Monday, May 8, 2023

Stygian Rails

Stygian Rails
by D.

It was the sickly curdling of my stomach that first rudely escorted me into any outskirts of consciousness. My heartbeat could be felt in my trembling hands, which stung wildly from fresh scrapes and cuts. My eyelids fluttered and struggled; my head aching with a trauma currently eluding me. But it was the burn – the caustic, almost sandy burn invading my throat and nostrils which painfully delivered the ambivalent news that I was, in fact, still living.

A dizzy, drowsy sense inundated my being. My head was not sitting surely atop my neck, but felt as though tethered by rope; it drooped and lightly swung to and fro, searching for sure north. Shifting my weight back onto my hands, I felt the cut of countless cold, damp, stoney edges and knew that I was resting upon a bed of jagged gravel.

Through the cracks formed by my weary, uncooperative eyelids, I dimly made out a distant tree line. So thick was this fog that it nearly obfuscated the sight of the trees entirely; so heavy, it left chilled dew on my face. The mist floated on the air and cooled the pervading aches. It was a small peace.

I barely had a second to dwell on the cool dampness, when an utterly shocking blaring of a horn sent a sudden, yet familiar wave of fright through my chest. I felt my breath trying to retreat back down into my lungs, and a piercing light screamed at my eyes.

Move . . . Move! . . . MOVE!!!

I forced myself up onto my left knee and an instinctual panic flung me from the place where I had mysteriously awoken. Before I had a chance to identify the source of my terror and reflex, I landed harshly on the cold, slick rush of a lightly snow-dusted hillside. The wind was knocked from me, as I reached the bottom of this short slope. Scrambling to my feet, I hurried to turn around. I looked up the hill and stood in disbelief, watching a long string of train cars pass by, traversing the hill from which I fell. My lips quivered to beat my darting eyes, following the passing cars and scanning my dread thoughts for phantom memories that may reveal the truth of my current situation.

It was then that my frantic, unsuccessful inquiry was interrupted by a soul-piercing howl. There, through the passing wheels, illuminated by the soft glow of a plump moon, was the pitch-dark figure of a man; his eyes were as smoldering orbs of ashen volcanic magma. His cruel stare took my heart into its grasp. I thanked the veiled stars in the sky that the rolling wall of train cars halted his grasp from actuality. The movement behind and around him drew my attention to the pack of flesh-hungry hounds backing him.

I looked to my right and instantly lost hold of that sense of relief; I could see the caboose of the train coming into sight! My feet acted before my mind could. They grew wings and bid me flee! Across the muddy field behind me I fled, with such haste that I couldn’t be sure if my feet were even touching the ground. I darted for the shadowed tree line. . . .

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