It was a tiny spot. A spec really. It shimmered bright as the passing, flickering sunlight punched through the train cabin window. Miriam couldn’t pull her hazel eyes away. She had stared at the crimson stain for so long she had forgotten it was attached to the cuff of the man across from her.
The man had hardly noticed her when she entered the cabin. It upset her. Men don’t simply glance at her, they stare. Their eyes follow her every step. Rush to open doors only to trip over their own tongue. Draw every sensual and revealing part of her in with one long, impressive breath. She wasn’t being conceded she told herself, just honest. Men don't hide their desire.
Perhaps he wasn't feeling himself, distant and distracted from the world she thought. He wasn’t handsome. He wasn’t homely either. Kempt and well groomed with a kind of pathetic awkwardness that makes girls uncomfortable. Not her.
His suit was freshly pressed and black as coal. His fedora titled to one side and didn't fit him well. None of it did she thought. Miriam imagined a lonely life and felt a twinge of sorrow for him. He retrieved his pocket watch and examined the time, then let out an impatient sigh.
He intrigued her. The blood below his cufflink intrigued her more as the train departed another station. The way it soaked into the fibers and pulled at the thread. How it stood out like Venus in the early evening sky. She knew it wasn’t his. She didn’t know how she knew, gut feeling she guessed. It was fresh. An hour old.
How did it get there?
Who did it belong to?
Things happen she supposed. He wasn't the mob type, too frail to be a goon. He wasn’t a cop. He resembled a detective, but lacked the assuredness and confidence of one. Unemployed and defeated was a possibility. The pinned up aggression of failure upon his shoulders. A day drunk, then a fist fight before he returned home to a nagging wife and a screaming infant. All of it was plausible Miriam told herself, but there was something altogether different about him. Something she couldn't quite place. The motion of the train left her head woozy and her eyes grew heavy. She decided to close them and put the man out of her thoughts.
A warm summer wind drifted through the cabin and tickled Miriams toes like little flames. Her mind wasn't able leave the spot far behind. The story of how it came to be there was distant and insignificant to her. The spec reached for her. Called to her. She knew it was foolish, but it seemed alive, growing deeper, darker. She felt herself fall like Alice, a slow, gradual descent into the unknown. Next she was followed the voice down a long cavern. Water dripped and echoed through the emptiness. Only Miriam knew it wasn’t water. It was blood. Plop, Plop, Plop. The voice grew closer and out of the darkness the words finally reached her ears, “Time to go,” it whispered.
When Miriam awoke, a young boy, ten, maybe eleven, stood over her. His chest heaved for air, his heart desperately pounded under his shirt pocket. The boys eyes were wide, anxiousness and full of fear. His face was filthy, beads of desperation ran from his brow.
It was very sudden. The "Pop." The cool piece of steel gripped in the boys small hand. Miriams ears fell deaf. The pain was not immediate. She struggled to remember why she had boarded the train in the first place. Where she was going? Where she had been? She couldn't remember or focus.
Confusion washed over the young boy. He stared at the barrel of the gun and watched as the smoke churned and dissipated into nothingness. The smell of gunpowder filled his nose and he vomited on himself.
"Ss...ss...sorry. I...I...," the boys voice broke into a million pieces. The gun fell to the floor. The boy grabbed Miriam's handbag and she grabbed his wrist. Her grasp was weak and slipped right off the boys oily, sweaty skin. He ran
from the cabin. Miriam clutched her stomach as the first bit of blood pushed it’s way to the surface.
Quickly it spread.The man in the black suit snapped his pocket watch closed. The sound startled Miriam. She had forgotten he was even there.
"The boy dies," the man said calmly. He adjusted his hat and perched on the edge of the seat. "His shoelace gets tangled in the train. He's pulled under and dragged for miles. He suffers a great deal."
"Why are...," pain surged all throughout her body. She removed her hand from the wound, the stickiness of her blood surprised her. She swallowed hard, "Why are you telling me this?"
"He never meant to harm you, only steal from you. The weight of a man's weapon in the hands of child was too heavy for him. Finger slipped on the trigger."
"An accident then," Miriam coughed, blood had begun to fill her lungs and she could taste the iron, "and justice. The boy got what he deserved."
"I'm afraid not. There are no accidents. There's no judge or jury. There's only me. Everyone's time comes to an end. Even mine. Then another will take my place. There is only life and death."
Finally she understood. The blood made sense.
"Oh, God, I don't want to die." Miriam sobbed. “Please don’t let me die.” The blood pooled in her lap and the day faded to dusk.
"I don't want to take you, Miriam. You're far too beautiful."
"Really? You think so? You really think so?" The darkness came fast. Miriam thought about the man in the black suit and his words.
"Yes and it's time to go, Miriam."
She smiled, closed her eyes and never thought of blood again. The sound of his pocket watch took her away.
Motif: Blood. Setting: A Train. Sub-genre: Noir. Words: 996