The great engine stood, large and impressive, on the track. The station stood behind it; it faced the prairie, vast and empty, with the two lines of track going out forever into its wilderness.
It seemed a thing of perfect design, its function and purpose stressed in every axle and ball bearing. But…no, it was not ready. Men in coveralls and caps, with grease on their hands and looks of focused concentration on their faces, moved all around and about the engine, pulling bits off and sticking bits on, improving every inch of the machine.
It would seem ready at long last, sleek and shining, until the Chief Engineer came out of it, waving a leaflet of new designs and improved parts, and the chaotic work would begin again. The Chief would retreat into his domain for a time once the work was completed; a time of waiting, of immobility that grated on his nerves as painfully as death. But he knew, he knew always that there was room for improvement, room to grow, to perfect, room to learn what else could be added, what function had not been thought of. The engine room inside, where the heart of the machine lay, beat constantly, without ceasing, ready and waiting for the moment of inauguration. The moment of movement.
It had been waiting for twenty years, being slowly built over time upon this track. No one knew the destination, it was not important. What was important was equipping it with every advantage possible, with every safeguard against injury or mistake. Preparation was the thing, everyone cried. Preparation! But for what, the Chief wondered sometimes to himself. He dared not delve too deeply into his concerns, but consulted with other engineers and the works of the world, trying his best to learn all he could.
“Waiting for what?” people would say, looking in awe at the hulking machine. They longed to see it move, to see it perform to its utmost. They knew how long it had been in preparation, and were keen to discover the purpose of it.
Inside the engine, the Chief sat with his head in his hands, designs jumbled around him. Twenty years gone, he thought. Twenty years of immobility, when the very thing had been designed for movement. Perfection could not be attained by waiting. The engine could sit for another twenty years and still new ideas would come to him.
He sat up. He grabbed his papers and went to the door, flinging it open. He saw his crew sitting beside it, waiting for their orders as they had always done.
“Change of plans!” he called loudly. “We move now!” And he threw his precious designs into the air, watching with a wrenching satisfaction as they scattered in the wind.
The crew jumped collectively to their feet, cheering loudly and clambering aboard the engine. It began to chug as the heart beat faster, its metal wheels slowly beginning to turn over the track.
The Chief sat at the head, watching with eagerness as the track began to slip away beneath them. He did not know now anymore than he had before where he was going, but he knew that purpose began with movement, and the only way ahead was forward. ~