Chapter 5 : Escape Plan
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Thank you to all of my readers and reviewers. I hope I do not disappoint.
All grammatical errors are intentional.
Everything you recognize is property of JKR. Everything you don't recognize is property of me. Stealing is bad for your conscience.
By the fourth (third?) day, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was so hungry I thought my stomach was going to fall out my ass. I wanted a smoke so bad that it was all I could think about. All I cared about. I would do anything for one. I kind of felt like throwing up.
As I waited for the three of them to wake up, I flicked my thumb out of my clenched palm and watched the flame burst to life for a second, then diminish. Then I’d do it again. It was the only shred of magic I had in me but it wasn’t even worth trying to use for an escape. 1. I didn’t have the energy to try. 2. It wouldn’t work. 3. There’s nowhere to go, even if we do get out of here.
Watching the fire in my palm was like a sick joke I was playing on myself. I would normally use that flame to light myself a cigg, but now that I have none, it’s torture to see that flame. My fingers were so used to the action that I felt my other hand start to rise to my face, where the cigarette would normally be perched and I would inhale the flame to light up. But no. No cigarette. No way out. No hope.
After a while of waiting for them, the lucky bitches that could actually sleep in this hell hole, I was kind of hoping one would wake up soon. I didn’t want to wake them up because I really didn’t have a reason to and that would be an awkward one to explain. (Neville: Whatjoo wake me up for? Clyde: Uh… I dunno.) I guess I kind of just wanted the company of someone other than myself.
But you’ve got me!
We’ve been through this. You’re me, I’m you.
Neville was the first to stir. I stopped lighting my finger and just prayed that he would stay awake. Prayed that he wouldn’t turn over and go back to sleep.
And he didn’t. Geez, maybe I should start praying more often.
Neville looked around at all of us, and I kind of wondered what he thought he was going to see when he looked around. Probably his room, his friendly old grandma. Rise and shine, Neville. Wake up to reality.
“What day is it?”
“Four.” I had no idea what day it was. I didn’t know if that was the kind of answer he was looking for but that was the only one he was getting. I made sure I spat the word, too. Didn’t even say fucking hello.
You know, you really should be nicer to him. You were just praying that he’d wake up and now that he did you’re treating him like shit. That doesn’t make sense.
Oh yeah? Well, things start not making sense when you have no more cigarettes, okay?
…That doesn’t make sense either.
Ha, you just told yourself to fuck yourself.
Shut the fuck up!
You did it again!
I took my palms and started rubbing my temples hard. I wanted to shut that fucking voice up so bad. I just wanted to get my hands around its neck and squeeze real hard. See the color bleed out from his face. Laugh at me now, I dare you.
I was panting. And my finger hurt almost as bad as my head. I looked at my first finger and it took a couple seconds for my eyes to focus, but I saw blood. A lot. I saw teeth marks and dead skin and on an open wound. I didn’t remember doing it. I didn’t remember feeling it. I didn’t remember ever seeing it before. It grossed me out. But what was there to do about it? Nothing. There is no first aid kit, kiddies. There are no cigarettes. There is no cops. There is no ciggs.
Neville didn’t even stop me this time. He didn’t even ask me what the hell was wrong with me. He didn’t do anything. Maybe this kind of thing was starting to become normal here. Not that I did it to shock anyone, but it’s kind of sickening that people biting their fingers and smacking themselves is nothing to become upset over.
What will happen to us if we start not caring about this kind of stuff? What if next, Luna decides she’s gonna kill Vandy in her sleep? If me and Neville don’t have the energy to stop her, then what? We get stuck in a train and now we’re killers? This is fucking bullshit. We can’t turn into zombies or anything like that. We have to stay us. If we don’t, who will be us? There’s only one Clyde, dammit, and he’s not gonna get destroyed by Looney Luna.
I reached down to my leg and started ripping at the hem of my jeans. I wasn’t trying to make it a fun time, but I love the sound ripping fabric makes. I didn’t think about it waking people up, but Vandy and Luna both stirred at the sound. At that point I didn’t care if I woke them up or not. I was on a new mission.
I ripped a ragged piece of fabric from my jeans and started lighting my finger. I got a few sparks at most. My heart was beating really fast and I didn’t blink; my eyes started to burn but no tears came to comfort them. What does it mean if I have no tears in me? Does it mean I have no more comfort? No more water? Oh, my God, I’m dehydrating.
