Blood is blood 1
Not long after my messy and untimely death, I found myself on a grey train steaming through unfamiliar countryside. For a while I hovered between dream and waking – I’m still not sure whether the dragon-blackened fields or the pale-eyed leviathan emerging from the sea were real or imagined. The first thing I truly remember was a dim vista of rooftops, as the track followed a high viaduct around the edge of a nameless city. Distant furnaces winked through the semi-darkness, and the wet empty streets far below were marked by pools of reflected lamplight.
‘I used to live somewhere like that.’
I’d been so preoccupied with the view, I hadn’t noticed the others packed into my compartment. The speaker was sitting opposite me – a young man with red hair, old-fashioned clothes and a failed attempt at a moustache. He kept glancing towards the window, horrified and fascinated in equal measure.
‘To think I spent all that time trying to escape the soot, and now they’re taking us straight back again.’
I leaned back in my seat, still heavy-headed and disorientated, not ready for a conversation yet. However, I made the mistake of glancing up again and found him looking intently at me.
‘You know where we’re going, don’t you?’
I shrugged, although had a fair idea.
He slapped a hand down, nearly sending his newspaper flying. ‘I can’t believe it’s come to this! And I was so young – how was I to know any better?’
‘How many?’ I asked, giving up on being left in peace.
The young man looked puzzled. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You know.’ I made the shape of a gun with my hand and pretended to fire it at the luggage rack.
‘Good Lord!’ he gasped. ‘Nothing like that. Just some money; no violence involved, or at least not really.’ He trailed off, shaking his head, then looked back at me again. ‘But what about you? You mean …’
I pursed my lips and tried to remember, the past already a haze. ‘Fifteen or sixteen; maybe more. Depends how they add it up.’
(Because those were just the personal ones. My most recent victim had probably expired only a few minutes before me but his face had already faded.)
From my companion’s gaping expression I guessed that I’d finally silenced him. However, just as I was settling back again, there was a screech of brakes and the train shuddered to a halt. The young man stood up and peered out of the top window.
‘I don’t think this was supposed to …’
But then a huge dark shape rumbled overhead and another passenger, a thick-set bruiser in a flat cap, leaped up and yanked open the compartment door.
‘Incoming!’ he roared down the corridor, just moments before something slammed into the bridge below us.
‘Here take this, son,’ he said, ripping off a heavy bar from the luggage rack. ‘They’ll be back any second.’
As he tossed it to me, our eyes met and I realised.