THE TRAIN THAT ISN’T THERE -A SHORT STORY BY ANA CHRISTY

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THE TRAIN THAT ISN’T THERE 

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Let me tell you a bit about myself. My name is Brian Wellington and I am almost fifty years old.I am blind-legally, well that’s the diagnosis. It took me a long time to convince the disability people and the doctors that I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of my face. I do have a problem with my sight, it’s diabetes. A few years back I  had trouble reading,got reading glasses and that helped a bit but then I couldn’t see distances clearly. With some exaggeration and a little bit of deception. I went on disability.

I have worn many hats in my life, line cook, bus driver, a stock man at Walmart, and a tobacco salesman, all unsuccessful jobs,with little satisfaction. I had no savings, no wife anymore, we have been divorced 8 years now. and no kids,thank god!  I was due a hand out-and the government was the way to go.

I live in low-income housing in Milleville, New Jersey on the second floor. My constant companion is my mutt, Dog  who is a pain in the ass, he never listens. My neighbors are a pain too, they are all assholes, even the ones who believe I am blind, and go out of their way to help me. Fuck them all, I hate people, all of them.They push themselves on me with their pot roast dinners, and plates of over baked macaroni and cheese. They are constantly knocking on my door, don’t they know what is overkill even for a blind man?

It has puffed by several weeks in a row, rattling over the trestle that is a few feet away from my bedroom. a black steam train with  a dozen carriages. A headlight that shone through the branches, way before it came around the bend. It seems to have the same schedule, passing by at 10 pm. and returning a few hours later. It has spiked my curiosity as to where it came from and where it was going.

According to the internet the train which had been a passenger train stopped running in 1953. One quiet Spring evening there had been a terrific roar out of nowhere and the train had derailed, plunging all 125 passengers and the driver 20 ft. to their deaths in the Delaware River. It had been springtime and the river was already swollen from bad storms. No one could be rescued. Only 62 people’s bodies were recovered, leaving the missing a mystery for all these years. The local and national newspapers had covered “the story” every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, even sending news crews on fishing boats and diving crews in hopes of finding something. But to no avail, it still made for a good story.

Now let me digress a bit. Back to my window, where I sit in my old green corduroy recliner, with Dog on my lap. Across the street next to the trestle and the tracks are the woods, there is a pathway that leads down to the river, Kids like to hang out there, smoking pot I assume, and to get away from their parents, and I walk “dog” all the time.

A few months ago I noticed “town” dump trucks going through the opening with big loads of dirt dumping it in the back. I watched this over a three month period. Then came the backhoes, what the hell is going on? I have to take a walk over there. 

I took Dog  across the road, to examine the situation. Upon close inspection,  a dozen or more  deep holes, some filled with dirt and others with ropes and hooks hanging over the edges. I walked up to one, and peered into the darkness, there was silence and then there were sounds  grrrr unngr egger grrr emitting from the ground deep within. I couldn’t believe my ears, it was just my imagination, it had to be –  too many Stephen King books, or too much medication. Whatever it was I was getting the hell out of there. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands.

I went back to my apartment,closed the windows and the shades and put on The History Channel. I couldn’t concentrate. I really wanted to talk to someone, but whoever I told would think I am wacky, and then word would spread, and soon no-one would visit me and bring me their awful food.

That evening I sat with a bottle of Vodka and drank till my head spun. Still my imagination was overloaded with spooky things, derailed trains and bodies thrashing in the river. I fell into a drunken belligerent sleep and  woke to the sound of birds chirping and the sound of a distant lawn mower. Had it all been a dream? I hoped so.

I was eating Chili from a can and sitting at my usual perch at the window when a couple of dump trucks rolled into the woods. They dumped dirt into a couple of holes, and left. This is getting weirder by the minute!  I called the town hall and asked them if they were doing any road work or construction on my street. The lady on the phone snapped at me and said she knew of no such thing and why was I asking. I quickly hung up determined not to call again or I may raise some suspicions.

The following night armed with Dog,  a flashlight and a camera, I climbed the overgrown embankment and stood by the track. I would wait for the train and see it close up and take some pictures. I waited for t were no longer present time, but in the past. But these passengers were not really there, the train was not really there. The train line was defunct history, a bad and terrible moment in time. Those passengers were long gone along with the driver. They had plunged to their death that Spring night in 1953. I was beside myself in terror and disbelief, shaken to the core.

