By Shannon Piazza
There are three ways to ride the Ewark line.
The first is to present a pass, a small metal token engraved with your name and the name of the master of this place, detailing what you owe and are owed. A pass is hard to come by, harder still to keep, and the price too high for many to consider.
The second way to ride the Ewark Line, should a pass be out of your reach, is bribery. Bring cash, subtly hidden, and choose your conductor with care. Find out who is likely to accept your boon, and who will summon the guards. Knowing is key. Conductors are fickle gods until you learn their whims, but they can be learned, if your need is great enough.
The third way to ride, for those with limited funds and less inhibitions, is violence. If your stomach turns at the thought, know that the threat of violence alone should be enough, so long as you play your hand right. A gun is the only option with any hope of effectiveness. Acquire one small enough to hide on your person, and ensure it stays hidden until you are ready. Once again, be careful how you choose your conductor. This choice will matter more than anything else.
Old Joseph will blink at you, slow and placid, but his mouth will creep up at the corner, and he’ll wave you onto the train with a tiny shrug, as if to say, “what else can I do?” He will let you ride the train, and will not report you.
Rattlesnake Stephen will only laugh. Bitter-bright eyes, toothpick lolling between quirked lips, he’ll stare down at your gun held in shaky hands or steady, and he’ll laugh at you. Shoot him, if you like. He will not let you ride the train.
Big Bill will twist the gun from your hand with no more than a grunt and a sniff. If you’re lucky, he’ll break your wrist in the meantime, and leave it at that. Lesson learned. If you’re unlucky, you will no longer have a meantime. You will never ride the train.
Choose with care. Some conductors are cowards, others courageous. Some will scoff at your offerings, determined to uphold the sanctity of their post, while others know the sanctity of their post was scrubbed away long ago and are only trying to live. Like you.
There is, as it happens, one other way to ride the Ewark Line. Become a conductor. You will ride all day and all night, free of charge, with no limit to your destinations. You will ride and serve, and uphold, if you dare. But once you are a conductor, you can be nothing else. A conductor rides the line. If that is what you wish, then by all means, go ahead. But choose carefully. Once you become a conductor, you will ride until the end.
Four ways, traveler. Four ways to ride.