I started panicking then (pfft, I say that like I haven’t been panicking since the train stopped moving) and started flicking my thumb even more. I imagined the flame there (I guess that shit’s called hallucination.) I saw a few sparks. My finger was starting to get hot at least. I concentrated even harder. There wasn’t going to be anything stopping me. I was lighting that fucking flame.
And then it came, briefly, from the clenched palm of my hand. A beautiful, bright flame. I took only a few seconds to marvel at it, then put it to work on the piece of fabric that dangled from my other hand. I watched very closely as the flame ate away at the stray fibers, the loose pieces of denim that were left over from my shitty ripping job. It was amazing. The flame just devoured everything in its path and didn’t stop for anything. Maybe this could help us get out of here. It could ward off enemies, if there are any out there.
What is out there? Nothing? Who knows. No one knows. No one knows anything. Except that we’re stuck here with a burning piece of fabric and no cigarettes.
Ow! That’s fucking hot! Damn it…
I dropped the fabric and examined my burn wounds. Nothing serious but it would leave a mark later. Of course, it wouldn’t be half as bad as the mark my other finger would be left with. The finger I was biting on and not realizing it. That one looks like a fucking train wreck. Kind of looks like the type of fingers they have to amputate in war and shit.
I smelled smoke. It was something that I hadn’t smelled in so long. Too long. By that time, the clothes on me that usually always smelled like smoke, as Neville says, had lost their flavor. I couldn’t even use them to give myself pleasure. But this smoke was fresh, right from the flame. The smell went into my nose and it warmed me from the inside, it felt so good. I couldn’t get enough. I just kept inhaling. Deep breaths, lovely smoke. Where have you been, my love? How I’ve missed thee…
And then during my moment of euphoria, who wakes up, but the kill-joy himself, Neville. He said, “Clyde, what the bloody hell –” and he didn’t finish the sentence with words, but with his foot, stomping all over the burning piece of fabric.
That was kind of okay with me. The scent of the smoke was much stronger after the actual flames were put out. It lingered in the air longer. I didn’t feel as weird inhaling when the smell was all around me in the air.
“Are you trying to get us all killed?”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
He looked at me, scared. He didn’t know what to say, I could see. Words tried to come out but they had nowhere to go. They would have gotten swallowed up and lost in the smoke, just like everyone else.
God damn it.
God fucking damn it.
What day is it?
We’ve been here way too long. If no one comes up with any other ideas for what to do today, I’m putting my own plan into action. Simple as that. I think that’s fair, don’t you?
Yes, of course.
Everyone in here is as crazy as I am, or at least they’re damn close. After Luna’s breakdown yesterday (was it yesterday? Everything seems like yesterday) we seem to be falling apart. Neville has barely talked all day and he keeps twitching his nose like a rabbit. I don’t know what his deal is. Vandy doesn’t talk either, but that’s because she hates all of us. And Luna… poor Luna. Luna’s finally back at home, in her own dream world. She’s finally done it, folks. She’s gone mad.
For real this time. It’s not a stereotype. Well, it is, but now she actually fits it. It’s true. Luna is really loony. She just sits there in her corner of the compartment with her knees to her chest, rocking like a little baby. I thought I heard her whimpering but I could have imagined it for my own amusement. I don’t know what’s real anymore to tell you the truth. She just looks out the window with those huge crazy eyes. Sometimes when I see her reflection in the window I think I see something wild in her face. Something untamed. It’s kind of freaky.
As the hours passed, I drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes because of sleep deprivation, insomnia, I couldn’t sleep, no time to sleep, and because my stomach was growling. Everything else was crazy, just like everyone in here.
Every once in a while when I would wake up or come back or whatever, I would look around the compartment and see all the people, see them doing their own thing. And then when they would wake up or come back or whatever, they’d look around and see us all, wonder what we’re doing here, what they’re doing here. There was hardly ever any eye-contact. If we made eye-contact, it was like starting a fight. Like slapping someone in the face, daring them to fight back, to answer. Too risky. Keep your eyes to yourself, keep your words to yourself, don’t say anything. It’s like jail. Watch your own back ‘cause no one else is gonna watch it for you, that’s for sure. There’s no friends in prison.
That’s all this is, this little train cart. A jail cell for all of us. Some of us are badass enough to handle it. Me. And some of us are cracking to the pressure. Everyone else. Some are just better at hiding it. Neville looks like he’s proud of his mask, but I can see that he’s a little pansy on the inside. He is just dying to cry right now, I can see. But I know he doesn’t want to do that in front of Luna, even though they basically broke up yesterday. He wants to look strong.
