Someone banged on our door, an insistent rat-tat-tat. “Grab your things and come with me.” Marlene, the attendant for our train car, sounded out of breath. “Hurry. Abandon this car. It’s gonna fall into the ravine. Couldn’t decouple it.” The words tumbled over each other and were repeated a little farther away.
My eyes became accustomed enough to the dark that I could put my arm through the strap of my messenger bag and follow Abby out into the corridor.
Marlene rushed us to a line of people heading down the spiral stairs in the still-hurtling train. She shouted so we could hear her above the increasing noise level, “You’ll have to jump, no matter how frightened you are.”
As I went around the bend of the stairway, I heard, “Geoff, I can't do it.” The little girl at the front of the line balked. She turned to reveal a face covered in tears and a shaking body. “Please don’t make me.”
“Marlene said we have to, Franny,” The teen behind her said. “Toss your backpack first so it's easier.”
I wasn’t sure I could jump either. I slipped the strap off my shoulder, preparing to throw the bag.
Franny finally leaped off, and her brother followed. Next, a younger boy jumped as if he were vaulting into a pool.
I reached the front of the line and looked down. Would I break something if I jumped? At least it was still light outside, and the ground was almost flat. I flung my bag, closed my eyes and jumped, trying to emulate the boy. My fall from the train was broken by the ground and sparse grass. From the siding, I glanced around. Holy moley! The cars ahead of ours were tumbling into a ravine. Any trestle bridge that had been there was gone. The falling train sections pulled our car toward the precipice, too. I gulped, realizing we could still be on it. My stomach clenched as I watched more people jump from our car as it neared the edge. Sparks flew from under the wheels as it neared the edge.