The Tracks

Roxanne loved to travel. She used to say she got it from her mother, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Now she walked along the old railroad tracks watching the sunset, her backpack tucked safely behind her back. Trains hadn’t used the tracks for years, so she felt safe walking on them through the edge of the desert. 

She stumbled on the rocks between the rails as her phone rang, cutting into the silence. She pulled her phone from her pocket and flipped it open. The screen showed the call coming from an unknown number in California. Since she didn’t know anyone in California, she let it go to voicemail and continued to walk down the tracks. 

The sun was starting to touch the horizon, and Roxanne looked for a place to set up camp for the night. It didn’t need to be much, as she only wanted to toss out her sleeping bag and get a few hours of sleep. There were many more miles on the trip she had planned. A few yards later, she found what she was looking for. A clump of trees with limbs hanging low enough to hide her for a glance. She moved off the tracks and into the cover of the trees. 

It only took a few seconds to untie her sleeping roll from her backpack and spread it on the ground. Roxanne took a bag of beef jerky and one of trail mix out of the top of the backpack. Settling on the sleeping bag, she nibbled for a few minutes as she let her body relax. There was no way he was going to find her. It had been far too long for someone like him to track her. She took a long swallow of water from her water bottle before putting all of it back in the backpack. She slipped her boots off and tucked them under the pack at the head of her sleeping bag. The nightly ritual now more habit than thought now. The sleeping bag was warm as she crawled into it and the thought that she might not need it skittered across her mind. She pushed the thought aside and settled down to sleep for the night.

Roxanne was awakened in the dim light of false dawn by the sound of a train rattling down the tracks. She sat up in her makeshift bed, nearly knocking her head on one of the low-hanging branches to get a better look. There was indeed a train on the tracks. The even stranger part was that it was slowing to a stop in the middle of nowhere. 

She moved quickly under the cover of the last of the darkness to roll her sleeping bag and retie it to her bag. She was just slipping her feet into her boots when the train came to a complete stop. Her little temporary camp was even with the doors of one of the passenger cars, making her nervous about coming out of her hiding spot. 

A man opened the door and stepped down to the ground. “Excuse me, young lady. I believe we are here to pick you up.” He said in a British accent.

She stepped from the darkness under the tree. “What are you talking about? There isn’t a train station for miles in either direction.”

The man spoke in calm, clipped tones. “That is true. But that does not mean we are not here to pick you up, Roxanne. Now if you would hurry, we are on a schedule,” he said. 

Roxanne moved to stand closer to the train. “What’s going to happen if I get on that train. There hasn’t been a train on these tracks in more than twenty years.” She nodded toward the train itself. “And that beast hasn’t moved from the graveyard they parked it in for longer.”

The man smiled – a genuine smile that brightened his face. “You will not get hurt, that I can promise you. But we do need to keep to our schedule.” He turned and waved through the doorway. “If you could?”

Roxanne shrugged. She walked over and climbed the steps onto the train. Moving through the inner doors, she found a seat in the first cabin. There were only four other people in the train car and all of them looked out of time to her. 

As she got settled, the train began to move again. Picking up speed until it was traveling at a normal rate. The woman on the other side of the train car lifted her head and smiled. “Hello, you lady. How are you?”

Roxanne turned toward her. “I’m okay. What do you know about this train?” She asked. 

The door at the end of the car opened and a man in a crisp suit stepped into the car. He walked directly to Roxanne, stopping in front of her. “Roxanne?” He questioned. 

Roxanne nodded. “Can I help you?”

The man lifted his head. “I was directed to ask you where you wanted to go?” he said.

Roxanne cleared her throat before answering. “You mean I get to choose where I go?”

“That was always the point. It is long pastime for you to get to do what you want and be where you want to be,” the man said.

This time Roxanne smiled, understanding somehow coming to her about the train. “The old west. Someplace out in the middle of nowhere. A little cowboy town where I can just be without dealing with people.”

The man gave a single nod, turned away, and walked back to the door. “Just sit back and relax. It will not take long at all to get there.” He went through the door, leaving her in a now-empty train car. Everyone else seemed to have vanished. Strange.

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