Here’s the final installment to my story. Part One was posted earlier…if you did NOT read that first, please do so before reading part two….
Thanks again to my friend Brad for initiating this. It was great fun!
Enjoy…Remember: this is a first draft. 🙂
* * *
First-line challenge, part two:
Inhale: Direct me now, O gracious Lord. . .
Alex lay on the tracks, motionless. He could feel the pain pulse in his legs, twisted under him and jammed between the concrete railroad ties and the gravel ballast. He was certain both legs were broken. He tried repeatedly to find the strength to drag himself off, but the pain was so strong in his chest, and his breathing so shallow from the injury to his right lung. He barely had the strength to stay awake.
For the next two minutes, he waited. The last audible voice he heard was somebody asking about who owned his Chevelle. He had wanted to throw rocks at them, get there attention in any way possible, but there was no strength to do anything but repeat the same prayer, over and over, believing that miracles do happen in the states as well.
At 2:05, as he struggled to keep his eyes open and avoid slipping into unconsciousness, he was jolted by the inevitable, foreboding sensation that time was running out. It was faint at first, nearly imperceptible. But within seconds, the vibrations were followed with a discerning hum. In less than two minutes, the southbound train would be passing by on its way to Ruxton Station, and there was nothing Alex could do to stop it.
Exhale: And let eternal life be found. . . .
* * *
Chelsea walked out of her manager’s office and looked at the clock: 2:04. The “meeting” took less than a minute for her to be handed the change-of-address form that her elderly neighbor had requested. It was this kind of special, door-to-door service that her manager expected from all of them at the Ruxton Post Office, and Chelsea was never one to complain. In fact, she knew that, if things worked out like she had been told earlier in the month, she would keep the same neighborly relationship going when she took over the Ruxton Station after the first of the new year. Her manager was a jerk in so many ways, and she wasn’t unhappy to see him retire. He got the customer service part right, though, and that more than made up for his misgivings.
She stepped outside, first folding the form and stuffing it in her bag as she walked blindly onto the lot. She was parked on the other end, and when she lifted her head, she noticed that several people had gathered around her silver Mustang. Immediately, she wondered if something had happened to her car. There were strangers leaned up against it, hands stuffed in pockets, waiting for something or somebody. One man, in particular, paced anxiously, speaking emphatically on his cell phone.
When the officer saw her approaching, he took one step toward her and pointed his finger toward the red Chevelle.
“This your car, miss?”
At first, she thought he was pointing at her Mustang, and began to answer when she saw Alex’s Chevelle with the Corolla rammed into its front end like a punch in the face. She stopped, relieved then shocked at the realization, and looked for Alex.
“No. The Chevelle belongs to Alex DeVeers. He’s not out here?”
“Nobody is claiming the Chevelle, miss. Did you see him today?”
Chelsea started walking toward the officer. “About ten minutes ago. He was dropping off a few letters and then heading out to—”
She stopped abruptly. In the sudden rush of seeing the crowd and Alex’s Chevelle, she had not noticed where she was walking. She looked down and saw a pair of sunglasses, lens now shattered and frame twisted.
She recognized them immediately as Alex’s.
“He’s not here?”
“Nope. I was just on my way to check the stores when—”
Chelsea looked to the left at the fence that separated them from the tracks. She could hear in the distance the approaching southbound train.
“What about the guy in the Corolla?” she asked. “Did he see Alex before he hit his Chevelle?”
“Never saw anything. The stupid kid had his head in his crotch looking for his phone that he dropped.”
Chelsea could feel the train now. She looked again at the fence and tried to imagine a scenario that might be different than what was becoming her worst fear. What did she have to lose by checking?
“Come with me.”
She ran toward the fence with the officer behind her.
“You think he’s down there?”
Chelsea didn’t have to answer. As soon as reached the parking lot’s edge and stepped on to the grassy hill, she could see Alex’s body, limp, on the tracks.
She dropped her bag and started climbing the fence, screaming over her shoulder.
“You never checked the tracks? You never checked them at all?”
The officer shouted to the crowd for some help, and within seconds, three others—including the stupid kid in the Corolla—were scaling the fence.
