan could feel himself shaking. He was too afraid to look down to see how close to falling off the causeway his collision had brought him.
"Oh, certainly," The bull's-eye lantern spun around, momentarily shining on the face of the man holding it. His face was covered in grease and soot; he wore a blue cloth cap, and sported a mustache that was waxed to a curl on either end. "There it is," the door had only been two steps away.
"Thank you," Bryan whispered shakily before quickly stepping past the man. He turned the doorknob, and made his way into the dining car beyond. He was closing the door behind him when he realized that it had a doorknob, and was made of wood. Then in a sudden rush of logic he blurted out, "There are not brakemen on modern trains!" The gentle murmur of the dining car died out, and he froze with his back to them. Bryan looked down at the bare wooden floor he was standing on. The voice of what-if quietly wondered in the back of his mind what would happen if he never turned around. On the upside, he might never have to deal with the impossibility of what was behind him. On the downside, he would have to leave his back to a room full of people who were obviously staring at him.
To Be Continued...
Category: fiction prose
01/23/06 10:56 - ID#22030
The Odd Story Of Bryan Green: Part I
Bryan Green stood sipping his hot chocolate, as the blustery frost bits tapped against the glass of the train station window. It was the kind of half-rain, not-quite sleet, that bounces once before sticking to every surface and freezing solid. The makings of an ice storm that might have sent other cities into a panic, but in Boston it only resulted in a delay in traffic, and train schedules. Bryan's train was two hours late.
The city might not have launched into a panic, but Bryan could feel the rise of anxiety in his stomach with each passing minute. He was running behind again for the millionth time in his life. Perhaps he was cursed, he mused, the world conspired against his best-laid plans, and there was nothing he could do about it. The great weight of futility pushed the air out of his lungs in a sigh, and he nervously rubbed his chin.
He had an appointment at noon on the next day in Buffalo. It would be a very important meeting, the kind that can make or break a man's income for the year, and he was woefully unprepared. With all the end of year work he had not been given enough time to prepare for the meeting, and had nearly forgotten he had to go at all. Now his train was late, and his hot chocolate had gotten cold too as he stood brooding, he tossed it out.
He paced absent-mindedly before coming to a sudden stop, at that moment it occurred to him that he could drive to Buffalo. It was only about a ten-hour drive. Doing the math he realized he could get in his car, and get to the other city with time enough to plan for the meeting. No, he thought, he already had a train ticket, and it was too risky.
"What if..." he spoke aloud, startling himself. He did not finish the statement. The words hung there in the air, and echoed in his mind. What if - a thousand times over he had said those words in fear, and then moved on, deciding to do nothing. He chose not to think of it. Introspection was too harsh for him to bear under the circumstances, and the sound of the arriving train gave him excuse enough to pick up his luggage, and stop thinking.
He held back next to the door to avoid the crowd of people rushing out of the heated station onto the boarding platform. A few people stood behind him for a few seconds thinking there was a line before angrily walking around him. He apologized under his breath, and wondered why things always happened to him.
Standing next to the large glass window, near the door, he could see down the length of the train. Looking towards the end of the train his brooding thoughts were interrupted by the sight of something odd. No, but for a moment he could have sworn he had seen two ancient passenger cars attached to the end of the modern train, yet they clearly could not be there.
He made his way to the train, and quickly boarded without taking the offer of help from the assistant conductor. Once in his seat he was relieved to find he could sit alone; he placed his luggage on the seat next to him to discourage others from trying. Then, unfolding the tray table, he set about his work with earnest. On the train, he no longer felt the grave responsibility of having to travel in a timely manner resting in the pit of his stomach.
At the station in Worcester, more people boarded and took seats in his car. He looked up from his work to watch the people. One at a time they took up the remaining seats in the car until only a woman and her child remained standing next to the seat where he had rested his luggage. He moved it quickly to the overhead before she could ask him to move it.
Preparing for the meeting would be simple enough. He knew what they wanted, how much it would cost, and that his company could give it to them the cheapest. Compiling the information into a sales pitch would only take a few hours, or so he consoled himself. His last pitch had taken five grueling hours, and by the end he had hated everything about it.
The woman was not bad looking, perhaps a few years younger than Bryan. He could not help but notice that she was not wearing a wedding ring. This was because she had conquered their shared armrest, and was tapping a beat with her fingers. It did not bother him too much, he pretended, just another sound on rhythm with the sway of the train. Her child quickly fell asleep in her arms, and before long Bryan was working diligently.
As he ran the numbers and created the presentation on his laptop, his mind began to drift. It usually did this when he worked. He would think about how boring his life was, and how much he hated his job. Then his mind would inevitably drift back to a novel he was reading. He preferred to read about great explorers, and people who sought adventure and new frontiers. Which frontiers mattered very little to him; a barbaric land, a new planet, the wild west, all just as exciting to discover as the next. He didn't own a television. When he was not working, he was reading a new novel. That was how he maintained his sanity while wallowing in the series of tragedies that he called his life.
In the past five years of his life nothing had gone the way that he wished. In his work he had become stuck as a traveling salesman, while most of his college classmates have gone on to higher places in the world. The only thing that had gone remotely well for any length of time was a brief period in his love life. He could say that he had met a woman that he had truly loved, though he never did say it.
Lisa was adventurous, quick witted, and funny. Her dream was to travel through the southwest, explore the old towns, and see the Sierra Mountains. He loved to talk about her dream with her, because it was invigorating. To him she was perfect in everyway, and that, Bryan believed, was why it had not work out.
One morning, when he had come out of the bathroom ready to go to work, he had found her standing in the living room with the luggage. She had packed both her bags and his, and had the look of determination in her eyes that he had always loved.
"I can't keep living this way, Bryan," she had said. "The stifling, oppressive routines, and mediocre monotony; it's killing me." She pointed out the living room window at the primly manicured lawns of the housing development where Bryan lived. "The choice is a simple one for me, this is not the type of life I want to live. I am going out west to live my dream. I will not continue to wait for my wishing to come true. I am going to make it come true, and I want you to come with me." Bryan had just stared in wonderment at her strength and bravery, but his appreciation was short lived as he realized what her strength meant for him.
"How could you do this to me?" he had nearly screamed at her hysterically, "I have a job here!" Lisa's answer did not come immediately. She picked up her bags with determination, and made for the door, leaving his in the middle of the room.
"Where are you going?" he pleaded, "Don't leave me here..."
She opened the door, and looked back only once to say, "You hate your job. You hate the life that you're living here. More than anything in the world, I know that you want to go out there and explore. Why do you think you read so many of those novels? I am not leaving you here, Bryan. I packed your bags. You are leaving yourself here." She closed the door with Bryan on his knees. The scent of jasmine was all that she had left him. For weeks afterwards he would turn quickly in the market when he caught her scent of jasmine, but she was never there.
To Bryan it was another potential happiness in his life that was fated to tragedy. What he wished for more than anything in the world was to be brave like her, and that was why it had not worked out. Bravery is not granted to cowards who wish.
to be continued...
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