“I guess we’re underway, aren’t we? So much for stopping the train,”  I smirked at Mark.

“Well, I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’m just glad I’m not that poor guy who got his face all cut up. That rain was crazy…it could have killed you if you were out there too long,” Mark said with a sense of empathy in his voice.

“Oh, here comes the attendant. They’re going to check the tickets.”  I searched my purse for the ticket.

“Here you go…I thought I’d lost it for a minute. You know, with the weather being this treacherous, I can’t believe you’re actually checking tickets.”  I passed the ticket to the attendant.

“Hmmm, Anna…you’re supposed to be on car number one, not two. But I think we can let that slide this time. The weather has stopped, we’ve been given the ok to proceed, and that’s what we’re doing. Anyone who is injured is able to leave and go get medical attention if necessary, but we also have to make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.”

She handed back my ticket and reached for Mark’s. I expected some compassion, some consideration toward those who’d been hurt — even some astonishment that we were still proceeding. She said nothing.

Mark Campbell…you’re on the right car, no worries. You’re both getting off at Kingston. We’ll try to make this trip as enjoyable as possible. If you need anything, please press the attendant button, and we’ll try to get to you in priority sequence. Thank you.”

“They’re always so robotic on this thing. Whatever happened to social skills?”  I asked Mark as she walked away.

“I don’t know. None of this makes much sense. I honestly don’t know why we’re even going anywhere in the first place. Some people are seriously injured, we don’t know what just hit us, and apparently they’re still getting the green light to go on through. The rain must’ve  stopped, at least…”   He seemed a bit anxious, but trailed off as he looked out the window. It seemed like the landscape had returned to normal. I wondered if Jacob was ok.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. Everyone was talking, kids were screaming that they wanted to go home, and everyone was soaked. I got up and walked slowly down the aisle, trying to make my way through standing people, bags on the floor, and attendants walking around.

I saw an old man sitting in one of the seats close to the back. He was perfectly still, looking out the window. People were restless around him, so much so that his refinement and posture stood out. He had receding grey hair, and looked to be in his sixties, with large shoulders and chest, and looked extremely fit for his age. As I walked closer, he turned and looked me straight in the eye. His eyes were black, yet gentle. Somehow his eyes resembled those of a hawk, open wide, and they blinked incredibly fast. It was uncanny. He smiled politely, and turned back toward the window. For some reason, his smile made everything seem more tolerable.

            A voice rang out over the intercom. “We’ll be arriving in Oshawa in approximately five minutes… Then we will be proceeding to Belleville, Kingston, Brokeville, and Ottawa. We will be making a brief stop at Belleville to detach those passengers proceeding to Dorval, then Montreal. The snack cart will be served between Oshawa and Belleville. If you need further assistance, please attract the attention of one of our attendants. Thank you.” 

People were starting to settle in. The panic died off, and some clouds even gave way for the moonlight to blaze our path. Amazing how helpless we could all become at the hands of nature. Despite all of our accomplishments, all of our technology, we couldn’t shelter ourselves as much as we thought we could.

I went into the washroom and splashed some water on my face. As I stared in the mirror, I was reminded of Jacob. We would always stand in front of the bathroom mirror when we were getting ready to go out. It was comforting to have him behind me like that. I felt protected, safe. Now I guessed this was what I had to look forward to…an empty mirror.

I opened the door and made my way back to my seat. I turned to look over toward the old man, but he was gone, leaving two seats available near the back. Where did he go?  I paused and looked at the empty chairs left behind. There was something there. I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel it. It felt warm and inviting, somehow more comfortable. The colours of the chair seemed brighter compared to others. I quickly walked up to my seat, where I’d left Mark.

“Mark, excuse me, but I’m going to switch seats. I’d feel more comfortable at the back of the car. It was really nice to meet you, but I think I’d just feel better if I sat back there.”  I didn’t really know how to explain it, but I somehow felt that I needed to sit there.

“Oh, ok. Sure, no problem. Could you use some company back there?”  He smiled at me rather charmingly.

“Actually that’d be really nice. There’re two empty seats, right over there.”  I grabbed my bags and walked swiftly to the back of the train. I wasn’t feeling right at all…maybe this trip was a mistake. I wondered again how Jacob was doing.

Our relationship wasn’t unsalvageable. But it was a matter of development and growth. I didn’t think I could really be who I wanted to be when I was with Jacob. I loved him, but I was afraid of him. I’d tell him things, and it seemed like he didn’t listen…it was like he was never really there. And it had all gotten worse since he started his new job.

We thought it would be better…we’d have a little extra money, we could start saving for my education…we had plans. But slowly, I was watching all of that dissolve right before my eyes. It just felt like, in some way, Jacob had abandoned the relationship. He wasn’t there for me emotionally, and I could barely count on him physically.

