A short story by Jess Riegler
New York, June 2016
Lena crouched behind a destroyed building and peered around the corner into the train yard. A soundless yellow flash went off over her head lighting the night sky. Choking sulfuric powder mixed with rain stopped her breath. She pulled out a cloth and held it over her nose and mouth. She had to get out of here.
One freight train lurched into motion, metal wheels squealing on the rusty tracks. She’d heard from other resistance members that the trains were full of weapons heading for the Canadian border. She could sneak onto one of these boxcars. Looking left, right, left, she bolted across the seemingly deserted train yard and found a boxcar that was open and full of wooden crates.
Another yellow flash went off as if a switch had been flipped. A smell like skunk and rotten eggs made her wince. She looked into the boxcar. Two yellow eyes stared out at her from between the wooden crates. Then the flash extinguished, the world again dark. Men’s whistling and hollering started up behind her in the yard and she knew she’d been seen. She hopped into the boxcar just as the train jerked forward. She staggered towards those eyes.
Lena sat down and listened to the train and the sound of her own breathing. She tried to hear if she was alone or not. Then another sulfuric flash went off. This time it was just a match lighting an oil lamp illuminating an old woman. The old woman sat leaned up against the crate and offered her a lit cigarette. She nodded and thanked the woman, drew on the cigarette and leaned her head back.
Lena watched the old woman out of the corner of her eye. She smiled and swayed and seemed to be on something. Something strong. Her hands rested in her lap and she closed her eyes, becoming completely still. She hung her head, damp brown hair veiling her face, and looked like she might pass out.
Then she raised her head and opened her mouth. “Lena,” a man’s voice said, “Lena, I need your help.”
Lena started shaking in her cold wet clothes. That was his voice, the man Lena had met two weeks ago. She was running from one of those tiny sabotage gigs that the resistance so pitifully tried to make against the war machine. They had met up outside a dilapidated house where they were forced to spend the night hidden in a basement apartment. He had the stone, the one they needed to cripple the reactor that supplied the war machine with energy. But someone was after him and the stone as well.
“Lena, you must come to me,” the voice continued from the old woman’s mouth. “I need your help. This woman can lead you to me. I will show her where to take you.”
If this woman was channeling his voice he must be dead.
The woman went quiet, slumped and leaned against the wooden crate. The flame from the oil lamp burned low. Lena checked the woman’s breathing and her pulse. She was alive but just barely. The train rolled on.
That night with him was incredible. They were soaked through and cold. The bombs seemed to produce an unstoppable rain. The room smelled of wet wool, smoke and sulfur. They never took their eyes off each other like two animals ready for a fight. There was no more need for words because the thoughts hung tangible in the room.
The war machine had been bombing Wall St. heavily and the sky beyond the broken windows glowed yellow. She took off her black beret and threw it on the chair. He lunged at her and kissed her hard. He pulled her towards the floor and they knelt there facing each other. He unbuttoned her black turtle neck shirt and buried his face in her black silk bra. He opened her black pants and tugged them down around her thighs.
She pushed him backwards and he lay back on the floor. She stood up, undressed completely and rubbed her fingers over her lips, watching him. He squirmed out of his clothes and held his hand out. She placed one foot by his left hip, the other by the right and towered over him, watching him rise. She heard a dirty grinding guitar in the back of her head and slowly lowered herself onto him.
She ground her hips onto his, swirled and danced for him. She tightened her muscles around his cock, pulled her hips up a bit and then thrust him back in deeper. She leaned over him, kissed his lips and nuzzled his face like a cat would...
The train came to a sudden halt. Lena jumped when the old woman screamed. The lamp tipped over. Oil spilled on the floor of the boxcar and ignited. Lena grabbed the woman. They jumped into the night, landing against some bushes on top of a steep bank.
The train started rolling again. They sat still until the sound disappeared into the distance.
Lena shook the woman. “Who are you? Where is he?”
“I don’t know what happened,” the old woman said. “I only wanted to get out of the city. I’ve lost…everyone.”
“Where is he?” Lena screamed. She didn’t know his name.
The old woman began to cry. Lena’s arm automatically loaded up for a backhand.
A white flash erupted in the night sky. The force of the blast followed immediately. The two women were thrown down the bank and landed by a stream. Enveloped in a hot rush of white air, the cold rainy night became an inferno.
Lena lay flat on her stomach until the winds subsided. Dawn broke and the rains started again. She touched the old woman. She was alive.
Lena thought about the train, the oil lamp, the fire, the explosion. And him.