Flash Fiction Friday – A Journey
I struggled with this a bit. It’s 1030 words and took me 90 minutes. I think I could probably trim it in editing to be under a thousand words.
Prompt – For this week, write about a journey. And for bonus points, make it by train.
The winter wind cut whipped my hair around and found its way into my layers of clothing as I waited for the city bus. It had been well below freezing for weeks and wasn’t due to get better anytime soon. At barely after 5pm the sun was already dropping below the horizon. Intolerable. Luckily, the buses were on a regular schedule from campus. I only had to wait a few minutes.
I transferred from the bus to the city’s light rail, shifting my backpack on my shoulder as I walked the short distance and waited in line. I had three weeks until classes started again. My parents, if they thought about it at all, would think I had stayed on campus between semesters. My dorm mates would think I had gone home. I had planned to stay but it was so cold and dark that I couldn’t bear it.
The commuters around me hunched up against the cold or huddled together with friends. The train was heated, of course, but there wasn’t much time between stations here so close to the city centers. The doors kept opening, letting in fingers of the icy wind. It steadied my determination. I needed to be somewhere else. Now. I couldn’t live with this constant cold.
Light rail brought me to the main train station. The lights were on outside, trying to drive back the dark. The people inside were different. Mixed in with the commuters were travelers with suitcases. With my backpack, I could have fit into either group. It didn’t matter. No one cared what I was doing here. They all had their own destinations in mind. I wasn’t sure where I was going. My only goal was to be warm.
The station’s heat blasted my face. I unzipped my coat to prevent myself from sweating but I didn’t really feel warm. The cold had settled into my bones days ago and I couldn’t get warm. Physically, I felt numb. Worse than that, mentally, I was numb too. Part of me very much wanted to lie down on the bench outside and not wake up tomorrow morning. The tiny part that wanted to live fought against it. I could escape this.
I checked my bank balance from my phone and compared it against the destination list on the self-service kiosk. Where would be warmest? Where would there be sunshine? I picked the southernmost station on the list. I was lucky. The run to Miami must have been popular because multiple trains headed in that direction every day. I grabbed dinner as I waited.
The commuter traffic thinned and the sleepy travelers still waiting yawned into their coffee.It wasn’t late; the early sunset this time of year just made everyone want to den up and crash early. They fought against their instincts, using caffeine as a weapon against their own hormonal cycles. Mine were too messed up to matter. The inside of my head was a bad place to be. Public was safer than alone.
Boarding the train was easy; it didn’t require long security lines or the hassles of an airport. You couldn’t walk into an airport these days and get on a flight anyway. The train was far less hassle. I envied the people dragging suitcases on little wheels; my backpack weighed heavily on my shoulders. My reserved seat was against a window and had a plug set into the wall. The onboard wifi worked fine. No one sat beside me. I watched Netflix on my tablet. The cold radiating off of the window was enough to shatter the numbness and plunge me into misery. I cried into my neck pillow until I slept.
The shuffling of travelers disembarking woke me. I didn’t have to transfer trains. The one I was on would continue farther south. I did need to stretch my legs though so I went to the platform between cars. It was cold and dark but even so, the air was less biting. The world didn’t seem quite so bad. When I returned to my seat, the person who had settled into the seat across from me greeted my cheerfully but I grumbled at her. How could she have wanted to ride backwards? She wanted to talk to me but was polite enough to respect my desire for quiet.
The sun had been warming me through the window for a couple of hours when I got my first break from the train. I walked to a diner outside of the train station for breakfast. I was grateful that I only had my school backpack instead of a suitcase. Clothes and my tablet were far lighter than the books and laptop that I carried on campus. It gave me the freedom to explore a bit in the few hours between trains. I stuffed my winter coat and scarf into a box and shipped it north. The wind was chilly but the sun was warm; my hooded sweatshirt was enough and it was still early. I didn’t need to be weighed down by the heavy winter coat.
My seatmate on the next leg of the trip was excited to be heading to Orlando. She was interviewing at the Disney World theme park. I wondered what it would be like to live somewhere without snowy winters, to never have to be cold again. She was interesting to chat with. We had different majors but were both on STEM tracks so had taken a lot of similar classes. She wanted to transfer her credits to a place in Orlando but needed a job to make the move. I wished her luck. We both peeled off layers as the train’s air conditioning worked against the sun.
It wasn’t long before sunset when I escaped the train in Miami. My backpack was light on my shoulders. My mood was light too. The cool breeze off of the ocean was as welcome as the heat from the fading sun on my face. Tonight I had a city to explore and a bathing suit to buy. Tomorrow, I could enjoy a sunny beach. I had traveled from mid-winter to early summer and I felt alive again.
Tags: a journey, Flash Fiction Friday
If you want to read more flash fiction with this prompt, you can find it in the comments of the Flash Fiction Friday blog.