| There was no smell in the train car. At first, Hannah was thankful for the discovery. A giant container of frozen meat could have born all sorts of unpleasant odors, each of which would have forcefully reminded her why she never touched cold, dead flesh. But after a while, surrounded by darkness pierced only by glimpses of the world outside through a crack between the car’s massive door and its frame, the lack of smell began to become unnerving. It wasn’t due to the supreme cleanliness of the car. Hannah had discovered that the moment she had taken a seat in a corner, and found her feet slipping on a black, frozen puddle of ancient blood. No, the lack of smell was due to the cold. It was a different sort of cold than the ferocious wind and deep snow of the forest south of Derby. This cold was still, crisp, sterile; the magnetically levitating car rode its rail so quietly and smoothly it almost felt like it was sitting still. The car reminded her of the metal chamber, its polished walls reflecting the crimson of her exposed chest cavity. That frozen vessel had been meant to preserve the corpse it contained until the time came for its reanimation. But the inhabitants of this dark freezer held no hope of regaining their lost lives. They had been slaughtered, probably in a place far away, then dismembered and packed into massive, white, soft-sided packages with hundreds of strangers who had all shared the same fate. Hannah had never eaten beef, certainly not in its cooked and processed form, nor fresh off the living creature. Cattle seemed to be fairly complex animals, she considered. Their stomachs were marvels of evolution, their bodies strong and powerful. She wondered if cattle had souls. She had heard of bullfights, on other planets inhabited by people of different cultures, in which a bull was slaughtered before a cheering crowd. She wondered if the bull thought that a courageous death at the hands of a skilled matador was nobler than one on a farm with a tag in one ear.
Hannah’s stomach rumbled, echoing off of the metal walls. She huddled in her corner, scrubs tossed aside, body curled into a ball and wrapped tightly in the warm blanket. It was finally light outside, a sliver of Meditaria’s warmth cast upon the great white packages, flickering with each tree or building that blurred past. She had no idea where she was, how far she had come, or how far the train would yet go before it came to a halt and unloaded its silent cargo. Her mind was restless, her stomach tumultuously empty. She felt completely and wholly exhausted, yet she could not sleep at all. Throughout the long morning, the brief day, and the dwindling twilight, her mind tumbled and twisted through the miles. It was only after Meditaria had set once again, and the sliver of light faded into total and complete darkness, that her mind at last began to grow tranquil.
The darkness was comprehensive. It reminded her of her transformations, of the darkness within her. No sight, no sound, no smell. Nothing to accompany her empty thoughts but the souls of the dead all around her.