by Jason D. Wittman
Katya stood with her baggage at Railroad Station Number One in Stalingrad, surrounded by women and children, the old and infirm. Soldiers watched over them, shouting instructions, keeping order. They were evacuating the city in anticipation of the German advance.
Everywhere, people smothered each other with tearful embraces, kisses, and promises to write. Katyaâ€™s husband was at the front lines. She had not seen him in months.
The next train approached, decelerating into position. Once its doors were opened, the crowd surged forward. Someone pushed Katya from behind. She brushed against a little girl with long jet-black hair. They only touched lightly, but the girl yelped as if stung. She scurried behind an old man and looked out from behind his legs. She had the most startling green eyes Katya had ever seen.
â€œI...Iâ€™m very sorry,â€ Katya said to the old man. He was wiry, with skin like leather and a shock of white hair.
The old man smiled. â€œThe fault is not yours, miss,â€ he said, his voice rough as a grindstone. â€œMariya is a very...sensitive girl, and with all these goings-on....â€
â€œOf course.â€ Katya offered Mariya an apologetic smile. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
Mariya ducked back behind the old manâ€™s knees.
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"The Train" is roughly 10000 words.
Jason D. Wittman lives and works in Minnesota, USA. His story "Femme Fatale" is published in the hardcover anthology The Best of Baen's Universe, and his story "A Game of Knight Court" got an Honorable Mention in the nineteenth Year's Best Fantasy & Horror. His website is at sff.net/people/…">sff.net/people/…. Jason would like to thank S.N. Arly (who read the story when it took place in Germany and Olga was two characters), Corey Kellgren, Douglas Texter, Marc Drummond (who tolerated much from the author during this story's gestation), and the Twin Cities Speculative Fiction Writers Network for their contributions to this story's success.