Once--only once--I braved a look sideways. I turned my head to the window, but before I could face the glass the world went black. Our movement felt unbroken and the sounds were closer in the darkness. I was dumbfounded by how smooth our transition had been. There hadn't been time for fear, but cold guilt swallowed me so that I was numb. When we burst forth into renewed daylight, I was confused, but filled with the second breath of redemption. I wanted to inspect the other passengers to see their reaction, but I dared not twist my head again.
There was a flurry of new sounds and a spike of anticipation as we finally slowed to a stop. I looked around, expecting everybody to cheer that we'd made it alive, to hug and shake hands; but, like Grandma Cass, no one seemed particularly inspired by the luck of it all.
They all filed past, none recognizing my confused and plaintive looks. Grandma Cass had fallen asleep and so I nudged her after the car had emptied and the fear of the train leaving with us still aboard surpassed my hesitation to wake her up. She was smiling, and it occurred to me I hadn't ever seen her do that.
Everything was still except for my eyes as they searched the car, my person, and Grandma Cass for some sign of what to do. My fists couldn't clutch her coat sleeve tightly enough, and I felt the baking flush of fever on my forehead.
But it was worse than that. I smelled urine and realized that I must've wet myself, like a baby, as Daddy always said. One shameful hand pulled itself away from my grandmother's coat and searched the creases on my lap.
I was dry. And so I fell backwards against the window, my body limp while the panic flashed through me and evaporated like river water off skin in summertime. The air sat heavy as I realized that this here would be my very first catastrophe, and it had come to sit alongside me, silent, without flames or screams or chaos.
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