The Oncoming Train

A man stands in the middle of a desert road. Behind him, where there is no horizon, the road stretches off into the infinite. In front of him it is the same, save for a wide crack in the road.

The man looks down into the crack. He sees nothing but darkness. He finds a small rock on the side of the road and tosses it into the abyss to see how far down it goes. He hears the rock bounce off the walls of the crack again and again on its way down. The sounds the rock makes grow quieter until they finally disappear. If the rock lands, the man does not hear it.

The man looks up. A train is coming. Straight toward him.

The man did not expect a train on the paved road, but there it is all the same. He could argue that a train can only travel along tracks, but the train would not care. Its bearing suggests it means him harm.

The man weighs his options. He only has time to jump, but to where?

He could jump to either the left or the right and avoid the train entirely by getting off the road and into the dirt and tumbleweeds. The man decides there is no time for that. The train is coming too fast and it is too big.

He could jump straight up and let the train pass under him. The man knows that jump would offer only a temporary solution. After the jump peaks, he’d just come back down again and hit the train and be carried along by it.

The man looks behind him. He could jump backwards to where he came from. The man is not only sorely put off by the idea of going back, it is again only a temporary solution. The train would still come and catch up to the man quickly.

The man looks down. He notices the crack is just wide enough to leap into. He could jump in and hide until the train passes over him. But, the man does not know where the darkness will take him. He knows from the rock he threw that, if there is a bottom, it is a long way down. It is likely he will be hurt if he jumps in.

It is also possible jumping into the abyss will kill him.

The man looks up. The train is almost upon him. There is one more jump he is reluctant to even consider. He could jump forward. This would mean whatever harm the train intends to inflict would come to pass. There would be no avoiding it.

The man winces at the thought, then steels his gaze. Yes, he must face the train. He knows the train will punish him, but he is strong. He can endure it. And that which he cannot endure will be made better by others. By the love and care of his wife and family, and by the hands of his friend, the surgeon. His recovery will not be easy, but if he wanted it easy he never would have ventured out into the desert in the first place.

The man, his eyes open wide and his feet firmly planted, puts out his hands and braces for the impact.

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