Dog was spooked with his tail between his legs. I dragged him down the embankment, across the street and back to the safety of my apartment. I fell into my chair with my bottle, knowing there would be no sleep that night, if ever again. What had I witnessed, was it real, was my mind screwed up, was I ready for the “big house”. My inside joke calmed me, at least I hadn’t lost my sense of humor. I’d drink myself stupid and fall asleep. Maybe it was a delusional  figment after all. I never made it to the bed and slept uncomfortably in the chair all night.

That morning I knocked on the door of one of the original residents, Jill Magpie, perhaps in her 80’s,always dressed neatly in suits, and high heels,as if she were going to work. Her hair a perfect blue-gray perm, Rouge and pancake makeup She let me in and made me tea and put out a plateful of cookies.

i haven’t seen you Brian in a long time, how are you doing? You never come by anyone to visit an old lady, what have you been up to?

Well Miss Magpie I want to ask you about the train that crashed and to ask you what you know about it, can you help me?

That was a long time ago, I had forgotten all about it. This used to be the old train station, they build the apartments on the original foundation. Some of the old parts still remain, the laundry room, the ground floor and the big porch in the back used to be the platform. That crash shook the town up to the core. No one talks about it anymore. Those drowned people are all but forgotten. It’s as if it never happened. Now don’t be shy have some cookies. She pushed the plate toward me. What is it with old women and food, it’s a “mother’ complex!

Why all the questions Brian, you shouldn’t talk about such things, what’s done is done. Those people are dead and long gone. Let them rest in peace, or rather their watery graves. Don’t go asking around, it will only get you in trouble. Bill and Molly Shannon from apartment 4B got curious and they suddenly disappeared,  never seen again. There was never any sort of investigation.  John Osbourne, the reporter for the Gazette was writing an article on the disappearance of the passengers and according to gossip she suddenly left town. Let sleeping dogs lie Brian. It’s for your own good and safety. Mind your own business , I know what I am talking about.

Thanks Jill for all the info, I will keep my investigation low-key I promise you, but I must do what I must do. Thanks again for the hospitality.

Don’t be a stranger Brian, come around more often, do you hear?

She lead me to the door and patted me on the back. Beware of ghosts Brian,they can talk secrets.

She had given me goose  bumps, and a headache was looming.

That afternoon the machines resumed their digging and filling up. I wondered what was going on, but put the thoughts behind me.

A week passed by and I hadn’t been able to shake what Miss Magpie had told me about the disappearances. I didn’t want to become a statistic so decided to keep my investigation to myself and Dog. According to my observations the train would pass by tonight.
Armed with a flashlight, my camera, and Dog  I Climbed the train embankment and walked further down the track toward where the train had derailed. Right on schedule it came roaring through, navy smoke rising in the night sky. I was shaking, thinking I would bear witness to the awful accident. The train passed within inches of my body. I stood very still with my camera ready. The train heaved and groaned bending off the tracks. Sparks were flying and I could smell searing hot metal. Putting my camera to my eyes. I shot frame after frame, disbelieving my eyes. Passengers with terror on their faces were being tossed left and right, falling down and on top of each other. I could hear their silent screams as bewilderment and horror set in. Then the train heaved and groaned and spun off the tracks, rolling down the steep rocks and twisting and turning until it splashed, heaved and disappeared into the depths of the consuming swollen river. Nothing was left except for heaving bubbles and choppy waves. I prayed for the dead and dying, knowing there was no hope at all. They were long gone,

Where were the cops and the sirens? I heard not a sound. The train was gone, the passengers drowned. It was as if nothing had ever happened. My heart was pounding and my knees felt weak. I looked down into the river once more and thought of those lost innocent souls in their watery graves. I shuddered, and sat on the edge of the twisted tracks to catch my breath before I went back to the safe haven of my home.

The next day I downloaded the photos, and saw the horror of what I had witnessed. It had not been an accident I was convinced of that. What had caused it, who had caused it?  My thoughts were totally consumed. Later that day I walked into the woods and saw that all the holes had been filled. I wondered what they signified, and why the constant filling up with dirt.

That night I took a shovel and started digging up the soil on the freshest hole. The ground was soft and easy to lift. When I got about two feet down, I hit something  solid. I cleared the dirt and saw a half decomposed head and an arm. It moved,it’s hand opened and reached for me. The mouth on the head opened and let out a growling moan. I fell back in astonishment and fear. I was shaking all over. Dawn Of the Dead- Zombies-The Dead Rising?  I stepped down on the body, hearing a nasty crunch, and covered it with nearby rocks and brush. What the fuck was going on, this can’t be real. Why me, why must I be part of this nightmare?

