A gentle chime contrast with the rumbling of metal tracks and wheels, car’s swaying came in time with the announcement of changing rails and upcoming station. They’re hardly words anymore, the feminine voice sitting neatly between human and machine blurring together across hours of waiting. He looks so tired, can’t blame him—it has been a long trip, focus spent on holding luggage in place, namely those that couldn’t fit on overhead racks. I’d like to think it’s worth it, especially for the price tag.
“You look tired.” I began, a hand placed upon my partner’s baggage, his hand nearly slipped off the grip, “Two more stops, then we’ve gotta walk a while...looks like you’re nodding off.”
“I’m alright, it’s fine,” his tone would reflect otherwise.
I took control of the larger luggage nonetheless, sliding it across the ribbed floor, trapping it against my own. It’s heavy, could probably damage the interior of this transit if let free at the wrong time. For how long we’re traveling, I’m still pleased by the cheap ticket price, the sheer quantity of unmanned station s on the line easily reflects that efficiency. It’s no surprise the passenger count is so small, seems like we’ve the entire route to ourselves at this hour.
A small town, third to last stop, rich ecosystem for natural living—it was exactly what we needed, and for a first house? The cheap price tag was well worth the isolation from family, and the perfect placement for both of our occupations. Just two stops father down the track, a larger city sat with other lines branching from it. It’s only half an hour off, perfect for a commute or daytrip, if you ask me. From what I’ve seen, there’s a small business district with a medical system, post, general necessities ’s a small business district with a medical system, post, general necessities, really. Our little town doesn’t have nearly that much, just a couple convenience stores, post, and what looks like an endless supply of fruit trees and fishing spots. Bamboo is a bit of a weed as well, could probably make use of the shoots if they’re a problem.
Another chime, a reminder of just how close we have come, just fifteen minutes or so less, I suspect, “I’m going to take a leak, wake up,”
“Alright, careful then.” I watched him stand up and make for the car’s door, the connecting segment contained a little washroom—nothing special, but it was all you needed for a train. It’s charming, how he stumbles against the grain of motion—it’ll wake him up if he stumbles, that’s for damn sure.
I watched the green fly past, never interrupted by the intrusion of concrete, a true jungle, not the grey and sullen type. Light hardly made its way through the dense brush to illuminate what made my line of sight, though the soft lighting of transport’s interior surely helped. There’s a peace to it, breathing a natural air ruined not by pollution of any notion. The silence aside from cicadas gleeful in their social noise, a humble chorus of frogs enjoying the lukewarm water after the heat of summer has been taken from the air. Autumn, something is special about that too, an equilibrium between two periods of stillness—twilight of seasons. We couldn’t have picked a better time to move away from the streetlamps, even if it meant leaving it all behind.
A slim cat stepped through the automatic doors connecting cars, opposite to the side I occupied. I hadn’t seen him before, likely a different employee with the same purpose as the young lady seen briefly at the beginning of our journey. Making the last rounds before stepping out, making sure everyone has the right papers for travel this long. Light steps, he seemed pleasant despite these hours—I expected for him to only nod and walk past, though it looks as if records of passengers might not have exchanged from shift to shift.
“You off for across the river?” he prodded, motioning to the plastic cases myself and party held our slips in.
I offered them, just so he could register whether I owed anything at the time, “No, we’re getting off at Foghenge. First house, beating the movers there.”
With an odd quirk in his brow, my property was returned, “Careful out there, get yourself and your friend some ram’s horns.” With a curt wave and a point to his right ear, he continued on his way, “I’ve been working this line for fifteen years, haven’t seen a social climate collapse so quickly. Heard they chased out their previous mayor, corrupt guy or summat,”
“I’ll keep it in mind, thanks,” I replied, doing the best to hide my growing confusion.
I hadn’t heard anything negative about the little place. Fifteen residents, stable local government, nothing extraordinary—not much of anything, really. I can’t be too surprised, though. All isolated communities have something wrong with them. Everyone knows everybody, if there’s a problem, it’s on the minds of the major populous. It shouldn’t be an issue, I hoped—it’s not as if I’m some kind of eccentric, neither is my partner, really. Just a couple of guys, looking to settle in somewhere quiet, and relax until our careers advance, or we get tired of the monotony.
