TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 43 (EXCERPT)
Olesya came to minutes later, not knowing who or where she was. The first thing she registered was the body of air, lots and lots of empty air congealed into an ocean of frigidity that pooled below, below the chasm by which she sat. It was shrouded in bluish haze. One day a bridge led over it, then it collapsed. Perhaps the beams had rotted, perhaps something else had happened. Shanks of it protruded from both sides. The leftover rails hung suspended like bones stripped of flesh.
Everything came back to Olesya in a rush.
She gripped the stones, wincing, needles of pain tingling her legs. Her vision swam and for a second she had to close her eyes. A wave of nausea rose from her stomach. She drew a deep breath, looked up, and there it was, laying on its side, smoldering in a cloud of grey smoke, a great comedo, a possessed monolith on wheels no longer. Sad and charred and hollow and—
“Dead,” said Olesya. “It’s dead. It’s finally dead.”
She knew it, felt it. Said it aloud to believe it. There was no stirring of life coming from the machine. Its ten glassy eyes, some shattered, stared dully into nothing. Its blue paint has turned muddy grey from the heat, the red stripe at the bottom all but invisible. Its head was pointed at her at a diagonal, the wheels curled like claws of a predator that never got to kill its prey, stricken by lightning, forever preserved in its last snarl.
A violent shiver passed Olesya. She pulled herself up, moaning quietly.
“I have to go see it, I have to...to make sure. To make sure it’s really gone.”
Her feet slipped on the frosted rocks and she fell to her knees a couple times, scraping them in the process, but the need to ascertain that her dead father reincarnated as a train had at last departed propelled her forward. She crossed the railway and cautiously crept to the cauterized complexity of wheels, springs, and plates of charred metal.
The locomotive lay motionless, still smoldering and giving off heat that felt pleasantly warm. Unconsciously, Olesya stretched out her arms the way she did to the fire at the summer camp where she went every year until her ballet practice took over. “The Railway Club” it was called, established by her father’s work, Ministry of Railways, where all employee children were sent, along with those outsiders who could afford it.
She came to its exposed belly, blackened by dirt and soot. It towered over her, a reticulation of wires, hoses, metal parts she didn’t know the names for. The chassis looked at her with its four iron wheels tilted sideways. Olesya nudged one the tip of her shoe. It slowly revolved and stopped, arrested by a screech of rust. It needed to be oiled. It had been running without proper maintenance for too long, and now it was too late. It would never ring its song upon the rails again.