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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: June 18, 2020      Views: 27

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 ABOUT
JAKE P. 
Husband, father, grandfather, retired middle school counselor, and beginning writer. One self-published middle grade novel on Amazon titled "Cat Through the Wormhole". Member of CyFair Writers group. Interested in joining NaNoWriMo in November.

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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
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Always double check your ticket before boarding a train.
"The Ghost Train" by Jake P.



"All Aboard."

The shout rang from the platform, and I jerked my eyes open. I hadn't even heard the train approach. I must have fallen asleep...and no wonder...it was midnight. My ticket said the train was to depart at 12:15 a.m., so it must be early, but I grabbed my suitcase and hurried out to the train.

The conductor looked at my ticket then looked me in the eye like I had swiped it from another passenger. After a moment of being scrutinized like I was a criminal, he waived me aboard with a stern, "Mind the rules."

I didn't see any rules on the walls of the station. The wind almost blew the ticket out of my hand when he handed it back.

Catching a train at midnight is obscene. People shouldn't even be up at that hour. But I'd gotten a call that Mom was ill, and in Hallows Junction, there was no airport nearby. And good luck finding a rental car that late at night.

The car was almost empty. There had to be seating for seventy people, but only four seats were occupied. I sat across the aisle from a fellow asleep with his head lolled to the side. I placed my luggage in the overhead bin and took the seat near the window. I sat staring out as the train pulled away. It was going to be a long ride to Dallas, and now that I was awake, I couldn't fall asleep again. It was as I moved the ticket to my shirt pocket that I noticed writing on the back. I switched on the overhead light, and as I read, my blood turned cold.

Rules of the Ghost Train

1. It is the right of every passenger, spirit or living, to choose any unoccupied seat. Be sure to ask the seat you choose if it is unoccupied. Often spirits wish to remain invisible.

2. Food served on this train may be harmful to the living passengers. It is suggested that the living eat only the food they have brought with them. Never eat food offered to you by another passenger.

3. Passenger must avoid using the bathrooms between 01:06 and 01:30 to avoid inadvertently becoming involved in a murder that occurred in one two hundred years ago. Any other time it is safe.

4. Do not leave your seat if the train comes to an abrupt stop in the middle of nowhere.

5. If a man in an oversized black cloak sits next to you and asks the time, NEVER LOOK AT YOUR WATCH, just tell him 'it's time to be thankful to be alive'. The Harbinger of Death often takes this train.

It had to be a joke. The ticket agent must have slipped me a trick ticket. I wanted to laugh, but the sound caught in my throat. I looked around at the other four passengers. Two seemed to be awake. Their heads were straight, not drooped in sleep. But they were rigid. Not moving at all.

That's when 'creepy' crawled into my brain--deathly still.

I was sitting rigid myself when the conductor came down the aisle. I held up my hand to stop him, and showed him my ticket.

"This is a joke, right? The rules written on the back. Ghosts don't exist."

He leaned over to face me as if to whisper his answer. He vanished then reappeared. He smiled at my reaction, so I knew horror had shown on my face.

His smile showed unnaturally pointed teeth, with gaps where several had fallen out. "Why don'cha ask the fella sittin' in front of you. He's been on this train a hunnerd years or so."

The seat in front was empty. The conductor punched the place anyway and said, "Tell him, Lester."

A man with a cowboy hat appeared before my eyes and grunted, "What the thunder? Why'd you wake me, Charlie?"

"This young fella..."

Waving my hands to get his attention, "Okay. Okay. I believe you."

He studied me a moment. "You did ask the seat if it was unoccupied before you sat down, didn't you?"

"N--no. I mean yes. Yes I did," grateful that I had lucked into an empty seat.

He didn't believe me, but he turned away and continued down the aisle.

For an hour after our conversation, I sat so rigid my muscles were aching.
The train braked hard and came to a stop, and I remembered rule number four, Do not leave your seat...

I was too afraid to even look out the window to see if we were at a station.

A horrible odor suddenly filled the air. Groans and complaints could be heard throughout the car, some from seemingly empty seats nearby.

"Oh my God,"

"Ewww."

