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cdr112
June 20th, 2015, 05:49 PM
Please feel free to offer comments and criticism...thanks.......

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Long Road Home
by C. Riley


I stepped onto the train just after six. The morning sun peeked over the horizon as sleepy eyed passengers stretched and yawned. They had been there all night on their separate journeys to wherever. I slipped unnoticed down the narrow isle as the scent of fresh brewed coffee filled my nose.

I was on my way home. Finally. It had been two years since I'd walked on that porch. Two long years since I'd seen her face. It seemed like an eternity. What would she say? I prayed for a warm welcome, but couldn't be sure that's how it would be. Two years is a long time for someone to vanish without a trace.

I had no choice. It was leave or suffer. I had made my bed and laid in it for two excruciating years. I did it all for her, she'd have to understand, right?

A heavyset man in front me sidestepped his way down the isle and passed gas as he squeezed into his seat. The smell of his cigar slightly masked the smell of his fart. I dropped in a couple of rows behind him and hoped he wouldn't be doing much of either activity for the duration.

I pushed back into the seat to try and get comfortable. The car had the sound of whispers throughout as the passengers tried to be considerate of their sleeping neighbors. Spoons clinked in coffee cups as the passengers came to life. A man in the distance snored and snorted as he shifted in his seat.

I pulled my tattered old journal from my pack and found the one remaining empty page. My pencil scratched away at my journal just as the steel wheels screeched against the tracks. A server came down taking orders for breakfast as we left the station.

"That's an interesting drawing, sir, would you like any breakfast or a beverage," the pretty young blonde said.

I quickly flipped the cover closed as she looked on. I glanced up a quick smile and a headshake no to let her know I wasn't there for conversation. I had the tendency to keep my work close to my vest. I wasn't one to take criticism very well plus I also had the tendency to draw things most people didn't need to see.

Once the young lady moved along taking orders I thumbed back through my journal to find the sketch once again. Maybe the image of a fiery train crash wasn't the thing to be working on while riding on a train but when inspiration strikes one must use it immediately.

As she jotted down the laundry list of breakfast items Mr. Farty-Cigar wanted she would glance my way between entrees. I hoped she wouldn't be one of those bothersome types for her sake. I knew how to handle a bothersome type.

Row by row she slowly slipped out of sight never looking my way again. I felt relieved. I had since closed the journal and stowed it away in my bag. My neighbor in front me barked for service when he didn't get his breakfast immediately.

I tried to ignore his ranting best I could. He was more annoying than the smell of his cigars mixed with his flatulence. He bellowed for the young lady as the other passengers stared on. His cigar ashes fell to the floor of the isle and onto the passengers in front of him. My patience had grown thin.

I slowly pulled my journal out and sharpened my number two pencil as he went on and on about the crap service. I began to draw.

I scratched away at a small blank space on the page furiously. The louder he spoke the faster I drew. First a quick outline. Then some lines for character. A few more gray strokes of lead and the image began to take shape.

The man's voice began to break and crackle. He clutched at his chest as he tried to breathe. His nub of a cigar fell to the isle as he grabbed his left arm tightly. A little bit of shading here and a few short lines for detail there and Mr. Farty-Cigar was slumped over in his seat, finally quiet.

I wiped a small bead of sweat from my lip as I once again stashed my journal. I carefully slid the black number two in it's place in the satchel.
The young lady had carefully pushed the breakfast cart down the isle toward Mr. Farty-Cigar. His order alone consumed the entire cart.

"Here is your breakfast sir," she said.

His silence made her uneasy. The cigar had extinguished itself after laying on the floor for so long.

"Excuse me sir," she said in her most polite voice.

I silently watched as she had a conversation with the fart and cigar scented corpse.

"Sir," she said as she gave him a poke.

Her terrified scream shook the entire car. I drifted off to sleep as the train buzzed with the news.

The click clack sound reminded me of the Newton's cradle at home on my desk. How I longed to hear that sound.

My mid morning slumber took me back to where this all began. It was an ordinary week around my house. Tensions had been a little high but they always were towards the end of the quarter. Closing deals and finishing strong was a must in my line of work. The last day of March I left the office later than normal to pick my wife up from work. As I approached police tape and a line of firetrucks blocked the street. Bystanders wandered the street in shock as the fire raged out of control. I jumped from my truck and ran into the crowd. The officers just on the other side of the yellow tape stopped me before I could get to the door.

"My wife is in there," I screamed.

"I'm sorry sir," he replied.

