Project 52: Toppling Atlas

1 short story a week. 52 weeks a year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Working Title: Signals and Sirens

Signals and Sirens

      A train signals in the night, waking a man from a deep sleep. The world around feels muggy, dreamlike, still. The signal roars into the night, but the man hears something entirely different. Primal, fantastic, unexplainable, The noise is hardly heard as at all in fact. To him, he can only feel a skittering magnetism inside, calling him to the forest across from his small house.       Standing, he takes heavy-footed steps, his knees quivering and threatening to drop him at any moment. The signal is still bellowing out in that chilly fall air, but now has to contend with a pounding heart, filling the man's ears: thump, thump, roar - thump, thump, roar. Like some strange monster, he makes his way to the front door. As he rests his hands firmly on the doorknob, the creak of the old hinges jolts him awake. Gasping for breath, he sinks to the floor and fights back a terrible fear.       Common sleepwalking, the doctor said, but this explanation didn't sit well with Brian. For one thing, sleepwalkers usually do so while dreaming, and wake up in unfamiliar places. Brian always knew where he was, and remembered everything. For another thing, sleepwalkers wander aimlessly, without any intent or purpose. Brian always walked the same direction: towards the woods to see a woman who roared like a train in the early hours of the morning. Laying down his head for what would turn out to be his last time, Brian closed his eyes and fought to find sleep, fitful though it may have been as of late.       The sharp cracking of twigs and rustle of multicolored leaves – no less beautiful by moonlight than by day – was all that could be heard in the forest outside of the rustle of small animals carrying on as they do, or iconic sound of a cricket chirping. It seemed as if an hour had passed since he started walking, and although that night train has long since moved on, he still clumsily wandered through the trees in a daze, a woman's voice calling to him inside his head.       New members join the cast, as the sound of a shovel striking dirt is heard. Three men stand only a few feet away, trying to dig through the root-riddled dirt at a slow rate, frustration painting their faces. A woman lays on the ground, eyes open, with what appears to be blood running down her nose and bleeding onto her white blouse. That familiar reaction sets in, and Brian falls to the forest floor, gasping for breath. He needs no time to realize who the woman is, her voice has been in his head for months.       Blinking his eyes, Brian realized the men are gone, and his mysterious woman's body sits in the same spot, illuminated by moonlight almost theatrically. Crawling over to her, he reaches out to touch her hand, and shivers from how cold and clammy they are. “Who are you?” he whispers. “Why did you call me hear?”        Silence fills his head, but a shy voice murmurs somewhere in the back of his head. “I can't hear you, please speak up!” he says out loud. Louder now, that voice says “I don't want to die alone,” the voice manages to choke out. Brian sits on the ground shaking, as he hears the woman sobbing in his head. “What do you mean die?” he says.       This is the extent of his observations as the shovel is heard again, followed by a blackness, and shortly thereafter: unconsciousness. “Who the hell was he talking too?” one of the men – a smaller guy - says. “Who cares, continue digging you son of a bitch,” the second, and taller man says. “Alright, alright, I'm working on it. I've got to dig an even bigger hole now though!” the first man yells. “Both of you shut up and get working” the up until now silent one says.
       “Wrong place at the wrong time” Newspapers would one day read. Seems sort of funny when you realize how right that was, but only sort of.              “I don't have much time, but now that you've heard my story, please learn from my mistakes if you can. Reading this, you've already invented a face and voice to give Brian, and it may shock you to know you are absolutely correct. It's no coincidence that without ever knowing me, you see me in your head clearly. It is no coincidence.”       “I write this now to warn you, if the signal of a great locomotive shrieks into the night, and wakes you up, try your best not to follow it. If you hear my voice, no matter what I say, please ignore it the best you can. Your life depends on it. These words I now write may be salvation, but my voice will surely turn to poison. Stay away from the woods, stay away from American trains wailing into the southern night air!”

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