Things That Makes One Smile

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that takes place on a train.... view prompt

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Things That Makes One Smile

By Perry Terrell

           Lincoln and Kiera had been dating for a year and three months. Kiera called Lincoln on her loneliest night of all times. It was a Friday night and they hadn’t seen each other or had been out together for nearly a month. Lincoln had rounded out a whole month of excuses with the working late to his parents were ill.

           She knew his parents were not ill because his mother worked as a cashier at the dollar store in the mall which was four doors down from Mutual National Bank where she worked. She would see his father drop her off; and they didn’t look not act sick.

           Kiera’s Oakland apartment was right across from Lake Merritt with a bright and sunny atmosphere. She should have been experiencing cheer, but she was lonely and abandoned.

           She got home from her job at the bank promptly at 5:00 p.m. this still sunny Friday evening. She gave Lincoln one more call to see what his newest excuse for not seeing her would be. Just as she anticipated, he had one.

           This time he was pretending she was a telemarketer calling him and talking about extra insurance with Medicare.

           “I’m not that old lady, and I don’t need a Medicare Supplement Plan.”

           Kiera heard a woman laughing in the background, then smacking lips and heavy breathing. Just as she tried not to think but had to face, it’s another woman.

           Lincoln hung up the phone.

           Next came a desperate and drastic decision. Kiera packed a couple of outfits and started walking. She wound up at the Amtrak train station which was not that far from her apartment. She was close enough to Amtrak that she could hear the trains whistles as they were coming and going.

           When she got to the ticket window, the agent asked her where to.

           “Arizona,” she said. She should have said Los Angeles. That would have been cheaper.

           “Phoenix, Arizona.” That was the only city in Arizona she could think of at that moment.

           “Coach, Business Class or sleeper car,” the agent asked.

           “Coach is fine.”

           “One way or round trip?”

           “Huh?”

           “When will you be returning? Any luggage to check?”

           “Oh, oh, one way for right now. No luggage to check.”

           Kiera’s broken heart pain was so intense, she couldn’t concentrate long enough to make a rational decision.

           “Platform A and the train will pull in at 7:00 p.m. It will arrive on time and depart on time promptly at 7:15 p.m. You will be on the Sunset Limited. Listen for the announcement.”

           “Thank you,” Kiera managed to say. She took her ticket and found a seat.

           It was somewhat crowded in the station, but she needed a crowd to keep from feeling totally alone.

           The ticket agent was right, the train did leave promptly at 7:15 p.m.

           She had a window seat and to look out of the window at everything you can’t see from the streets and freeway was somewhat relaxing. It was like an adventure. The train was passing bodies of water that she never would have known was out there. And to see in backyards was almost educational.

           Their first stop was San Jose. It looked like a hundred people were boarding the train. The seat she had to herself was now being shared. That was okay, but she was hoping the fellow wasn’t a talker.

           She plugged her earphones in her ears in hopes he would get the message.

           Obviously the train was on time again because when she looked out of the window again away from checking out the new passengers, the crowd was gone. Most of them were inside the train.

           Kiera’s seat mate did not get the earphones in the ears message and he touched her arm to get her attention.

           “My name is Kyle. What’s yours?”

           She took one earphone out and said, “Kiera. My name is Kiera.”

           She put the earphone back in her ear and he touched her again.

           “Where are you going? How far?”

           She took the earphone out again and said, “Phoenix, Arizona.”

           She left the earphone out for a few seconds anticipating another question, but Kyle didn’t say anything.

           When she put the earphone back in her ear, he nudged her and asked if she was going to visit family.

           “No, I’m just going,” she replied.

           “Where will you be staying?”

           Kiera nearly choked on air. She hadn’t thought of that.

           “I’m not sure yet. Surely there is a hostel in the area.”

           “I will be staying at La Maria in Estrella, Phoenix. It is only three miles from downtown and has the best ratings on the internet. And it is only $50.00 a night,” volunteered Kyle.

           “Maybe I can stay there too. Kiera’s voice was a tad weak from the shock of not knowing where she will stay when she got to Phoenix or anything else since she had not planned for this.

           “I have stayed there before and you will be pleased. This time of year, it is not crowded because the students are in school. I am sure you can just walk right in.”

           “I hope so,” she said still with a weak voice.

           “We can share a cab. You will be fine.” Kyle was very assuring. A stranger, but assuring.

           He leaned his seat back and closed his eyes. Kiera put her earphone back in her ear, starred at Kyle for a few seconds, then she leaned her seat back.

           The monotone noise of passengers talking was broken by screams and people running from the cars that were toward the front of the train which were the Business Class and sleeper cars. Coach was toward the end of the train just before the baggage car.

           “What’s happening?” Kyle yelled as the passengers were running over each other toward the back of the train.

           “Is this the end of the train?” a lady was screaming as she was running and holding tight to her baby as best as she could.

           “One more coach car and the baggage car. What is going on?” Kyle had started yelling trying to be heard over the screams and loud noises.

           “A woman is killing people,” someone said and ran to the lower deck of the coach car most likely to hide in one of the bathrooms. A few more people ran to the lower deck to hide while most of the passengers were still trying to crowd in the last coach car.

           Kiera, Kyle and a few more people couldn’t move because there was no space to move to.

           The train came to a screeching halt. It was stopped so abruptly that the passengers were being thrown around and were falling in piles on top of each other. Smoke was coming from the rails and the cars made a deafening sound as they were thrown into each other by the sudden stop. Carry on luggage was sliding under the seats and flying from the overhead resting places. Passengers were still screaming and yelling and trying to find a safe place to hide. Unfortunately, there was no safe place to hide.

           The only good thing was that all of the train cars were still on the track.

           Two shots rang out. She shot upwards in the air.

           “Oh my God,” a man yelled. “Why, why, why?”

           “Somebody grab her,” another passenger yelled.

           “What kind of gun is it? Did anyone see it?” yelled Kyle.

           “Looks like an M1911 .45 pistol,” another man said that couldn’t get out of his seat to run. He was scrunched down but could see the woman and the gun in her hand. “It’s made of black steel with brown wood on each side of the handle.

           “A .45,” Kyle said. “That can hold seven rounds and one in the chamber.”

           “How many shots have been fired, does anyone know?” Kyle was still trying to maintain a calm demeanor and help from behind the seat.

           The same man yelled, “I heard two shots, then people started running and she just fired two more.”

           “She got four more shots,” Kyle yelled.

           The woman was in a crazed daze and appeared to be looking around for someone in particular to shoot. Luckily, she wasn’t just shooting randomly.

           She was now in the same car with Kiera and Kyle. She was looking around and waving her gun. People were still screaming and trying to run where there was nowhere to run.

           The woman found her target. It was a man that had made his way beside the seat Kiera and Kyle was hiding. There were so many people trying to get away until that was as far as he could get. He was on his knees with his back turned to the woman. She shot him in the back three times and her eighth and last bullet was for herself. She turned the gun on herself, pulled the trigger and fell on top of the man.

           The passengers were terrified yet relieved that she did not shoot anyone else.

           The engineer had halted the train in the middle of almost nowhere and by the time the woman killed herself, the police finally arrived.

           The majority of the passengers had cleared the area and most of them had stepped off the train until the murder/suicide scene was cleared.

           After the couple had been put on stretchers in their body bags, the conductor made an announcement that the couple got on in San Jose on their way to Phoenix. The photographer had taken a picture of them and was passing it around asking everyone if they knew them.

           Kiera didn’t know the woman, but the man was Lincoln.

           She shook her head “no” like the rest of the passengers had done. Then she turned her head and smiled.

February 08, 2020 04:24

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