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The Chain

Arthur Beaugeard '23

There was a small chip on the eleventh step. The woman tripped over it slightly as she came

upon it, breaking her fall with a hand upon the railing. She steadied herself and kept going.

The man’s foot reached the step, and slowed his walk for a brief moment, his foot aware in some

invisible way of the chip upon the step, before he continued, without falling. Her scent lingered still in the air.

She stood upon the platform between some rows of people. They looked somewhat pale and 

drawn, as if they might jump onto the tracks when the train arrived. The man gazed at the clock, 

way up high on a pillar, as its lengthy second hand dragged along the clock’s white face, and he

thought he could hear an incomprehensibly quiet murmur. The man and the woman locked eyes, 

and an incredible magnetism rocked them both as a great old steel engine came rushing into the

station, leaving a cloud of smoke in its wake. 

“Is this the train to Minnetonka?” The man said in her ear, perhaps to be heard over the noise.

“No, that should be coming in a few minutes.” 

The passengers on the train all felt their faces melting. It was far too hot in there. All of them sat, 

dabbing their sweaty brows, when they thought they heard some commotion outside. They all

looked at it in the way an ant looks at a human being. All of them were squashed in the way that

an ant is killed by a human being. And when the train went past, all of them were smeared across

the wall, leaving the dark trail of an insect’s corpse that the human being wipes away in his

cleanliness. Conversation ensued within, and just as soon as it all began, a secret memory, long

forgotten, found itself blown out as a wisp of smoke rose to meet the challenge of the night. 

Seen, or unseen, or perhaps something not yet seen, the man walked along, cigarette dangling

 from his swollen lip, hat cocked in defiance of everyone who had dared to expect anything. 

Every set of eyeballs in that place were all pointed this way and that, all seemingly delicately

arranged to keep a glass bowl from shattering on the ground. It split the station into the sort of 

mosaic that decorates a Minoan estate, but one corner of it remained uncovered, and there the 

granite lay, and in that secluded nest the woman stood, finger trembling upon her own swollen 

lip, everything she thought she knew being said, or silenced, or unheard of. And the man looked 

back, past necks and shoulders, to the woman, and the chain of his deranged turmoil pulled taut, 

drawn towards its nectar once again. 

A slow, subtle guillotine sort of lowered from the ceiling, aimed right at the half of the woman’s 

head, and the passerby’s meandered rays of vision locked towards the violence, like a gang of 

Samaritans looking for wounded people in crowded spaces. But what seemed a guillotine was 

only a sign announcing the next train, and the rodents pent their hunger up. 

Another train carted the woman away, so she took out her little makeup mirror and peered into it 

again and again and again and again, contemplating the deep and endless evil of the world. She 

was already withered away, but the distance will not bear itself. The man, for whatever reason,  stared down the train and felt a powerful urge to run after it, grasp its metal hull, swim along it in 

the wave, and perhaps even be swallowed by the whale himself. But he also knew, in his simple, 

plodding way, that he had decapitated the butterfly, and it would never fly again.

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