Lacuna: A Nexus Troupe Novel

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Pink Tracks (Part 2)

As her sad brown eyes lifted to take in the unyielding sights, Suri saw the usual train folk. An older man with a brown leather jacket looked down at his leather strapped watch impatiently. A person in ridiculously high, black heels and tattered jeans hopped the tracks to lazily cross to the platform she stood on. Except it was the young girl who had caught her attention with that laugh; a young girl with her father—or so she assumed by the similarities in their faces.

The chubby faced girl laughed sweetly as her father handed her a sandwich and took a sip from his coffee cup. They held each other’s free hands and settled onto a bench of their own, leading the teenager watching them to think back to when she used to take the train with her own father. When she was small like the giggling girl, Suri would hold her father’s hand tightly, too, and shy away from the curious glances the passengers would throw her way. She had always been a fussy child, especially in crowds, so he had developed a ridiculous game for them to play to keep her occupied.

***

“Daddy, won’t you be late to work?”

Her father looked towards the approaching train, but he didn’t seem as concerned as the four-year-old holding his hand. Knowing that his answer would be swallowed by the train’s horn ringing out as it slowed to a stop, he settled for smiling at her pouting face and scratched at his stubbled chin.

The two entered the train. It was crowded. They barely had space for her to stand between his steel-toed work boots, so he picked her up with one arm and held the blue strap dangling from the rail with his free hand.

“You’re going to be late,” Suri whined. “We missed the train we’re normally on.”

“Suri McAllister,” he said, his tone an almost sing-song quality. Something he used to placate her. “Think about now. Not later, okay?”

The nervous girl tugged at the collar of her burgundy coat and fussed with the baby blue scarf around her neck until her father adjusted them both for her. When a kind passenger saw the pair, he offered them his seat. Her father thanked him and sat the girl on his lap. He quickly began busying himself with a crossword puzzle that she wasn’t old enough to read yet, and the girl who would normally have slept on their earlier train, became disgruntled on this one.

“Right now, I’m bored,” she said.

He laughed and folded the newspaper in his hand, tapping it against his faded jeans as he looked around curiously. “Let’s play a game then.”

Suri nodded in excitement as her father continued, taking advantage of her enthusiasm.

“Let’s see who can find the most interesting person before our stop.”

The girl looked around before fully understanding what she was doing, only knowing that she wanted to win the game, but frowning when she realized that she wasn’t sure how.

“Interesting? What’s that?”

“You know, interesting,” he poorly explained. “Find the person who, the one who…”

He readjusted her on his lap and bit his lower lip in thought—a habit she had recently began to inherit. She fussed when he placed his chin heavily against the crown of her head, accidentally shifting the knit hat she wore. He fixed it, fluffing out the pom-pom bursting from its seam, before clarifying his words from earlier.

“The most interesting person, well, that would be the person who you would want to ask the most questions to. Let’s see who could find them first.”

“Deal.”

***

Another loud fit of giggles from the girl who was now boarding one of the incoming trains with her father made Suri’s recollections flip upside down. Her already frayed nerves completely unraveled. Her hand shot up to cover her mouth and her fingertips grazed the wetness that had formed on her cheeks. With a gasp, as if she had stopped breathing altogether, she took a step away from the edge of the tracks. Then she began to pace in a brief, anxious circle.

That wasn’t something that she needed to remember. Not right now. Not today.

She wiped the moister from her face. She had to stop being so indecisive. She had to commit to her decision. Nothing was going to change her mind. Nothing could be as important as what she had lost nor could anything be regained from a life as cruel as this. In a few minutes, her train would be coming—the one she had scouted out and was currently waiting for—making today the last ‘today’ that she would ever have to suffer through.

There would be no tomorrow.

She stepped forward once more. Her toes would have curled around the edge of the tracks if it weren’t for the thick soles of her cheap shoes. Despite having brushed the tears from her face, more quickly came to replace them. They trailed and smeared across her cheeks. A rare few breaking from the curve of her jaw and down into the tracks. As they did, they plopped onto the hiding creature tucked against the wall.

She hadn’t noticed the small animal, never would have if she hadn’t startled it and caused it to flap the moisture from its tussled, dirty feathers. The strong thrumming of its purple wings and the shrill twitter it released when it was cried on startled Suri in turn, making her jump with a start and rock precariously on the edge of the tracks. She held her arms to her side to regain her balance.

The stupid thing had almost made her fall in too soon.

