DEATH AND LOSS by Darcia Gonzalez Laucerica

The station was, as Jenna said it would, almost abandoned. He was relieved because what he was about to do didn’t make any sense and he wondered how far was he willing to go into nonsense avenue for this. After sitting down on one of the wood benches of the station in Platform 0, he realised he was willing to go all the way for this. Even when knowing he was completely alone, he looked around before taking the red candle, which had been poking him on the rib all the way there, out of his pocket. He took a deep breath before also looking for his lighter in his other pocket. It was two in the afternoon when he lighted the candle, while holding it in his hand. That was three hours ago, and the candle was still burning, the wax falling onto his left hand. 
The day before the doctor had walked into the room with more bad news and more empty promises, which Miles didn’t consider good enough by any mean. But it was his mother who had stood up and ushered the doctor out of the room, with that authority that he knew from when he was a little child walking over freshly mopped floor or when he didn’t pray as instructed. He stared at his mother, the image of elegance and good Christianity, now with bags under her eyes and stains from hospital food on her yellow dress. She insisted in wearing bright colours these days, “…because she needs to see we’re not mourning her yet. Put on that blue tie, Miles”, she said. He knew she was right, but he felt those colours looked mocking in an intensive care room. After a few minutes of silence, in which Trinity lay there under what looked like millions of tubes and machines, his mother suddenly stood up, causing Miles to look up, startled. She looked much older than she was as she stared down at her granddaughter. “At this point, I only want to make God pay. He’s not doing good enough either”, she muttered under her breath. The cross than had hung around her neck for seventy-three years, seemed to burn as she ripped it off. She walked to the bathroom, and threw it in the trash can. 
After seeing his mother lose all hope, in her yellow dress and shiny shoes, he almost went out for a cigarette, but instead went downstairs to the hospital crappy cafeteria and sat down in a booth, his head in his hands. He tried to supress the tears, all his years of military training weighing on his back, the screams of superiors telling him to stop crying, for he was a man and needed to be strong. How was he supposed to defend his country if he was moping in a corner? How was he supposed to take care of Trinity if he was just crying in a hospital cafeteria instead of being by her side? 
He was just getting a hold of himself when Jenna showed up, cleaning the floor while dancing around to the music coming from her headphones. She was around forty, her grey work clothes not matching the crazy pink hair colour that surrounded her chubby face. At the sight of him, she smiled and took one of her headphones out of her right ear, and introduced herself shaking his hand. After starting a friendly conversation, Jenna finally asked what had brought him there. 
“My daughter is very sick, the doctor said there wasn’t much hope left and, well, it’s a matter of time now”. She immediately understood and sat down in front of him, holding his hand over the table. “I just… We already lost her mother to the war; she was in the military as well, you see. We met at the work. Trinity is the only family I have left apart from my mother. I would give anything to save her. I would trade my life for hers”. 
“Now, now, Miles, that’s not fair either…” she answered, an apprehensive expression on her face. 
“I would”, he insisted, his hands now in fists. 
She sighed and looked at him in a way he hated, pity all over her eyes. “Okay, if you’re so determined, and really sure about that… I’m going to share a secret with you”. Jenna lived in a Hispanic neighbourhood. She knew almost everyone in her block of buildings and therefore, heard all the stories and legends. She told him why no one from her neighbourhood took the train from the closest station. “Some people in the area think it’s haunted. Others are more specific and attribute the weird happenings to demons of some sort”. She said that a person could make a deal with a demon in that station if they burned a red candle over their hand and that way proved they were willing to sacrifice something for what they wanted. 
“So, a demon just shows up if you burn yourself with the candle at the station?”, he asked, a bit appalled and incredulous. 
“Is not that easy, love. To prove that you’re willing to give up your soul for what you want, you must wait until the candle blows out by itself. People say that when that happens, an unscheduled train will stop in Platform 0 and wait for you to get in. In that train, a demon will offer what you want”. 
Miles didn’t believe in demons, or God. Despite his religious up-bringing with his mother being Christian and superstitious in all senses, he dismissed this story as part of the Hispanic culture and religion. He thanked Jenna for the distraction and bought the sandwiches before going back to Trinity’s room. 
Around three in the morning, Miles called a taxi for his mother to go back home to sleep for a while and get clean clothes, so he was alone at seven thirty in the morning. He had fallen asleep on the sofa next to Trinity’s bed when every alarm around her went off, and it seemed like all the people working at the hospital at that time moved around her frantically. They managed to stabilise her again after a few minutes, leaving her to sleep afterwards. He called his mother with a shaky voice and she rushed in, throwing herself over Trinity, and crying while holding her hands. At some point between calling his mother, and her arriving at the hospital, he had assimilated his decision to visit that station after lunch, when Trinity would be resting, and under her grandmother’s watch. 