"Not again!"

The cowboy in front of me jerked awake. He pinched his nose and called out.

"Conductor. Charlie!"

The conductor materialized beside him.

"What can I do for you, Lester?"

Before he could answer, a partially rotted skeletal man stepped into the car. Lester fanned the air in front of his face.

"Do we have to stop for this guy every time we pass this place? He's disgusting."

"This is a ghost train, Lester. Any ghost can ride."

"It's not right for the rest of us passengers to have to smell that rotting corpse. Can't you make him at least clean up some...let him ride after he's embalmed?"

Charlie spoke in a low whisper, "You know it's the train that mangled him like he is. It happened right here, so it's only right that we let him ride back home."

"I ain't going to be able to sleep no more while he's here," Lester complained.

The stench grew stronger as the corpse passed my seat, and for a moment he paused glancing down at the seat next to mine. I didn't let my eyes meet his. I stared ahead. I think I was sweating icicles. He finally ambled past.

I needed to pee. That's when I remembered rule number three, avoid the bathrooms between 01:06 and 01:30. I could hold it for another few hours.

As the time approached, I watched the bathroom doors to see if anyone would be foolish enough to enter. No one did, but I heard a scuffle and loud moan at 01:17. I covered my ears. The woman three seats in front of me shuddered, and I saw she was staring at a dark liquid spreading from under the door.

Around three a.m. An old woman pushing a food cart rolled through the car. "Sweets and meats."

A ghost materialized several seats in from of me. "What sweets are good?"

"We have chocolate covered eyeballs, haggis eclairs, bone flavored jawbreakers,..."

"I'll take the eyeballs."

Another passenger asked, "Any fish?"

"Sure, we have week-old baked halibut."

"Anything a little older?" an old woman asked. She looked like a little old grandmother from the eighteen hundreds.

As she passed my chair she asked, "Anything from the food cart, dearie?"

Rule number two, Food served on this train may be harmful to the living passengers. I shook my head.

"No, thanks."

"You sure?" She looked at me sympathetically. "You look hungry. Here. I'll leave this chicken-heart salad sandwich for you. No charge. You may get hungry later." She placed it on the empty seat beside me and walked away.

The wrapper covering the sandwich was soaked in blood, and I swear I could see something moving inside it. I switched off the overhead light and scrunched closer to the window.

I was getting pretty desperate to use the bathroom about an hour out of Dallas, but what happened next just froze my bladder. A tall figure in an oversized black cloak came walking... it really looked more like it was floating...toward me. The Harbinger of Death. He--it--was looking side to side at the passengers, even the ones I couldn't see. He stopped and sat beside the guy across the aisle from me. He nudged him awake.

"What time is it?"

I tried to mentally warn the guy, 'it's time to be thankful to be alive', but the guy lifted his arm to look at his watch.

"It's two..."

There was a soft poof. He disappeared. Then the black-cloaked eyes turned my way. 'It's time to be thankful to be alive', 'It's time to be thankful to be alive', I repeated over and over in my head. But it never asked the question. It sat staring at me. I kept my eyes straight ahead, but I could feel the burn of its stare on the side of my face. A hand reached for the sandwich beside me. The wrapper crunched as it was opened, and with loud smacking, the thing consumed it continuing his observation of me.

Hours later, the first lights of Dallas flicked through the windows. The lights grew brighter as we approached the city, and finally the cloaked figure stood and walked away.

When the train finally stopped at the station, it took several minutes to loosen my muscles enough to stand and gather my luggage. Only me and one other fellow stepped off the train. The conductor held out his hand to assist me down, but I ignored it. When I glanced at him he was smiling.

"Did'ja have a nice trip?"

I said nothing.

"Stay safe now and come ride with us again."

****

Who knew? There's a name for fear of trains. It's called siderodromophobia, and I've been in treatment for five years now. My sweating, shaking, and heart palpitations have diminished, but I've refused the psychiatrist's suggestions of exposure therapy. He wants me to, slowly over time, overcome my fear and board a train.

I want to introduce him to Charlie.

Horror Writing Contest contest entry
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