by Michelle Zhu
Art by Julia Wang
Issue: Solivagant (Winter 2018)
It’s early December, and the air outside is musky and cold. The ground has a thick layer of white candy piled on, and footprints of various species can be seen decorating the soft white blanket. The trees are naked and barren, stripped of any warmth the leaves would have provided them with. Their trunks jut out in odd places, branches curving at strange angles.
And there she is, traveling at 120 mph on a small train headed for the end of the world.
She sits there as if she is patiently waiting for something to happen. Her hands are folded in her lap, and her scarf is loosely wrapped around her neck. Her nose is red from the icy temperature of the small cart, and her hair, falling around her shoulders, is frizzy from infrequent treatment.
She presses her forehead against the glass window and stares out into the winter wonderland. It’s ethereal, the almost perfect scenery laid in front of her very own eyes. She exhales, and a small portion of the window is blurred by the unusual heat. She wipes it away using the palms of her hands and she continues to stare out into the unknown.
The train bobs up and down- up and down. It becomes a constant rhythm, the pace is slow but fast, bumpy but smooth. And suddenly, the train comes to a halt.
Her body lurches forward and she has nothing to grab onto. She pushes her back into her seat and shuts her eyes close.
“Passengers,” the announcement system speaks,”we have arrived at our destination.”
She takes a breath again, hesitantly opening her eyes. In the distance, there’s a small tree in the middle of the snowy fields. She glances at the pair of shoes that sit patiently next to her, and grab them by their worn out shoelaces.
She steps out of the train’s sliding door, the cold air hitting her frail body immediately. Her eyes wince, and she grabs onto the pair of worn out red Converse tighter.
She takes her first step outside of the train’s frame and her boots hit the ground softly. Her black rain boots leave an indent into the wintery blanket, the dirt hidden on the bottom of her shoes dirty the pure white snow.
She is an intruder to this environment, but she trudges on despite the roughness of the wind. The air is cold, slicing her skin open and creating even more wounds across her grey armor.
She takes her body forward, to the tree, step by step, one foot in front of the other. She clutches the shoes, and braces the cold air head-on.
Finally, she arrives at the small tree in the middle of the field. She touches the branches lightly with her free hand, and runs her fingers along the curves and edges of the bare tree. She exhales once again, amazed at how such a thing could exist.
Gently, she places the left shoe down first, and ties the right shoe to a small branch. Then, she does the same to the other shoe. They almost look like ornaments decorating a small Christmas tree.
She smiles softly to herself, and turns around. She walks back once again, retracing her footsteps and finally ending up at the train’s sliding doors once again.
She slides the doors open, takes a step inside the train, and closes them again.