Ring the Bell

The ringing filled her with dread

The newly risen sun had just begun its scorching rise when Valerie heard the sound. Metal warbling as it was struck, hesitantly at first but with increasing urgency. The ringing filled her with dread as the trains first shrill whistle joined the noise.

She joined in the thunder of boots answering as workers emptied the bunkhouse. Leaning over the railing, Valerie spotted the shadow on the horizon, quickly gaining solidity as the train raced toward them slicing through the dust trying to restrain its progress.

“Fools, what are they thinking.”

“Can’t bare good news.”

“Another desolation attack?”

The rumble of the crowd swept over her in a whirlwind echoing her thoughts back to her. A drift of speculation that rode the air even as the train neared, early light glinting from the passenger car’s windows, breaks grinding, and sparks raining upon either side of the tracks. Somehow, and Valerie would never understand how, the engineer managed to tame the train, easing into near perfect alignment with the platform.

The doors swished open, and humanity poured from within. Shoving her questions aside, Valerie grabbed a child tumbling down the steps, pulling her back before she could be trampled. The girl trembled in her arms, rubbing at grey skin with her Culver City patch visible on her coat.

Valerie stroked the child’s hair and closed her eyes. Not Culver. If the desolation had taken there, they were cut off from the east. Without a word spoken, the train revealed the worst news.

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