(Author's Note: Okay, so I plan to submit this to a magnet school for writing. It's a parody of the Titanic. There was no prompt, only a picture of a girl on a train (which I couldn't figure out how to upload here), and M. Jolie is based off said girl. Anyway, I hope you all like it.)
His last picture was taken minutes before disaster struck.
The buoyant mood of the send-off party had wound down to a low hum of energy; balloons not popped but sagging weakly. M. Jolie and her entourage had retired to the car on the far end of the train: she had no appetite for parties, and wherever the famous model went, her escorts went too.
Caspian Beytel was allowed to join this retinue only because of his photographic pass for Parks Global, which in the past few years had become one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world by seizing the market for instant, constant, online news.
His camera clicked and whirred as he contemplated the shot. His partner Ebina Shoyu sat next to him, typing furious updates for Parks. If he could get the glow of her Iphone in the frame it would make a nice contrast, but the angle was too difficult. Caspian focused instead on the model sitting across from him.
Her dark hair swung in sheets over her face, hat tilted at a fashionable 45 degrees. She sat alone in the corner of the compartment, pink Prada purse contrasting a pale green dress. The velvet seat was barely impacted by her thin frame.
His finger pressed a button; the camera snapped and captured the moment. Filter options slid by, and he selected black&white. It would go well with the cream background of Parks, next to the lead story.
And what a story that was: the world’s first ever entirely machine-operated luxury train, speeding across the country from Los Angeles to New York City. He wasn’t sure how it worked, exactly, only that it involved some electricity-conducting metal called Titania, for which the train had been named.
Caspian’s job was to get a good picture of the streamlined silver train and the celebrities riding inside it.
Jay Z, Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton and Tina Fey; all were riding the Titania to the end of the line, but for some reason, Caspian and Ebina had been assigned to follow the reclusive French model, who went by her last name only.
Another click of a button and the image was sent to the editor of Parks Global. Little did Caspian know that that picture would be his last.
He smiled, unaware. The train rocked. Everything was surrounded by stuffy silence, hot and thick. Caspian thought of nothing but his job and the novelty of a machine-operated train.
He had no idea that only twelve cars away, something was going terribly wrong.
A wire--a jolt-- a spark. A frayed cord in the central computer system, exposed end rubbing against a red-blue wire, creating dangerous friction. It was only a tiny flare, however, nothing big enough to cause damage.
But fire is catching. And this inferno spread almost as fast as the train it was derailing.
The spark glowed vainly in search of something to burn. It strained and stretched it’s tiny body until, at last, connected with the GPS chip embedded in the system.
After that, the explosions started.
Small ones at first; enough to jolt Caspian from his daydreams but not enough to make him assume they were anything less than stray party crackers. He settled, drowsy, back into the seat. His head complained of the beginnings of a headache.
The eruptions grew in size and sound, fire raced across the train, eating it alive. Metal scorched and sparked.
It was Jolie, staring vacantly out the window, who noticed first.
Ebina looked up, sable eyes wide in horror, and raced to the window. She spoke fluent French. Caspian lurched from his seat.
“What is it? What’s going on?” He pushed dark brown hair out of his eyes.
Ebina waved him over in frantic gestures. “The train--it’s on fire!”
He could hear the screams now, people wailing in terrified chorus as flames turned silver metal into oozing pools and human beings into cadavers.
“Something must have gone wrong...this was supposed to be uncrashable!” Anger and resentment filled Caspian’s voice. “And now we’re all going to die.”
Jolie shouted something in French. Ebina translated: “She says we have to jump. The train’s going to crash, and we’re over a lake..come on, Cas, it’s the only shot we have.”
He crossed his arms. “I’m not jumping, are you crazy? Diving into water is worse than hitting cement. I’ll take my chances with the fire, thanks.”
Smoke was seeping through the compartment door now, the temperature of the car was slowly increasing. Sweat dripped down Caspian’s neck.
Ebina translated his words into French; the M. Jolie shrugged, opened the window, and climbed out herself.
The last breath of her words echoed throughout the stuffy room.
Caspian and Ebina stared as the inferno raged around them; each one’s helplessness reflected in the other’s eyes.
Ebina’s breath was tight with worry and fear. Sticky silence fell.
Suddenly, the train lurched, jerked, was nearly thrown off the rails.
Caspian felt his head slam against the open window, blood trickle down his face. As if in a movie, the rest of his body tipped slowly out of the train. Head, arms, torso, legs. Ebina screamed, but it sounded distant and far away.
But his hand, in some miracle, gripped the window ledge, grooved metal catching on his nails. He sighed in relief, dangling forty feet in the air. Ebina leaned out the window, eyes wild and panicked, short hair standing up on end.
“Don’t let go, Caspian! Don’t let go!”
Her words were caught and tangled up in the wind; they blew away, never reaching Caspian.
Fire or water, water or fire.
He let go.
Cold air rushed passed him, ripping his camera and glasses away. He felt naked, falling to his death, heartbeat pounding loud in his ears, hands grasping at nothing.
As the icy water rose up to meet him, he had one final thought:
This would make a fantastic picture.