• Fraser du Toit

Train's a coming


Grand Canyon Railway Train, 1990


“Train’s a coming,” I said to the man lying on the tracks.

He strained against the ropes tightly bound around his limbs. The writhing reminded me of an earthworm plucked from the earth by a predatory bird.

“I must commend you on being a worthy adversary up until now,” I gloated.

“Mm, mmf, mhmmf!” he replied.

I laughed at his vain attempt at speech, “I can’t hear you, but I assume you’re congratulating me.”

The man on the tracks turned to stare at the dark plume of smoke on the horizon that heralded his doom. I followed his gaze and took in the beast of steel and thunder that would enact my vengeance.

“You still have a few minutes before you become locomotive chow,” I said, “judging by the distance I’d say about three.”

The man on the tracks renewed his struggles with frantic urgency. His eyes were wide and he was foaming around the gag in his mouth. I wiped the beads of sweat from my brow, already several drops had rolled into my eyes. The distant hiss of the train’s steam engine called my attention back from the man and I turned to regard the approaching machine.

“You know, I really should have brought a parasol,” I said, “this sun’s a killer, too true.”

The man changed his tactic and was now attempting to roll himself off of the tracks. His efforts were largely futile and somewhat comical.

“I would advise you to save your energy, but I suppose that’s pointless considering,” I trailed off.

He seemed not to hear me or simply chose to ignore me. Normally I couldn’t stand being ignored but even I could understand his preoccupation. The train was getting really close now and I sucked in a grateful breath.

“You have been a real thorn in my side you know,” I said softly, “had you been wise you’d ’ve kept well enough away. Just let bygones be bygones and such.”

The man had successfully rolled his legs off of the track and was now lying within the tracks. His struggles had loosened the gag that I had so lovingly tied. Presently he was trying to spit the loose rag from his mouth.

“You think lying between the tracks will save you?” I jeered, “haven’t you heard of the third rail?”

The man finally spat out the gag and let out a furious scream. He lifted his head and peered down the length of his body at the approaching train. I guessed it would arrive in another minute and soon my plan would be complete.

“You have to let me go! You can’t do this! Please!” The man pleaded.

I sighed, “Don’t spoil it now. You been so very brave up until right now. Why choose this as the instant to become a coward?”

The man arched his back up before snapping back down, hard. He bounced up and to his left, landing with his torso across the track furthest from me.

“Aww come on! You gonna ruin it all,” I said, hopping anxiously from foot to foot.

The ground was shaking with the weight and power of the approaching locomotive. Dust vibrated on the tracks while the man kicked his bound legs. He had his face pressed into the dirt on the far side of the tracks and was now attempting to shimmy his legs out of the way.

“The train’s a coming! Ten seconds more I’d say!” My nervous hopping turned to a victorious jig as I anticipated my victory.

The man redoubled his kicking as the train rumbled past me. His body disappeared behind the grey steel as the train roared by. I stumbled back from the weight of the sound.

When the train finally passed, I looked to where the man had been. There where once had been my prisoner now only lay a pile of abandoned ropes.

The man that had killed my family was nowhere to be seen.

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