“Feelin’ better?” he, my darling, came back through the door. His eyes were open, at the very least—no red grooves on his forehead, always a good sign.
“I took a piss, didn’t take a nap,”
“That’s fair.” I slid his luggage back over to him, my hands sore from resisting the sway of the train for so long, “At least you’re not asleep.”
Even if he’s not asleep, a tired nod would suggest that getting up and walking a bit didn’t help much. At least, it’s just a few more minutes. Less than an hour until we could finally say that we were indeed home, “Soon, Foghenge station,” the announcement system would confirm in effeminate monotone.
As if reflex, I watched him gather his bearings. While I took to the larger suitcases, I watched my dear collect those overhead, metal components clicking against the seemingly frail wire racks. We wouldn’t have the luxury of a cart to wheel out our baggage, thus leading to the collaborative game of suitcase Tetris, securing what was small and even enough to the top of the rolling ones. Checking pockets for exit tickets, the new keys, wallets...we had less than a minute to get off this car, everything had to be perfectly in order for a swift escape to a better place.
“You got everything?” I proposed, holding tightly to the vertical bar nearest the exit door, my case’s handle firmly within my grip.
“Yeah.” A curt response, though hushed under a veil of exhaustion, “Took long enough to get here,”
“It’s far away from up north, relax, we won’t have to do it anytime soon—unless we want to do holidays and whatnot, but...maybe we’ll have family come out here, yeah?”
“Don’t plan on it. My mum would rather send a note,” he forced a laugh, more so an extra loud exhale, really.
“Yeah...can’t blame her, she has enough on her plate these days,” I replied, trying to keep that subtly upbeat tone in my voice. We’re both tired.
The doors opened. A warning voice of faltering time left echoed through both car and station, though the metallic clicks of sliding doors was much more important to beginning the final stretch. Slip our tickets into the exit machine, leave the quiet station just as our arrival vessel left to continue down the tracks.
We looked out into the world, the immense variety of trees donning brightly coloured fruit, the tall grasses dotted with wild flowers. A crow stood atop the nearest streetlamp, watching our movements with a sharp eye, though focused on the rot within their clutches. The metal had a matte, rusted texture—those lamps. There was a special charm to it, though “vintage” doesn’t feel quite right. The off coloured metal, gravel streets, unmanned station—it was disconnected and peaceful, separate from the rest of the world, the humanity and dogs behind everything nowadays. I liked it now more so than I did within photos and descrptions, however few there were.
“You know where we’re off to?” my partner proposed, testing how well his baggage took to the rough pathways into the dark, “M’ phone still has some battery, if we need maps.”
“Yeah, we take a right on ram, left on peach. We’re at the end there, should only be maybe...ten, fifteen minutes? Maybe twice that, if the ground slows us...” trailing off, I dragged my mess across the ground as well, finding a perfect balance in pull to keep the bags over my shoulders from swinging too much.
“Let’s get there quick, yeah? I want to sleep, eat, maybe.”
“I’m with you on that one.”
It took a while. The street lamps spaced themselves further apart as we trod on, gravel turned to hoof imprinted soil, smoother than the former. Cicadas chirped and sung gleefully in bunches, trapped to trees of many years. The air was rich with the scent of peaches, the blossoms that cascaded into the grass. Nowhere would I take in a city whiff of piss or tobacco, a pleasantry unimagined.
And the sky—for once, I could see it. A distinction between clouds, the little stars, there wasn’t a layer of smog reflecting light over it all. A pure world, a real twilight. This is home, we’re home.
“This it?” the soil had blended into grass, stepping stones lead up to the home with our name. There was still a sale sign’s post in the front yard. The porch light wasn’t on, we couldn’t see anything well, thus he asked, “End of th’ road?”
“Yep—this is she.” I replied, retrieving my keys from an underarm satchel. I set everything down as I quickly approached the door. I could see better as I approached, the poor lighting issue fixed by my own phone’s dim screen. The lock was tough, though it clearly wasn’t rusty or damaged. It took bit of hip for me to shove the door open, another moment of experimenting to hit the right interior light switch. The little green lights towards their top really helps in locating them, that’s universal both here, and were we grew up. Switch, on. A light perched neatly beside the door’s front side flickered on. Everything had clearly been built rather recently, though the architecture and colours fit to match the general air of the place, “Alright...you see well enough?”
