I brushed my long hair behind my shoulder as I walked towards the cold rusted tracks that had been dead for years. I didnt bother listening for the train that used to go underneath the old McAlister bridge, that was a few feet away, towards the iron factory.
I looked at my watch. It read 5 p.m. I was there way early. I wasn't sure what made me come to the old bridge alone but I knew everyone would be meeting me shortly.
The wind was cold as it ripped through me. I tightened my coat as I walked aimlessly across the tracks, looking up only once to see if I was going into the right direction of the road. That's when I saw him. His shadowed figure stood high above me on the bridge. He looked at me with dark eyes and a mysterious smile.
"Hi." I said as I walked up to him. Somehow I was not afraid of this stranger as I defiantly stood next to him in this empty, uninhabited area of town.
"Hi, Cassie, you have pretty hair." he said strangely in a monotone voice.
I totally ignored his last statement and went towards the first part. "How do you know my name?"
"Everyone knows your name here." he replied without ever blinking.
That's when I figured I was talking to an escaped looney bird and I decided to make a quick getaway but something inside me was fixated on learning something about this person that I knew nothing about. "What is your name?" I asked without hesitation.
He looked at me as if I was the one that was now strange. "You don't know?"
I shrugged my shoulders and looked to the sky as it was suddenly getting dark. "No. Should I?"
He looked down over the side of the bridge and stared at the tracks below. "I thought you were here for a reason."
"Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about." I said to him as the wind started to pick up again.
"Why are you here?" he asked as he looked back at me. His open jacket was flapping in the breeze but he didn't seem cold. I noticed the single white rose that he was keeping safely in his inside pocket but I but I didn't ask him why it was there.
I shook my head as I looked at him intensely. "I don't really remember for some reason. I've never been on this side of town."
"Why not?" he asked quickly.
"Everybody knows its dangerous over here. Ever since that accident with Steel Blue Number 8." I trailed off. I suddenly wasn't in the mood for detail.
"My name's Chris."
At first he stared at me like I was supposed to know something but his name didn't dawn on me at that very moment. I realized later why he was a bit dissapointed.
"So, why are you here?" I asked now that I had became curious for answers.
"It's my anniversary. This is the last time I'll be here. I didn't want to be alone so I wished for someone to come with me and here you are." he grinned foolishly.
"Oh." I replied, not really sure what to say. "Where is your wife?"
"My wife?" he asked me with a strange expression. "I was never married."
I shook my head as we walked towards the side of the bridge and leaned on the frail railing that was bound to fall apart at any moment. "What anniversary is it?" I pondered.
He didn't reply to my question but instead looked towards the woods that were now dark. The day had suddenly become night. The tracks ran out from the trees and came towards the bridge that we were standing on. Somehow he saw something I didn't. "It's coming. We are running out of time."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, now puzzled, as he started to climb over the railing.
"Come with me please. I don't want to go alone." he said anxiously to me as he now stood completely over the other side of the railing.
"What are you doing?" I exclaimed as I grabbed his hand which felt like ice. "Are you crazy?"
"Cassie, please, I promise you won't get hurt!" he said as he gripped my hand and wouldn't let go.
I started to panic and cry at the same time as I noticed the train coming out from the darkness of the night. "Let me go!"
I yelled but he pulled my arm harder. I couldn't let go and the railing was giving way. I didn't even ponder the point of a train on the old abandoned railroad as I was facing an instant death. He looked at me once more and repeated his last statement softly, almost intimately. "I promise you won't get hurt."
"How is that possible?" I questioned as the train blew its whistle only a few feet away.
"It is...with me." he finished as he pulled all my body weight with him. I wasn't ready for him to jump and it caught me offguard.
I landed on the tracks alone, strangely unhurt, staring straight into the bright lights of the train.
I opened my eyes. I was standing beside the tracks along with hundreds of the city people. I looked at my watch. It read 5:45 p.m. The bright sun glared down on me which warmed the cool air. I couldn't remember much of anything else except Chris. I looked around at everyone. I knew they weren't dead. I saw my little sister running towards me. I smiled as I sleepishly looked at her.
"Why'd you take off?" she asked as she bounced up to me.
"What?" I shook my head. I still couldn't remember how I got there. A sudden amnesia had taken over my body.
"When we parked out on the road you took off before we could even get out the car." she said to me.
I sighed as I rubbed my eyes. "I don't really remember."
"You're weird." she bluntly stated as much as a little sister could.
"What's going on?"
She looked up at me as if she didn't know me. "Are you okay?"
"I don't really know. I feel like I fell asleep or something." I said to her as I saw the mayor and a few policmen walk up and stand beside the bridge.
"Steel Blue will be here soon." she said as she looked deep into the woods searching for the train.
"What?" I asked as if everything had become still. All of a sudden I remembered what I was there for and what was going on as if I had been hit by a ton of bricks.
"Look! They're starting the memorial. Let's go!" she pointed towards the bridge.
I walked over with her as the crowd gathered around.
"I'd like to thank everyone for coming on the 20th anniversary of the last shipment from the inner city to the old iron factory. Now that the factory will be running once again after so many years, we were happy to bring back the spirit of our city, Steel Blue Number 8." everyone clapped and cheered as the mayor continued to talk to us as he held a plaque in his hands. "Some of you may remember that earlier that year a young man was struck and killed by Steel Blue and with the festivites of the day we felt it would be most appropriate to keep a memorial and this plaque here by the McAlister bridge for Christopher Kirkpatrick and his family."
The name cut through me like a piece of glass. I recalled the story of the accident at the bridge but I never knew the name of the man. Until now. I felt like I had passed through time. Something happened that was so unbelievable that no one would ever understand.
I watched the mayor place the plaque on a temporary tripod by the bridge. As soon as the crowd dissipaited, I walked over and looked at it intensely. His name on the plaque flashed out at me like a red warning light.
Then I saw something white from the corner of my eye and I quickly turned my attention towards the high section of weeds that was growing from right inside the entrance of the bridge. I looked down into them and pulled out a fresh white rose that seemed as if it had just been cut from its life support. I instantly knew where I had seen it and from that point I believed that everything that I had dreamed up was actually real.
The whistle startled me as I turned around. I stood only five feet away from Steel Blue Number 8 as it slowly chugged past me. If I reached out I could have touched the fresh blue paint that beautifully made the train radiant. The gold trim glistened sweetly in the sun. The big white eight was unmistakable and almost 3d on the front.
I looked at the rose and walked back towards my sister who was standing in the crowd. She never asked me about the rose or how I found it in the dead cold earth on that fall day. I knew that rose was ment for me and Chris knew I would be there even though I never did. I smiled to myself slightly as I rejoined my family and walked away from the bridge where I would never return.
I don't really know why what happened, happened to me. But, he was there waiting for someone, anyone, for a way out of the lonely, empty place he had been for so many years. He had appeared only to me and although I didn't feel special, I was in some way special to him. And although I didn't understand what he was going through, I was happy that I was the one that made his wish come true.