The Sight of Silver
by R.T. Allenson
My parents were coldly silent when we boarded the train, that October morning when we set our weary sights to the province. It was the last military stronghold after the western bunkers fell to the onslaught of the South’s relentless carpet bombing. Fear was ripe in the faces of each passenger – even the seasoned soldiers seemed to be anxious, their stares far long and stretching forth into the distance…
My parents held my younger brother closely and it was strange that he was deathly pale and unresponsive; yesterday he was a bundle of energy with even the chaos not unbecoming his penchant for mischief. But today he was cold, either incapable of his usual antics or simply hiding a problem within himself. I saw my mother and father exchange worried glances when I started talking to my younger brother until my father himself drew him away from me and escorted me in our carriage. It was strange. As if they were hiding something from me. But what? I saw nothing new transpire in the few moments before we boarded the train and made our way to the province. Was it shock? Was it the sheer apathy of chaos that consumed my family and turned them into this?
It was unsettling, to say the least.
Three hours after we boarded and the last sounds of explosions were finally gone from our ears, each passenger rejoiced to this but the soldiers knew that this was no victory. I came upon one of them, a young man almost my age, crying in the corridor of one of the back carriages. He told me that he had seen his family burn in the midst of the raid, his neighborhood destroyed in a matter of minutes as the sound of bombs whizzed through the air and made impact with infernal pressure. He told me that this was only temporary and it would not be long till the South draws wind of our haven and scorch it into the ground as well. I asked them why then were we being sent to the province if it was as unsafe as the other places but he could muster no answer and I left him in his solace to weep his loss. I felt sick in the stomach, knowing well that we may be slaughtered in the end. In our sleep.
There was little else I could do to pass the time save make idle chatter with the rest of the passengers. Most of them knew the true gravity of the situation but chose to put up a facade and cling on to that charnel hope, perhaps hoping that will can change the world. Others were not so collected and there were several instances that the soldiers were needed to pacify those whose madness to the war and all the deaths were too much. They were not killed even when they were asked, only restrained until the end of our fruitless journey. My people are not so merciful and are not so keen to spill blood.
Eventually we were asked to retire for the night. The journey would take a couple more hours and the curfew was still applied. As I made my way to my family’s room, I saw from a far my father arguing with an older soldier. The two were at each other’s necks by whatever reason, anger seething from my father’s eyes. I could not understand what was their argument about but the sight of my father clutching his bloody arm was enough for me to steal myself away from their vision. What was happening? What of my brother and mother? I eventually hid in the shadows of the carriage corridors, hoping that I would not be seen by the patrolling soldiers. I made myself scarce and quiet and heard the sad cries in the night and whispered prayers of the hopeless. There was little we could do to sully our anxieties and whatever was happening in our room, I wanted no part of it even if it worried me so. There was something wrong. My parents were not as they seemed to be, happy they were a while ago but quick to silence anything that would transpire to me and my brother. And my father, angrily clutching his right arm…bloodied. It dawned on me then that our room was also quite a distance from the rest, clad in eerie solitude and far from where the other passengers resided. Almost as if we were deliberately excluded…
Eventually after an hour of wandering around the train I saw my mother, scouring the pantry perhaps for medicine for her condition. She didn’t say a word to me when she saw me, only making a passing gesture and then leaving to retire to our room. I was scared but I needed to find out what was going on. I asked her, as she made her way back only for her to snap at me and ask me to go away.
I followed her to our room even as she told me to go away. She was angry but also crying and I continued to ask her what was going on. Eventually she stopped and after steeling herself, led me coldly into our room. There I found my brother, pale as the mottled sky, restrained and bound to the bed. His eyes were dark and set deep into his skull and he was foaming at the mouth, thrashing as he attempted to gnaw at his restraints. I asked my mother what had happened and as I sat next to my brother’s side, I smelled the unmistakable scent of death upon him. My mother led me away the moment my brother began screeching and baying and told me once more to leave her and my brother alone. She locked the door behind me, though, I could still hear her gentle sobbing amidst my brother’s frightful bellowing. I hurriedly went to where the soldiers were staying and asked one of them, a colonel, to accompany me to try to reason with my mother. He strangely agreed and took with him a small group.
Moments later we arrived and still finding the door locked, the colonel ordered one of the soldiers to bust through the door. After a few attempts, we came upon my mother – dead, having taken an overdose of sleeping pills and my brother now unrestrained, feeding on her corpse.
I felt something inside me turn upside down. I felt sick and angry but more importantly, frightened.
The sight of silver flashed within the darkness, thundering so loud that my ears would have burst. The bullets found their way into my brother’s head, ending his madness once and for all. I wept in silence and felt the colonel’s heavy hand on my shoulder. He told me, as they carried my family’s body away into some darker corner of the train that this was something that the our enemies from the South had engineered; those who did not perish in the fire were afflicted by the disease and it would only be a matter of time until the madness would set in. My brother, having a weaker immune system was the first to draw the symptoms. It was true then; we had survived the bombing of our village but instead of smoke, there were as I recalled, an air of coldness around us that the colonel confirmed to be the bio-engineered contagion. He told me that my father was bitten by my brother and drew the infection as well and it would only be a matter of tim until the madness took claim of him. He was begrudgingly escorted to the holding room where he was shot before he could fully turn and cause harm to anyone else. The colonel told me all this, assuring me that I was an exception; immune to the contagion. I would be needed and would be pivotal to our country’s recovery but all these seemed meaningless to me. The night seemed to echo my loss for hours and though the soldiers kept me company, there was a void in my heart far darker than whatever madness claimed my family…
In the early morning, I stole myself from their watchful eyes and opened the back carriage’s door. The air was cool and the sun was close to rising – the few rays slowly painting the dark sky a ruinous orange hue. But this was all illusion to me, no different from the trembling impacts of the bombs that shot fire upwards into the sky and brought with them a more sinister employ. The wind lapped at my face coolly, brushing my hair forward as the train traveled in a terrific pace. There was nothing else and I would be nothing as well. My selfish thoughts turned to my family and perhaps, I would remember them as they were now if I so choose to do so. It would only take a few seconds, so I climbed over the steel border that separated me from the ground below…and jumped.
In my mind, the sight of silver was flashing within the darkness. Like lightning in the night sky. Where it goes – flying far, far away. I don’t know anymore. But I do not want to remember it anymore. Silver brings nightmares and this…this is better.
Only a few seconds after I had fallen did I feel the bitterness, the one great sting of pain as I landed hard on the cold rail and felt the warm blood issue forth from my head. And though I could hear in my mind the distant bellowing of the train, the tendrils of darkness where slowly overcoming my senses and it all…
…it all seemed so far away now…