Final Breath
By: Timothy Law

The train passed through the Scottish mire, clickety clack, clickety clack. The steady rhythm was lulling me to slumber. I stared bored out the window at the gloom and murk, my eyes half closed. The reflection of the man that sat opposite me caught my eye as he opened his carpet bag and peered inside for the third time during our journey together.

"No!" he hissed. "No, I won't!"

The bag snapped shut as the man noticed my reflection staring. His sunken eyes stared frog-like, those eyes bulging, unusual. He continued to hold my reflected gaze until I was forced to look away and stare once more at the dreary landscape. The man whispered under his breath some strange syllable I did not quite catch. Then his arm stretched out to pat my knee, a clammy hand, moist.

"Do you want to see?" he whispered. His smile was more like a smirk, filled with strangely jagged teeth and confidence.

I turned to face him, front on and I gave him my sternest frown.

"No," I replied curtly. "Your business is your business thank you very much."

"But you seem curious, sir," he insisted. "And I must show someone."

The carpet bag, about the size of a briefcase but a great deal wider was located on the floor between the stranger's feet. His grunts as he lifted the bag from the floor to his lap demonstrated the weighty nature of what was inside. The latch was clicked again and from within the darkened depths there was retrieved a large glass bowl. I noted with a raised eyebrow and a look of both surprise and concern that the bowl contained a swirling mist. Through the glass I thought I caught a whisper that seemed to beg for release.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" asked the man that sat opposite me. All the while he watched the mist move about. It looked angry.

I did not wish to engage but I could not help myself.

"What is it?" I asked.

"What is it?!" spat back the stranger, "What is it?!"

Those amphibian eyes bulged even larger as he seemed to become as agitated as the mist in the bowl. Taking a deep breath he calmed himself before his gaze ceased to watch the mist and he began to explain. His eyes became condescending as they locked with mine, making certain he had my full attention.

"What you see before you friend," he stated with a sharp-toothed smile, "Is the greatest weapon ever to have been invented."

"It looks like fog," I blurted, surprised at what I had been told.

"Not fog sir… A deadly mist that when released will enter your body and eat you from the inside out."

"You jest," I retorted.

The stranger sighed.

"I only hope that Hitler has more faith than you…" he muttered as he made to place the bowl back into the bag.

The mist hit the bowl, a forceful strike I'd thought impossible. And yet it happened right before my eyes. The bowl rolled forward and seemed to leap off the man's lap. We both watched as the glass dropped toward the floor and then landed with a thud. Both I and the stranger held our breath, for a second there was nothing.

Then the faintest hairline crack appeared upon the glass. With a wild eagerness the mist began to strike again and again at this tiny flaw.

"Run!" urged the stranger. This time the frog-like eyes show nothing but complete fear.

In a matter of seconds the mist began to waft free of the glass and weave through the air toward the stranger. He waved at the mist wildly but it drifted around his frantic efforts and found its way effortlessly into his clothes. There was a single gasp from the man before I witnessed flecks of crimson blowing from his nose and that a trickle of red had dribbled down from his lips to his chin.

"Run!" he urged again, a mere whisper before I witnessed him slumping forward.

As I hurried from my seat to the compartment door I saw the mist exit via the man's ear. It had the face of an angelic child.

"Stay," it urged.

Wrenching open the door to leave I bumbled into the Conductor.

"Ticket sir," cried the lanky young lad all dressed in blue.

"Forget my ticket, just run!" I urged, but I was already too late.

The mist drifted forward and slid into the youth. I hurried on, leaving behind the boy to his fate.

As I made my way through the passage I knocked on every door I passed.

"Run!" I urged, but many ignored me.

I shivered as I heard their screams, but what frightened me more was the pattern of sudden silences as those screams of fear and surprise were cut short.

I threw open the carriage door and felt the icy wind slap my face. With courage I leapt to the carriage in front and entered. I slammed the door behind and latched it, hoping to bar the mist from following. Unsure I continued my frantic journey down the passage, ignoring the curious stares of dinning passengers. I watched on as the mist edged toward the gap between the train cars. With what looked like a leap it bridged the distance and sought for a crack through which it could follow. It was desperate, all the while it was searching for an entry point the highland gale stole from it little pieces. Tattered it finally appeared through a slit near the hinges.

All that remained of the angel face were those two innocent eyes.

I turned to run on, afraid to stay. This time many others followed my lead but it was too many and one by one the mist flowed through them. As it ate it grew in size and strength.

Through carriage after carriage I fled, searching for something or someone by which I'd be saved. As I felt the back of the final carriage and stared into the wide eyes of all the passengers aboard I knew that there would be no stopping this monstrous mist. As the screams faded from my ears and I felt the mist seep effortlessly into my chest my final thoughts were that of wonder. Would the train arrive at its destination and unleash this killer upon the world? If there were a God then the train would stop and the mist would disperse upon the highland winds. With my final breath I began to pray. As the first words trickled out amongst my blood and spittle I felt my heart stop. The rhythm of the train was my final sensation, clickety clack, clickety clack, carrying death onward forever.



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