by Shannon Brady
[this is the third in the three part series–
read Final Stop from the beginning, here]

“It really is so lovely here.”

Was it the hundredth time she’d said so? Jack never minded. With the endless arrivals and departures around them, he liked being reminded it wasn’t wrong of him to enjoy this place. It wasn’t the Grand Central Station of his boyhood memories, but still…

“When I was young and it was bright out like this, I wished for it to last forever. It was always so beautiful.” Jack laughed in slight embarrassment. “I sound like a grandmother.”

“It’s nice.” Alice smiled. This was not unusual, but Jack sensed something new about it. “It’s good that you remember something so clear.”

“Come on now, I’m not a day over thirty.”

“I wonder a lot whether I ended up having grandchildren. I’d have liked some to talk to like that. I barely had any time with my daughter to — “

“Say!” Jack blurted, pointing to several people who had gathered together and were now bolting for one of the gates. Its time was set for twelve. “Where d’you suppose they’re going?”

“Maybe back into the city. The real one.”

“What, all of them?”

“Well, I don’t know about that.”

“Exactly. Who says they’ll end up in the same place, even if they do leave by the same train?”

“Scattered all over the world. Like dandelion puffs.”

“Doesn’t that scare you?”

“Yes. But I want it all the same. When it’s been sunny for so long, you start wishing for some rain.” She sighed. “It’s been fun, Jack. But I think now it’s time to go find some.”

If Jack still had a heartbeat, that would have stopped it. After all the time they’d only had each other here, she was just going to…!

“Come with me?”

His legs wouldn’t move. “I..I can’t. Please, wait a bit longer.”

“I don’t think I can anymore. But I hope to see you then anyway. Maybe we’ll be siblings.”

“Or maybe I’ll be your grandchild.”

That got a rare laugh out of her. “Oh, Jack. Don’t wait that long, for your own sake.”

Jack stared as she disappeared into the gate too. He imagined her boarding the train, settling down into a comfortable seat, being carried away into the dark. Part of him yearned to race after her.

The rest of him looked around at the bright gold station interior that never wore down, the endless sunlight streaming from the windows, his own body that would never be hurt again, so long as he stayed here, and couldn’t. Not yet.

“Be safe, Alice,” he murmured.

The clock struck twelve.

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