So, there he was, sitting at the station that Jenna had mentioned, his candle burning over his hand and his spirit deflating with every minute passing without the flame dying. After four in the afternoon, he guessed that Trinity would have woken up already and his guilt grew even larger about not being next to her. Despite this, he stayed still and didn’t make a sound as the wax continued to burn him. Half an hour later a few people showed up at the station. He guessed none of them were superstitious or religious and didn’t believe the stories. 
A woman holding a little girl’s hand walked passed him hurriedly, giving him a quick glance before avoiding his eyes and walking faster. The little girl, blond with pigtails and grey eyes, separated from her mother with a pull and stopped to watch what Miles was doing. She seemed curious about it, and he tried smiling at her through the pain that was just getting worse. 
“Does it hurt?” she asked, “Why don’t you stop?” her tone of voice was soft, almost convincing, but Miles didn’t falter. 
He shook his head ‘no’ and stared at the floor when the mother came back panicking, and took the girl’s hand to get her away from him. He couldn’t blame her. He already received looks of distrust as a black man, and his figure due to years in the military, made him look even more dangerous in the eyes of society. He was also holding a burning candle and burning himself with it. He too would avoid a person doing something like that in public, especially if he was with Trinity. The idea that he could no longer take her out in public, and walk next to her, made him determined to not get up until the flame died. It was six when his mother texted him informing that Trinity felt better and was asking about him, and it was as he decided to ignore the message, the candle went out. 
Nothing happened for approximately ten seconds after the darkness surrounded him. He was frozen in place, cursing himself for being such an idiot and believing this stupid story from a woman he had never met before. He guessed he only wanted something to hold on to, some hope left at the end of a burning candle. He was getting up when the station suddenly went cold, a wave of chilly air crawled up his back as the sound of a train approaching hit his ears.
A fathomless desire to jump to the tracks before the train got to a stop grew in his stomach, his chest bumped with every screeching noise the train made. He put his hands into fists, throwing the candle instead, jumping would do nothing, except taking away the pain of seeing Trinity die, but she would still do so, if he didn’t do anything to stop it. He turned around and saw how the front of the train approaching looked like a red and black mouth ready to eat him alive. He closed his eyes, taking a breath in, and looked again. The first car was painted a weak blue. The screeching noises were still there, hurting his ears but he did not move a muscle, scared that the unscheduled train would disappear as soon as he made a movement towards it. He let the train come to him. 
He didn’t think that the little girl was testing him when she stopped to ask what he was doing, but when the door closest to him opened, everything fell into place. Her figure came out almost completely, one of her small hands holding onto the door for balance. “Waiting on a train?” 
“Where to?” was all he could ask, as he stared into her grey eyes, that seemed smarter now, sneaky. 
“You tell me. Hop in.”
***
The little girl didn’t seem small anymore, her energy invaded the small space they were both standing in, a cubicle between two carriages. He glanced around, surprised by his environment. The old rickety version of a train that had arrived at the station, looked nothing like the one inside. He expected a classical blue carpet, with suspicious stains on it, and dents every step there and there, the walls covered in ads or graffiti. The floor was covered in a fancy clean red carpet, with grey and black designs on it, while the walls were covered in wood, and strips of golden handles, while the ceiling was dark, except for a very bright and naked light bulb. 
“Miles, let’s move on. I’m Amy, and I’ll be your guide this afternoon.”
She jumped forwards towards Miles, making him move to his left, startled, while she grabbed the handle of a door he hadn’t seen before. That door opened to total chaos. The first carriage he stepped into, had every type of person he could imagine, people of all ages and races, dressed from the fanciest dresses to the scruffiest pair of jeans. They were screaming and shouting, and laughing loudly while drinking, the smell of alcohol filling Miles’ nostrils. None of them acknowledged their entrance into the car, and Amy made her way under extended legs, and pushing hips. Someone tried to take one of her pigtails in their fist but she moved swiftly in the opposite direction, rolling her eyes in annoyance. Miles did his best to follow through, feeling some stares on the back on his neck. 
Every time he imagined the supernatural world as a kid, he pictured collected characters dressed in suits, drinking tea, or hard liquor, maybe with classy accents, who wanted to see the world destroyed by being scheming and manipulative, cheating and killing in clean ways. When Amy closed the door of the car behind them, Miles looked at her with wide eyes.

“Low class demons. They’re waiting for clients, but they barely get them so we just place them in the first car so they don’t cause too much trouble to the rest of the train”, she sighed. “Sorry about that.”
Miles nodded, “When can I make my deal? I need…”
“So impatient. No need to rush, Miles. Are you that desperate to lose your soul?” she said with a grin, while walking. 
They were walking along a corridor, the rooms at the right side of the train now, every door with the label ‘Private’ on them, with long windows on each side, carved with designs of caves and rivers. 
