A Short Story for STSC Symposium: Trains
This story was written for the Soaring Twenties Social Club (STSC) Symposium. The STSC is a small, exclusive online speakeasy where a dauntless band of raconteurs, writers, artists, philosophers, flaneurs, musicians, idlers, and bohemians share ideas and companionship. Each month STSC members create something around a set theme. This cycle, the theme was “Trains.” If you are a writer, you might consider joining us.
The following story is gross and disturbing.
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This was ‘Prentice Cole’s first live RailWorm rescue. The wire had claimed it was to be an easy one: simple excessive speed derailment, the ‘Worm got too excited chasing its FoodBait and ran off the track.
From afar this had clearly not been true: the corporal damage to the mouth end of the ‘Worm was too great, and derailed ‘Worms, though they lose their musculature power from the tracks, still twitch around and seek with their mouths the FoodBait that drives them.
This one was unmoving, and its head was crushed. The front half had been smashed to goop and twisted to its side by whatever had stopped it in its tracks.
They entered the segmented RailWorm from the caboose. Certainly they had the tools for a surgical entrance, but the bicuspid valves that served as doors were still operational. The ‘Worm was fresh, a good sign they would be able to track down whatever smashed it.
“What’s that smell?” Leader Joe sniffed. Apprentice Cole concurred by covering his nose with his handkerchief. The RailWorm’s cabins smelled like anal sex and strawberry gelatin.
Something about sweetness makes bitter smells more effective; ‘Prentice Cole had once tossed a green apple and thought its decay got too extreme before he checked and found a rotten mouse under the trashbin, hidden by his cat. The sharp tartness of apple somehow mixed with the sweetness of corpse-smell in a way Cole’s nose just couldn’t adjust to. Same here, in the ‘Worm. A warm candy smell invited in a nose-curling musk.
A problem, though: to ‘Prentice Cole there was something too familiar about the smell. A memory somewhere. Something important. But he couldn’t place it — it was on the tip of his tongue he refused to let out of his mouth, less he taste the air that carried the smell.