“Sure,” he’s tired.
I’d press the hallway light on as well, trotting outside to grab my abandoned cases, lug it all inside as he similarly had. He’s always been a bit more muscular than I, even though I’m the older man. Guess genetics do make a difference—though to be fair, his job used to be heavy on lifting people, that had to have built some strength overt the course of his sort career. At the very least, it helped us save for this. Most of the things we carried along with us concerned clothing, groceries for a few days. Futons, to—since we beat the movers here, and they wouldn’t be here for a few days to come.
Everything fell into disorganized piles across the entryway. I’d slip of my shoes before venturing beyond the lip of that landing, venturing into a filth free zone. The air smelled of bread cradled in the heat of an oven, though I know full well that’s just a seller’s trick to make a location feel more familiar. It looks fantastic, new, the walls’ paint is without wear—better than the photos, in my opinion.
“Hungry? I could start some water,” I offered. My partner, his movements were sluggish, slouching over his knees as he sat upon the landing. I can’t fathom his exhaustion, his thought process, “Or, I could lay your futon down in the bed, maybe run you a bath...”
“I’ll rest, if that’s alight,” he spoke with delay, a bit concerning.
“Sure, sure.” I fished for the futons from within a messy, cloth leaking tote bag I had brought in. It’s a skinny one, but we’ve two of them, that’s enough to serve for a few nights, “I can tell you where the master bed is in a minute... just take a breather, yeah?”
I carefully dragged the mess of cotton up the steps, taking some time to take in the details of my surroundings in reference to my knowledge of the floorplan. It has been a few days since I’ve looked at the photos online, though I remember things relatively well, I’d say. Two floors, two rooms on top with one a master bed, a kitchen with an attached living space, a laundry and washroom, and yet two more spares. A steal, more than we could ever truly ask for—dreams do come true, sometimes. I managed to locate the master bed with relative easy, hardwood creaking gently below my footsteps. I didn’t need to turn on the lights, a soft glow came through the curtain-less sliding window—it made spreading out the mat rather easy, topped with a light throw blanket. We didn’t bring any pillows, they were too bulky—we’ll be fine, it’s better for your spine, sleeping like that.
I went back downstairs, careful—I hadn’t unpacked my slippers yet, and I’d hate to slip. My partner, he had vanished from his place on the steps. A tick from the other end of the floor alerted me to his placement, the light fluctuation similarly clueing me in. The kitchen, I saw him twisting apart the halves of a slightly bruised peach, tearing out the pit with a nail—he’ll break it off, if he keeps up with that.
“I thought you were tired?” I inquired, trying not to disturb the peace.
“Sleepy, hungry. Both—slungry, maybe.”
“Y’know, you’re not sure what’s going on.” he said, pushing aside one half of fruit, a spoon for my own use along with it. A doll, he always takes the side with the pit, “You feel empty, your head’s all fuzzy...you don’t really want to do anything, or feel anything,”
“Well, you’re recognising it, yeah?” I’d take a bite, it’s not as ripe as it could be, despite the bruising.
He’d nod, standing, eating the fruit’s meat with care—no way in hell he’d let any of the fruit juice get onto his hands. I appreciate his vocal nature, emotions, problems and whatnot. Without the ability to discuss things openly and comfortably, we’d have fallen apart years ago.
I finished rather quickly, setting down the remaining skin, laying my spoon within the sink. Walking to the front of the house, I began to dissect my larger suitcase. I took out my slippers, one for indoors, one for the outdoors. Setting them on the appropriate sides of the entryway, I stepped into the latter pair with ease. I’ve had them for a while now, they still have bounce in the soles—they probably won’t be leaving me anytime soon. I’d find our mailbox out on the porch, stuffed full of junk-mail and leaves. However, one creased white envelope stood out from the rest.
I pulled it from the bundle, the front light illuminating the paper just well enough for me to read without strain.
Mr. Aiden and Mr. Rozny Sokolov
Our names in tandem address, a copy of all closing documents had been folded snuggly within the case. It was final, real.
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