a fictional short story by Joshua Coffman
Evan stood in the darkness. It was silent. He imagined himself in a different year, a year where people rode horses to the city to get items from the town shop. He closed his eyes and heard the cars far away driving on the highway. If he didn't know what cars were, he imagined the sounds would make him think of ghosts in the woods.
The night sky was covered with clouds obscuring everything but the bright aurora of the moon. No guiding stars, no mythical figures to protect over him as he walked down the railroad tracks leading out of the industrial part of town.
There was no trash here. The unmarred landscape surrounding him held no white highlights in the darkness. No plastic Walmart bags caught in the trees. There were no empty Chinese takeout boxes framing the treeline along the tracks.
Evan thought it was strange that there was a place untouched by the invasive touch of litter. He remembered his home, trash was all around. People were not careful to remove contaminants from their parking spots and sidewalks.
This quiet uninhabited land, painted with a long reflective steel highlight, stretched on beyond his sight. At this time of night there were no trains going anywhere. There were no ravens tattling on their neighbors theivery.
It was just Evan and the blurry moon trying to pierce through the clouds.
Back in the neighborhood, through the outer wall of the darkness covered apartment building, a babies muffled but yet somehow sharp cry alerted the neighborhood that it was time for a newborn to be fed. The only concerned citizen was Rebel.
Rebel was a good boy. He had a beautiful fur coat that he wore everywhere. And he had a tail.
But when the baby cried, that tail stopped wagging and Rebel immediately looked for trouble. Protecting was in his genes and he wasn't about to let a poor unfortunate child starve to death on his watch.
He listened attentively but heard no more cries. He wondered if the babies mother had taken him into her bosom for food or if some unrepentant villain had kidnapped him. Either way, Rebel felt no immediate sense of duty any longer to protect the one who had cried.
He began chewing his stick and wagging his tail contentedly again.
Evan kept walking down the train tracks through the darkness, alone with his thoughts. What were those thoughts?
He thought about his friend who had died in a boating accident.
He thought about a new adventure he wanted to go on in the Adirondack mountains.
Then his thoughts shifted to technology and science.
Where else would his thoughts take him this time of night on a long walk?
Would they go deep into philosophy and virtue or would they surface to politics and celebrities?
He enjoyed this walk.
Little did he know someone else was about to change his life forever.
Rebel enjoyed the night much more than the day, it was his wolf genes that were manifesting in him. He lay under the awning of the backyard shed chewing on his stick, happy to be doing what he loved.
But the stick was getting boring, so Rebel made the half hearted attempt to bring the stick with him on a quick exploration of the backyard, but he immediately got distracted with a new tall blade of grass that had shot up in the last 24 hours and the stick drooped out of his mouth and embraced the ground instead.
This was an interesting piece of grass. It wasn't quite like the others. It had much more meaning and well, smell. It also looked quite intriguing in the shadows along the fence. Almost as if it was teasing Rebel to come and try to move it.
Rebel obliged and the grass regretted being so froward.
Two miles had passed, and the clouds were beginning to turn into a shade of gray rather than a midnight black. In a hour or two the sun would valiantly rise above the mountains and declare authority over the day.
Evan refused to turn around. There were too many deep things he felt uncomfortable leaving unthought.
He flinched as he walked onto a sharp rock that twisted his ankle. He pause for a moment because there was a distinct sense of deja vu. He felt like he had been here before, but something was different.
He stretched his foot forward and curled his toes inside of his shoes and then continued to move forward, unphased by this slight sensation of pain.
In the distance he heard a truck accelerating.
"Must be some annoying guy going to work early in the morning" Evan thought to himself.
It was strange though because as the truck continued accelerating the sound appeared more to come from the direction Evan had just walked.
Then Evan began to see a tall shadow of himself forming directly in front of him very faintly.
He turned around and saw a set of headlights driving directly towards him. A truck was driving down the train tracks!
Evan jumped off of the rocky rail foundation and stood by the treeline as he waited for the truck to bear down on him.
The truck was driving very fast over the uneven terrain and was leaving a dusty cloud behind it as it illegally went down the tracks. "How strange?!" thought Evan. He began to breathe deeply to get some fresh air before the dust cloud hit him. The truck roared louder until it began to pass him and Evan closed his eyes to protect them.
His ears surprised him though because the strange crunch of the rocks did not pass him. Instead it came to an abrupt stop right past him. The sound of acceleration stopped and the gentle purr of the massive engine took over.
Evan opened his eyes. The truck had stopped.
A high pitched whine as the driver side window rolled down.
"Get in, we're going unicorn hunting." a deep voice called out.
Evan stood paralyzed in the half shadows of the headlight illuminated passage. He had no idea who this person was and most certainly did not believe in unicorns.