The fire roared as if it were a beast from hell. Its long yellow and red tendrils furiously grabbed at the night sky. I staggered back from the mob and found an empty space to let my tears flow. I found myself sitting on a bus stop bench, my head in my hands as I silently prayed. That bench was were I met him. He was dressed in black and feverishly scribbling images on a page.

"You can change it, you know?" He said as he drew, quickly glancing up at the fire.

I sat in shock, looking for a way to deal with what was happening.

"You want her back?" He asked as he examined his work.

"What," I said, raising my head to look his way.

"All you must do is take this journal and rip this page out," he said.

"That's crazy, what's wrong with you?" I said as I stood up to walk away.

"You told God you would do anything to have her back, didn't you?" He asked.

I stopped and looked him in his eyes. I didn't know how he knew but he did.

"Take it," he said as he held the half full journal out in front of him.

I took the journal and ripped the page from it.

"Thank you," he said.

"For what," I asked.

"I'm free, I can go home now," he said as tears streamed down his face. "Fill the pages and you'll be free, find a person to fill them for you and you can go, remember that, always," he said.

"Wait," I said as the man turned to leave.

"Ripping a page starts you over, don't forget, fill them all and you're free," he said as he began to run away.

I was standing in an empty space filled with darkness. A small light in the distance was all I could see. I began walking toward it with my journal and pencil in hand.

The train horn startled me from my sleep.

I must have slept through the emergency stop we made to drop off the recently deceased Mr. Farty-Cigar. I stirred with excitement when I looked out to see familiar country side passing by. I reached for my satchel to find it missing.

Panic set in immediately when I realized it was gone. Someone had to have grabbed it as I slept. I leapt from my seat and hurried down the isle frantically searching high and low. I looked in each compartment and under every seat I could. The sweat on my brow dripped down my face as I ran through the car toward the staff car.
There she was, sitting alone in the staff car crying as she slowly turned each page. Her tears dropped to the images smearing and smudging spots on each one.

"You killed him," she whimpered, "You killed them all."

"It's not what it seems," I said.

Her face was streaked with black eye makeup. I stepped closer as she flipped another page. More tears rained down on the black and white pages.

"Please, give me the journal," I said.

Her silent cry melted me inside. Why did she have to look. It was their time.

She slowly closed the cover and slid it into the bag. She wiped her tears on her sleeve and then bare hand.

"When is it going to happen," she asked.

"When is what going to happen," I said.

"The train," she said through her tears, "when will it crash?"

My mind was racing for an answer.

"Just after I get off, before the next stop," I said coldly.

"Why," she asked, "what have I done to deserve this?"

I thought for a second I could let her change it. Should I let her see the horrors I've seen? Should I let her live the lonely existence I had lived for the last two years? Give her the journal and let her rip it out screamed in my head. I was so close. The train was it, once it was done I was free.

"It just must be," I said.

"I'm never going to see my family again," she cried.

She tossed the bag on the floor at my feet and stared at the trees and blue sky as they flashed by. I slowly took the satchel and left the car.
I sat in my seat looking around at all the people that would soon be dead. I didn't want it this way but it had to be. It was my duty. I was bound to it. If I didn't I'd be gone again. Away from home and those I love. I couldn't take that again but I couldn't put another living soul through the agony I had been through. I wouldn't do it.

I opened the bag and flipped my journal to the train's page. I thought about home and the woman I'd missed so dearly for the last two years. My mind jumped to the strangers that surrounded me and the young girl.

I grabbed the corner of the page and pulled it from the journal. That was the first ripping sound I'd heard from that journal in two years.

The train faded away as I stood in the immense empty. A fresh journal and new no. 2 pencil lay at my feet. I slowly gathered them and stuffed them in my satchel. My journey had begun all over again. I hoped the young girl was happy and I hoped the one I missed so much would understand if I ever made it home.

The End

ThatCrazyGuy
June 22nd, 2015, 03:19 AM
really good, just need to run it though spellchecker a couple of times.

workinmom64
June 22nd, 2015, 06:00 PM
I like this story. It has a little of everything and the level of detail is good. The ending could use a little work. I always like a little action mixed in. It keeps the story from getting dry. That is something I am working on now. I want to explain everything but, I don't want readers to get bored and put the book down never to return to it again.
I does sound like it is a long road home for sure. I could see this story having a sequel. It could be a bunch of short stories or something. Good job never stop writing.

Hawk eye
June 25th, 2015, 08:09 AM
Hello. I am new here and greatly enjoyed this story. I've been having trouble coming up with original ideas as of late and was wondering if you could give me some insight into your creative process. How do you come up with your stories?