He awoke to find himself as a passenger on the train of the dead.

Those around him watched with interest as strange things passed outside their windows, from mansions in the clouds that were large enough to contain their own clouds, to orchards in which smaller orchards grew within transparent fruit on their trees. These were the afterlives of the greatest and most virtuous, containing splendors within splendors to allow an eternity of delight. All such things would soon be far behind.

They aren't that impressive, he reminded himself. Every ocean back on Earth contained multiple smaller oceans, every forest contained multiple smaller forests- hell, every train contained multiple smaller trains. The gods had ways of tricking mortals into believing that common phenomena were divine by presenting them in new ways. There was nothing they had which was truly greater than that which the world of the living could produce.

He wasn’t sure if he really believed that, but right about then, he needed to more than ever.

If his cohorts had followed his instructions correctly, everything that they buried him with would still be in the duffel bag at his feet. He unzipped it slightly and dug his hand around inside, eventually finding a handle of cold steel. The very same pistol that put him in a grave in the first place had followed him inside. At least there was still something familiar to hold onto in this place.

After a deep breath, he made his move- slung the bag over his shoulder, rose to his feet, then fired a single shot into the ceiling of the car. In seconds, all eyes were on him. “Alright everyone, listen up! My name is Felix Ortega, and I’m the one robbing this god-forsaken train. Any and all valuables, wallets, watches, jewelry, purses, and so on and so forth go in this bag. Am I clear?”

He’d been through this routine many times in his criminal career, yet he’d never seen anything like this. There was no panic, no rustling, no obedience. Instead, everyone was looking at him with something closer to sorrow, or pity. As he moved from aisle to aisle, it became clear that they had little more to offer him than questions. “Why are you doing this?” “Are you insane?” “You do know where this train is going, don’t you?” “What did you expect would happen?”

“Something,” is what he wanted to say to that last one. “Anything at all. An opportunity. Leverage. Another chance. At least something.” But he said nothing at all, for there was nothing worth saying. Nobody else had bothered to smuggle anything across- only him and his damn revolver. Were they all so content to go quietly? Aside from a wedding band here, or a locket there, the whole crowd was empty-handed. All they had to their names were the clothes that they were buried in.

He was halfway through the car when two jackal-headed guards burst through the door ahead, sable and snarling. Matching submachine guns glimmered in their leathery hands. “Drop it, jackass,” one of them barked. “Do you think you’re so damn clever? That this has never happened before? Give up now, or we'll give you no choice.”

He considered his options: surrender, retreat, hostages, a standoff- but even if he stalled, the tracks only led to one place. Their weapons were superior to his own, but what was the worst they could manage to do? Kill him? The prospect didn’t worry him as he took aim. After all, every death contained multiple smaller deaths.

He wasn’t sure if he really believed that, but right about then, he needed to more than ever.