Eating churros on the bench by the pier. The coastal wind through his hair as he flew through mountain roads on his motorcycle. Movie theaters, popcorn bags greasy with butter.
Five years, and those were the things he missed. Sometimes he missed them more than the obvious things: running water, elbow room, clean clothes... And of course, silence.
If it wasn’t the throng of voices, there was always the undercurrent of the train, the lull of wheels and engine and ice…
Five years he’d been on the train. The Engine Eternal, Snowpiercer, a thousand and one cars long. Five years since he’d seen the sun. Or his father. Or Gus. Were they even still alive?
The clanking of the compartment opening was accompanied by the shouts of Jackboots and the Brakemen. Shawn ended up shoved to the front again by the mass of bodies behind him. He prepared to spit at the Brakeman, but he stopped himself. This one was new. Blonde and pretty. After five years, he could almost imagine the sunlight in her hair again.
“Stay back!” the new Brakeman ordered. For the most part, the Tailies obeyed her; she was accompanied by Lassiter, by far the tallest Jackboot--and also by far the most likely to use deadly force. The new woman snapped her fingers and the Third Class food workers rolled in the trays of tar-like protein slabs under Lassiter’s watchful eye.
“Brakeman!” Shawn shouted over the crowd.
Her eyes latched on him.
“Don’t engage,” Lassiter ordered. “These Tailies don’t need to be encouraged.”
The Brakeman contemplated for a moment. “Yes, Mr…?”
“Spencer,” he said in surprise. It’d been a long time since someone asked his name. “Shawn Spencer.”
“What do you want, Mr. Spencer?”
“Do you know anyone in Third Class named Burton Guster?”
“Don’t answer, O’Hara,” Lassiter thundered again, hefting the automatic weapon that was his right as one of the train’s special paramilitary security force.
“No,” Brakeman O’Hara said finally.
“Oh,” Shawn said. He didn’t know why he’d dared to hope… He knew that Gus had intended to try to work his way onto the train, but at the end--
Well. Everyone had lost contact at the end.
“He’s in Second Class,” O’Hara continued, staring straight ahead. “Pharmaceuticals for the Drawers.”
Shawn’s head lifted up. “Gus is alive!” He started to rush toward her, but Lassiter knocked him back.
“Stay down, Tailie!” the Jackboot snarled.
“Thank you, Brakeman!” Shawn shouted, unsure now that he was on the ground if he would be heard.
“My name is Juliet.” The reply was almost swallowed up in the voices and the clanking of the metal partition closing...but Shawn was certain of what she’d said.
Shawn tugged himself up, leaning heavily against one of the scavenged water barrels.
Gus was alive… and Shawn was going to stop at nothing to get a message up to Second Class.
After all, it was only doors between them.