In November 2004, after running away from home and living on the railroad for approximately 7 months, I found myself in Sacramento, CA. It was November, and freezing at night, so I had to continue travelling south. After waiting at the hop-out spot for 3 days and nights and watching train after train of nearly unrideable trains pass by, I gave up on waiting for a safe car to ride and consented to catch the next available train to stop. I woke up in the morning to a stopped southbound train consisting of flatbeds carrying semi-trailers and 53' length intermodal cars hauling ocean containers. Now, there are certain intermodal cars which are mostly safe to ride (the flatbeds have safe riding space but allow too much visibility to the public which, as a runaway youth, was not an option) and I opted for concealment. The car I chose is called a "suicide ride" due to the fact the floor is sustained by triangulated crossbeams. Basically, the way to ride this particular car is to sit on a small, 2' square platform in the corner and to prop your feet against the nearest crossbeam for support.
This train, being a southbound destined for the Oakland/Bay area, had come through the Cascade Range of Northern California which, in November, is cold and wet. The car was packed with ice and snow.. "slippery when wet". I rationalized a reckless decision with the thought of greener pastures to the south, and jumped on - sitting squarely on the small platform and locking my feet to the cross beam.
The train took off again, with me stowed inside. Passing through Sacramento Metro and on into the hinterlands, we passed suburbia, industry, farmland and into the marshlands north of the Bay. After 2 hours of riding, I looked over the wall of the car I was on and seeing myself surrounded by wilderness with traffic from the highway nearly a mile away, I decided it was safe to move around a little to decramp my stiff legs. The track was smooth, the train well-engineered, so with very little jostling, I safely stood up grasping the lip of the well. I stood to balance on the first beam, holding the edge of the car, took one step with my right foot to the far cross beam, followed by another, where I placed my left foot on the platform facing the corner i'd rode up until then.
My right foot slipped, falling immediately on the railroad ties below. With the train moving at a steady 30 mile an hour clip, my foot was immediately sucked through. With my foot went my leg, and the rest of my body ensued. Due to the force which I was sucked under, my left foot was wedged into the corner of the car, while my right hand went below from momentum. In a moment, I looked to see what had just taken place, looking from the tracks flying by rapidly to my right foot swinging wildly side to side beneath the car, bouncing off the ties and nearly touching the wheels.
As I saw my foot nearly trapped beneath the rolling wheels, I had a vision of being completely sucked under. I saw the entirety of my life's remainder, reduced to a red-hot, soaking pulp smeared on the railroad, minced into innumerable pieces, and baking beneath the dreadful Californian sun. As I saw this image of death rapidly nearing, I heard a voice speak, saying, "Now i'm gone". As I heard this voice, the vision passed and a brilliant white light, a spirit devoid of the colors spectrum, rematerialized, while my hand unconsciously grasped the beam.
Literally pulling myself from the grave, I lifted myself up, retracing my steps to where I'd sat the entire ride up to that moment, and locked myself in, shivering for the rest of the trip into Oakland. Another hour.
When I finally got to Oakland, I remember walking vividly through the hateful slums, seeing the gross remembrance of hostile strangers, and being completely indifferent to the external world. The sidewalks, the bricks, the buildings glass and cement, the puddles of water - everything - radiated the most brilliant golden light i've ever seen.