unable to conceive of much else to do, she decides to lie down in an amber spotlight set against a treeline & rest uncomfortably on her side, on the asphalt, staring across the street at the mist rising from the tangle of pipes which crown a factory that produces roofing shingles. she hopes to spend a long time here, acquainting with all the nuances of this angle of view from this position at this time of night, which in the end might be said to have as many characteristics as another person might. a functional replacement. she feels that the world must be rich if she can just open her eyes. she's a little proud of herself for lying down here in spite of a sense that there are "germs" - not microorganisms, but toxic byproducts that spew from cars that pass along this street during the day & gradually settle across the ground invisibly

she stares. infrequently a late night driver will pass & this makes her self-conscious. she hopes that no one will mistake her for someone injured or unconscious along the roadside & go the length of stopping to check on her. this seems like a time & place that should be unwaveringly solitary, but apparently it isn't. after about fifteen minutes, she rolls onto her knees & stares at her own hands pressed into the asphalt, tinged yellow by the streetlight. there is a pill bug crawling along near her right pinkie finger. she looks at her hands & wishes they would tell her something. she stares at them intensely as if trying to use the intensity of her gaze to leech out some kind of meaning from the bare image in front of her, trying to squeeze blood from the stone that is the emptiness & silence of it. she hasn't had a conversation in several months. the sound of a freight train approaching from far off to the south begins to slowly & gradually make itself known. she is lying a moderate distance to the west of the crossing & supposes she'll watch it pass

rather than passing, the train slows to a halt at the crossing, evidently having some business with the shingle factory - probably depositing a bunch of tar. multiple cars are involved with the task, & when one has done its part the train must inch along until the next is in place for the workers to interact with it. a freight train isn't typically seen to move at such a restrained pace, & this is apparent in the loud & irregular metallic groans that emanate from it each time it shifts. these noises are so specially discordant & monstrous as to be intoxicating in their extremity. she is familiar with these sounds - on late night walks she has heard them carrying through the night sky over her neighborhood, reverberant & partly absorbed into the air

the train's task is a prolonged one, naturally reserved for this time of night out of consideration for the traffic. the infrequent late night drivers now slowly accumulate into a queue of unlucky people. the queue's number fluctuates as some periodically give in & turn back to take another route, & are eventually replaced. her self-consciousness is now multiplied & constant. these trapped drivers are free to observe & wonder about her commitment to lying in this particular spot

then another atypical thing happens. she turns her head & sees that about half a block to the west there a coyote is wandering down her side of the street. coyote attacks are meant to be very uncommon, but, recognizing that she is cornered between the treeline, the factory, & the train, her limbs start to feel sort of numb & her tongue acquires a bristly feeling & a taste of blood. she searches for possible routes to keep away from the thing. she stands up &, with a wobbly feeling, experimentally crosses the street among the indifferent idling cars. she heads in the direction of the train

near this side of the crossing a man who looks to be in his sixties is operating a large lever attached to the tracks. the lever permits or restricts the train's movement, she supposes. he gives her a smile, a wave, & a signal for her to wait. she bows her head slightly & waits for a minute or two at a cautious distance, observing the coyote's slow curious progress up the street. finally he pushes the lever into what must be the locked position. he smiles, nods, & signals for her to cross. she bows her head again & steps trepidatiously between two cars, having never been so near to a train which felt so liable to shift. on the other side she proceeds down the long & dark road, deciding to head home for the night. it hasn't been an eventful night per se, but most nights of wandering these empty landmarks do not even produce memories & simply meld together into the general idea of walking amonst them, repeatable, infinitely. this night, on the contrary, did at least produce a memory of some kind


some days or weeks later she is crouched, enveloped almost fully in a mess of dry tall grass. much as with lying down on the asphalt some nights prior, it had taken some force of will to settle herself in the grass for aversion to the ticks which might live in it, as well as a vague sense that coming into too extensive contact with it will cause her to itch all over somehow

the night she had lied on the ground across the street from the factory, a sense of ennui had been weighing on her heavily. tonight she is in a far graver mood, filled with a desperate need for something in her mind to undergo a change. she feels like she is in shackles & that there is a key in her pocket which she can feel all the time, but something in her mind prohibits her from reaching in & taking it

