Locomotive Breath

Locomotive Breath by Pritesh Patil

“Come on Pa, walk faster, we need to get off the tracks before the train comes,” said Mir.

“Yes, Pa. We’ll get you all patched up and healed once we’re there. The plague won’t get to us, we’ll live,” said Vir, hacking and coughing even as he smiled at the frail figure of his father trudging along on the snaking railroad.

“I’m walking-” cough, “- I’m walking,” their dad muttered feebly.

That’s when they heard the horn of the train, trumpeting loudly as it rolled forth like a juggernaut in the lonely woods, roiling smoke left in its wake.

“Faster, pa, faster,” said the younger son. “The train’s approaching, we need to leave the tracks!”

The elder son did not say anything, he only increased his efforts to pull and push their father sideways, trying to find a clearing to the side where they could hide from the incoming behemoth of smoke, steel and iron.

Alas, there was no such clearing, no hidey-hole to be found.

The gargantuan beast moved closer, ever closer, screeching and screaming as it devoured the tracks.

The family of three looked around wildly, but there was no escape. Death was here. It was everywhere, all pervading, and none could escape its clutches.

And then the Locomotive swept over the three travellers, with Death claiming the last of the villagers trying to flee its ice cold grasp.

Slowly, softly, the noise of the engine and the trumpeting horn of the locomotive receded and faded, moving off to destinations unknown.

…And the ghosts of the three travellers woke once again on the railroad, as they had for the past hundred years. Lost to time, lost to life, lost to death. Eternally riding on the railroad of the in-between, forever forsaken.

They had escaped the clutches of death, but peace was forever lost to these haunted souls, now haunting the forlorn railroad, hapless victims to Locomotive breath.

*****

P.S. – Yes, the title ‘Locomotive Breath’ is a reference to Jethro Tull’s song of the same name. Tip of the hat to all those who got it.

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