They knew they had no time to waste. All of them saw the train’s headlight bearing down the tracks. They felt the vibrations. Heard the ominous hum. Thirty seconds—maybe less—is all they had before Alex would be killed instantly.
Chelsea was the first to reach him. His eyes were wide open, frozen in fear as he muttered some prayer over and over. Somebody said something about him being paralyzed and not moving his neck, but there was no time for that.
She looked around to see where they could take him. Behind her was the grassy hill. No safe place there. She looked on the other side of the tracks. Directly in front of them and to the left was a sharp drop to the Gunpowder River. Pushing him over the edge and on to the rocks below might kill him instantly, so that wasn’t an option either. To the right, about 150 feet, was a clearing wide enough for them to lie him down safely. She looked at the officer, who understood their only option.
“You mean, you want us to run him toward the train reach that patch of grass?”
She didn’t waste the time responding. Instead, she pointed at the others.
“Each of you get around him like you’re carrying a coffin.” The officer didn’t like the analogy, but he and the others knew exactly what to do. “On my count, we lift him and head over there.”
Suddenly, the stupid kid in the Corolla realized what that meant. “I’m not running into the train, if that’s what you mean.”
As if on cue, the train operator saw them on the tracks and blew his horn. He threw on the emergency brakes, yet despite all of the drama of the sparks and the squeals, he knew it would never stop the train in time.
Chelsea reached over Alex’s body and grabbed the Corolla Kid. “You did this to him. And now you’ve got a second chance to save him. If you don’t work with us to get him off these tracks, I’ll make sure you’re the last one on them when that train passes through.”
She had no idea where that had come from. She started to tremble from the fear of it all—the rapid rush of adrenalin that they were all so close to death. She looked into his eyes for another second, and together they bent down to lift Alex.
“One, two, LIFT.”
Alex let out a deafening scream. His left leg was still caught on the tie, and he could now feel the new tear in his upper leg.
“Stop!” The officer kneeled down and freed Alex’s leg. There was another scream, and Alex passed out.
“No time!” shouted Chelsea. “Let’s go!”
They carried Alex’s lifeless body toward the oncoming train, stepping as carefully as possible over the concrete ties as the gap narrowed. They couldn’t afford any mistakes. One trip on the ties would mean certain death for all of them.
“Faster! We’re almost there,” Chelsea screamed. They could barely hear her as the roar of the train and the boom of the horn were deafening.
She could see the clearing just five steps away now. They were going to make it after all. She envisioned the last few steps, the relief they would feel when the train passed them by, the rush of the wind as it cooled them in their victory.
That’s when Corolla Kid tripped, just three steps from the patch of grass. He went down, and Chelsea tumbled over him, her momentum carrying her one step closer to safety.
The train was just feet away. The officer looked up. Saw the terror on the operator’s face. The helplessness and the fear.
Chelsea thought that Alex was the lucky one. Unconscious, he couldn’t feel this fear. He would never know how it all ended. He would go peacefully, unlike the rest of them.
The officer and the others felt differently. On their last, final instinct, they dropped Alex on the tracks and jumped in front of Chelsea. While the officer pulled Alex to safety, the other two dragged Corolla Kid and Chelsea a seemingly impossible ten feet to the edge of the patch of grass.
The train passed them, mauling Chelsea’s discarded shoe that remained on the tracks. Chelsea passed out, and Corolla Kid pulled out his cell phone, chirping with a new text message. He read it quickly, responded with a “not now! BRB!,” and then collapsed. The officer radioed for a medic, sat down next to Alex, and checked his pulse. Slow, but steady.
He looked at Corolla Kid and smiled. “Nice phone.”
“Can’t leave home without it,” he replied, smiling nervously.
“May I?” The officer extended a hand, and the Kid handed it over as it chirped again, now in the officer’s grip.
He flipped the top and checked the message.
Hurry. I’m hungry.
He typed in a response, sent it, and closed the phone. With one quick motion, he threw the phone as far as he could, northbound along the tracks. It landed with a metallic scrape against the concrete ties before leaning against the right rail.
“Oh, and by the way,” the officer offered. “You’re also under arrest.”
Corolla Kid said nothing as he lowered his head. He doubted he’d BRB to his girlfriend—or anyone else, for that matter—for a very, very long time to come.