The Last Train

(158 words- flash fiction/poetry)

He waited impatiently on the wooden bench in front of the one-room train depot that sat in the middle of nowhere sweating in the high desert air, when he heard a faint whistle…

Dust devils danced gleefully in the distance, forerunners for a giant sandstorm gathering in the West, but the man was unimpressed, as he stared like he was possessed…

… into the direction of the whistle which grew louder with each heartbeat, and soon he could see a train through the shimmering heat, as he got to his feet, ready to board and take the back seat…

as the train idled and plumes of steam shrilly screamed with the whistle’s urgent blast, the man moved fast to get aboard and ignored the other passengers who looked bored…

There was no need to look back as they went down the track with their memories already fading with the light, something new was just ahead in the gathering night.

****

Waiting For the Last Train

The little train station depot was located in the middle of nowhere – somewhere between Germany and Switzerland on the wild frontier separating the two countries.

A weathered wooden sign was nailed to the door of the train depot, proclaiming “InterCityExpress.” The whole depot was in poor repair.

There was no one in the ticket office. No lights. Outside, a man sat on a long wooden bench that was once red, but the sun and age had softened it to a pale pink patina.

The light from the lantern next to the man, sent shadows scurrying across the wooden platform, and out into the night. Every now and then, the man whose name was Robert, checked his wristwatch, looked around impatiently, and frowned.

He couldn’t remember how he ended up at this lonely little outpost. Or why he was here. Even more confusing, he felt an urgency to catch a train…but didn’t know when to expect it. He had no idea how long he’d been sitting there like this.

He listened for a train whistle, but only heard wolves howling at the spring moon. The day came and went. Still, Robert waited. That night he heard a train whistle. He waited eagerly for it to come into view.

Air-brakes screeched, and the train slowed down to a complete stop. The smokestack belched plumes of smoke as the engine idled. A conductor came out of the first passenger car and waited for Robert to approach him.  His gray hair was neatly trimmed, as was his handlebar mustache, and he was all business.

“Ticket sir!”

Robert frantically searched his pockets but couldn’t find a ticket. “I seem to have lost it, but I’ll gladly pay cash for my fare right now.” 

“No ticket? Sorry, sir.”

Robert watched in shock as the conductor turned around and boarded the train. The train whistle blew twice, and it steamed into the growing fog that was surrounding the depot. He looked to his right, and left. Baffled. Now what?

“Can you hear me Robert?

He tried to open his eyes but they were too heavy. He was having trouble breathing. His breath came in short rugged gasps. The pain in his chest intensified.

“It’s going to be…” the voice trailed off.

He was sitting on the bench again. Looking. Waiting. Listening. He stood up and walked out to the train track and looked up at the stars. They glittered like diamonds. A wolf’s mating call hung in the night…waiting for a response.

Was he having a nightmare? The longest and worst nightmare of his thirty-four years of existence? In his mind’s eye he saw images. A terrible car wreck. Bodies being pulled from two cars by first responders. Red lights flashing. Blood.

He wondered why he wasn’t hungry. He’d been waiting for days without food or water. Part of him knew that couldn’t continue. He’d die if he didn’t eat or drink…right? There had to be an explanation.

“Is he going to make it?”

Robert’s ears perked up. Was his train coming at last? He heard the faint faraway whistle with eagerness. Maybe it was his time. He sat back down on the bench and looked at his wristwatch. The cool night air caressed him as he tried to be patient.

“I’m sorry…his heart just gave up.” the doctor told Robert’s wife.

Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, Robert found his ticket and handed it to the conductor, who invited him aboard. The last train had finally arrived for Robert.

As It Stands, there’s a twilight existence between life and death, where train’s run on time and people wait for their fate.