“You’ll be making the official deal in one of this rooms,” said Amy, when she saw him eyeing the signs. “No peeking”. Miles straightened his back, for he had been trying to see through one of the windows in the room closest to him. The more he walked, the lump in his throat grew larger, and his nervousness increased. He had too many questions, but he feared Amy’s response as she walked in front of his to the end of the second car. “In the third and fourth carriage, we take the petitions, and distribute it between our agents. You’ll be able to ask for what you want in no time,” she added, looking at him over her shoulder, as to calm him down. 
As quiet as this carriage was, he could hear the next one’s movement from where he was, and see the moving silhouettes of people through the window of the door at the end of the corridor. Amy made him go first through the door, and as he took a deep breath, she instructed him to push everyone in his way and find the department he needed. With a little luck, it would be in this carriage, and they would be able to go back to the private rooms to seal everything. For a second, Miles wondered what exactly was expected of him to seal the deal that required privacy but he pushed that thought down as he entered the next corridor and prepared himself to search for what he needed. Only one thought in his mind: Trinity. 
As soon as he walked into the room, he stumbled over a hairless creature, with a head that was too large for its skinny body, which hissed at him before disappearing behind a door, and slamming it closed. Miles had the sudden realisation that half of the things in that train weren’t human, and for a while there, he had been tricked into thinking they were like him, guiding him politely, and making him feel at ease. 
He turned to see Amy behind him, watching him through half closed red eyes. A grin showed up on her face and Miles felt a cold shiver run through his back. The noisy room went quiet and when he looked back at the corridor, all red eyes were focused on him, waiting for his next step. The few humans in the room didn’t react, eyes focused on the floor, afraid of looking up. He turned back to Amy, his hands cold and trembling. Her voice wasn’t the one of a little girl anymore, cold and almost plural, from the back of the throat, “Finally noticing, huh? That’s cute. Keep walking”. No way back. 
The room went back to its noisy business, demons guiding humans, arms around shoulders, and twisted smirks, seductive winks, and smooth voices, into the rooms with the labels they wanted. Miles read them as he passed. ‘Wealth’, ‘Fame’, ‘Wisdom’ and finally, a label that stopped him in his tracks: ‘Death’. Amy stopped behind him, seeing how his eyes were directed to the ‘Death’ door. “Is that what you want? You don’t seem the type”, she pointed out, still smiling. 
“And what is the type? No killer looks the same”. 
“It’s not the looks. All killers smell like corpses already”. The fact that she was still smiling as she spoke, made Miles feel sick in his stomach. “So, you don’t want to kill anyone…”
“Who would want to?” he asked in a frightened whisper. 
“You’d be surprised, Miles.” 
Miles shook his head no, and made an attempt to keep walking, when the door opened and a black haired teenage girl came out in a rush, hands fidgeting inside her jacket pockets. He understood what Amy meant with the smell, as he stepped back to get away from the girl. Before the door could close completely, he caught a glimpse of pink hair and grey clothes. He felt his face get hot with recognition and his hands started shaking. He was already at the end of the corridor. His petition was on the other side. It would be worth it at the end when Trinity’s cancer disappeared out of nowhere, and could live the rest of her life. He opened the door and walked to the other side, determined to continue, convinced he wouldn’t look as disgruntled as the humans in the third carriage. 
In the next corridor, he didn’t need to walk much to find another label that stopped him: ‘World Peace’. The door was wide open and the room was empty. His eyebrows moved together, seeing his wife in the mud after she’d been shot in battle. 
“Oh, common, that’s not what you want and I know it. Move it,” Amy said, taking a step ahead of him and closing the door, starting to get impatient. 
“Has someone asked for it before?” Miles wondered, as he continued walking. If he could give up his soul twice, he’d stay there, but Trinity came first. 
“Not while I’ve worked here. I don’t think the big boss would let it happen either. Would make the world too boring.”
“Big boss? Lucifer?” Miles asked, incredulous, stopping again. 
He heard Amy scoff, but before he could ask her what was so funny, a tumult generated at the end of the carriage. He turned his head to a group of humans that had come out of various rooms to look through the door, pushing each other to take turns and watch through. Miles tried to ignore their eagerness, as he walked up to the door labelled as ‘Health’, when he heard one of the humans say something that stopped his hand over the handle. 
“I heard him talking. He’s there. God’s there!” 
“Miles?” Amy said his name in a warning whisper, one of her tiny hands approaching the end of his vest, to keep him in place, as guessing what his next move would be. But he could only picture his mother throwing her cross in the trashcan, and her yellow dress, ironic while surrounded by the purple tiles in the bathroom of the hospital where her granddaughter was dying slowly. He walked out of Amy’s reach and pushed the other humans aside, throwing more than one to the floor with a painful yelp as he opened the door and rushed to the other side, closing the door behind him. When he looked back over his shoulder, he saw the little girl that kept a demon inside, red eyes burning through the glass to stare at him in fury. He turned his back to them, taking a deep breath with his eyes closed. When he opened them again, he only saw an eleven-year-old, sitting in one of the many seats available, dressed like he was about to play for his baseball team. He looked calm, and Miles immediately felt better in his presence, his whole body relaxing. 
