2020: 1st Place, Fiction - Savannah Harris, “Retrospective”
October 22nd, 1998
Thursday. The train going by directly under my feet made the rickety track vibrate the ground I was lying on. The patch of grass beneath me had stopped feeling itchy roughly four hours ago. Another savory cigarette pressed against my lips.
“Seven,” I muttered, in my head.
Seven trains had gone by since I’d collapsed next to the railroad in the dawning hours of the new day. My left leg had fallen asleep three times, and at least two stray cats had curled up next to my body. I couldn’t feel my fingertips at all, but I was becoming used to the numbness all throughout my tainted limbs. October air was unforgiving, especially as it passed through the thin sleeves of my well-worn hoodie.
Finally, the train’s horn disappeared into the distance. It was the only sound that gave me the notion that I was, in fact, still alive. Or, maybe I wasn’t. I couldn’t tell anymore.
“They’ll be wondering where you are,” I said aloud, sucking on the end of my cigarette. “They’ll be wondering where you are,” I repeated.
My eyelids felt heavy. “..wondering..”
The precious cigarette slipped from my stiff fingers and rolled down onto the track. “Dammit..”
I quickly turned over onto my hands and knees, a few loose rocks poking into my kneecaps where my shredded jeans refused to cover. As I was about to pick up my cigarette, another freight train rolled by, nearly taking off my hand. I couldn’t hear it over the roaring sounds deep within my velvety mind.
I dug my fingers into the dirt and hoisted myself up, nearly falling over as the vertigo set in. It took a few moments for the blood to start flowing to my feet again, but once I had regained most feeling, I began walking along the rail, heading in the direction that the trains were coming from. The events of these past couple of days fired at me like bullets. Memories formed in pieces as I put together the puzzle.
A pocket watch. A bloody nose. A bottle of liquor. And sirens.
I reached into my hoodie’s pocket and pulled out a circular piece of golden metal. It was chilled from being out here with me, and rather heavy. Heavier than it looked, anyways. A thin chain extended from the top of the carefully engraved watch. It wasn’t mine. There was no way in hell a lowlife like me owned something as beautiful and seemingly priceless as this well-loved accessory. I racked my brain for more information as I balanced on the rails. Something caught my eye in the ditch parallel to the rusty tracks, so I sped up to grab it. It was a newspaper. The first thing I noticed was a bloody thumbprint covering part of the headline. I looked at my hands, and sure enough, it was mine. The indentions in my left thumb had dried blood stuck in them.
“October 18th, 1998 – The search for fourteen year old Monroe Kadence has officially been called off. Two months ago today, the young boy was reported missing by his older brother in the early morning hours of July 18th when he failed to return to his home the night before. With no hope of his return and no indication of what has happened to him, police can go no further with the investigation..” I read aloud, my mouth becoming dry.
Biting down on my lip, I began to shred and tear the newsprint into tiny, insignificant bits. I tossed them all in separate directions and stomped on the scraps with force that kicked up clouds of gravel dust.
Pulling the pocket watch back out from my hoodie, I gently turned the dial at the top and wearily, almost longingly, gazed at the treasure as it popped open. I’d taken it out of Monroe’s hands the night I’d killed him and buried it next to the train tracks.
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Harris, Savannah, "2020: 1st Place, Fiction - Savannah Harris, “Retrospective”" (2020). Young Lions Award Winners 2020. 2.