The Vermillion Express
This is my first post in nine months and I have my new writer's group to thank. Interesting people and serious about their writing. And there was an assignment: a story of about 500 words containing three elements:
1) A man dressed in black 2) a train 3) a goldfish bowl
This is what I came up with.
The Vermillion Express
Yost Haddeson slumped in his seat, in and out of a doze, exhausted from his escape, exhausted from loss of blood. The train was hot, but right leg was alternately cold and numb, the inside of his thigh a sticky wet. But he had done his job. He had killed the man and gotten away with what he hoped was only a flesh wound. He almost wished that there were more pain as that might be assurance of less than permanent damage.
He had rightly guessed that there would be road blocks so he stole a bicycle and peddled back streets as fast as one and a half legs would go. The airports would be monitored and the bus stations too. He planned to bike past the periphery of the road blocks and steal a car.
But then, as his leg strength ebbed, he saw the train station. He’d never imagined that there, deep within the industrial heart of the city, would be a train station. He stopped, leaned the bike against a trash can went in. The place was nearly empty. He followed a lone yellow glow to a caged counter staffed by a single clerk.
“Passenger trains,” he said. “Are there passenger trains that stop here?”
The clerk didn’t look up but glanced at a schedule card. “There are,” he said.
“Any time soon?”
Another glance, “You’re leaving soon?”
“Yes, I’m leaving very soon.”
“Of course you are. And your destination?”
Yost hadn’t considered that. “Chicago,” he said. “Anywhere, really. I mean anywhere west. I’m meeting my grandfather. He’s been sick.” A stupid, unnecessary lie he thought. His grandfather had died in the seventies.
“West bound train?” asked the clerk. “The Vermillion Express leaves in ten minutes.”
He felt a low thrumming hum building in his chest and then in his ears. He turned and saw through the station’s back window, the towering side of the Vermillion’s locomotive. He limped to the platform. Six cars long, the train was a solid flat black with a slim streak of vermillion red running its length.
Yost boarded, found a seat and dozed.
When he awoke he was not alone. In the seat facing his was an old man, rumpled in all ways; his hair, his Einstein moustache, his black clothes, even the flesh of his sleeping face. The car felt warm and he slept again.
His eyes opened a minute or an hour later. His seatmate was awake and in his lap, a sloshing fish bowl, with fetid green water and small orange koy floating on its side.
“Your leg...it’s wet,” said Yost.
“As is yours.” Yost touched the spreading stain on his thigh. The thick hot air was becoming unbearable.
“And that fish. It’s dead.”
“Of course it is.”
Yost blinked and looked and there, heavy and hot in his lap, a bowl, spherical and full and stinking. His fish floated and twitched and then it didn’t move any more. The hot thick water slapped with the rocking of the train, flowed down the glass and soaked Yost Haddeson. It soaked him to the bone. One last time he opened his eyes. He saw the old man. He said, “Grandfather?”