I googled the “”undead” as soon as I got home. There were articles up the kazoo, could there really be “undead” people trying to come back, for whatever purpose?

I broke into the cop station the next night, after casing out the coming and goings of the cops on their shifts. I cut a chain link fence and climbed the fence. I broke a back window, no alarms went off to my amazement. Well it is a small rinky-dink town with little to no crime. The last thing the cops would expect would be a break in! I found myself in a small bathroom, used the facilities and made my way through all the offices. I came across a room with  a sign with “Cold Case Files” posted to the door. I went in, the room was long and narrow, with rows of metal shelves lined with box after box  labelled with dates and names. I found a box with “Train Crash” magic marker=ed on it.

I grabbed the box and sat on the floor shining my flashlight into it. I read report after report and soon  got the jist of the facts. The accident was no accident. The train had been deliberately derailed by intent. The rails had been pulled up and twisted making sure the train would flip the tracks and crash. But why? According to a Gazette report on May 10th 1953 by John Osbourne, the tracks had been tampered with. Bent and twisted by the town construction crew, they made sure the train would lose it’s grip and flip. The town of Millville didn’t want the train to  come through town anymore. It was causing too much pollution, and passengers were beginning to move into town, snatching up prime housing, in particular the Victorian houses on famous Main Street. The town was getting overpopulated, much to the anger of the residents who had been there for generations. Millville didn’t like strangers. The town was on the historic registry, a population of 13,000 residents. There was room for no more. More people meant more needs, and sooner or later the townsfolk  imagined a fast food restaurant and a Walmart moving in. A plot had been hatched by the mayor and police chief to cause the accident. The newspaper article said it loud and clear. The truth was out, but that was not all, tucked into a corner of the box was a crumpled envelope was more.

John Osbourne had written. The dead had come back to haunt the evil living. To live as were their rights in the town of their choosing. They had been brutally and inhumanely killed in a horrible way, gasping their last living breathes beneath the murky river. The Mayor and cops were criminals and murderers. They were getting their just desert. PAYBACK, the dead coming back to haunt the evil doers. I photo copied the files and climbed back over the fence. With evidence in hand I  ran as fast as I could back home. In the morning I “googled” John Osbourne. He had died in a gas explosion in his home, one week after his article came out. He had been permanently silenced.

The truth had been squelched. Forever silenced. But now I knew, and  would do something about it, I would contact the state newspaper.

I  went across to the holes and dug up one, I  heard awful moans and reaching of stiff arms and wagging of the moaning heads. Their skin was puckered gray,eyes sunken into bony  skulls..I trembled as I  took pictures, and with my heart pounding, gently covered the hole back up.

I  composed a letter to the editor in chief. Enclosing John Osbourne’s article, the newspapers reports, and the photos. I waited nervously for a week, on little to no sleep. and then I got a phone call. It was from the editor and he wanted to interview me  I explained my concern about exposing the truth, and I told the editor I  wanted to remain anonymous. He agreed.

The next few weeks the town of Millville was inundated with the press, photographers, the State Police and the FBI. TV crews soon turned up and everything became a media circus. The town was turned upside down. The Mayor and cops responsible were arrested and put on trial. The courtroom was packed with the living and the undead. It seemed that only I saw them,only I smelled their acrid odor,Their torn and muddy clothes.

The undead were no longer restless and soon became quiet and at peace. They were given a proper burial.  Milleville had lost it’s innocence and no longer was listed as a peaceful town on the Delaware- a place for good living and peace of mind.

I, Brian Wellington had my  moment of anonymous fame. I liked some action occasionally but not of that nature. I  would be perfectly happy sliding along in my slippers, and  sipping tea. I saw Jill Magpie in the laundry room some months later, she was leaning on a dryer. She motioned for me to come over to her and whispered in my ear. It was you Brian who found out the truth. You did a good thing, bought out the real story and   it God bless you son!

  1. I do live by the Delaware in N.j

2.There is a mystery train that runs by my window

3 There are woods opposite my windows, and town construction trucks go into them and use backhoes.

Okay I made up the rest!

Ana Christy

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About hobo hippie

Hi I am an old hippie, a "beat" poet and novelist, and digital artist. I was co -editor and publisher of "Alpha Beat Press" alpha beat soup, bouillabaisse and cokefish and cokefishing in alpha beat soup with my late husband Dave Christy. My novel "eeenie meenie minee moe is for sale on amazon books. my other blogs are http://tilliespuncturedromance.wordpress.com about humor and the weird. The blog is named after a Charlie Chaplin movie. http://concretebologna.wordpress.com a blog about world art.

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