He disappeared from sight behind the charging train. Charlie and Woz froze when they saw the body flipping away from them and didn't move. Kaz ignored them. All his thoughts were focused on that cunning blackened face rushing toward him. Instincts took over and he was off, sprinting across the gravel into the mouth of hell. A rush of air pushed at him as his feet left the ground and his body soared into the air. The noise of the roaring engine enveloped him. His mouth, dry as sand, opened in a scream that joined the squeals of the tortured track beneath the train's wheels. The engine’s face was so close, Kaz thought it would surely devour him. He braced for the impact of steel against flesh, but nothing happened. The face was gone, and the train whooshed past him. Hot air blasted him as he tumbled to earth beyond the rails. The train had had him in its grasp and let him go. Kaz rolled over in the cinders and watched in wonder as a parade of boxcars groaned past him. His right arm stung where he'd landed on it. His head ached from the noise. His lungs chafed from the choking smoke and coal dust. But he was alive! Slowly, the train retreated down the tracks with a steady click-clack, click-clack, click-clack that grew fainter and fainter.
Kaz's chest heaved with heavy breaths as he rose to his feet. The air tasted cool; he gulped it in. Charlie and Woz raced toward him with shrieks of laughter, but his attention was drawn to the man who'd been struck by the train, afraid of what he might see. To his amazement, he found him standing on his feet and leaning against his friend while he tested his right leg. He'd defied death just as Kaz had done and survived the challenge. The man caught his gaze and tipped his cap with two fingers in a salute of respect. Kaz nodded in return. He knew they had both beaten life's odds that day. It was unlikely either would return to blood alley to do so again.
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