Daniel looked from the man on the train, to the eerie face in the water and back. He tried to force his brain, groggy with exhaustion and pain and the thoughts of the past while, to focus.
One way ticket, the man had said. That didn’t sound good. But the strange water-man? Water was what was killing him, here on the tracks. How could he know if either of them were his friend? Then something occurred to him and he reached into his back pocket, withdrawing and opening his old pocket knife.
“If you want to help me… stop me.” He raised the knife to his throat and pushed it against his rough skin.
The man in the train didn’t move. Neither did the rain man.
“Don’t believe I’ll do it?” he asked, his voice tight and taunting. “I’ve got nothing to live for.” He pushed enough for it to draw blood, which dribbled down his neck, mixing with the water to speed its pace. Still neither figure moved, but stared at him, almost expectantly. Then, without any warning, Daniel flung the open knife at the man on the train. As soon as the blade reached the place where the man was, the man disappeared, train and all.
Daniel heard, dimly through the rain, his blade clink against the old track. He looked to where the water-face had been and it was gone. He slowly relaxed and allowed the once more heavy rain to push the air from his lungs. He then went wearily to fetch his knife. But as he tried to step up over the track, he misjudged its height, stumbling over it and landing hard on the palms of his hands in the gravel. The rocks dug into his hands. More blood for the rain to claim. He pulled himself into a crouch to stand up but froze when he looked up. Someone had beat him to his knife. A man stood, holding it across his palms, a cloak of rain falling from his shoulders.
Daniel forced himself to his feet. “Just keep the stupid knife,” he raised his voice over the rain. “Or kill me with it—I don’t care.” And that was the truth. He turned and trudged on along the road, only to slip on the wood and have to haul himself up again. He looked over his shoulder once, to see the strange figure, standing, watching him.
He continued on for a while, only will power keeping him going. Will for what he didn’t know. But at least the hail had stopped. He didn’t know how long it was before he noticed that someone was walking beside him.
“What do you want with me?” he asked, not turning. He figured it would be the strange person who had his knife.
“Do you want the rain to stop?” asked a strange male voice.
“No,” he replied sarcastically, “It washes away the blood.”
“Of course I want the rain to stop!” he turned and yelled at the figure. Daniel was usually a patient man, but this taunting was too much. Everything was too much right now.
The rain stopped.
Not another drop fell from the sky.
“Very impressive,” said Daniel, at this point, what has just happened seemed perfectly normal.
He could now see the stranger well. It was a young man with dark hair and bright, water-blue eyes. He stood, balanced easily on the metal track, an amused half smile on his face.
“Daniel Hammond, the train-man said you were called,” said the stranger, as he stepped forward and pressed Daniel’s knife, now closed, back into his hand. “I’m called, uh,” he paused as if remembering, “ah yes… they used to call me Steve.” He put out his hand to shake Daniel’s.