Since December two people have stepped in front of a train in a town that I pass through on to get to work ( yes, on a train ) and were struck and killed. I have to admit, I am haunted by the thoughts those poor Souls must have felt when they did that. I guess this little story is about that second when a very bad idea makes it way into you- and where it might come from.
” I come here every morning at the same time, just a few minutes before the 1564 comes through and I ask myself-” she said to the people standing next to her ” Is today the day I feed the beast? Or do I keep walking with everybody else to the other side?”
They- the same dozen people who got off the train and crossed the tracks to the parking lot every single work day of the week- could hear the train whistle blow from up the tracks and within a minute or two the railroad gate arm started to lower, it’s lights started to flash and it’s bells started to ring.
Nobody wanted to look at her, nobody wanted to talk to her because even though she didn’t look like one of the homeless people who lived along the tracks she sounded exactly like one of them on a bad day- she had the voice that merged on despair or hollow and forced jocularity tinged with anger.
The train was almost to the station and there was so much noise it gave everyone there a reason to not look at the woman who was looking up the tracks towards the incoming train.
She was still talking, they could hear her just under the sounds of the bells and the train’s engine and they all felt the same- relief. Nobody needed to have crazy talked forced on them- they were almost home.
They were almost safe.
Not safe yet though, because each of those words was no only etching themselves on their brains but the insides of their eyelids” Is today the day I feed the beast?”
They didn’t realize that was happening at that moment but they could feel it in their bones.
After the train roared by and the bells stopped chiming and the gate arm started to raise they heard her say, ” I might not feed the beast, ” did she laugh or was that sound she made a cough ” but someone here will. ”
” I can smell it.”
A few of them chanced it and looked around to catch sight of the woman, but she was gone.
A few others looked from one face to another and wondered if she had ever been there at all.
When they reached the other side of the tracks they weren’t walking so close together like they usually did, they weren’t chatting or even looking at their phones.
The words she put into their ears, the words that were nesting themselves in the darkest corners of their minds snuggled down and made themselves at home.
Someone here is going to feed the beast.
They were sure of that.