it is a warm & humid night, pitch dark out here save for the beam of her flashlight. the mood is anything but calm. cicadas are screaming & with so many trees all around their collective noise is very overbearing, melding with the way the humid air clings to her all over. joining with the sound & more oppressive still is the loud rushing & clatter of a freight train passing some ten feet from where she's crouched. she's back at these same tracks, only a ways north of the place from before

she is in the shrubbery on the east side of the tracks. she had never walked north along them before, but now she is something like a hundred feet past the northern edge of the factory property. here the tracks are raised on an embankment, bordered by slopes of loose dark grey rocks. the tall grass grows densely along each side, leaving nowhere else to exist in. she would not be settled in it if gravity & caution did not compel her down here with all the burrs & bugs. when the train had started to approach, she had hidden herself in it fully until it had passed to negate any chance of creating any concern for the conductor, who she supposed would have no choice but to drive on & perhaps remain in a degree of perplexity & concern about the person they had seen

she is pointing her flashlight so that the beam traverses & illuminates all the rocks & lands on the passing train. she has trouble identifying whether she is numb or terribly anxious. here is what she intends to do right now: force herself to inch progressively up this slope & finally place herself as close as she can bear to this train - as close as she can imagine getting to it without being killed or injured. over & over in her mind's eye she can see it, the wheels' coupling rods threatening to strike her in the face or shoulder but just missing by an inch or less. she believes there is some threshold which, once crossed, will shock something in her mind & qualify the moment as a "near death experience." some animal thing in her will react & be forced to reassess what it means to exist. & then she will be free to undo her shackles & take a more exploratory approach to life. she feels that there is some kind of exchange to be made. for the price of one ritual act of bravery she will earn her living place in the world. she is not sure who or what exactly it is that she is bartering with, but she knows that these are the terms. she can feel the aura of fate & change hanging in the air just from being here. so many nights preceding this one have just been anonymous & interchangeable, but just the fact of being here now makes this one stick out. she's forming another memory where there would have otherwise just been that same vagueness & sense of an endless daze

she stares up at the train, mentally preparing herself to crawl the first short distance up along the rocks. there is a great tension in her head around this. over & over again she pictures these first steps, as though the mental image could substitute for the real motions. she knows that she doesn't have an outstanding amount of time to do this. although steadiness & caution will be the absolute most important elements of the task, she will need to have a bit of haste as well. she cannot let herself get caught up in these cycling thoughts of her own immediate intent. not this time

yet she continues to stare upward. each successive moment feels like it must surely be the last before she starts to move. yet the moments keep slipping past. she can feel the stillness setting in. it begins to feel like a question less of conscious movements of her body & more of waiting for it to start, a feeling like someone hurriedly waiting on an elevator, powerless.. her whole body is tensed as if there were a risk she might slip & tumble upwards against gravity into the wheels. & then, very suddenly, the train has passed & her opportunity is gone

all the tension unraveled, she freely slumps forward & places her face & forearms against the rocks, tears welling. immediately she feels anger towards herself & her apprehension, feeling that if she cannot do this then all her isolation from here on will lie solely at her feet. she drags her forehead on the rocks slightly, leaving a small scrape, balling her fists, tensing her neck muscles & making a shrill sound of frustration through her gritted teeth

now all the fanciful gravity of her task starts to drift away, leaving her in a more sober state. the anger drains out & the welling tears start to take over & become the main thing as she considers the negativity, solitude, & constructed severity of this whole exercise. she supposes that everyone has to make some display of bravery for the sake of reaching out into the world, but most often it's something like approaching a table among the welcoming & human decor of a coffee shop, nothing at all like the perverse little world she's orchestrated tonight with its danger & heavy machinery & stoicism, all shrouded in darkness & humid air. why should this have to be the form of her token moment of bravery, undertaken in grave, dramatic solitude? why should she approach the issue less as one of conscious bravery & more as one which concerns her mind as a kind of machine separate from herself which she must amend like a machine, through simple & crude & tangible acts like crouching next to a train? & why should she have to relegate herself to something like this just to postpone having to face anyone?

she stands, walks up the rocks & onto the tracks, begins following them south back towards home. she is already trying to forget about the whole thing. she turns off her flashlight & stares upward, walking slowly to avoid tripping on the railroad ties. her eyes cannot fully focus on the scant contrast between the blackness of the treeline & the faint lights of the factory lying past it. the minimal visual stimuli, the slightly distinguishable shades, begins to feel like phosphenes drifting & shifting in front of her. she goes home