Dreams. That's the kind of stuff dreams are made of. This will get me noticed. This will put my name on the map.
Let's start from the beginning. I was coming home from work, the train packed during the setting of the sun and all I could think about was when this Rat Race was finally going to be over. This was my daily routine, and my daily thought process. Like the rat on his exercise wheel, I was going round and round in circles, and it seemed like there was no way out. I guess I became too comfortable, too reliant on my daily routine that, although I wanted out, the challenge and risk that lay ahead where too much to bare, so I just stuck by it.
That was until I met Maya, and her smile. They say behind every great man is a great woman. They say that when you die, the few split seconds before you move on, your whole life flashes before your eyes. Well, in that split second after I laid my eyes on her, like an Angel of Death, she had drained me of my life force of the Ibrahim that everyone knew, the Ibrahim that was the Rat in his own life. Instantly, every major occurrence flashed before me. Instantly, my imagination ran away with me so far, that I forgot how it all started. Imagined a glorious, full life together, with 4 kids split evenly between both sexes, even BANG... Silence split the hectic everyday hustle and bustle of the train, the laughter of the kids, the rustle on the newspapers and the excited chatter of youth. Just silence. So silent, for a second, I thought that I might've gone deaf. That is until I hear the first cry of an infant, breaking the silence as sudden as lightening through the skies. This proved to be the catalyst as it caused a chain reaction of wails and desperate pleas for help throughout the carriage. Things slowly started to blur out, slowly the world started to go redder, and redder, then black.
Sirens, I heard sirens in the distance. More and more were coming, but I couldn't see a thing. I looked outside the window, and all I saw was smoke. A blanket of thick black smoke awning us from the outside world. I looked around the carriage and all I saw was blood, and bodies piled up over other bodies, piled up over seats, over rails, outside windows, just blood and bodies. I went around looking for survivors, for people strong enough to help me help the injured. Moving around was a maze in itself. I couldn't see the floor, or the side of the train more like, and was so scared of causing more injury by stepping on someone, anyone. As I filtered between the dead, the injured, and the strong enough to help, I saw that Angel, and remembered her smile. She wasn't smiling now, she wasn't moving. She wasn't moving. She had life, but she wasn't moving. Checked all her vitals and thanked God for Miss Knowles for teaching me first aid back when girls had the cooties. She was barely alive, and for no apparent reason, I felt that single tear trickle down my blood-stained face. Why I was upset, to this day, I do not know. I mean, it's not like I knew her, so I just left it to one of life's mysteries.
I found an infant, no older than 6 months, completely encompassed by people, with only a foot on display. I pulled off one of the bloodied corpses off the pile, and saw the child covered in blood, without as much as a scratch on her. All I could do was smile. Smile at the miracle I have just witnessed, and smile at the fact that she didn't even make a single sound, just laying there on her back, with a hint of a smile on her bloody face. I pulled her up to my chest, and held her tight. A hug only a father could give their child to make them feel safe; to make sure nothing ever happens to them. A hug, I realised, I longed to feel at that time. I cleaned the child, who I named Eva in my head for ease, with water I found in the various bottles scattered throughout the carriage, among the dead. I stumbled back to the Angel and fed her water. She slowly opened her eyes, dazed and confused. Like most of the passengers, she had blacked out from the crash. As she was helping herself up, she checked to see if she was ok, and I assumed she was thanking God in a language not my own, in my travels I had learnt the Spanish word for God.
The sirens have been ringing for what seemed like forever, but no sign of a rescue. I kept thinking the noise wasn't getting closer or further, so what took them so long, and still no sign of a rescue. The two of us staggered across the carriage, helping those we can. By now, there were a few of us, all bloodied and injured, and we had found a way out. So one by one, we crept through the small broken window and found ourselves on top of a carriage amid a smoky, burning carnage. As we climbed down, one by one, we began to walk towards the sirens, in the hope of some medical assistant, as each and everyone of us, bar Eva, needed some sort of medical attention. The elderly man with the broken arm and the bloodied face starting running towards the emergency services at the first sight of them, and soon enough, we all followed suit. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry, five minutes ago we didn't even know whether we were alive or not.
