The dimly lit train speeds through the darker night like a comet hugging the earth, twisting and turning a few feet above the ground. A young boy looks out from the window of his sleep compartment and catches fleeting glimpses of the ethereal terrain. No, he's not really a boy anymore - he's a man, even though he doesn't know it. The man doesn't know where he is, all he is sure of is from looking at his watch time is passing, and every tree-shaped wraith and ghostly town he leaves behind brings him that much closer to home.

The phantom tendrils of overheard conversation and mirth occasionally penetrate his compartment, but they can't break into his mind or tear his forehead away from the cold glass of the window. His eyes dart back and forth, searching for some landmark, some familiarity, some lost memory to drag his soul back to the home his body is hurtling towards. He's been away for a long time, and every curve of the track reveals another alien landscape. He's been here before, but it was all so different then.

The man presses the tips of his fingers against the window and taps on the glass as he thinks. His parents will be surprised to see him. He imagines they were shocked to wake up and find him gone, and so they'll certainly be surprised to see him back. And happy, he hopes. His eyes fill with tears when he thinks of what he did to his family and how much they must have worried when he disappeared. Especially his poor sister - she must have cried for days. The man rubs his face; his sister's birthday is only two weeks away, and he will make it up to her somehow.

His dad won't say much, but his mom will alternately bawl and scream, once she comes to her senses. He has it coming, he knows it, and he will endure whatever is necessary to make things right. He knows his dad will forgive him, maybe even be proud of him, but he won't say much. The old man will smile and embrace him and then stand back and let mom and sister have at him.

The man stares out the window, afraid to close his eyes and see the other faces that float before his mind's eye. His friends will have forgotten him by now, even those with names he can attach to faces. He had thought of his family continuously while he was gone; most of those friends had never crossed his mind, but their ghosts were rising from the graveyard to haunt him now. No matter, they will accept him back or they won't, he doesn't need anything from them. Nothing he has seen or done could replace his father's furrowed brow, his mother's soft voice, or his sister's mischievous grin, but the friends from his past seem like characters from an old movie. He has fond memories of scenes and settings, but perhaps that story is over and doesn't need a sequel.

There's the Comedian, he thinks. There's the Athlete, the Beauty, the Student, the Wallflower, the Instigator, the Depressed, the Talker, the Musician? the list goes on and on, and he wonders what he is when all of them closed their eyes and reminisce. He could be the Wanderer, or the Fool; either way, he has walked the earth and is finally coming back to where he started. Maybe his wandering is over; maybe his foolishness is over, too.

As the sun begins to rise outside, the train reverts to its common appearance, and the specters that had danced just out of reach become buildings, light poles, cars? substantial and vaguely familiar. The orange light spreads quickly and banishes the real world back from whence it came, back into the recesses of the man's mind. He checks his watch again. He is going home.



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