I think he’s got some sort of complex about that. Come to think of it, he kind of always was a softie. Whenever I’d suggest we do something, he was always like, “Eh, I don’t know, Clyde, I’m a huge wuss so I don’t want to get caught.” I kind of hardened him, I think. I’d always be like, “Neville, quit being such a fucking girl!” and he always would cave to my peer pressure and do what I wanted. And then as we got older and I suggested we do some shit, he’d go along with it without a fight. So I made him stronger.
Or maybe I made him weaker. At first he would fight back and say he didn’t want to, and then he… stopped doing that. Did I ruin him even more? Did I make him my slave instead of my friend? What kind of friend am I if I would do that?
A fucking terrible one.
But something has to be said for his going along with what I told him, right?
No. You’re intimidating, Clyde. Your presence pretty much scares people.
That’s not true. If that’s true then how come I have friends?
Neville… well, I guess… Vandy’s kind of my… Fuck.
You scare people. Whenever they see you they feel like they have to match your edginess. That’s why Vandy freaked on you. She could feel that you were going to give her a hard time with your attitude so she beat you to the punch.
…Fuck you, that’s a lie! Explain Jessamine Robbins then.
Right. Because we know how well that situation turned out.
That’s what I said!
I know. I’m you, remember? So you just told yourself to fuck yourself. Idiot.
“Fuck me, then!” I heard it as loudly as I heard everything else I’d said, but this time the other people in the compartment looked at me. I must have said that one out loud.
“Clyde… are you all right, mate?” said Neville. It was like he was afraid to speak to me. Like I was a wild animal going to eat him. I kind of felt like one. It felt good.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” said Vandy. Well, she sort of screamed it.
“Vandy, he’s just –” began Neville. Good ol’ Neville, defending me even though I ruined him. I don’t deserve it.
“Just nothing! This guy is out of his bloody mind! And I can’t take it anymore! I’m getting out of here before he kills everyone!”
How did she know?
“What are you talking about? There’s no way out, Vandy!” said Neville. He’d become the rational one now that Luna was gone. She was still there, but her presence was faded. She was just a shell, really. It was like she was already dead.
Vandy got to her feet and she rocked when she stood up, as though not accustomed to the feeling of supporting her own weight, which had diminished immensely since entering the train. She was much thinner now and her hair fell in strangles around her face. Her eyes that I once looked at and saw love and care, were now filled with rage and hunger. Thirst for survival. She was feral, just like me.
She rampaged around the compartment as best as she could. I could feel the floor shifting underneath me, rocking with her weight, but I did not move. I was not fazed. Neville, on the other hand, was freaking out and trying to catch his balance. He was trying to keep Luna steady, too, which was useless. She was dead weight by now. Vandy was screaming and scratching at anything. Her spit was flying everywhere as though she couldn’t control herself. At one point, her long fingernails that would have otherwise been trimmed and polished got hold of Neville’s cheek. He gasped and reached up to feel the wound but did nothing else for himself. He put his arms around Luna, protecting her from the beast.
I thought it was kind of amusing. Watching Vandy lose herself so freely. She was completely gone, that one. And it was weird because Luna was gone too. They were both gone but in totally different ways. I started thinking. How could that be?
In the midst of Vandy’s tantrum, I just put my finger back in my mouth. For the first time in days, I felt the pain, and I gasped. Neville looked at me, his face already horrified by Vandy’s display, and now mine.
“Clyde, what the hell?!” His eyes darted to my finger. He looked like he didn’t know what to say. He was too shocked and terrified to say anything.
I looked at it, too, and it was covered in blood. It looked almost fake, it was so torn apart. I hadn’t really noticed until this moment. I didn’t know why I hadn’t noticed; all I did while I was here was put my finger in my mouth. You’d think I would feel something, right?
The floor of our room rocked on the top of the railroad tracks. Vandy’s screeches penetrated my ears and rang throughout me. It shook my core. It set my senses on fire. For the first time since the discomfort started a few days ago (or was it months or years?) I felt my body rejecting me. I could feel my stomach churning and I remembered what hunger was. My ears kept ringing and Vandy kept screaming, banging on everything, rocking the whole place. I felt something wet on my upper lip. Sweat? I touched it with my good hand. It was blood. I was getting a nosebleed.
