Best Short Story

Molly Ferguson, Guest Author

The train’s an old model, from back in the twenty-twenties, and even at her prime she probably only got up to three hundred mph or so, but we’re betting her max these days can’t top one eighty. She’s a piece of rusty, slow moving junk. She’s perfect.


Sasha jumps first, landing hard with his shoulder against the pitted and rusty steel of the train roof. It groans and the hover board on his back bangs against it.

“Come on guys!” he shouts. “Hurry up.” There’s no need, the train below us is moving at crawling speed now that it’s reached the edge of the city, slowly making the necessary track switches to avoid the really low hanging bridges. We’re on one of the higher ones, it used to be an overpass or something probably, but now all thats left is a metal skeleton clothed here and there in chunks of concrete. Tony nudges me, grinning slightly as I stumble towards the edge. I secure my hoverboard and hop over the railing. My foot slips on some old asphalt, early two thousands era probably and my hands are dragged off the metal rail by my body. I land in a heap on the train a few hundred yards behind Sasha.

“Graceful!” Tony yells at me from back on the bridge. “Such poise.”

“Nuuuugh,” I groan. I hear the slam even further down the train that means Tony too has landed firmly.

“Meet up on Gord’s car!” Tony shouts and I motion to Sasha in case he didn’t hear the message. By the time Tony and Sasha have pulled themselves along the train, I’ve managed to get my breath and sit up. Sasha clambers down the side of the train on an ancient ladder and kicks the door with one foot until it falls open.

“Come on then, inside.” The tension in Sasha’s voice is palpable. Tony’s boyish and often anxious face grows a bit harder. His jawline’s really stiffened up over the past few months.

Sasha swings into the dark train car with muscled and well practiced arms and for once I manage to make my entry equally as graceful. Tony nearly flies off when his hand slips and his legs briefly cartwheel in the air. He catches himself and stumbles inside on shaky legs. He’s gangly, like me, but a bit shorter, a bit stronger.

The sound of a zipper draws Tony and my attention to the corner of the car where Sasha’s set to take a leak.

“Hey!” Tony looks affronted at Sasha’s behavior. “Dude, this train’s basically his casket. Maybe you shouldn’t. Just pee out the door Sash, come on.”

“Are you kidding me?” I pull Tony back as Sasha turns to face him. “I should respect his death? After what he did to my brother? After what he did to me?”

“Sash, we agreed to jump off this train with you,” I say. “You need this, we get that.”

“No, you don’t, neither of you ‘get that!’ This jackass messed me up man, he killed my brother. Killed him. Just like that. He was just a kid and the jackass killed him.”

Tony’s shouting too now. “He’s going to die Sash, he’s going to die for what he did, please let that be enough.”

“Screw that.” Sasha makes his way from corner to corner leaving his mark. He always was pretty primeval. Tony goes to sit by the open door, the wind musses his long dark hair and I sink down to sit against the wall, watching him and listening to Sasha muttering as he fixes his fly.


I had just gotten up the courage to officially come out to Tony when we got the news. I heard the crashing in the news video playing on the holo screen at the same moment that my ear buzzed with the notification alert. I pulled up the link on my eye screen, a flame covered hover car and in the corner a broken piece of hoverboard. TEN YEAR OLD COSMO KELLEY KILLED IN HOVER ACCIDENT. I met Tony’s eyes as his ear too buzzed and saw the flicker of his eye screen being activated. His face fell harder than anything I’ve ever seen. “Sasha,” we both whispered.

At the funeral we sat a few rows back from Sasha and his mother, Ms. Kelley, giving Sasha his space. I held Tony’s hand during Sasha’s painful eulogy for his brother, steadying his shaking fingers. At the trial Tony and I sit on either side of Sasha, gripping his arms. He visibly stiffens as the judge calls the court to order and the words, “Will the defendant please rise,” echo in the brightly lit courtroom. Media packs the back of the room, waiting to get the technical details. Hover accidents never happen anymore, not with the new controls. No one’s here to watch the sentencing of a killer, murder is a frequent offense these days.

A thin twitchy man in the front of the room clambers clumsily to his feet. I’ve only seen him in the news feeds until now. One leg is twisted from the crash and braced, but there is no cast. The state must be sure of a guilty outcome if they haven’t even set the leg. Sasha makes to jump up but Tony and I cling to his arms forcing him into his seat.

