Her life began at 16, at the end of the line on a train to nowhere.
She stood motionless on the platform, watching the journey unfold in her mind. Much of her existence had been an endless parade of grim orphanages and foster homes, only just survived and barely remembered. The downtown station had been just as dreary. The trains came in, disgorged one clump of people, ingested another clump, and moved on. World-weary commuters scurried back and forth, going nowhere but making good time.
All that was in the past now. On the other side of the tunnel, the world was transformed. Colorful towns rolled past, neatly laid out with quaint homes, white clapboard churches and gas stations with old-fashioned pumps. Cows grazed near barns and silos. The train climbed the mountain on tight curves, chugging through dark tunnels and over trestles high above a raging river. At last it had pulled into a little red train station. A few well-dressed people lingered on the platform. How dated their clothing looked, as if from another era. Curious.
From the station she could see it. The place she knew she was always meant to be. Across the meadow was a little cabin, tucked in the edge of the forest. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, the first true breath of her life. Everything that had gone before was forgotten. Only the sweet smell of pine, newly cut hay and woodsmoke was real. Only the breeze tickling her face and the cheerful twitter of the bluebirds mattered. A hawk screeched nearby. Had anything existed before this moment? Surely, she had never felt this ALIVE.
Thunder rumbling in the distance caught her attention. She opened her eyes and drank it all in. The mountains beyond the cabin were still capped with snow, even in summer. A sudden chill ran down her spine. The snow was moving, growing, changing. It wasn’t snow at all, but hair; horrible white hair. She froze in horror as a colossal eye rose above the tree line. The rheumy blue monstrosity loomed over her, ten times her height. Its gaze pierced her very being. She tried to scream, but nothing came out; tried to run, but was glued in place. No way to escape. Again the thunder rolled. The great eye closed, and everything went black.
The old man rose from his knees with a groan, and blinked his tired eyes. He surveyed his model railroad with a satisfied smile, turned out the lights and went to bed.
Kim Sheridan is an amateur naturalist and photographer who enjoys hiking, kayaking, ferns and bats. She volunteers as a Weed Warrior at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and edits the e-newsletter for the Friends of Heinz Refuge. Her nature-oriented photo essay blog The Wild Edge can be found at thewildedge.net
Photo credit – Kim Sheridan