Flash Fiction: The Devil and Train

Okay, so this is not technically flash fiction. This is the draft opening to my current WIP, which I have been working on the last few months. This is why there has not been much flash fiction – so I thought I’d share a little of what I’m working on!

It’s rough, but it’s the idea. Hope you like!

Adam McCormick had not decided whether he would hit the man in retaliation when the bartender set another glass of scotch down on the dusty bar. His cheek hurt now, and the scotch would surely help that. But if he sat back down to drink, the other man might come after him again, in which case he would need more scotch. He didn’t know if he had the trade for that.

So he pushed his sleeve up, pulled his fist back and let the punch fly, hitting the red-faced man squarely on the jaw and sending him sprawling across the old, sticky wood floor. Satisfied, he straightened his father’s old leather bomber. He touched his cheek gingerly, sat down and tossed back his drink.

“You’re gonna get it now,” the man rasped. He held his jaw and didn’t get up – he was far too drunk to stand.

Adam snickered. “Stop it. You’re scaring me.”

Dark-barHe caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar and looked away. He didn’t like looking in the mirror, anymore. He only ever saw Isaac, only ever saw the same sandy hair, the blue eyes the color of an ocean he never thought he’d get to see.

He put the glass to his lips and savored the last drop. He had never been in here before, and he never would again. Shame, he thought. He kind of liked the place.

The bar had probably been nice once. Adam imagined it might have had all the top of the line liquors, cushy bar stools, deep, dark booths. He imagined young, hip college students laughing and dancing, maybe some atmospheric music playing in the background. Not that he had ever seen a bar in their heyday, but he’d seen the movies as a kid. Now there were only two stools, the cushions ripped and the stuffing nearly gone. The booths were covered in more than one kind of bodily fluid, and the floors…well. Best not to think about what had touched them in the last ten years. He knew drinking the alcohol in that dark, musty place was probably a bad idea, but Adam had never been one for thinking things through. Besides, the bartender seemed like a solid, if quiet, fellow. He looked too old to be up to no good.

“Mind filling this up?” Adam removed a flask from inside his coat and passed it across the scratched wood. The bartender chuckled and took the flask.

“Bourbon,” Adam said. He fished a dull gold watch out of his pocket, nicked from some bastard he’d met in Five Points. The bartender took it with dirty fingers. He inspected it with a discerning eye, then finally nodded his acceptance of the trade and turned away.

“You taking a trip, kid?” he asked. He took a murky bottle from the shelf and tipped the neck over the mouth of the flask, spilling just a little over the side. He didn’t bother to wipe it up.

“Yeah,” Adam replied. He finished off his scotch and set the glass down on the counter.

His palm itched and he flexed his hand. He’d been so drunk he could barely remember what happened. But the scar on his hand, thick with newly dried blood, reminded him. The Devil had yellow eyes. Or maybe that was the whiskey and whatever pill Scott had given him talking. He couldn’t be sure, couldn’t really know if the deal he made was with the devil or just that vile combination and his grief.

“Train should be arriving soon,” the bartender said. As if in answer, a shrieking whistle pierced the air, followed by a rumble that vibrated through the bar.

He handed the flask back to Adam. “You really think you’ll get there?”

Adam stood and shrugged.

“Does it matter?” he asked. The bartender had no reply to that, so Adam turned and walked toward the door. His attacker still lay sprawled on the floor, more from the drink than the hit. He grumbled obscenities as Adam made his way toward the exit. Adam contemplated doing a little more damage, then lost interest and stepped over the drunkard. He walked out of the bar, door swinging behind him, and made his way around to the corner to Union Station.

Denver_union_station_2008There was only one passenger car. Adam watched as it pulled up to the dilapidated station, smoke spewing as it rolled in. It was an older train, from way back when diesel was the preferred fuel. Long before Amtrak, long before the world started relying on electric. We’re gonna kill the planet, using up all the fossil fuel. That’s what they’d all said. Look at us now, Adam thought.

The train was a scraped and cloudy silver, with patches of rust pockmarking the paint. The name Zephyr was painted in big, italic deco style block letters. Whatever other passenger cars there had been were unhooked long ago, and probably abandoned somewhere along the track. Not enough fuel for more than one passenger car. Barely enough for one, he was sure.

But here one was. And Adam had a ticket. Somehow, some way, he’d bartered enough to get his hands on one. True, he’d had to fight to keep it – more than one person had jumped him based on rumors he had it. But Adam was nothing if not resourceful, nothing if not scrappy. He was the older brother but still, somehow, the shorter one, and Isaac had never failed to find ways to remind him.

He shook his head. Had to stop thinking about Isaac. Had to stop thinking about him like he had just gone out on an errand and would be back any second. Would be sitting next to him on this train. Four years was long enough to get over it, everyone told him. But after his dad…well. After that, it didn’t seem like it would ever be enough.

And so one night he drank too much and swallowed some ragged pill, and found a crossroads and buried his summons and there it was. A vivid hallucination, an unfair bargain, if you could even call it that, and more blood than he’d thought could be found in a palm. So it could not be called a miracle that he came across this ticket because there was no such thing, not for Adam McCormick, not for he who may or may not have seen the Devil. Miracles were the work of someone who no longer believed in him.

The train rolled to a final stop on the track and whistled. Beckoned. A line of people stood at the platform, eyes to the ground. It wasn’t the way to make eye contact these days. Wasn’t the way to chit chat with people you’d never met, to make friends with those strangers while you exchanged information. Friends died. It was easier not to make them so readily.

Adam got into line behind a burly man, and took a deep breath. California here I come.





3 Responses to “Flash Fiction: The Devil and Train”
  1. Dave says:

    Yay! Thanks for finally posting a part of your WIP, Hannah 🙂 Love what I’m reading so far, and am wondering where the story goes from here. If you want, or need, a beta reader, I’m happy to volunteer. Otherwise, I’ll anxiously await the next installment.

    BTW – I just blogged about whether or not to post works in progress, or even complete stories. In this case, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read something you’ve been working on.

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