Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TRAVELER (01/28/16)
- TITLE: Riding in the Shadows
By Tracy Nunes
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The plane I was on took me a long, long way and I thought that I might find my resting place at the end of the flight. But then I realized that it was only one leg of the journey. I guess I’d better nestle in now that I’m on the train. No sense using up energy I don’t need to.
People, lots of them. Mothers with babies, old couples with canes, every color you could imagine. They pass me by, seemingly unaware of me like I’m less than a shadow. Suites me fine. They’d just get in my way. It’s best they don’t know I exist.
I tuck my head in for a nap, trying to situate my body so that I don’t fall over with every movement around me. Sleep; it’s what I do best. I can outlast those who think they have much greater strength just by hanging in there with a long nap.
I wake up when the train stops and everyone around me starts jostling to gather their things. I’m carrying everything important to me on my body. No need for me to search around. I get caught up in the wave of humanity exiting the train and ride it like a wave.
As the crowd thins and people disperse to cars and taxis, I realize that I have some ways to go to find my place to rest; I’m heading for the bus stop. The cold air bites at my skin. I huddle into myself trying to will it away. I wait for what seems like forever as my body temperature plummets. Losing feeling, my body is shutting down. I may reach the end of me before I reach the end of the road.
Just when I’ve lost hope, the bus comes around the corner billowing steamy vapor as the warmth from the engine meets arctic-like air. The wave of heat as I get on board sends shivers across my skin. I feel the blood start to recirculate. Maybe I’ll make it after all.
An old man who’s clearly traveled many roads sits next to me for most of the ride. He is silent. The smell of his clothes - urine and sweat -assure me that his road is not the one for me, even if it is tempting in its guarantee for me to go unnoticed. His road would mean I’d forever be missed by passersby. I could be safe from ever being bothered again. But the bitter cold I just experienced convinces me that his resources are too limited, even if he did offer anonymity.
At last, the bus stops and I get off. I hear a small voice, “Mommy! I’ve missed you so much!” A man and his son wrap their arms around the woman I rode the bus with.
“He’s not the only one who missed you. I’m so glad you’re home, Babe. Nothing is the same when you are on the road. Here, let me get your bags. I’m so sorry we couldn’t get you at the train. Darned alternator picked the worst time to die. Jim let me borrow is beater.”
“It’s okay,” she says. “I’m just glad to be almost home”
I huddle into myself. Doing my best to keep from being noticed. I think it’s working. If anyone figures out my plan, I’ll be in trouble.
Just as she’s about to get in the car a shriek from the woman tells me the gigs up. I feel myself falling and hit the ice with a sick thud.
“Babe! What’s the matter?!”
“What is it!?! It’s on my purse!”
“Relax Babe. It’s a bed bug. I got it.”
The man grabs me and pinches the life out of me. So much for the road less traveled.
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