Thursday, May 12, 2022

“The Difficulty of Disembarking” • by Carol Scheina

The day Arielle died in seat G-1 commuting home on the north-west train, Keith purchased a ticket for seat G-2. He spotted his wife’s transparent form gazing out the train window, wisps of curly hair floating around her forehead. “Arielle! You okay?”

“My head doesn’t hurt anymore, but I can’t disembark…”

Keith slipped next to her. “Brain aneurysm. Sudden. You died here, but we’ll stay together now.” He tried to stroke her hand, fingertips slipping through frigid air.

Arielle’s lips trembled as she attempted to smile.

Woven seat fabric rubbed against Keith’s back as he teleworked from G-2. Day after day, Arielle described the same rounded bridges and steepled churches rushing past.

He stopped disembarking, ate tepid soup and chewy chicken from the dining car. At night, he splashed bathroom sink water onto his face, then gazed at his wife before drifting off to sleep in G-2.

He made a quick hop off one morning, returning with a suitcase of clothes, a toothbrush, deodorant.

Arielle watched him slide on fuzzy slippers, her pale lips thin. “Keith, there’s a world beyond this train.”

“There’s no world without you.”

“There is. Go! See it!”

The train rattled as it rounded a turn. Brakes announced the next stop with a hiss.

“Where would I go?” Keith whispered.

“Everywhere. You can’t stop living because I’m not.” She tried to grasp his hand, cold moving across his knuckles. “Please. I want you to do this.”

“For you, Arielle.” How he wanted to kiss her, to feel her curls tickle his cheek. Instead, he disembarked at the station.

Keith spotted Arielle gazing back from seat G-1. When the train rumbled off, there was a blur of ghostly curls, then she was gone.

His heart still rode in G-2, but he walked forward.


Carol Scheina
is a deaf speculative fiction author whose work has appeared in an array of publications since her first professional-rate story was published in early 2020. That story, Once More With Feeling (Daily Science Fiction), featured a violinist coping with sudden hearing loss. 

Since then, she’s had other short stories and microfiction sales, including: Like Grandma Made (Bards and Sages), The Food Critic (Theme of Absence), The Pieces that Bind (On the Premises), The Midwife (Luna Station Quarterly), The Fruits of Sisterhood (Daily Science Fiction), Death Poems of the Folded Ones (Escape Pod Flash Fiction Contest), I Can Be a Hero Too (Daily Science Fiction), We Wait for a Better Future (The Arcanist), The Sweetest Things (All Worlds Wayfarer), Would You Like Fries With That? (Stupefying Stories), The Family Business (Stupefying Stories), Long-Distance Relationship (Stupefying Stories), and Just Like Before (Stupefying Stories). 

Carol also works as a writer/editor in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. In her career, she has won a Blue Pencil Award from the National Association of Government Communicators and a Silver Inkwell Award from the International Association of Business Communicators and was recognized as an Outstanding Department of Defense Disabled Employee of the Year in 2005. Carol has an amazing husband who is always willing to give her stories a second read and two fantastic kids with the best imaginations ever. She also lives with a tuxedo cat who likes to walk over the computer and mess everything up, but he’s cute so he can get away with it. She grew up in a magical spot in Virginia with a creek and a woods and plenty of scope for the imagination.