Kickoff written by TiredHuman

Train Ride Home

Returning home with unfinished business.

The train flew smoothly on the tracks, it's worn-down wheels retracing the path it had traveled millions of times before. The ridges and scratches on its frame were lined with the usual soot of the city; the smoke-choked streets, coal dust clouds and open sewers forever leaving their legacy on the rusting metal of the train. Still, it soared through the twists and turns of the path, the engine roaring as loudly as it did fresh from the factory. Too bad there was only one person to enjoy its vengeful battle cry!

An old woman, so thin she looked like a stiff breeze would blow her away, sat by the window of the last car on the train. The glass rattled as the wheels hit a loose piece of gravel, but the woman didn't blink. She stared out, unmoving save for the occasional flick of her wrist, as if trying to shake off a particularly stubborn bug from her long, tattered sleeves.

Of course there had been more passengers when the train set off from Potosí station in the Great City,
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but slowly they had gotten off as they strayed further and further from civilization. Only empty, dusty mountains ran along the train tracks now. The last house had been left behind a little more than three hours before.

Quispe twisted her wrist again with an annoyed grimace. The sun was falling from the sky, setting the peaks ablaze. Finally, she turned from the window to look at her wrist, still twisting and turning every which-way.
"What." The sharp tone of her voice forced the hand to still, before starting up again more violently than before.

She scowled, hissing under her breath, "You have been needling me all day. What, oh WHAT is SO important that you need to get my attention?"

Her left wrist suddenly bent sideways, forcing her to gasp in pain.

"Why the nerve...I thought you knew better than to try something like THAT." She shook her arm. "You will come out when I say you can come out. I may not be as strong as I used to be but you know damn well I'll leave
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you seeing stars if you keep this up." She clamped her right hand over her wrist, nails digging deep enough into her brown skin to draw blood.
"Enough." She said softly, dangerously.

Her wrist flopped on her lap like a drowning fish on a fisherman's boat.

"Not yet. The car appears empty but the sun is still up. Anyone could see you. The sniveling eagle-eyed vultures at the Great City have eyes and ears everywhere."

Her hand settled on her lap as if giving a sulky grunt. She simply said "Good," before giving out a sigh of her own and turning to look out.

The sun was sinking lower, painting the sky in angry orange and red. Looking down at her hands, the light looked like blood on her dark skin, but Quispe dismissed the thought before it could develop. The past was in the past. There would be bloodshed soon, and a little more red on her hands wouldn't make a difference.

Shadows lengthened in the car as the sun disappeared behind the earth. They were nearing the heart of the Andes mountain
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chain, every falling slope illuminated by beautiful orange flame.

Eventually, she was no more than a dark silhouette. Ignoring the insistent squirm of her wrist—the little demon appearing to sense the sun's departure—she leaned into the back wall of the car and closed her eyes. The fading glow of the sky shone on her knotted hair, still dark despite her age. As light disappeared, the last thing visible was her head thrown back, as if in deep sleep.

Total darkness engulfed the train. All that could be heard was the engine and the rasp of the old wheels on the track. Nothing could be seen from within the train.

There was a shuffling in the last car, like someone pulling back their sleeves. There was a muffled curse, and an old woman muttered, "Alright. Come out now."

There was a chuckle and a low growl.
An unfamiliar voice laughed as it answered, "So it begins."

A crackle...
Then everything exploded.
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Award this author for a well-written and beautiful follow-up. The two story parts blend seamlessly together.

Plot twist

Award this author for a very awesome unexpected radical change in the expected direction.