The Flight of a Village in the Midst of War
by Daniel Ausema
We used to think the trains, half wild and skittish, would be the most difficult part of our escape. We'd seen brave Myron try to mount a train as it raced through, only to die when it threw him down onto the rails. It hurt when he fell, terribly so, but a pain we thought we might endure. Surely once on board the train cars, the rest would be easy. It was a matter of convincing ourselves that there were no other options. And even when we knew it, to act.
Maybe there was some other way around. We played at plans, marking routes across maps that no longer mattered. We could swim--until troops cut off that route. We might fly--until someone bombed the runways. Friend? Foe? At times there was little difference. Other routes? But herds of tanks moved through and groves of guns sprouted everywhere.
War came closer, closer. The screams of frightened bullets, the dying shrieks of war machines as they crumpled into scrap. When the deadly gases slithered into our village with their reptilian hiss, coiling around our houses, strangling old Qira almost to death, then we admitted we'd waited too long. We had to brave the trains.
We stalked close to the tracks, watching for the right time. In the mornings the trains were fresh and alert. Little chance of sneaking on then, so we spent our time checking our knots, readying our grapples. By midafternoon they would be slow and heavy, but the heat would make their metal hides dangerous. So a bit before midday we crouched a short ways past an old station. With luck, a train might still slow down out of instinct or an ancestral memory of water and fuel.