“And who are you?” he asked, brown eyes gazing up at him from his seat, his legs crossed, while he took off his baseball cap, showing a curly and messy mat of brownish hair. 
“You’re… God?” 
“That’s one of the many names your kind has given me, yes. But I already know who I am, I asked who are you?” 
“Miles… sir,” he felt weird calling a kid ‘sir’. But out of all the appearances that God could have had, this one wasn’t much of a shock. He had read one time that God was just a kid playing chess with the world, something that, at the time, his mother had classified as blasphemy. He wondered what she would say now if she were there. 
“What brings you to my train, Miles? I see Amy was guiding you well, until those other humans distracted you,” he pointed out, bobbling his knee up and down over his other leg, an impatient tick Miles couldn’t take his eyes off for a while before swallowing hard and walking up to the kid to sit down in front of him. The only thing between them now was a small coffee table, decorated with a medium size bust of Jesus Christ, in white marble. 
“I want to save my daughter. She’s very ill and the doctors say there’s no hope left… It’s a matter of time. I came here to make a deal. My soul for a healthy life for her.” 
When the kid didn’t change his expression, Miles realised how stupid he sounded. Of course, the thing sitting in front of him already knew all this. He also knew who he was. It was the same tactic that Amy had used, making him believe he had some control over the situation from the moment he stepped into that devil’s train, to make him feel comfortable. God’s eyes were burying into him. 
“Calling me a thing is rather rude. Your mother raised you better,” Miles controlled his impulse to apologise, he refused to be intimidated. “I’d love to help you…” this came as a surprise, for the expression in God’s face wasn’t a sympathetic one. He wondered if he felt anything close to sympathy and backed off the thought as soon as he remembered he could hear it. Too late, it seemed, because a smirk stretched the kid’s lips in an unnatural manner, as he uncrossed his legs and placed a hand on the coffee table to get up. “…but I’m not going to. See, this body’s getting old and I need a change. Your daughter might just be the perfect fit. Jenna is scheduled to take her in three days.” Miles looked up at the kid from his seat, eyes wide and mouth half open, not breathing until his lungs needed the air and he was forced to take a deep breath through the nose. “Knew you’d understand”, the kid added, adjusting his shirt over his small chest and turning his back on him to get out of the carriage. 
He didn’t think it would work, he didn’t think it was possible. He pictured this creature inside Trinity’s body. Her big brown eyes, just like her mother’s, normally so joyful and excited, even when sick, being cynical and manipulative. He saw his mother saying she wanted to make God pay for not doing good enough, and faced the reality that God wasn’t doing anything at all. Not for Trinity, not for anyone. And he couldn’t control himself. His hand closed in a tight fist around the marble neck of Jesus Christ and swung the bust it in a perfect semicircle, hitting God’s nape, and sending him flying to the floor, a shocked and confused expression painted in the kid’s features as a waterfall of blood covered the neck of the baseball shirt. Miles stood there, frozen, waiting for movement, waiting for the signs of immortality and the wrath of God upon his disrespect but he only watched the blood slowly cover the carpet. Its first stain in history. 
Miles walked over the small body and slipped on the blood and fell forwards, his whole body shaking still, adrenaline moving him, and his heart bumping in his temples. He stood up with a jump, and kept running to the end of the carriage where he found the emergency break and pulled it, causing the train to give a thud and stop. He heard surprised screams from the other carriages as he jerked the door open to scape. He didn’t care where the train was, he’d pay for the taxi all the way back to the hospital and forget everything that had just happened. But he found himself at the station he had been sitting for hours before. He let himself fall to the concrete beside the train tracks, as he heard the train start again and move into the distance, out of his sight. 
***
As he walked into the hospital room, his breath caught in his throat when Trinity opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Grandma fell asleep an hour ago, dad. Could you read me a story?” 
He nodded, smiling back, relieved to see her joyful eyes staring back at him. “Of course, baby”. 
“What’s that you got there?”, she asked, trying to put her head up to see him better. 
Only then, he looked at his right hand. He was still holding the bust he had used to kill God. His blood was still around the crown of thorns. “Nothing, Trinity. Don’t worry about it”. He walked to the bathroom and placed the bust in the sink, under the flow of warm water. If Jenna showed up in three days, he’d have that bust at hand. 
After closing the tap, he went back into the room, where his mother was waking up.
“Oh, you’re back. What you’ve been doing all day?” 
He let out a breathy laugh, passing his hand through his eyes, trying to avoid the tears from falling. 
“Ever heard of Nietzsche, mom?”