Hello to the faithful readers of It Was Lost. I have invited myself on board as a 'Very Special' guest novelist as part of the end of the year push to get It Was Lost to meet its quota for the last year of the Aughtie Naughtie decade.
I, too, have been lost and forgotten in Bulgarstan for nigh two years now. The following is the result of boredom, alcohol and existential anxiety. I hope you enjoy!
The train had been stopped for sometime and none of us were quite certain where we were. We had departed Paris perhaps 6 hours ago and were somewhere in the French countryside, not far from the German border. Our train had stopped abruptly and the sun was falling rapidly behind the distant mountains.
We four travelers sat together in the wooden-paneled train car. The beds were stacked two high on each wall. There was standing room between the beds, just about a man wide. The quarters were comfortable enough, but the standing still of the train had begun to annoy everyone in our cabin.
"What's wrong with this damn train?" one of our companions grumbled from his bed.
Only Mack remained entirely not bothered by the tedious delay. Mack leaned his head toward the window, intently staring out of it at the setting sun. He never tired of watching these natural spectacles. It was almost impossible to interrupt him in these moments and the three of us knew better than to try.
"We'd better get moving soon," another voice piped up, in a tone that an annoyed father would use to address a particularly lallygagging child.
"The evening light always seems to glow brightest in the moments just before it is extinguished and darkness overtakes us. I've seen the sun turn red like that before, just as it sets. The light changes suddenly, instead of the shimmering gold, everything is drenched in heavy, crimson light." We all stopped when we heard Mack's voice. It was an unexpected sound.
"There's a country, not too far from here, but still a world away, where I've seen such an angry sun set." Mack's voice caused our concern over the stopped train to vanish. He started to talk and we knew what would follow would be worth listening to.
"Europe is profoundly and thoroughly explicable. There is nothing baffling about the consistent and sound logic of the West. There is order and predictability! Don't underestimate the comfort of predictability. A stopped train is an anomaly and causes us to complain because we expect to be on time. If a flock of sheep crossing the tracks caused us delay, in Europe we would be shocked by this irregularity.
"The world of predictability ends, though. It's edges are tattered and beaten by inscrutable passions, singed by some invisible flame. There are places where, at the edge of Europe's reasonable world, nothing makes sense. Chaos and disorder, apathy and fatalism are forces of nature that, like some black tempest, throw men about violently.
"I once sought such an adventure-- the loss of the predictable, the comfortable. And I sought it in the edges of reason."
He extended his arm, and then his finger slowly, pointing to the Southeast.
"There is where the world, as we know it, ends."
The silence in the cabin became palpable and we waited for him to continue his story. The last of the light from the setting sun began slowly to diminish now that the burning sphere had disappeared behind the mountains.
"I joined the Organization on a whim, of sorts. When I finished my studies, I was unsure what to do next. And I had seen them advertise: 'How far would you go?' That question had gotten to me. I wanted to do something in this world, I thought. I wanted to matter, to make a difference."
He punctuated his sentence with a deep sigh and turned his head toward the dying light.