SHOULD HAVE FOUND THE QUIET CAR • by D.J. Kozlowski

“I destroy things.”

“Like buildings? Demolition?” he asks.

“No; people. I destroy people. Their lives.”

“What? Sure. Pretty morbid, man.”

“You asked.” I close my eyes and rest my head into the cracked cushions on the Acela train out of Wilmington heading toward Manhattan.

“Okay, I’ll bite. How do you do it? Are you an assassin or something?” He cracks a smile. He doesn’t believe me. I should have found the quiet car.

“No. I just… talk.”

“Sure, okay, do me.”

“No.” He’s annoying, but doesn’t deserve it.

“You’re so full of shit, man!” He laughs with his whole torso, convulsing and spitting, drawing attention to us. I lift my head.

“Please just stop,” I beg, barely audible over his guffawing. I feel it coming. It happens when I don’t want it. I never want it anymore. But it usually starts like this; curiosity, followed by macho bullshit.

“You’re coming from visiting your mom, aren’t you?”

“What?” He stops laughing. He’s confused. Randomness always confuses them. He’s forgotten he told me he was in Wilmington to visit his mother.

“Your dad; he died.” He’s visiting his mother, not parents. He was distraught when he said it. Not a divorce; a death. And however long ago it was, it’s all too recent for him.

“Stop.” He’s getting upset; getting angry. They turn so fast. He doesn’t know it cognitively, but he’s thinking, “How dare you invade my personal thoughts.” His breathing becomes panting.

“You killed him.”

“What? No! He was…” More confusion; his brain is screaming, “It was cancer!” but he can’t wrap his mind around my comment.

“It was the way you treated her.” Doesn’t matter who “she” is, but probably the mother. “It killed him. You killed him.”

He’s muttering. Nailed it. Too many emotions are breaking him.

“You didn’t tell him. You never told him. Now you never will.” I don’t know what. Doesn’t matter.

Moist, hollow eyes look into mine. “No. He said…” Slow pulses of soft sobs are pumping their way past his lips, clipping the last of his thoughts.

“Get up and leave. Go to the bathroom. Now.” He doesn’t. They never listen. That’s the last I can do. The rest pours out; I’m not myself. I gaze past him to the world rushing by. I know how this ends.

Calmly, “You… are pathetic. You are worthless. Fucking worthless. You are not loved, and will not be missed.” I pause just long enough to confirm he’s well past any “rage stage,” then bury my head into the cushion and fall asleep to his soft whimpering.

I’m awakened by the commotion.

“I can’t believe I saw that!” and, “Terrible!” and, “What is it, daddy? What?” and, “Shit, never make it home now.”

Everyone’s looking out the east side windows, toward the ocean.

The voices are indistinct against the loud, whooshing wind. My neighbor is gone. Based on the bits I can hear, he jimmied the door and jumped. Bounced around for a bit. Dead. Train is stopping. I feel remorse.

I always do.


D.J. Kozlowski writes speculative fiction—gothic horror, dark fantasy, and magical realism—drawing inspiration from the likes of Gaiman, Poe, and Lovecraft. His most recent short story, “The Beach at the Sea Foam Apartments”, is available on Amazon. When he’s not writing, D.J. lives in Connecticut with his wife, 3 little kids, and fish, the latter of which is constantly being replaced for the sake of the children. He tries not to take life too seriously.


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