I´m reposting here my short story, after making a few changes. Could anybody see if it´s alright? I thank you very much for any comments you may have!
FIRE AND FEAR
The day was drawing to a close, the deep blue night inevitably falling as all the passengers and their friends and relatives stood on the pretty much empty platform, waiting for the night train to Paris. After having visited a few other countries in Europe during her month-long vacation, Araci Elias, a nineteen-year-old Brazilian, was ending her amazing six-day trip in Austria, her grandfather’s homeland. Her cousin, his wife and a dear friend of her grandfather’s were there saying their goodbyes to her, wishing her a good and safe trip home. Araci’s plans for going back home were simple: ride a train from Vienna to Paris, then change trains in the “City of Light” to reach Lisbon, where she would finally catch the plane to fly back to Brazil. Traveling on a low budget had forced her to make some not so logical transportation arrangements; nonetheless, she thought, whichever way one travels in Europe is amazingly enriching.
Once onboard the Eurail train, which moved steadily and smoothly along the rails, Araci, still with tears in her eyes and already missing all the awe-inspiring experiences she had been through, walked down the well-lit aisle and attentively looked inside each of its second class compartments, which was all she could afford, until she finally found an empty one. As she was going to spend the night traveling and, therefore, she was going to sleep on the train, she thought it would be better to be on her own in the compartment, if at all possible. Each compartment had two bunk beds, one across from the other; the window was opposite the door, in between the bunk beds. A simple and convenient layout. She comfortably arranged herself and her scanty belongings—a fully packed backpack and a pretty much ragged duffle bag—on one of the lower beds, in such fashion that she was able to see through the large window that was facing her. For the next hour or so, until she fell asleep, she silently took in the night view as she recollected how wonderful a trip she had had in Europe. All she could hear, through her headphones, was the calming voice of one of her favorite Brazilian singers:
Eu conheço o medo de ir embora;
O futuro agarra a sua mão.
Será que é o trem que passou?
Ou passou quem fica na estação?¹
The first and only stop came about a couple of hours later, in the somewhat noisy industrial city of Munich, late at night. Being a person who sleeps deeply and easily, provided it is night, the dim light in the compartment did not prevent Araci from sleeping quite well, so she was only half awaken by the rather heavy steps of somebody who then entered the compartment. It was a young man with plain features and blond, disheveled hair, maybe in his early twenties, carrying a single duffle bag. He quickly stowed his dark-colored bag away on the top bed across from where Araci was, and immediately plunged himself onto the yellowish narrow bed, right beside his bag. Although feeling terribly sleepy, the girl started getting annoyed by the new traveler in the compartment, as he would not stop looking at her. Watching him a little more carefully, through her only partly open eyes, and slowly getting more alert, she could notice he had a pencil and a notepad in his hands, and that he would scribble something on the pad from time to time, right after furtively looking at her.
At that point, her discomfort grew much stronger than her weariness, and she could not help feeling suspicious and fairly scared. Since the young man would not stop looking at her or scribbling on his pad, she figured she should try to strike up a conversation with the stranger, and find out what he was up to. “Hi, there. Are you headed long ways from here?” As if already expecting the question, he promptly answered, “Going up to Paris. You?” “So am I,” she said, and anxiously completed, “What are you writing there?” “I´m drawing pictures of you,” he said, at the same time that he turned the notepad for her to see it. “Oh,” she said, not knowing what to say to that or about the very poor, childish drawings she could see on his pad. She was sure that man was insane: his face, his way of speaking, his strange behavior gave him away.
Doing her best not to look alarmed, Araci left the compartment, not even worrying about her belongings, and walked down the long aisles from one end of the train to the other, looking for a vacant bed in the other compartments, just to despairingly find that there was none available. Having nowhere else to go, Araci went back to her compartment, where she found the young man playfully and continuously lighting his cigarette lighter. She had no doubt she would not be able to go back to sleep, and thought the best thing she could do was talk to the man, as if she could then control the situation and prevent anything bad from happening. And bad things were all she had on her mind. Not letting go of the lighter for a long time—as if his goal was only to heighten Araci´s fears and anxiety—, in fluent English, though with a noticeable accent, he calmly answered all her questions, which she did her best not to make sound as if they were a questionnaire, but rather a friendly chat.
Among the pieces of information Araci could get from the stranger were that he was German, and was called Maurice Fritz: he had been named after his recently deceased French grandfather. This one specific fact about his name calmed Araci down in a certain way, as she thought it to be good evidence of Maurice coming from a caring family. A family which, for sure, had been able to bring him up to be a good man, she thought. Her worries had only began to be soothed when soon she found out that Maurice was on that train because he was escaping from his family, for they wanted him to go back to the psychiatric hospital. “Back?!”, Araci could not help immediately asking. And she learned then that he had already been hospitalized three times, one of them because he had set fire to his brother´s car. Maybe feeling inspired by that talk, Maurice picked up the lighter and started playing with it again. Although Araci was at that point pretty much speechless, Maurice mentioned he had written a letter to his parents, explaining why he was leaving them; so he was sure they were not worried about him. Araci was taken aback when he put the lighter down only to zip his bag open, from which he took out a rather creased envelope—the letter that was supposed to inform his parents of his escape. If there had been a chance of that man not being insane, that chance was gone. Araci´s fears could not be stronger: her mind was filled with thoughts of fire, mentally-disturbed people, her traveling alone, her family—how come she was so far away from her family and dear friends when she most needed them? The flickering flame of the lighter brought her back from her thoughts to the dreadful train compartment. When she could not clear her mind enough to decide what she should do, she noticed the train was coming to a slow halt, and it was only then that she realized they had finally gotten to Paris.
She quickly grabbed her belongings and started leaving, trying to look as casual as possible. Maurice walked right behind her, as if not wanting to break whatever connection had been built between them. Araci was feeling such great relief! Or was that happiness?, she thought, without being able to decide, though. It really did not matter. Her only wish was to free herself from him. They only said their goodbyes when already on the sidewalk outside the beautiful station Gare De Lyon. Maurice Fritz gave Araci one of the drawings, asking her to keep it so that she would never forget about him—as if it were necessary, she thought. Araci briskly thanked Maurice for the drawing, telling him to take care. Having already started walking away from him, she turned and said, “Hey, don´t you forget to mail that letter.”
Será que é o trem que passou?
Ou passou quem fica na estação?¹
¹ Montenegro, Oswaldo. “Estrada Nova.” Estrada Nova. Jam Music, 2002.