With a frown, she scrutinized the shoddy little bird. If it were cleaned up and healthy, it would be a pretty fowl. A stunning, almost glowing violet tinted each of its small feathers, or at least that was what she could glean through the mud coating its back and tail. And once it had calmed down some, its desperate sounds of surprise were replaced with a lulling song. She could also see that only one wing seemed to want to take off; the other hung out uselessly to its side.

It would be her and this bird then. Both useless, both tragic, both just moments away from an end to their poorly constructed existence. It was unfortunate just how annoying the bird was though.

She couldn’t help the regular chatter and clamoring of the station, but she really wished that it were quieter as she contemplated her final moments. The laughter was gone, but there was still the everyday talking, the musicians drawing the crowds away from her, and the bird pointlessly flapping. In fact, it sounded like it was chirping much louder now.

“That’s totally annoying,” she said.

“I agree.”

A cold embodied her though the long arm that slunk around her waist and the boney chin pressed against her now rigid shoulder were warm. Thin fingers brushed across her skin as they tucked themselves into her hood to pull it down. She could feel dry lips brush against the arch of her ear as they parted to release a soft hushing sound that made her nauseous. The sensations wrapping around her all at once made her flinch, but that only served to get her tangled deeper into them because the man behind her firmed his hold and pulled her flush against him.

“Keep looking forward.”

Her heart leapt at the sound of his voice, but she did as he said. She looked at anything that she could see. The gum ridden benches, the different shoes people wore, the light bulb flickering on the passengers boarding the next train several stations over. As she did, the man rewarded her for her obedience by standing upright, removing his face from beside hers. His jaw softly shifted the hair at the crown of her head, as if he were slowly turning his own head in search of something.

When a loud, aggressive twitter sung up from the tracks, the man twisted them both, jerking Suri against his side. The sudden action turned her to face the tunnels with a muffled yelp of surprise. In response the bird grew louder, the chirping sound becoming scolding, nearly alarming. However, she could feel the man tense and relax his arm around her narrow midsection, as if in warning.

“This will not do.” His voice was low and calm. Sickening and distorted. It made the shaking in her legs worsen and she had to cling to his arm just to not collapse to the tiled floor as the air fought to reach her lungs in quick huffs.

“Next to arrive on track five,” the announcer spoke, “Express train to Somerton.”

Suri’s eyes widened. Her train. The train that she could now hear screeching in the distance, could now see the lights of bouncing off the metal beams on the stone tunnel, was now headed this way. When she was waiting for it, time felt like a short forever. Now that she needed time to stop, it wouldn’t hear her.

“Thank you for finding him. It took longer than I would have liked,” the man said. She felt his nose brush across the back of her neck. Without realizing that she had, she released a sobbing scream. “I have to reclaim him, so now, I am in need of a solid distraction. You understand, right?”

With that, his arm slithered away from her waist. Before she could turn towards him, or run, or even scream again, a hand shoved against her side and flung her into the tracks directly in front of the moving train.

The gravel between the wooden blanks and rails tore through her coat and blouse. Her head slammed against something rough and solid. Her fingers clawed at the dirt and rocks beneath her. A series of shadows fluttered across her vision as the train lights refracted in the tears pooling in her eyes. The weak whimper she released was drowned out by the horn echoing through the tunnel and the screech of the train’s brakes.

The train wasn’t supposed to stop here. It must have seen her. But it wouldn’t stop in time.

She could argue that she had wanted this; it wouldn’t make her feel better, it wouldn’t fix it, but she could just agree to the fact that this is what she had accepted for herself. Regardless, she pulled herself onto her scraped knees. She pressed herself against the edge of the platform, unable to gain enough leverage to pull herself up, but giving herself a direct line of sight to the train thundering her way.

A flapping, fragile movement caught her attention. It was the annoying bird. Instead of accepting its fate as she had, it beat its wings furiously, singing loud enough to be heard over another ringing squeal of the train’s brakes. The horn sounded again, and this time she folded in on herself and screamed.

The bird struggling beside her had lifted itself just enough to land in her lap. She curled around it, but the moment it touched her a sharp burning radiated from her hand. It only added to the chaos. She clenched her teeth tightly to restrain the cry threatening to escape her as the searing pain ripped from her hand and into her arm. The train released a final, metallic shriek, and her body felt as though it were fully engulfed in flames.

As she twisted away from the light and heat that the train gave off, fingers curled into the collar of her ripped coat. They yanked the shredded material upwards until they could find purchase on her limbs and firmly wrap around them. She pulled against it, fought against the person trying to pointlessly save her. None of this was part of the plan.

Kicking, flailing, sobbing—she felt herself rise.

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