The police came up to myself, the angel, who I realised I didn't even know her name, and Eva, the unknown infant. An officer came up to me while I was clutching Eva so tight to keep her warm. I could feel her little baby shivers against my chest which made me shiver. I hadn't even realised that I'm out in an open field, the temperature fell a long way away for my liking and evidently, Eva's. PC Roberts asked for my details:
"Ibrahim Ahmed, 14/01/1983, 10 Kensit Court, London W8 4MH, Yes Officer, I am ok, I think."
He then asked an obvious question that took me by surprise "And your child Sir?"
Up until that point, I hadn't even thought about Eva's parents or guardian. Where they still in the wreckage that used to be a train? Where they the people that ensured her safety by surrounding her? I didn't have the slightest clue, so the inevitable long pause followed. I looked down at Eva, and she had been staring at me already for I already caught her eye, and her dirty little nose just squeezed up as she smiled exposing her non-existent teeth.
"She, erm, she is not my child. I found her in the wreckage with the other survivors."
Whilst PC Roberts got back to his radio after the wariest of all looks, I overheard the angel answering her routine questions:
"Maya Temimi, 08/11/1985, 27 St Patricks Street, London SW7 4YU, well, my ribs hurt really badly, but other than that, I think it's just a few cuts and bruises, I mean, I did just come out of that mess. What happened anyway?"
The most dramatic pain absorbed my head, like my head had got punctured. I turned to the side refraining from screaming so as not to frighten Eva to see a paramedic attending to my wounds, which again, I had not noticed in all the havoc that we just witnessed. The officer continued to Maya:
"...left in the carriage? Well, I don't know how believable this will sound, but here goes: A plane crashed into your train I'm afraid..."
A plane crashed onto the train? How is that remotely possible? All kinds of thoughts were going through my head, but I had to reserve them until later.
"...It started losing altitude shortly after take off, and consequently lost all its power. We got here as soon as we could, but the smoke and fire prevented us from coming any closer. Do you know if there are more survivors in there? Did you check any of the other carriages?"
A plane crashed onto the train? It still hadn't sunk in. I mean, how? Eva started to cry now. I tried to pat her, sway her, but nothing was working. Maya took Eva off me and within seconds, she stopped. She just stopped. Maya asked me how old my child was, to which I replied in the same manner I did to PC Roberts. Again Eva looked at me and gave me that smile, as if she knew something I didn't. We got into the ambulance together as paramedics thought we were a family, and without looking back, drove to the hospital.
The nurse snatched Eva away from me and took her to another room. My feeble protests amounted to nothing as I was quickly losing all the energy I had. Then again, black. When I woke, I had tubes in and out of my body that triggered a thought of being some kind of experiment. I turned to see my surroundings and was pleased to find Maya next to me. She was still in her sleep, but even then, she was smiling. That smile somehow gave me energy so I got up to look for my Eva. My Eva? Not my Eva, just Eva, better yet, just baby. When I finally located her, she was sleeping and all I could do was watch her sleep. That brought me more peace than as far back as I can remember.
I woke up from my deep slumber to find Maya standing over me, fixing the bandage wrapped around my head. I was too weak to say anything; it seemed that my sleep deteriorated my health instead of the opposite. I just barely managed to whisper:
"You look like you just came out of a crash site"
I stole another smile from her, and that caused me painfully to smile back. She started telling me about what really happened on the train, and what the police and paramedics said. While she was talking, all I could concentrate on was the way she moved when she talked, the way everything she said was said in a way that resembled the innocence of youth. All I could muster in return were a few grunts and sighs every few sentences or so, a bit like a granddad and his grandchild, even though only two years separated us. She started telling me about her past experiences, her trials and tribulations, how her life has unfolded as a consequence of certain decisions.