To read the previous instalment of this flash fiction serial, click here: Part One
I made the train. I still don’t know how. One minute I was running, sure I was going to miss it, the next, the locomotive slowed down to go through the tunnel. I caught up with the last carriage, grabbed a handle and pulled myself up. Opening the door was trickier, thanks to the cold, but I did it.
The rear carriage was empty, so I had no fear of being found. I took a seat next to the window and tried to calm down. I never imagined making it this far.
The train wouldn’t stop again for twelve hours, so I dozed for a while. When I woke it was to find that the forest had gone and in its place a snow-white expanse stretched for miles and miles, until it merged imperceptibly with the snow-filled sky. We had reached the Wastelands.
No one got off in the Wastelands. Ever. There are no stations, no homes, no people. Nothing. Only ghosts from the war. But that was my destination. Oh, and if you were found there, you would be executed.
After five hours or so, I started to look outside for the sign that meant my train journey was at an end: a tree standing alone with a large strip of red fabric tied to it. Then I jumped off, a dense blanket of snow cushioning my landing.
My directions, all committed to memory, were to climb the hill before me. It was hard-going through the snow and by the time I reached the top I was freezing. But what I saw on the other side was more than enough to make me forget the cold and even the danger I was in. Out of the snow protruded a huge iron gate, held up by massive stone pillars, which were flanked on either side by a short section of dense hedges.
What was this place? It looked like a ruin, a relic of the time before war tore our country apart.
I walked down the slope, my curiosity growing. My anxiety too. I had no idea what or who I would find here. When I reached the gate, I looked through the bars, but all I could see was more snow. Tentatively, I lifted the latch, pushed open the gate and walked through.