Preface: Unfortunately, I was a bit busy today, and so wasn’t able (or maybe didn’t feel like) writing a post. But I didn’t want to break my promise of daily posts Monday through Thursday already, so I have a cop out! As I mentioned in my last post, I write for Nazar, an online magazine run by students at the University of Texas at Austin. There are a lot of great articles on the site, so I highly recommend you check them out at nazarmagazine.com!
Today, I’m going to share with you what just might be my most favorite work. It’s a short fictional piece called “Don’t Stop Believing”, based on (you guessed it!) the hit song “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Enjoy!
Steve turned his back on the train station and took one last, long look at the city below. Detroit sprawled on endlessly it seemed, glowing like a million fireflies in the dark. Its nightlights and skyscrapers almost managed to drown out the darkness and gloom of the surrounding night. But not quite.A rush of bittersweet nostalgia flooded through him as he looked down upon the city that had been his home for the past nineteen years. He had laughed and cried on those streets, had suffered the unbearable pain and agony of loss, had experienced the joyous euphoria of success. So many firsts: his first wobbling little bicycle, his first friend in his first sandbox, his first graduation, his first kiss… It was his home, his world. But not anymore.A single teardrop fell from his face and landed lightly on the pebbles at his feet, rolling down the face of the cliff. Maybe it would slide all the way down and make its way into the heart of Detroit, onto the busy streets where he used to tread every day. Maybe it would wind past the city roads and reach The Park, where he and his friends used to kick rocks around after school. And maybe, just maybe, it would find its way to his old home, scale the rickety fire escape, and come to his small apartment on the fourth floor, where it would curl up in the top corner of his bed and lie awake for hours reading and thinking and wondering, just as he used to. It was horrible having to leave, just horrible. But he had to. There was no other way.
Another tear fell onto the rocks. And another.
Snap out of it, he rebuked himself sharply, giving his head a rough shake. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, but they were dry. He looked up and saw the night sky darkening, the bright spots in the sky beginning to give way to ominous thunderclouds that filled the horizon. Several raindrops fell on his face before he managed to pull his black woolen jacket up over his head and cower beneath it. Once upon a time, he had met the rain with a jubilant grin, had ran out onto the streets and played heedlessly on wet sidewalks and in the shallow, muddy puddles beside them.
Suddenly, there was a great clanging ring and Steve was jolted into the present. The train! He turned sharply, jacket still up, rain still pattering rhythmically on his back and head, and broke into a quick trot, heading back towards the train station. The clock tower, far away and below him, struck two. He quickened his pace. Again he heard a third loud and jarring ring pierce through the rain. He broke into a run. It was midnight, and the last trains would be leaving soon. He didn’t want to think of what would happen if he missed them. He slipped and skidded on the damp rocks, but managed to keep his balance, reaching the entrance as the clock struck four.
A thin, frail man sat there. No, a thin, frail boy; he couldn’t be any older than Steve. The boy was yawning at his desk behind the glass counter, but at the sight of this disheveled and soaking stranger he sat up, perplexed. “Can I help you?”
The clock, partly muffled now by the strengthening rain, struck a fifth time.
“I need to get on the next train.” Steve dug into his pocket and drew out a fistful of small coins, shoving them at the boy.
The boy looked at him curiously before taking the money. “You’re a bit late, sir.” There was a hint of condescension in that last word, but Steve ignored it. The clock struck again. It sounded fainter now, sadder.
“Please,” said Steve, “please.”
The boy looked on the verge of spouting another snide remark or two, but instead simply handed Steve his ticket.
“You better hurry up. She’ll be leavin’ any time now.”
Steve took the ticket. He thought he heard another ring.
Stuffing the ticket into his pocket, Steve hurried through the gate. The station was deserted and Steve was alone, save for the hulking figure of the great black train on the tracks in front of him. It had already started moving, slowly, steadily, inexorably. He had a moment’s hesitation. He was really going to leave Detroit. He was really going to leave. The thought slowed him, while the train sped up. How could he leave? Why must it be like this? But then he remembered what happened (as if he could forget, as if he could ever forget). His eyes brimmed with tears and a rush of resolve filled him. He leapt onto the train.
It had sped up even more at this point and was gathering speed quicker and quicker. He turned his head quickly, desperately, but could barely catch a glimpse of Detroit before it was obscured by the darkness. With a strange pang, he realized he hadn’t heard the clock strike twelve, and would never hear it again.
Dejectedly, Steve turned into the car and found an empty compartment, slumping down inside it and immediately drenching the seat with his sodden jacket. He took off the jacket and shoved it into the otherwise empty luggage rack. He didn’t have any luggage. Now shivering and exhausted, he leaned against the window and closed his eyes. It wasn’t until he was about to fall asleep that he realized he didn’t know where he was going.