I hadn’t gotten a nosebleed since the first time I had a smoke. That was so long ago, and I didn’t remember what it felt like until now. It gave me an even worse headache and I just wanted to stop the bleeding. I was seeing red everywhere and the slim part of my brain that was logical told me that everything was not covered in blood, that I was making it up, but who could tell for sure? We’re all crazy in here.
I rammed my fist to my nose to stop the bleeding. It would only be a temporary solution, but it was better than nothing.
The air smelled gross. I don’t know what it smelled like but it was disgusting. Everyone was uncomfortable. Everyone had had enough.
“I can’t take any more of this!” Vandy shrieked, slamming her fists into the window with unnatural grunts. She kept hitting the window and pounding it. Her fists were covered in blood and she was wailing and crying, but she kept hitting the window.
Finally, she broke the glass and she kept crying. She tried climbing out of it but she was in too much of a mess to actually do it properly. She kept trying, though, and she cried too. “I can get out!”
I reached over and took a piece of glass. I looked at it with my dirty hand and my eyes couldn’t focus on it. It kept going in and out of focus. I could see my bloody finger on the other side of the glass and it looked like the glass was bleeding. I didn’t know whose it was at first. Maybe it was mine, maybe it was Vandy’s, or maybe it was both of ours.
I admired the artistic piece of glass for a few moments and had a little bit of peace amongst the chaos. It would probably be my last and it was interesting that it happened during the time that Vandy was cracking. But I just looked at all the shapes the glass was making, the tricks its angles were playing on my eyes. I enjoyed it.
I shoved the piece of glass in my pocket, to remember my only moment of true tranquility on the train. I would appreciate it later.
Vandy kept struggling out the window and no one stopped her. I thought Neville might but he was worried about himself at that point. He was protecting Luna and himself. “I can finally get out! Finally free!”
With one last grunt, Vandy got most of her body out of the window, but she didn’t fall out of it. Her body was half in the compartment, half out. She cried as she lay in between freedom and prison. She cried until she had no more tears. She didn’t struggle anymore. She’d given up.
Neville and I stared at Vandy for a while. Her whimpers became less and less, few and far between, until they stopped completely.
“Now what?” I said.
Neville looked at me like I was Satan. I was sick of getting that look, but at the same time kind of used to it by now.
“You wanna end up like her?” he said. He sort of spat it at me.
Did I want to just sit here and suffer until I die? No, not really. Did I want to die? No, not really. But this was going along with my plan. I just wanted to get out of there and collect my reward, that’s all. And if I died I wouldn’t be able to get it. So “No.”
“Neither do I.” He paused. “Listen, if we just work together I think we can get out of this.” He said it as though we weren’t ever friends. As though we’d never stood up for each other before, as though we’d never even met each other before. What a jerk.
“What do you have in mind?”
“Well, we can’t be that far from Kings’ Cross, right? So if we just get out of the train we can walk back across the tracks to get to the station again. We’ll be home free.”
It sounded simple enough to work. I wasn’t really thinking about it, just about my reward.
“You first,” he said.
I got to my feet and it felt weird. I understood why Vandy wobbled when she got up. It was kind of like standing on two-foot-high jelly logs in water. I saw Vandy lying in the window, her arms flopped out of the compartment, limp. I grabbed under her arms and pulled her completely inside the compartment. She made no effort to push me away anymore. No sounds of rebellion, no wondrous advice to give me, the feral one. No sound at all. Nothing.
I left her there, in the jail that was now her tomb. What else could I do? She’d struggled for freedom and now she made it available for the rest of us. I just felt bad that she couldn’t experience the sweetness of it now.
With a final glance at Vandy’s body, frail and bloody, bony from lack of food, messy from lack of civilized life, I crawled through the glass window and got myself scratched up on the glass, more blood. I grabbed the top edge of the train and hoisted myself up onto the roof. Then I climbed down the side and felt the cold metal of the tracks beneath me. It was nighttime, so I felt the need to whisper.
“Are you coming, Neville? It’s not that hard.”
“I’m coming,” he said. I waited for him. I didn’t want to leave him, even though he basically just said we weren’t friends anymore.
I saw him come out of the window slowly, and he was carrying Luna. I have no idea how he got both himself and her out of the train, but he did it. And he climbed on the roof and down just like I did. He carried Luna on his back and we lay belly-flat on the tracks, crawling over them like a ladder.
“Ready?” I said, looking back at him.
He didn’t answer me with words, but with one nod. His eyes were bright in the night. Bright with hope, with despair, with worry. With trust.
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