I thought I might be a bit too harsh on him, but I felt like I would never get a chance. When would it be my turn?  There was always something in the way of that…not enough money, we had to live together first, we had to secure good jobs before we made the investment. What investment?  What risks?  I wasn’t like my mother. I didn’t care if I got married in City Hall. I didn’t care if it was just Jacob and me…I just wanted the commitment. I wanted him to say, “There is no one else but you that I choose to be with in this world.”  That would have solved everything.

A couple of hours passed, and Mark and I discussed our pasts. It turned out we had a lot in common. He didn’t have a very good relationship with his family either. He seemed rather sweet, but maybe a little stubborn. It seemed like he’d faced a lot of adversity in his life. His father was overbearing, talked down to him, and threatened him physically on a frequent basis. He was the middle child, and got the worst of it. He had an older sister and a younger brother.  He and his brother were kicked out when they were sixteen and twelve.

“Don’t you feel resentment toward your parents at all, Mark?  At least your father for driving you and your brother out like that?”  I asked him the question that I continually asked myself, perhaps to see if he would show any anger, like I felt.

He said nothing. He simply shook his head slightly and smiled softly at me. I didn’t want to press the issue too much, and I wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at being cute, or an attempt to make me shut up.

Throughout my relationship with Jacob, I’d made constant comparisons between my family and his, but I had never really verbalized it. Jacob’s family seemed picture perfect in some ways, and rather bizarre in others. Before living in our apartment together, we had lived in his parents’ place for short time, but it never felt like we were alone. There was always someone knocking at the door, or calling us or something. It got frustrating, to say the least.

I loved his family though. His mother was always nice to me. She’d respected me and my decisions, offered advice and didn’t judge me. She was almost like a second mother. His dad, on the other hand, was very eccentric, but wise. His sister and brother were always nice to me, and I loved them both. That would be hard to give up.

The lights in the car seemed to flicker on and off at random, and we were told that it was just a technical malfunction. I plugged my complimentary headphones into the radio embedded in the armrest and tuned into 680 News. They were saying that no one had anticipated the sheer strength of the storm, or its apparent randomness. There were hot-air jet streams coming in from the south, causing flash storms in several locations.

“My God, Mark. Tune into the radio…listen to what they’re saying about the storms.”

            “We are now making a planned stop near the Bellville junction, so we can separate and allow those passengers to proceed onto Montreal. We will be roughly thirty minutes. Thank you for your patience…”

I gave Mark the headphones and stared out the window. I couldn’t see the moon anymore. I could barely see outside, but I saw something moving. I leaned over to Mark and noticed the trees swaying at a 45-degree angle.

Lightning struck the power lines in the distance, causing a massive flash of sparks and light. I screamed, and that’s when the lights went out. The thunder arrived with a deafening crack, which woke everyone on the train.

Mark looked shocked. “Are you ok, Anna?”

“Yeah…I…”  The rain began pouring down in a ray of pellets which hammered against the train. It was so severe I could no longer see out the window. The train swayed from the sheer pressure of wind and rain.

“Please stay calm, we are still attempting to separate the trains, and that will be underway shortly. We are going to wait for the rain to stop before proceeding. Power will be restored momentarily. We are looking into the issue. We again thank you for your patience…” 

I reached down for my necklace; the one Jacob had given me. It was a gold, tear-drop diamond earring that had belonged to his grandmother. Where was it?

“My necklace. I… I think I lost my necklace. I have to go check our other seats…I’ll be right back.”  I got up and headed slowly and methodically toward the front of the train. With each step, I felt more uneasy. I couldn’t lose that necklace.

I continued to the front, where I’d been sitting, and as the lights flickered on again, there he was…the old man. Staring out the window.

He turned to look at me. He blinked with his large, birdlike eyes. The lights flickered again, and he was gone.

Where did he go?  I gasped and walked faster toward the front seats, and there it was…on the floor. I bent down slowly to pick it up. The diamond in the centre of the teardrop shined, and that’s when I heard it, an incredible screeching sound from outside. I could hear it in the distance, growing louder and louder. I grabbed the necklace, stood up, and as the lights flickered off, I looked ahead through the glass window between the train cars, and saw another train headed right for us.

I turned and ran.

“Run! There’s a train coming!”

I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I picked up the little girl sitting by herself in the front row, and ran toward the back of the car. Where was her mother?

That’s when it hit us. I saw Mark stand up; his face looked horrified. People tried to get up. I looked behind me as what was left of the first train car hurled toward us, completely crushed upon impact. I ran just enough to stay ahead of it, but the force of the blast knocked me off my feet. I turned to try to protect the little girl. Mark came running up and pulled us both out of the way.

“Oh, my God!”

Everyone was screaming. The lights were off, windows shattered, and rain water barrelled down on us. The other train must not have been able to get the switches working, and crashed into us head-on. Mark braced us with a couple of seatbelts, jammed himself between the seats and held on as hard as he could.

We began rolling down the hill, the car flipped over twice. People were thrown from their seats and slammed into the ceiling. Time stood still as debris flew through the air, and I realized this changes everything.

Will I see Jacob again?


The Seventh Journey is available now:

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