The day started the same mundane way it always did. Day after day, Analisa and her brother Caleb awoke to the roosters alerting them that it was time to go out and feed the chickens. When their chores were done, a delicious breakfast prepared by Mama awaited them inside. The three of them ate together before Analisa and Caleb left for school. It had been that way for as long as Analisa could remember. Ever since Papa died. This morning seemed no different.
“Don’t forget your lunch!” Mama called after Caleb, as he ran out the door ahead of Analisa without his lunch in hand.
“It’s okay, I’ll take it to him,” Annalisa said.
She turned back to get his bag, stopping momentarily in her tracks. Mama stood there, arms wrapped protectively around herself. In a matter of minutes, she looked years older. The worry lines etched around her sad eyes were not there when they were eating.
“Are you okay, Mama?" Analisa whispered.
“I’m okay, baby. Go on now. You best be getting to school.” She smiled weakly before turning away, but Analisa heard the barely audible moan escape her mother’s lips.
“Caleb! Wait for me!” Analisa called.
As usual, he was racing ahead of her. The sites and sounds of spring were all around them now. She could hear the squirrels scurrying about on the foliage of the path they took each morning through the woods. The leaves were slowly unfolding to reveal their various shades of green. Analisa loved this time of year. It was a beautiful morning, but she could not shake the dismal feeling hanging over her like a shroud.
“Caleb!” she called again. “Caleb, where are you?”
“Here, Analisa! I’m here," he called from somewhere on the right, off the path in the woods. "Look at them train tracks. Where'd they come from?”
“I don’t know. I guess maybe they’ve always been there. Come on, we’ve got to get going if we want to make it to school on time.”
Caleb reluctantly turned away from his view of the tracks, but only for a second. Something alluring seemed to be awaiting him down there.
“Com'on, it'll be fun! Let’s see where they go!” He didn’t wait for her to answer.
Sighing heavily, Analisa hiked up her skirt and followed her brother down the steep hill. One misstep and she knew she would be tumbling head over heels to the bottom of the ravine where the tracks lay. Carefully, she eased her way down the rocky slope.
She wasn't paying attention to Caleb's descent until she heard the sickening sound of bone breaking when he tripped on a rock. She dropped her books and their lunches, but she was frozen in place, suddenly feeling as if she wore lead shoes. Her entire body was weighted down by some inexplicable force. Horrified, she watched as her brother rolled down the hill out of control, flinching in pain herself with each thud his body made.
Caleb's arm twitched, but before she could process what had just happened, she heard a sound in the distance. It was soft at first, almost comforting. Panic set in, though, as the steady rumbling got louder and louder. Caleb’s arm twitched again.
The mammoth black beast barreled down the tracks, aiming straight for her brother’s nearly lifeless body, but like a deer in the headlights, Analisa still could not move. All she could do was stare, temporarily deaf now too, but not blind. The last thing she remembered was hearing the piercing screech break the silence in her head. She never knew if it was the sound of her voice or the brakes on the train.
Consumed by guilt, Analisa lost herself that day too. She found it increasingly more difficult to stay home. When she was away, she didn’t have to avoid her mother’s sorrowful eyes while talking to her. If Mama blamed her half as much as she blamed herself, maybe this would make more sense. Maybe this would be easier. But she didn’t. Mama never blamed her.
Analisa sat alone on the park bench, the scowl on her face as dark as the gathering thunderclouds. They were accumulating quickly now, becoming more ominous the closer they loomed. She couldn’t move, though. Instead, she sat transfixed by the sound more than the sight. The leading clouds rolled over themselves, seemingly picking up speed with every tumble. Behind the tumbling clouds, more clouds swirled. Analisa continued to stare in stupified amazement until dizziness overtook her and she became disoriented.
This is not a train, she realized too late. And I am not that scared little girl from the past. Such a strange sensation. To be picked up by a reckless twister, that is. How could something so powerful and destructive be so gentle at the same time? She felt weightless floating through the air, watching various pieces of debris whirl around her. The twister was as powerful as a freight train but slightly more merciful. At least some things have a chance for survival whenever a tornado rolls through, whereas a freight train thundering down the line stays only on the tracks laid out before it, heading in one singular direction, oblivious to the torture it can create, oblivious to the one in its path that may have survived a fall if only it had not come along. Nothing in a train’s path is granted such heavenly mercy as this ethereal deliverance from hell the twister could surely provide. Analisa was strangely at peace, free for the first time since the accident.
The Challenge and Prompt That Inspired This Flash Fiction Story
This flash fiction piece is the result of a challenge issued by DzyMsLizzy. The challenge intrigued me, but then I received an invitation via email to write a short story for the Reedsy website. There are several prompts to choose from each week and the winner receives a $50 cash prize. One of the Reedsy prompts grabbed my attention. It also seemed to fit well with DzyMsLizzy's challenge. The prompt was to write a short story with a twist that reveals the plot took place in the past. The challenge issued here was to write a flash fiction story using a sentence she provided somewhere in the story. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet the deadline to participate in the Reedsy contest due to other obligations. It's all good, though. This way, I can leave it as a flash fiction piece instead of aiming for 1000 - 3000 words and I can post it on this site after all. If you would like to participate in this challenge, you can find the forum post here.
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© 2019 Shannon Henry