I sit silently on the hill, waiting for the train.
I don't want to get on it. I never do, I never did, and I never will again. I just sit, and wait, and watch for it, just to know that it's still there, and that I'm not the only one left.
Someone has to be running the train, I know. Someone is still there.
I don't want to find them, but it's nice to know.
I can hear it coming, far away, the chug-chug-chug of the old steam engine pumping smoke and water into the air, bringing ash to settle on the trees, the empty bird's nests, the new fallen snow. The distant clacking is comforting, but I still sit, I still wait. I can see my own breath like the steam of the train.
It's getting closer. Chug-chug-chug and clack-clack-clack dance in the breathless air, spewing black warmth into the silent cold. I pull my old jacket tighter around my shoulders.
I wonder if the train will still come through here in spring.
The empty gray sky tells me a story, today, of how I should get to shelter, or I might be stuck here, sitting, waiting for the train, in the snow and ice and ash. A story of snow, and snow, and then maybe snow tomorrow. There will be no sunset today, only empty grayness fading into black.
I can almost see it now, the big black engine chug-chug-chugging it's way along the frozen tracks. Every day, a moment and an hour before sunset, it makes its way through this empty forest. Empty now, but not when it started. Not back when, way back when, before me, before my mother, before my grandmother and great grandmother and all so many years ago, back when the train was new, and the tracks shone in the sunlight. Back before the tracks were lined with ash from the train rolling by, again, again, again, and again. Back before the forest was cut, and grown, and cut, and grown, and left to rot when nothing was left, and slowly, slowly grew back, back into something that it never thought to be. It's still a forest, but it's a place for things like me.
Things with no place for them.
I rub my human hand with my other, trying to warm it. My left shoulder is cold; I can understand why. It's a problem, but not in spring, not in summer, not in fall. I can deal with it in winter. Metal is cold, always cold, but I'm ok. I'm ok now.
The train is coming still. The light shines through the blowing snow, shining on the tracks. The tracks are black now; once they shone like my left hand does now. Once back when.
I wonder, when I am as old as these tracks, will the train still come?
The engine rushes by me, finally. I can see the silhouette of the coal man, rising and falling like a clock. I know they have machines for that now, but he still rises and falls, rises and falls, moving the train with his dented shovel and blackened hands. I can't see his face, but that's alright. I just need to know he's there. I just need to know I'm not the only one left.
The cars of the train clack-clack-clack along behind the engine, staring at me with frosted windows and darkened cars. There's nobody there, not like the coal man. If there was then I would never know. But the coal man is still there, and that's enough. That's enough.
I don't need to be lonely, not anymore. I don't need to feel that way. But somehow, somehow, I do, I am. But it's better to be lonely than to pretend not to be. This is my place; there is no other for me now.
But the coal man is still there, and that's enough. That has to be enough.
So I sit silently on the hill, watching the train roll away, staring at it long after it's faded into the distance, long after the clack-clack-clack fades into the silent cold.
The train still comes. And that's enough.
I wanted to write something not quite so happy; more specifically, I wanted to write something that felt like this. Not sure that I succeeded, but at least I tried.