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Adventure Coming of Age Contemporary

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Light coruscated through gray-tinted windows, illuminated by a hazy, smoky air—a sight for strong-willed individuals only—reeking. A rusted man remained, on display for the entire population to see. A solemn court scene unnerved spectators.

Rust blotches coated the man, with drained green eyes, so lost and not energized. Bags daubed his face. Due to his horrors, he had not slept in ages.

No punishment could make him repent. No God could save him.

"It's all my fault," he thought to himself.

Thomas was his name. A train driver. He looked like a train and soared ahead. With this war, Germany told him he needed to pull some prisoners into camps. Thomas was told that they were displaced by the World War. He had no clue.

Despite hearing violent screams, almost like thunder's shriek, as he galloped across the desolate mountains, he never really stopped.

He was just doing his duty—no one could fault him for that.

Thomas gazed at a pious ceiling, decorated with elaborate paintings. A resemblance to his own life: how a pleasant life can turn into evil. Birds chirped, illuminated by afternoon rays through tall, heavenly-strung up windows. His face changed as he realized what he had done, a guilty soul. Inquisitors leaned over, rage coursing through their heads.

Now, he stood before a jury. Millions judging him. Thomas wondered how could these people judge him? How could they comprehend what he had been through? They knew nothing. Self-sacrifice stained Thomas worse than blood stained soldiers.

Thomas opened with his defense, “All I wanted to be was a useful engine, at anyone’s service, no matter if they were rich or poor. Useful men always arrive on time. Useful men follow orders, you see.”

The prosecutor responded, “And were you aware of where you were taking the people you transported, Thomas? Were you?”

“I had only a vague idea, sir. I knew they were prisoners, people, but they felt like cargo to me. Just another shipment to deliver.”

"And you never questioned your orders? Where would you be taking them and why?”

“Useful men don’t ask questions. It wasn’t my job to know. It was my job to arrive on time. It was my job to drop them off.”

“Did you ever consider why you had no passengers afterwards? They were always full on the way, but always empty on the way back.”

Thomas had no response. His dead eyes. His blotchy skin. He was a shell—no soul encased in that hollow, fragile frame—nothing more.


“I am around coal-powered tank engines. I know the smell of coal, and I knew what was coming out of that place wasn’t coal.”

“And you still took thousands of people there a day?”

“There were my orders. Useful men follow orders. I would be dead if I didn’t follow them. There was no place for useless engines.”

“So, you valued your life over the countless innocent lives you mercilessly carried to their deaths? Do you even care?!”

“Useful men always follow orders. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“It may be so that useful men always follow orders, but honorable men sometimes disobey orders to save people from an untimely death! You may have been a reliable train transport man, but you were not a kind soul.”

“Tell me, sir, would you have stood up to them? The Germans?”

“What did you say?”

"Oh, I just see that you're a hypocrite," Thomas faintly chuckled. "Your self-righteousness is funny.”

“Why, you little—”

Thomas interrupted the man, “You listen here! I watched as my beloved friends died slowly from exhaustion—my friends! Whenever they stood up to the Germans, they died. They were tortured! Death plowed the air.”

Thomas roared in anger, “All I could do was follow orders, and you all would have done the same! The nature of things, ruling with an iron-fist with no remorse. Your consciousness talks a big game, but it’s weak. You wouldn’t save that cargo I was transporting. You would allow innocents to be slain then save them for your own sake! Do not talk about justice, you fool. This world cannot allow such mockery!”

“So, you were the last resort?”

“Everyone else was a goner! They were dead! The allies bombed all of the railroad infrastructure. The Germans chose me because I followed orders, like a train man should. They rebuilt the tracks for me!”

“So if you were the last engine, why didn’t you save those people?”

“The only difference between you and I, sir, is that I can see the tracks I follow. If you were on the tracks, you would have followed them too. You would have followed orders, just like me. Just like me!”

“So, did you transport them without remorse?”

Light shifted onto Thomas’s marble white face. He remained like a ghost, expressionless, simply stating his mind, “They didn’t get off. They were just coal.” He muttered this with a disturbing child-like innocence.

“And just how many did you transport?” The inquisitor asked.

Thomas laughed and stared blankly at a wooden wall. Then, he stared at some spectators, trying to recollect his past. “We… well… It was enough to keep me motivated for years. Did I do something wrong?”

A horrified inquisitor, realizing Thomas’ turmoil, yawped into thin air, “Coal doesn’t scream, Thomas! It doesn’t scream!”

“Good men always arrive on time, sir.” Thomas chuckled.

“You don’t get it, Thomas. You’re pure evil!” The man screamed.

“You weren’t there. Can you really say that? You weren’t forced to watch your friends be melted down into gun barrels and tank shells. You didn't see their flesh rotting like I did. I was told that they were merely being repurposed, but they never came back. I knew they were being killed for disobeying orders. And so, just as you would have done, I followed the tracks. I challenge you to find one person that would have stood up in my place. I dare you. Call me pure evil all you want, but I was just lucky they needed another train man.”

Thomas’ head jerked backwards, as flashbacks entered his mind.

“Thomas, do you hear me? Thomas?”

After he saw the flashbacks, the cries, the floating and burning remains of the people he couldn't save, Thomas snapped wide open. The cargo.

“Yes, I…”

He didn’t finish the sentence.

Vivid images flashed in-front of him. The starved and mangled inmates grunted as they laid the tracks for him with their strength. Only more misery awaits. The children walked out of cargo trailers unaware of what awaited them.

Parents looked back with tears in their eyes.

Water flooded Thomas’ eyes, running down his metallic face, once proud and beautiful, now worn down and rusted like the tracks.

September 23, 2022 15:33

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Tommy Goround
11:17 Oct 15, 2022



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