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7 Seconds

Of Winter

Either it was funny to view life through the tiny lenses of their devices, or they knew something I didn't know as I entered through the train doors. I plop into the nearest seat.

"This train is headed to—"

I assume the conductor turned off the automated voice.

My tired, occupied hands find residence in my lap. The metallic clamp at the end of my untucked belt makes about as much noise as a balloon POP! against the hard plastic of the train seats. I look for lines of familiarity in the somber faces journeying in the same car as me. Somber except for those two. He was someone who you could tell was very long in stature when he stood. The girl who sits beside him is small with thick, black curls.

Did they see me in their tiny lenses?

A light, intentional tap on my shoulder interrupted my thoughts.

"What're you selling?" She asked politely, gesturing to the plastic bag I clung to. But her eyes told me don't mess this up.

"Erasers," I say boldly. 

It was the passcode. It meant something I didn’t know or didn’t know, yet. I was told to memorize it four weeks ago by The Instructor. The disguised person I met with for several months.

"Do they work?" she continued to challenge. 

My eyes never left hers.

"I bet my life, they do." 

She nodded, my answers all lined up. Her hand beckoned me inconspicuously to follow her. I rolled my eyes right and down to glance between her and the prize. She didn’t move immediately. Seconds passed before she walked toward the door that led to the next train car. I checked the small, black bag I was carrying before I followed her towards the end of our container. It felt familiar, holding it, but I wasn’t knowledgeable about its contents.

She was waiting between the cars when I arrived, gazing at the quickly escaping, rugged ground. Her face lacked expression. Or rather, emotion, her expression was blank. I was unable to see anything that her eyes might have revealed if I saw into them. One second she was crouching in prowess and the next...

She vanished.

I was somewhat beside myself when I noticed the turn this night had taken. And so soon. As if I wasn’t tired enough catching trains and buses to deliver whatever was in this bag. A simple, kind warning: “Mister, you’ll be jumping off a train” would have had me much more prepared. Nevertheless, I followed suit clutching my precious cargo. In landing on the ragged grass and gravelly rocks beside the tracks, I winced in pain. My shoe had fallen off, but my tour guide showed no interest in helping me find it. I didn't care to find it, anyway. It was too dark outside and everything pretty much looked the same.

"This way," was the last thing she said to me. 

I couldn't quite capture her tone. I didn’t think I was in trouble but perhaps I had done something wrong. Again. We were approaching a cave of rock and one man, very memorable, stood guarding the entrance. He inspected me up and down before taking a step forward and sighing. I looked around for who I thought was my guide. But again, she was gone.

"Mister," he said, shaking his bald head, "what're you selling?"

I got nervous as he was shaking his head. My memory began to slowly return the nearer I came to the cave and the man. My memories of a time before... twice before, maybe three times. 

"I...I'm selling erasers," I repeated. 

My contact faltered, though. My fingers became clammy and the bag kept slipping regardless of my hold.

"And where is your shoe?" 

I looked down. I was supposed to leave no trace. I remembered, now! But I'd forgotten, earlier, and didn't care to pick up my shoe. I swallowed and opened my mouth to answer as I met his resigned eyes, but he was shaking his head again. I wanted the hazel, don’t-mess-this-up eyes to come back. They were warning, but comforting. I felt empty...

And gone.

“Give me that!” 

He swiped the bag from my unexpecting, troubled fingers. 

Strong, thick winds were created from thin air. It all disappeared. The cave, the bald, angry man...wasn’t there someone else with me? I felt a cool trickle down my leg. When did I cut myself? Had I fallen? I looked up and could see a tear in the bag, a jagged shadow was outlined on the ogre’s thigh. I wanted to speak. My questions dissipated as fast as I thought them. 

“Maybe next time you’ll—”

And gone.

Either it was funny to view life through the tiny lenses of their devices, or they knew something I didn't know as I entered the train doors. I plopped into the nearest seat.

"This train is headed to—"

 

I’m assuming the conductor turned off the automated voice.

I still don’t know where I’m going.