Snakes on a Train

Written in response to: Start your story with someone looking out a train window.... view prompt



He watches her as she looks out the window, the weight of the locomotive a heavy crash to the rails with each plunge of steel pistons. He’ll follow her to hell and back given what else she is, cold-blooded lacking the manners of a proper human.

In this the seventh day of April in the common year he’d chosen to follow a serpent. A daughter creature to the Amar by the name of Belinda Bryaxis, suitably too given her supposed pedigree.

Only there was no tenderness in the monuments she built.

She was an asset to a known terrorist organization, nowhere near a leader, but the fact remained, she bared the connection. And he was on her trail.

He always felt that what he knew pushed at the edges of his mind, that knowing too much harmed him with the unfairness of confusion to spite it.

Knowing things was meant to make the world simple, make it smaller than the mind, to bind it there and keep it manageable, but it was never enough. And he couldn’t help but blame the easiest targets.

In his world, right now there was only one thing bound in his head. The woman two rows down.

And the things he knew she was.

The things he wanted that to mean.

“Hello?” he says, in an off tone. Looking down at her carry-on, an overstuffed canvas bag held tightly by her feet. Guarding personal items was not beyond even the most stalwart or impetuous women, but he knows the bag wasn’t her’s, or at least it wasn’t meant for her.

It was scarcely her style, given the persuasion of everything else she wore.

He’d be lying if he described her apparel as unfashionable, but he could recognize the drape and force of posture that belied her position, or at least her perceived position.

She turns slightly to him. In assumption of his age most likely, nothing to concern herself with really.

“Yes?” she asked sharply pulled from her thoughts, her eyes bearing that serpentine copper that belied her true nature.

The lesser colors of the Amar. Of the so-called divine peoples in the high mountains and golden deserts, the people who claimed a starlight curse and a sainted suffering beneath always false gods.

Those people in the finery, claiming austerity and preaching a common good.

Most of her sort weren’t rich, but that complexity- “Sorry, I was staring. Do you mind it if I sit by you?”

“No. I don’t think so,” she said, looking him over. He’d wondered what she would’ve done if she’d seen any of what he was packing, but she didn’t seem in the mood for a fight.

At least not right now.

For all his time following her, she’d never seemed so tired as she did in that moment. She looked from him and back to the window, with little attention to whatever he may’ve been doing.

He sighs with little interest paid to the world rolling past the window.

“It might serve you better to follow someone else if I’m that boring.” She says, recognizing his excuses. The train pulls itself through a hill darkening everything for a full minute.

Once all was visible again, she was looking toward him. Bright copper eyes in a delicately formed face, her brows tempered by her own familiarity, by her memory of his face. For a moment he knows this, and he sees it as surely by his vision as by her smell.

He doesn’t say anything. That would be too confronting.

“Honestly that’s just what you get for being interested in an older woman.” She smiles, like she hadn’t tipped her hand.

“Interested? That’s one way to put it.” he relaxes almost, they aren’t about to make a scene, at least not yet.

“It is.”

They wait out another twenty minutes as the train goes that next little while longer and aways. Before she asks him, “so, which parent do you favor?”

He doesn’t like to answer that, when he’s asked he is often forced to remember his father. It was frankly better to forget people like him. He’d apparently always been flighty, filled with a wanderlust that could pull him from the ether as easily as it pulled him from them.

His mother had never been unkind about his father, despite the abandonment. His brother thankfully, wasn’t ever as hurt by what their father had done.

“My father, if I can trust my mother.” He says, as she reassesses.

“I think its good that you trust your mother.” She smiles, “It seems like the kind of thing children should be able to do.”

“I’m not that young you know.”

“Your still her child you know. You could become older than sin and still be hers.” She corrects him, “In any case, I can’t claim the luck.”

“So your mom’s a psycho?”

“that’s putting it lightly. Are you surprised?”, she said tilting her head, there’s sarcasm in her tone, as the sun glints on her eye.

He smiles at this, “No. Criminals often lay claim to horrible parents. Its whether or not its provable that varies.”

“How dour. It almost explains your familiarity.” She said in that bright way only used by the deeply jaded.

“I don’t know what you mean by that.”

And quite airily she responded, “That’s alright, I was partial to either intonation.” She seemed at peace with whatever she’d decided to believe also.

“I think it obvious how someone like you would feel about people like me.”

“Really? What would I feel about people like you? Anger? Revilement? Civic pride?”, she asked quite calmly, “How am I meant to feel for a nation that makes boys men before they can mock anyone properly?”

“For the little men it makes?”

The train whistles and she is made quiet.

“I’m quite sorry, but it seems to me that your sort has little sense against what makes monsters so.”

“And what do you suppose makes monsters?”

“Conviction and Ignorance. The willingness to become as such so long as you are adored for it, and the frailty of mind needed to put together a war effort.”

“And what makes you different?”

“Well, to put it simply. Nothing. I’ve had Ignorance, and I’ve had Conviction. But I wasn’t willing once I knew.”

“Knew what?”

“Knew what I was. What my father was. That he like I, was a child of the Amar. That we are the disgraced children of God, bound forever by their blessed eternity.” She smiles, “that I like he, was born with the glory of self-descent, and I could know the end of the world and rebuild it on my own if need be.”

“What a delusion.” He says in dismissal.

“My flesh and blood would beg to differ, but it would be truly deluded to explain it to one who’s chosen to be blind.”

“Then why are you?”

“Simple. I wanted to see my little brother before I let go.” copper of course met copper, but the same could be said of steel.

October 22, 2022 03:22

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Ifan Fin
09:10 Oct 22, 2022

Well, I've got to say I had to read it twice. Per usual in cases when you read something and it's difficult to make sense of it, it's probably your "fault", and not the writer's. This time it wasn't different. So I gave the story the benefit of the doubt, so to speak. It proved much more coherent and weirdly logical upon the re-read. I liked the tension between the two characters. I liked the not too obvious lines of dialogue and pushing back and forth between the "him" and "her". One reservation I would have is it was sometimes difficult to...


Kathleen `Woods
01:07 Oct 23, 2022

Thanks for reading! I'll be sure to bother a few of your works next. As far as the title in relation to the characters, I was hoping for a good play on words of course, but the 'Snake' part is definitely meta in a few ways Baseline Idea was that the Amar are a long-lived naturalized play on the Reptoid conspiracy theory, a contextually easy target for our 'boy with the stick' and his myopic views. That's its own joke, his lack of a name was less of one. (I mean unless my 'mastery' of time management is especially funny.) Belinda is mean...


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