And I'd Let That Lonesome Whistle Blow My Blues Away...

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The train was in disrepair, rattling along the tracks at a breakneck speed. It was falling apart, having barely survived the war and the horrors of which took place. One of the last trains headed out west this year, it didn’t even have a name, the paint chipped and burnt, the engine covered in ash, both from the city it once called home and from the coal that was shoveled into it.

The man sat in his seat, rucksack in the seat next to him. Around him, people clustered, either standing or sitting, all of them tired and haggard, all survivors of the Razing.

Jeremiah Cimmerian was on his way to a new life.

The train had just left Washington D.C. and had been making occasional stops along the way to Wyoming, more and more refugees being picked up, given tickets by what remained of the Union government. Though, they weren’t stopping again for some time, at least, according to an official who had come aboard to verify the papers of everyone riding the locomotive.

Gazing out the window, Cimmerian was lost in thought. Despite his best efforts to move on, he could not leave his past life behind, not yet. One’s mind could not easily forget the horrors that it had seen, and the wrath of the Southern Armies was something that would not be forgotten by the man for some time.

From his position, he was able to see as the forests and hills slowly gave way to abandoned buildings. The effects of the war were felt even up here, most civilians moving up into the Northeast to avoid being caught in the crossfire. This left entire regions left desolate, the only things willing to live within them animals and renegade troopers from either side, having run into the wilderness to escape the conflict.

He wasn’t able to catch the name of the town as they passed through it, the train coming to a crawl. He was, however, able to catch a clear glance at the large hospital looming on the hillside, and the stream of patients trickling out. Escorted by nurses, it was clear that they were survivors of the war, all of them soldiers. Some still clung onto their regalia, wearing uniforms and hats that were stained with dirt and dried blood.

Soon, they came aboard the train, holding the same papers that all the refugees held, showing their status as survivors of the Razing. He supposed he felt sympathy for them. They did not choose to survive, they did not choose to be sent into a lopsided battle with no hope of victory. No, he blamed the loss on the cowardice and incompetence of their generals, the ones who clung to the old ways and who believed in outdated concepts such as honor in war.

War had no honor. Everyone on the train had learned that first hand. War was a bloody, messy thing, filled with death and disease and suffering.

The only ones who hadn’t learned it were the ones who caused it in the first place.

He barely noticed as a nurse wheeled in a man across from him, the man himself wrapped up in bandages that seemed to do little to prevent bleeding. They were stained black and brown, and the stench that emanated from the man filled the room. Some of the other passengers moved away, trying to get fresh air, or as fresh of air as one could get. Cimmerian didn’t move, however, simply giving a courteous nod to the man and his assistant, who looked displeased that she had been given this task.

The train began to move again, slowly reaching its previous pace. From here, it would be a non-stop ride to Riddle, Wyoming. To a new future.

After a long while, the nurse who had accompanied the man stepped away, presumably to get some fresh air. The man watched her leave, then turned to Cimmerian, who had continued to look out the window.

“Pardon my asking-” He said in a low, torn voice, “But do you happen, by chance, to have a light?”

Cimmerian glanced over, looking over the man. “No, I apologize. I don’t smoke.”

“Heh, not a problem. Just thought I’d try to get a quick one in before that bitch got back. Always on my case.” He laughed, a strange wheezing sound, almost as if it caused him pain to do so. “Says it’s an unhealthy habit. So what? I’m going to die anyway, might as well enjoy my last days.”

Although Cimmerian couldn’t see his face all the way, he somehow knew that the man was studying him. A strange feeling went down his spine, the same feeling one gets when they feel as if they’re being watched, even when they’re alone.

“Say…you do look familiar. Might I know you from somewhere?”

“If you do,” Cimmerian said, “It’s most likely something I wish to move on from.” He was blunt, not wanting to continue this conversation.

“Oh, I do!- You’re the editor-in-chief for…what was it, oh, right, the Balti-”

Cimmerian interrupted him. “I said, I wish to move on from it. I don’t need any reminders, not from anyone.”

The man laughed again. “Suppose then you need no introduction then, but let me introduce myself. Most call me-”

“Corporal, what have we said, no disturbing the other passengers.” The nurse had come back, talking in the tone one would use with a small child. She frowned and walked up between them, turning to face Cimmerian.
“I apologize. The corporal, he’s suffering from shock. His mind isn’t there. We’ve told him to not interact with the other passengers, he has a habit of trying to rile them up. I apologize again for anything he may have said.”

The man’s attitude changed there, going from slightly playful to…something much darker. Even without seeing his face, Cimmerian could tell.

The nurse apologized again, wheeling the corporal. Cimmerian turned back towards the window, pushing the interaction out of his mind.

Onward, the train moved along the tracks, pounding steam against steel.

Onward to a new start. Onward to Riddle.

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