A Practical Man, Part II

A Future Vision

John paced the aisle of his locomotive prison, his hand on the apple in his pocket the entire time. Hunger pains gnawed at his insides, and his mouth and tongue had begun to swell from lack of water. It wasn't this way in any of the books he had read about a nuclear war. No one mentioned you could die all alone on a train car while the world burned outside.

He missed Daryl. He hadn't talked to the man much when he was alive, but felt a longing for his company now that he was dead. It was a confusing feeling for someone who was always alone. He hadn’t even minded that Daryl had gone crazy at the end, thrusting himself into the falling poison outside the train car.

He sat down in his favorite seat. The pacing wasn't helping to distract his mind or body. Looking out the window, he saw that nothing had changed. He had expected nothing less, and wasn't disappointed. Soft flakes of ash drifted lazily outside his window. There was no wind that he could tell. All was peaceful and dead.

He thought of his life before. A mundane job counting parts in a factory. His only responsibility making sure that each box had the same number before being sealed and shipped to who knew where. An empty apartment, except for the anti-social cat and the roaches that it chased at times as they scurried about underfoot. No light for most of the day and only darkness when he arrived home. It was a dismal existence, and he missed it terribly.

His thoughts strayed back to Daryl. He had recognized the man, having ridden on the train together multiple times, though they had never talked until the train had come to a rumbling, permanent stop. Daryl had looked at him right away then, and they had both shrugged in their confusion.

Their car had been sparsely populated, and everyone else had fled. John, being a practical man, had stayed on the train while weighing his options. By the time he had made the decision to leave, it was too late. The city took a direct hit, and it was only chance that the train had stopped far enough away from its destination that it wasn't incinerated instantly as well.

Daryl had begun to panic almost immediately. He seemed a high-stress person to begin with, but after the first shockwave, he had begun to rant. Sometimes he would rail against the government. Sometimes, it was pleading for redemption from some higher power. Sometimes he just sat and rocked back and forth in his seat and cried silently, tears streaming from tightly closed eyes.

John had been afraid at first that the man might try to harm him in some way, but Daryl had ignored him for the most part. It was odd to watch the other man fall apart, and strangely fascinating. All the while as the other man had gone insane, John has sat and thought about how his world would change. At least the factory was a pile of ash now, he thought with a measure of satisfaction. All the parts were destroyed, and would never be used as they were intended. He felt a sense of closure at this, almost a sense of freedom.

He sighed, knowing the feeling was merely an illusion. He was, after all, trapped on a train car from which there was no escape, with only a small apple in his pocket for sustenance as the hours passed by until his inevitable death. Sometimes it was difficult being such a practical man.


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A Practical Man, Part II