Night Train

The majestic Old Constitution rested silently on its tracks like a one-time hero with a secret, its colorful history locked away inside the great iron engine. Though immobile now, it once carried passengers to and from destinations both near and far, but modern progress had forced it out of business. The Old Constitution was destined to spend its retirement asleep on its tracks.

Asleep, though the Old Constitution was, the retired train wasn’t empty. It was inhabited by an erstwhile locomotive engineer who couldn’t give up his post. He was forever bound to the hulking iron carriage by memories of the past, memories from which he could never be free.

Though many reasonable people disagreed with his own relentless abasement, no comfort or consolation could alleviate the pain wrought from the one fateful day that changed that engineer’s life forever. Decades ago, as the Old Constitution puffed its way down the track, several children played alongside it down the way, out of sight. The trainman attempted to stop the great ory beast, but it was no good. There wasn’t enough time to slow the train on its dogged errand and five children lost their lives under the crushing wheels of the locomotive.

Even though fault was laid upon blind spots and overgrown vegetation, the old man blamed himself and became fixed, forever tending to a train that no longer was.

 


 

It was midnight and the moon was at its fullest. Three young boys moved carefully along the tracks, making way to the abandoned Old Constitution. Moving through the night with purpose, they intended to make the train their home, at least on nights when a safe haven from parents and responsibility was needed.

One of the boys climbed onto the train’s platform and peered into the window. Inside were seats, levers, and gauges now frozen through time and disuse. He¬† struggled to get in, but all doors and windows were welded shut. The engine was now a shrine for history. A shrine that one could view but could never enter.

They continued down the tracks, jumping, climbing and seeking a way inside. When they reached the end of the train’s length, they heard a distant whistle blow. Slowly, one by one, each boy turned around. There beyond the end of the engine they saw a man walking along the track. He carried a lantern before him, a light to lead his way.

They called out to the stranger, eager that he might know a way to enter, yet the man remained still and uttered no response. In the darkness, the boys could make out the man’s silhouette, but he was turned and they couldn’t see his face.

They called out once more and this time the man responded by turning to greet them. Horrified, the boys halted and screamed. The man, as distinct and clear as could be in the darkness, stood silently. The lantern cast light upward from below his chin.

All three boys bolted into the night, screaming as they bulleted down the tracks in the direction of home, the image of what they saw burned indelibly into their minds. What they witnessed was not of this world and was something they would never see again.

What terrified the boys and sent them screaming into the night was that the man had absolutely no face. It was an empty blackness, hollow and lost.

But more terrifying than the absent visage was where a set of eyes should be were two gaping holes that glowed an unearthly green. It was as if they’d been burned into the man’s skull.

After that, the boys knew the ghost of the old engineer was devoting his eternity  to making sure the tracks were clear.

The boys would never set foot on those tracks again.

 

 

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