“State your name for the court.”

“It’s …”

“It’s Reek!” Someone in the room shouts. Everyone knows his name, the nets have been blazing it for a month, John Reek. John Reek the addict who killed a little boy on his hoverboard.

Most of the trial blurs together in a series of alternating periods of silence and  periods of dull, threatening muttering from Sasha. My hands don’t lose their grip on his right arm, even as my mind drifts to Cosmo, his kid brother. The day after the crash, Sasha tried to celebrate Cosmo’s eleventh name day in the hospital, he snuck in with a single balloon and made it almost all the way to Cosmo’s room before the wall sensors realized he wasn’t supposed to be there and alerted security. The doctors already knew Cosmo wouldn’t wake up. So did Sasha. It’s only been a month and already the only image I can call into my mind of Cosmo is of a generic smile and a hoverboard. He loved that hand me down board I gave him, he was on it when he got hit. And I was the idiot who taught him how to use it.

“Mr. Manson could you play for the jury the footage of the crash as recorded by the local hovercams that night?” The judge’s voice is solemn. Tony closes his eyes but I watch the familiar footage again. The hovercar weaving and streaking out of the sky towards the street, pulling up a tiny bit just before it hits the boy riding in circles on the grass. It pulls up just a bit, as if the aim had only been to scare the boy. As if it was going to swoop away again. But it hits the ground and flames explode up. The boy is gone, and John Reek stumbles smoking from the hovercar, still holding his license and key card.

Ever since the new death penalty laws went into effect, cases like this are cut and dried, black and white. Causing the death of another while under the influence of any drug, mind altering substance or while in an illegal, immersive program on an eye screen has only one penalty, execution. All prisoners are executed in one way these days, the authorities strap you into a decommissioned vehicle, program in a destination and send you off to crash into a junkyard. There is one kindness to the condemned, they let you control the speed of travel.

Adrenaline junkies use the death trains as a base for stunts, jumping on and off the old models as the modern trains run too fast in tiny tunnels for stunts. Jumping off one of them would be suicide. An execution by train is a rare treat; the old models are getting scarce.

The judge doesn’t bother with the formality of allowing the jury to converse, but rises almost immediately after the conclusion of the video. “Mr. Reek, we have blood test confirmation that you were severely dosed with synthetic adrenaline on the night of this incident. Do you deny this?”

Even from the middle of the courtroom where we sit, I can see the dark stain spreading down John Reeks pants. There’s no dignity in this. The judge seems to take this as a formal confession and bangs his gavel. “Sentenced to death in the usual fashion. The transportation committee wants to send a train out to test the old tracks next week and they need a driver. Congratulations Mr. Reek, you’ve been promoted.”

I turn to Tony and see his eyes narrowed in anger, but I realize, it’s directed at the judge for his cruelty. I remind myself that John Reek disabled the controls on a hover car on purpose so he could get his adrenaline fix. I focus on Sasha instead, who has jumped to his feet, but is shaking like a leaf. I pull him back to his seat and he turns to me, whispering, “I want to jump this train.”


Counting the click-clicks of the train wheels hitting the track I can tell we’re accelerating, around a curve too. Its obvious that Reek, chained to the engineer’s seat in the engine car remains a thrill seeker to the last, but we knew that already. If he was handling enough synthetic adrenaline to wake an elephant in his system when the crash happened then no way was he new to doping for thrill. Fucking junkies.

Tony nudges me with his hip to wake me from my thoughts. The warmth lingers on my shoulder for only a second before the wind snatches it.

“Crap, we’re really flying along aren’t we?” I turn my eyes to Tony but there’s none of my excitement in them. “I’m surprised Reek isn’t drawing this out a bit, considering…”

“He’s addicted to thrill, and I guess the waiting must be worse than the ending.” Tony moves over to the door again and has to grip the ladder outside so that he can look ahead of the train. “We need to jump!” he shouts.

He’s right. I’ve been hoverboarding out here and just before the junkyard there’s a straight stretch perfect for building speed.

“Unless we want …  be tossed …  train …  two hundred miles an hour …  jump real soon!”

