I can hear the train coming.
The sun-bleached rocks crunch under my tennis shoes as I take off, ignoring the weight of my backpack jerking my shoulder downward and the light flashing into my eyes through the gaps between the trees. I blindly run through this green clearing, praying I don't have the misfortune of stepping on a snake again. I'd miss the train, and I don't take the longer path home for nothing.
Only a hundred yards away, I smile at the sound of the train's wheels chugging. The conductor pulls the cord, allowing for a sharp whistle to pierce my eardrums. I think he knows I take this path just to see the train and takes pride letting me know it's coming. As if I could miss it.
The iron skin of the train is red with rust, and the chimney spews thick steam. I smell the oil and lean in eagerly. The tips of my toes are just a foot and a half away from the old, worn tracks. The wind, fiercely whipping my long hair back, comes full force as the cars fly by. I step back, allowing room for my eyes to see the entire picture. The cars, older than me, or even my parents, are covered in thick layers of paint crafted into glorious displays of art. I never saw it snake across the side, but I know the inscription in the side of the engine. An artist's paradise
Faces, words, faces, landscapes, faces, abstract, faces... the list goes on. I watch greyscale portraits and full-color landscapes soar by in blinding speed. My eyes attempt to take in the array of beauty, no one piece better than the next.
Suddenly, an idea slips into my head. A stupid, wonderful, risky, ingenious idea. My instincts tell me that it won't pay off. That I'll be caught. But... will I? My heart murmurs the words, barely loud enough for me to catch them. I decide to take this thin strand of hope and cling to it. I want to mark this train with my own graffiti.
I race home as soon as the train finishes its route across the clearing, taking note of the depot nearby. The plan itself scares me, but it also gives me adrenaline. Real adrenaline. A plain girl like me, one who's never been anything but ordinary, needs something in life. Whether it be something exciting... or something illegal... it just needs to be something.
That night, I sneak out of my ground-floor window. Nerves are causing my hands to feel cold and trembly, and my backpack, filled with stray cans of spray paint I took from my garage, weighs on me only slightly less than my conscience. I'm only wearing a navy sweatshirt and black sweatpants, hoping to somehow blend into the night. A hysterical giggle escapes my lips. Thank goodness I won't cross any cars tonight, or I doubt I'd be able to avoid being hit.
I maneuver over the wire fence, tearing only a small portion in one of the legs of my sweatpants. I land a little rough and wait to see if anyone nearby heard the sound. After a minute, the blood rushing in my ears fades enough to hear the quiet whisper of the wind. Taking that as a good sign, I continue into the night for God knows how long.
In the distance I see a light, a small candlelight in the window of the small building near the depot. I check my watch, it's nearly midnight, who's still here? I expect to wait whoever it is out, but after half an hour there's been no change in the steady flame. It's a small booth-like structure, which I assume is for security purposes, and isn't too close to the actual train warehouse where they keep the cars. If I'm really serious about the whole idea, I can sneak under the window and push open the door of the small warehouse where they keep the newer cars waiting to be decorated. There’s one supposed to be painted by some artist tomorrow, but technically, it's tomorrow now, and I'm some artist. Teeth chattering, I slowly crouch onto my knees. The gravel crunches under my hands, and every now and then, I'll feel a sharp sting in my palms and pray I didn't pierce them on a stray nail. I can feel the heat radiating through the glass and pause for a moment, soaking it in. Strangely, it not only calms my nerves, but gives me a aura of courage.
Once past the window area, under the impression I’m free of any consequences, I become a little reckless. I slide open the heavy door, cringing at the sharp squeal that echoes from it. I slip inside, shutting it as quickly as I can. After a minute, my heart beating furiously, begins to slow. Then, it stops. The sound of footsteps trudging through the rocks, are enough warning. I throw my backpack under the wheels and squeeze myself under. It’s a tight fit but I make it work. The door slides open and a figure looks in, flashlight in hand. I'm so scared, I'm not breathing. The person’s shadow moves around a bit, and I assume they’re looking around for me, only pausing momentarily where I'm hidden. I guess a full-sized adult wouldn’t fit under here and that must cross their mind. They let out a small chuckle, out of relief I think, and start out the room. I notice they've left the door open and smile. How stupid of them.
I wait until I hear the security room door shut loudly, then sling my bag off of my shoulder. In a flurry of movements, I zip it open and pull the cans of spray paint from it. Red, white, yellow, black, blue... my color pallet is limited. While plotting out my plan, I realized I hadn't known what to paint. A landscape? I've never been anywhere special to me, and I'd be spelling out my name to the police if I painted my home. Special... that world made me think of the faces I'd seen fly by me oh so many times. Who is the real definition of special? That led me to think of Leah.
Memories I had submerged float up to the surface as I paint. I remember getting ice cream together at the parlor downtown. We both got mint chocolate chip, which we agreed no one could possibly understand how underrated we thought it was. I remember the trips to the park. She occasionally complained how her lungs hurt, but the make-pretend games of dragons and princesses were much too important to interrupt. One day the pain became too bad and she couldn't breathe. We took her to the hospital where they found out she had cancer. Leah took it remarkably well, refusing to hear anything remotely negative, and promising me she'd be back in school at the end of the summer. The whole town, granted it was a small town, prayed and wished for her heath to return. I remember the times I sat at the foot of her bed, reading her stories until she fell asleep. She didn't laugh like she used to but stared at me with empty eyes. She died not four months later, a week from her eleventh birthday.
I add the finishing touches on her rosy red lips, and the blue bow she wore on her hairless head. Instead of a signature, I write 'She was something' neatly at the bottom. I pack up my things and sneak out, a sense of euphoria flooding my veins.
The next night, tired but gleeful with my secret after a long day of town hysterics, I decide to return to the depot. Yes, it's risky, but I'm beginning to enjoy that feeling of adrenaline. The path is easy enough to recreate, and I'm pleased to find that the door is still open. It might be a coincidence, but then again, maybe not. I step in and find my painting, now not alone. I stand, hardly breathing while my eyes race over the image.
On the car's skin is a painting of a girl. Her back is turned, and you can't see her face, but you can see the colors spewing out from her can of spray paint. Her navy sweatshirt is streaked with an array of colors and patterns, and her hair is wreathed with light. The real message is inscribed underneath in a handwriting nearly identical to my own. The letters spell out "She is something too". I don't move for a long time.