The 9:05 Out of Detroit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was my first "literary" piece that made it to print. It's based on a true story about my teenage years.

Submitted: September 24, 2009

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Submitted: September 24, 2009

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It's nine p.m. now and the light makes its first appearance on the distant horizon. I breathe a sigh of relief and take a pull of Jim Beam, feeling it burn its way to my stomach. Jim's always made everything easier for me.
This had always been my happy place. This railroad bridge spanning the Rouge River on the edge of Detroit seemed to be the only place I could go to pretend all was well with my life. The scaffolding of steel girders painted sky blue that stretches out over and beside me is my sanctuary from all that hates me in the world.
Most nights I would sit on the rocks next to the tracks on the train bridge, leaning against a support beam. I would listen to the trash barges as they pass beneath me, motoring their way to the Detroit River, and wait for the water to lap the bank in their wake. I would idly sip my Jim Beam and breathe the intoxicating smells of diesel fumes, sewer water and dead fish, common to the industrial shorelines. I would close my eyes and wait for the 9:05 out of Detroit.
I would always hear it first. The faint, lonely moan of the train whistle was barely audible over the waves beneath me. I would open my eyes to find the specter of a distant light hovering hovering over the gleaming steel rails about four miles away. Sometimes I would lean over and put my ear to the tracks to listen for its approach, but I never heard anything.
I would watch in anticipation as the light materialized into the vague shape of a massive Dash-9 freight engine climbing its way down from the city. Its single headlight would glow to blinding proportions as it reached the other end of the bridge. I would take two more pulls from the whiskey bottle, then a third as the 9:05 out of Detroit would rocket past me at sixty miles an hour only two feet from where I sit. For several minutes I would hear nothing but the wind rushing past my ears and the squeaks and clicks of the train wheels. I would see only the distant city lights blinking between the box cars and reflecting off the steel girders.
And just as quickly, it would be gone. Left behind in its wake would be an eerie, lifeless silence. That exhilarating head rush would fade, and one at a time the sounds of the industrial cityscape would return, as if the 9:05 out of Detroit had never been there. Reality would inevitably return and the melancholy shadow that follows me through life would come back in full force. I would stand from my perch, launch the empty whiskey bottle into the river and leave my happy place, knowing I would be back tomorrow.
 
But not tonight. No, tonight will be special. Tonight, when the 9:05 out of Detroit passes through, there will be no coming down from the cloud; no sadness and disappointment in its wake. Tonight, when it passes through, I'll be going with it.
I look down at the rails on either side of my feet as I walk toward the growing light. I know there will be no time pain or fear; regret or sadness -- only a slight nudge into a peaceful serenity.
The horn erupts, much louder and I look up. The 9:05 out of Detroit is going slower than usual, but I don't worry about that. I stop, lean my head back and close my eyes. I spread my arms wide to embrace the raging locomotive. Only seconds left now.
I hear the bridge supports creak in protest of the Dash-9's weight and I feel the ground vibrate beneath me. The bright light pierces my eyelids and I know it's too late now for second thoughts.
I didn't feel the crushing impact that shattered every bone in the lower half of my body like glass, nor do I remember the great force that pulled me under the train. I feel only the endless tumbling end over end beneath the train and what felt like warm water lightly splashing my face.
I could see the lights flashing past my eyes; the city lights flickering past the train wheels. For one brief second I could see the stump where my left hand use to be; the spongy tissue white and pale, the blood having not had time to begin pouring.
The full weight of reality hits me in that same moment. I'm dying. This time it's not just in my mind, dreams and fantasies. This time it's real, and it's nothing like I use to imagine it. I imagined peace and serenity, not seeing my own severed appendages. This is cold and clinical; uncaring and destructive.
Then an image enters my mind. It's my funeral. The casket is closed. Mom stands there, running a hand over the smooth, waxed surface of the coffin. And I hear her thoughts: If only I could see my baby one last time...
The tumbling continues after the last box car passes over me. The ground and sky blend as one in my new sickly spinning world. I finally come to rest with my head propped up on the track, my left ear pressed against the cold steel. I can hear the train wheels now, screeching an eerie sound through my skull as the train locks its brakes.
I'm given a full view of the gore strewn down the tracks that use to be me. An arm rolls to a stop a few yards away. My lower torso lay further down the tracks, legs missing from the knees down and intestines trailing off into the distance. The sky blue train bridge is almost five hundred feet away now.
I try to move, but I can't. I can't, because there's nothing left of me. I can't, because I've reached the end. It's over. This is where I will die. Now I ask myself, Was it all worth it? Was my life really so bad that this was my only way out?
Darkness begins to creep in around the edges of my eyes. I feel cold. Very cold. I try to draw my last breath, but my lungs don't work. In my last seconds I think of Mom, my closed casket, my so-called problems and all the mistakes I've ever made. But none will ever compare to this one, because the worst mistakes we make in life are the ones we can never change.


© Copyright 2019 Nick Stone. All rights reserved.

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