Sims and his wife Marge were on the train to Minot from their home in Spokane. They had left Spokane at five, when Marge got off her shift, and it was after nine now and black outside. Sims had paid for a roomette which Marge said she intended to be asleep in by nine, but she wasn’t in it yet. She had talked Sims into having a drink.

‘How would you hate to die most?’ Marge said, waggling a ballpoint in her fingers. She was working a crossword puzzle book that had been left on the seat. She had finished the hardest puzzle and gone on to the quiz in the back. The quiz predicted how long people would live by how they answered certain questions, and Marge was comparing her chances to Sims’s. ‘This will be revealing,’ Marge said. ‘I’m sure you’ve thought about it, knowing you.’ She smiled at Sims.

‘I’d hate to be bored to death,’ Sims said. He stared out at the glassy darkness of Montana where you could see nothing. No lights. No motion. He’d never been here before.

Fast Lanes