As I work my way onto fictional pieces/novels, I will be sharing here to get a grasp as to whether or not I'm any good. This one is a piece of a survival thriller I'm thinking about starting up.
Blossom boarded the train with only one large backpack as her luggage. The money she had stolen from the convent would be discovered soon, and she knew she had to move fast if she was to even attempt fleeing from her family. Images of her father, sweating and angry, flashed through her head as the attendant punched her ticket.
“How far will you be going today?” Blossom looked up blankly as she realized she needed a destination.
“How far can I go?” she inquired.
Click. He punched the ticket and moved on to the next rider. She didn't ask where she would be arriving, and the man punching tickets didn't seem to care if she ever got off the train. She put her head down and took her seat. Pulling the hood of her “make love not war” jacket over her face, she contemplated sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she couldn't stop the images of what her family was probably doing right now.
As the miles separated her from them, nausea at the reality of leaving set in. The cries of her sisters and brother echoed in her head. What she knew must be happening to them made her lose grip for what seemed like a hundred miles to her. Tears freely flowed down her tan cheeks but no sound escaped from her lips. She leaned forward, trying to ignore the sick feeling growing with every blink of her eyes. Jett would be discovering soon that she was not coming to bed after her chores by the river that ran through the city.
What that city was or how far away, she had never discovered. None of them knew what was out there. The land they cultivated seemed to run forever, rich with woods for food and ponds for for fresh water.
“Are you okay?”
Blossom jumped at the sound of another voice, thinking she was alone in the train car. Stammering, she tried to answer.
“I, uh... I just don't know where I'm... I don't know where the train is going. I'm lost... I've never been on the train before. It's hot in here...” Blossom began to choke on her panic. The man that stood next to her in the isle was the first person that had spoken to her since the man with the ticket puncher.
The yellowed lighting on the train made it hard for her to see his face clearly. Talking outside of the convent was forbidden. Not many members of her family had been trusted to ever speak to anyone from the outside world. When they did get to leave, it was only to procure clothing when needed.
Too aware that the man had sat down next to her, she searched wildly for help without knowing how to ask for it.
“I'll help you,” the man said quietly. “My name is Jack. Can I see your ticket?”
Blossom handed it over to him, her panic subsiding with the calming way he spoke to her. He chuckled. “You can't be going to Vegas.”
“No,” she played along and laughed. She attempted to dry her face with her sleeve and admitted, “I don't actually know where I'm going. I'm being... what do they call it? I just left. I didn't like it where I was anymore.”
“You want to go north then,” Jack leaned back in his seat, sensing her willingness to let him stay.
“How far is... Vegas from here? Is that where you're going?” Blossom knew from home that asking questions instead of answering them was always the best route. Jack seemed friendly enough to keep her company until she settled down and could finally fall asleep.
“Nah, I'm headed off to California. I'm gonna grow oranges.” Jack said with a smile.
“By yourself?” Blossom's thoughts drifted back to the darkness behind her. Ending up alone terrified her, and she began plotting her plan to retrieve her siblings as Jack faded into the background of other passengers boarding. The train jerking back into motion interrupted her.
“...but my sister is sick, and I need to be with her right now. I can't stand the farm, really, but she won't leave it,” Jack continued. Blossom nodded, only hearing pieces of his life story.
As her thoughts jumped from one thing to another, the change in scenery and the presence of the sun made her realize that the nice, chatty man that helped her had fallen asleep and she was still nodding along to the story he had been telling.
She stood up to slip past him and make her way to the bathroom when the train halted suddenly. The doors stayed closed, and the attendant began making his way towards them for their payment.
“Where are we?” he asked, rubbing his eyes. “How long was I asleep?
“I don't really know.” Blossom answered truthfully.
Jack handed over her ticket and his to the man collecting the money. He reached swiftly into his pocket, paid for both tickets, and stood up.
“This is the place,” he told her, handing the ticket back to her. “Don't lose this. You might want to get back someday,” he added, handing her a small white card.
“Call me if you're ever in need of directions in Cali.”
Blossom looked down, speechless. Gratitude escaped her, and then he was gone with the rest of the herd that left when the doors open.
“Are you going back...?” The man standing over her in the aisle snapped.
“NO!” Blossom stood up, stumbling with numb legs out the doors and down the stairs of the mysterious train station. The hot summer air filled the hallways out to the city with smells from every person who had walked through them.
As the station emptied out, Blossom gathered the courage to ask someone how she could find transportation north. The person she chose was not nearly as nice as Jack. He was irritated that she stopped him from his walk to what he called his “gold mine” and wasn't subtle about his feelings.
Taking his broken directions to a train station, she soon found herself wandering the streets with now idea where she was going. Deciding she was far enough from home, and that she could use the air, she headed north on foot on the first road she could find leading to the place Jack had seemed so fond of. It seemed as good of a start as any.
Reading the ticket he had given back to her, Blossom became content knowing that she was far enough from home that no one would be able to easily find her. Still though, three hundred miles didn't seem like enough.
Her father had warned her that there were other colonies, all over the world. Bedtime was filled with stories of bad little boys and girls being sent to dungeons for not obeying their parents and tales of elders beaten to death for going back on their word as both family members and humans. Dreams were filled with the God that was portrayed by the commune created. When her loved ones had begun disappearing, Blossom condemned them alongside her family until her best friend wandered too far into the valley one day and came across a stranger on accident.
Blossom's father had found Autumn, and beat him within an inch of his life while he forced her to watch. In the months after, Blossom spent her time sneaking out of her cabin to visit his. They talked with each other about all the nightmares that were coming true. Until then, no threats had been acted on as far as they knew. They believed that they were loved by the family that had been formed and managed to survive for three generations. Life was never easy, but Blossom and Autumn were the best soldiers, gatherers, or whatever else they needed to be. They were always treated well, until Autumn was kind to a stranger.
As the years passed, they made many plans for escape, but as Blossom walked north on the streets of Vegas, it became clear to her that she was in this alone. Autumn had grown docile over the years.
Flashing lights pulled her focus from her thoughts. She stopped for a moment, sitting on the sidewalk to take in the city. At the end of the block, a woman wearing a mini-skirt and what looked to Blossom like a bra with no straps was bending over to adjust her heels.
The hooker smiled at Blossom and ran her hand up the back of her thigh as she stood back up. “You like what you see, little girl? I don't discriminate! You look like you could use a night with me...” She laughed, and made her way into the building she stepped out of to smoke her cigarette.
Avoiding eye contact, Blossom became frantic, searching for a place to escape. Entering a small grocery store, she ran up to the counter, breathless.
“Are there any hotels around here?” she blurted out at the cashier.
Copyright Alexis Cogwell, 2016