Last time she came to the surface, Meryl found what seemed like a man, but his fins were all divided and strange. For some reason, he’d resisted as she pulled him down beneath the waves, as though his gills worked in reverse, like a dolphin’s.
This time seemed less eventful. Though the sun was drying and oppressive, she was the only creature in its path. The way it dissolved her skin should have compelled her back home, but it felt right today, like atonement. She stuck her face out of the water, where she couldn’t breathe. The quiet desperation of it gave her a strange kind of pleasure. The sweet ennui soon turned to fascinating terror, and when it turned entirely dire, she turned her face down and swam in circles, slowly regaining herself.
Voices from the beach called out to her. They were standing, looking in her direction. They were yelling, pointing, beckoning. She swam closer to them, though she couldn’t understand them or their language or their physical form. She imagined they were looking for the man she’d found. He’d died in her arms as she tried to help him. At his last breath, he had clung to her like a lover or a remora. She had been there for him.
She let them watch the empty surface. She left them. The pressure of fathoms separated her from them, and she slipped into her cave. Water flowed through her, and with water air, and with air life. She breathed it into him. Someday he would accept.
The other people on the train had no faces. Their conversations were not made of words, but overlapping differently colored noise, looped in waves of approval. They were cardboard cutouts, animatronic puppets there to give a sense of legitimacy to the whole enterprise. Only one seat remained. Leslie went straight for it and fell immediately asleep.
Ezekiel stood and surfed with the curves of the rails. On occasion, he had to take a step forward or back to maintain his balance, and sometimes he was knocked to the ground by a sudden stop. He bumped against a couple with their lips locked against the other’s. The heads came off together, and the hydraulics behind them continued to pump and gyrate.
“Excuse me,” Ezekiel muttered, propping them back on their perch. The train lurched to the left and to the right until he admitted to himself that he had to hold onto something, lest he end up in someone’s lap.
When he held onto the pole, the train seemed stopped. He felt foolish clutching so tight, but he had nothing else to steady him. He was on display. The audience was trying to ignore him, which only made him more self-conscious. They looked in no direction without faces, all facing the center where he was dancing. They were not looking at him. They were not looking at anything. They were incapable.
Leslie sat in the corner, asleep. Ezekiel told her she had the right to remain silent, and that anything she said could be used against her in a court of law. She had the right to an attorney.
Some of the cutouts scoffed and sputtered. One of them spit in his direction, though it was just a malfunction. Ezekiel had a conversation.