Below is a short excerpt taken from chapter 1 of Ages Ending.
I took the money.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My father called it a war chest; said it was the weapon of my future: education. I knew this money was all he and my mother had. How could I take it?
But my mother insisted. “What do you want us to do with it?” she asked me. “You are the reason we saved all these years. If you refuse, our lives will be wasted.”
I can still see myself sitting on that old creaking train, scared out of my mind. I knew good and well that when a young man left the south, he never came back.
As the train groaned beneath the weight of its battered steel and gathered speed, I looked out the window and saw my father nod farewell. My mother couldn’t let go of me so stoically. She trotted alongside the train with tears streaming from her blue eyes until she collided into the iron chest of an ungodly tall centurion. When I close my eyes I still see his blonde hair whipping from out beneath his golden helmet. Just before we disappeared into the King Charles Tunnel I saw the centurion shove my mother back to where my father had been standing. But he was already gone.
That was three years ago.
Today, I’m coming home. But I haven’t done what my parents sent me west to do. I haven’t finished school, and I never will.
And my parents won’t be waiting for me on the landing where we said our forlorn goodbyes. They are gone now, and I will not see them again.
The train jerks as its brakes screech against the hot rolled steel of the rails. The behemoth slows and breathes thick waves of billowing smoke before coming to a stop inside the once magnificent station of the southwest. With its thirty-foot ceilings, ornate murals and crystal chandeliers, this station was once the pride of a community. Now it’s nothing but a thin and pathetic shell of its former self. The murals haven’t been cleaned in decades and most of the chandeliers were shattered during the Great War. Those that survived are unlit. In other words, the station looks like the rest of the south and the people who live here: exhausted.
The slim door of my cabin opens and the conductor, a short man with a potbelly and handlebar mustache, appears. He examines the passengers’ papers in a gruff yet efficient manner. Behind him follows a centurion who eyes each passenger with a mixture of suspicion and hatred. He is large, like the man who shoved my mother, but not nearly as tall. I have the contours of that man’s body memorized, and I will know him when I see him.
There are only seven passengers in my cabin. Leaving the west to travel south is not a popular thing to do. The growing unrest and coming war has made my home a dangerous place. The man across the aisle shakes as he scrambles to produce his papers. Nervous.
My papers are resting on my lap, where they’ve been for the final hour of the journey. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, and I am ready. One more test and I’ll be home.
The lies have already been told.
More importantly, the lies have been believed. All I have to do now is keep from retching onto my boots, which I am definitely on the verge of doing.
“Papers,” the conductor barks. Not a question; an order.
I hold up my ID card and travel visa for he and the centurion to see.
The conductor snatches them both from my hand while the centurion glares down at me from behind the dark shield of his helmet. I stare resolutely at my own reflection in his shield. I am beginning to look older, I notice. At twenty-three, I am no longer the fat-faced boy who left this place. My visage is longer, my blue eyes a shade darker, and my sinewy muscles hardened from countless hours of running sand dunes, flipping over-sized tires, and learning how to kill. I departed this place a boy; I return a man.