I can barely make out Tony’s words so I grab his arm and pull him back inside. He glances over to where Sasha is dozing, curled up on the floor.

“Too bad Reek couldn’t score himself an old airplane to crash. He’d have a much more thrilling time of it and Sasha wouldn’t have been able to tag along on the death run.”

“He already survived one air crash.”


I make my way to the door and stare out at the blackness. An oddly shaped mountain rises up miles into the air, blocking the few stars that would be visible. The junkyard.

Tony motions for me to wake Sasha. I poke him with my foot then kick him more roughly. He jolts awake swearing.

“Come on man,” I say. “This whole thing was your idea. We don’t want to get wrecked.”

“Crap man, this thing’s practically crawling,” he whines. “Don’t tell me this is what we’ve been waiting for.” Tony and I share a long look. What exactly have we been waiting for.

“Naw,” I say. “Reek’s a junky. When we hit the straight bit he’s going to be in this ride for the same thing we are, a last rush. And he’ll have to floor it to get his.” The train bounces roughly and the door slams shut. Tony jumps out of the way and turns to face me.

“That’s sorta sick. Did you really just compare us to the addict who killed Sasha’s kid brother?” Sasha turns to look at me too.

“Crap man, I’m sorry,” I say. “That’s not what I meant at all. I just mean… you know, that he’ll probably speed up the train.” Sure enough the whole train rattles fit to break apart as Reek finally pushes the speed.

“There we go,” Tony says, tying the door open again. He holds up his watch and points it at a tree for a speed check as we zip by. “Ninety. We jump at one twenty.” The train slows again and he begins to get antsy. “We’re getting close to the wreck site guys, maybe we should jump early.”

“No way!” Sasha leans out the door, gripping the railing. “I can see other people jumping off still. This train’s packed with jumpers. And I have to be the last one off this train, I have to. I waited for this, I need this.”

Tony elbows him out of the doorway so he can check the speed again. He wobbles and I grab his hand, adjusting the anti grav cuff on his wrist in explanation, for Sasha’s benefit. “It was loose,” I whisper.

“No, it wasn’t.” He whispers back.

“I couldn’t let you fall.”

“Gord… I, I … can’t. Please just don’t. “

“Yeah, ok. You can’t.” If he feels the sarcasm he ignores it and looks away from me to check the speed.

“One hundred. One oh two. One oh five.” I adjust my own cuffs and check that my hoverboard is still secure. As he turns around, I look Tony dead in the eyes before turning and peeing in the corners too. Sasha nods at me.

“One ten.” Tony fidgets, desperate to be out of this metal box. I can almost smell his sweat and the rusting metal of the junkyard. Coward. We’re in this for a rush. “One seventeen, one twenty.” Tony casts one last frightened look at me and is gone out the door.

“He jumped,” I say blankly.

“He doesn’t quite have it in him to wait until there’s real danger. He doesn’t dare wait to get that real sense of feeling alive. Always runs from the hard stuff.” I glance out the door again and see the junkyard lurching overhead, maybe half a mile away.

“Sasha there’s no one else jumping. We’re the last ones on the train. It’s time.”

“There’s Reek.”

“Reek will die on this train!”


“Sasha we have to jump the train’s about to crash!” He lunges for me and I step backwards, losing my balance. His push catches me and sends me flying out the door, far enough from the train that I don’t get caught in the wheels. My bracelets spin me around as I hit the ground, dispersing the force, but I still roll twenty times. I look up at the train, less than a quarter mile from the junkyard, a few hundred yards.

A black shape hurtles out of the train and hits the ground rolling. In typical Sasha fashion it’s up and running in two seconds, running away from the junkyard and the train which collides with the metal mountain and explodes.

“Sasha!” I scream as I see him knocked forward by the force of the explosion. I’m on my board before the smoke clears from Sasha. He’s sitting up and crying, blood comes from his mouth, nose and ears.

“I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay. Gord, I couldn’t stay!”

“I know Sasha, and it’s ok.” I whisper. Tony’s hoverboard whirs as he slows down and stops next to me.

“Oh good, you guys jumped. I was afraid Sasha was going to do something especially stupid like stay on the train.” Sasha just looks at me. I nod.

“Come on then, best get back.” I say. “This train’s made her last run.”