Snow Day


"This is the last train leaving Jake's house headed to infinity. All aboard!"

Jake loaded up the firebox with a few extra lumps of coal, just to be sure. He pulled at a loose string near the corner of the cabin, letting off a few warning blasts before shuddering into motion.

This is the express train, he thought with a steely determination.

Jake was not a train engineer. He was not a conductor, a passenger, or even a train. Like he was going to let that stop him. He was the Polar Express. He was Thomas the Tank Engine. He was the Little Engine That Could and he was going to the moon.

Jake was also six, and gaining speed.

The newly-fallen snow, thigh deep on him, was his rails, letting him go wherever he pleased. His legs pumped as he shot forward, leaving dual tracks in the soft white snow, that, he imagined, would soon stretch off into the horizon like all those pictures he'd seen. No time for that now, though. Gotta get these folks to where they're going.

He plowed through the snow, using his fists as cow-catchers as he weaved through the forest, clearing debris out of his way. Brambles stuck at his face, but he held up his head defiantly, letting his legs do the thinking. Right now, they were thinking that that tree looked like an unexpected, but irresistible detour.

The train thudded up the side of the tree with reckless abandon, not stopping until its branches thinned out at the top where a frightened squirrel faltered, lost its footing, and fell down to the snow below. Well, might as well try! Gravity is an adventure! Face still set in grim determination, he leapt off the tree.

It is at this point, when he was hurtling down toward the snow after jumping from the tallest branches of an oak tree, that Jake's stomach decided to take this opportunity to tell him that maybe that wasn't the greatest idea. Jake ignored its warnings, buckled his seatbelt, and braced for impact.

It is at this point, too, that time usually slows down. But not for Jake. Time sped up because, after all, the trains have to run on time.

He landed, throwing up a spray of white powder behind him. That one jarred him, but he shot off again with a hoot. He was making good time, and still hadn't slowed down at all. His breath trailed out behind him like a smokestack's plume, dissipating in the low light of a winter sunset.

He continued ahead, a faint mechanical chugging issuing from his lungs. He came up to a burm of a fallen tree trunk and ran alongside it. He slipped once on the wet bark, lurched forward, and tripped. He fell down, curling his body into a ball and rolling with his momentum to bring him back to his feet. Off-balance, he took a step sideways, clipping a tree with his shoulder causing a heap of snow to fall from the branches. He blasted through it, leaving his outline in the curtain of falling snow for a moment before it hit the ground.

A plain soon stretched out in front of Jake, a mountain at its end jutting up against the thinning light. He smiled for the first time and headed straight toward it.

Zooming through the plain, he reached the bottom of the hill. His legs pumped liked pistons; his arms swung prceisely beside him. He looked straight into the side of the hill as he climbed until there was no more hill. Snow dunes sprang into existence in front of his eyes. He had reached the top. Sweating, he threw off his hat and gloves as he crested the peak, launching himself spread eagle down the slope. He hit the crisp snow below and tumbled locomotive over caboose. He rolled back onto his rails and continued into the dune field.

It was getting dark now, and Jake's feet slipped on unseen patches of ice. He had not yet slowed. He was following the sun and it was more than halfway below the horizon. It would not be long now.

Bobbing up and down among the dunes, Jake could hear a distant whooshing and fought to concentrate. This would be the hardest part, he thought. Steam poured off his exposed skin in clouds. He took off his jacket mid-stride, leaving it to the wind. Only a few more dunes to go, and the whooshing became a roar, the roar of infinity.

Jake cleared the last dune and landed in the sand. Here, he paused for the first time. He gazed out into the ocean, across infinity, to where the sun was setting. He broke into a grin and careened into the cold water. His legs ruptured the surf, sending sparkling tendrils out in front of him. He dove over a wave and began swimming. As the sun went below the horizon he laughed and began swimming, putting his head down against the water.

"Folks, this concludes the train part of our journey. If you would disembark now, we can begin the ferry ride."

Steam Train # 4 for Sheila by Tulay Emekli (source image)

Grass Stains by shoofle

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