Iron Manimal

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Chapter 9

Sometimes when you get knocked out you can get knocked back in, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to me once whatever was left of the train finally crashed and crumbled to a halt. I had pissed and shat myself and was sweating profusely, it was extremely hot, but I was still too stunned to feel any pain. When I remembered myself I was shocked that I was still alive, awake again, with at least a few more problems to deal with before I died.

I couldn’t see out of my left eye, so I tried to rub it but my left arm was stuck in the remainder of some ruined console. I tried to dislodge it and my forearm broke off just below the elbow. I was strangely calm about this, I expected death at any moment. I wasn’t altogether aware of my surroundings but surmised that other cars and trees must have piled up close to the locomotive, the sounds, shadows, and heat of a large fire had forced themselves into my consciousness, there just isn’t enough wood or plastic in a locomotive to burn like that. There was enough fuel left inside of her to blow whatever was left of me to smithereens, but that was highly unlikely. Locomotives are built with exactly the opposite intention. So I would probably asphyxiate or be roasted alive.

I pawed at my left eye with my right hand and felt a pen sized metallic cylinder protruding from it. So it’s true, eyes don’t have pain receptors, and that explains why the old eye isn’t working. These questions resolved, I started staggering toward the ladder that led to the emergency exit, or hatch, on the roof. My right ankle was dislocated, but even with just one good leg and one good arm I could probably haul myself up. I touched the ladder and it was hot but bearable. Did I really want to climb out of here? Did I really want to go on living with one eye and one arm and god only knows whatever other damage to my brain and other organs, to start all over again as a mutilated cripple and criminal? Even with the relative security of my last job, back when I had all my limbs and eyeballs, I hadn’t been too happy. I was actually kind of miserable. How the hell did I expect to function now? I spent a long time at the bottom of that ladder, too long. The choice was taken from me, which I guess is a choice in a way.

A change in the light and shadows brought me out of myself. I looked out one of the windows but my view was obscured by smoke and the competing colors of the fire. A pulsating white light grew in frequency and intensity, like a strengthening heartbeat, until it reached some critical mass and blazed into life like a newborn star. I was certain my remaining eye had been blinded, all I could see was white quickly fading into red and black. I felt a creeping death begin at my toes. It wasn’t the escape or relief I had imagined, the pain was overwhelming and it had me trapped. It pushed me to lurch away from the light. I fell and dragged myself away on my belly. I felt it overtake me and pass through my calves and thighs and into my torso. When it reached my heart I was sure I was dead. I didn’t have time to revisit my past or say my goodbyes or renounce or endorse whatever. I felt my heart being torn from life into death and my consciousness fled to hide in some other darkness.

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