Clarksdale Station

Submitted into Contest #168 in response to: Make a train station an important part of your story.... view prompt

3 comments

Drama Horror Suspense

I heard myself groaning as I glared at my watch for the third time. It was 10:15PM and there was no sign of the 9:55 train coming. This is ridiculous, I thought. Wasn’t standard time developed to ensure trains ran on schedule? As I stood on the boarding platform at Clarksdale Station, my eyes followed the southbound tracks for as far as I could see, but the appearance of an oncoming train was not to be seen. Shit! It was another ten minutes before the lights of the locomotive turned around the bend.

As I stepped off the platform and into the waiting passenger car, I glanced at my watch. The numbers 10:29 flashed back at, warning me I was late. Barring a miracle, there’s no way I’m getting to Marla’s on time. Forget getting a quickie. If anything, I’ll be lucky not to get an ass chewing. Like the evening sun, I gave up my hopes to darkness.

As I sat down, I noticed a peculiar thing. Though the layout of the passenger car was familiar, I was surrounded by silence, for no one was present but myself. It was then I heard the door chime ring, warning of the closing doors, and a moment later the train began to glide on its tracks. I hardly paid attention to it though. For some unknown reason, the absence of fellow passengers deeply disturbed me.

As the train began to pick up speed, I walked to the door leading to an adjoining passenger car. As I peered through the window, my heart skipped a beat, for no one was sitting in the car either. When I attempted to open the door to inspect the next car, I discovered the door was locked. I pressed my weight against the door but failed to open it. Panic began to set in, and I rushed to the rear door hoping to escape my nightmare, but when I arrived, I was met with despair. Not only was this door locked as well, not a single person was present in that car as well.

At that moment, the train whistle blew, warning those ahead of its approach, reminding me there’s an end to this ride. So, I sat back down and decided to wait it out. I pulled out my iPhone and tried to distract myself with it, but it only took a minute to throw that idea out the door. No bars available, so no internet nor phone coverage. Shit. Resisting the urge to throw the phone against the wall, I tucked it back in my pocket and surrendered to my deepest thoughts.

The first person who came to mind was Marla. It’s only been two months since they met, and already we’re talking about living together. At first, she resisted the idea of doing that, but being who I was, I wouldn’t take no for an answer. My apartment was big enough to hold both of our stuff, but if it turned out it wasn’t I told Marla the Salvation Army would take whatever wouldn’t fit. She wasn’t too pleased about giving up anything she owned, but like I said, I won’t take no for an answer, and if she does insist, it’s all right. As my father always said, “There’s other fish in the sea.”

Placing Marla in the back of my mind, my thoughts wandered to my job. Most people think being an IT guru is the ideal job. You sit behind a desk all day writing code or fixing customers’ computer problems, but in truth, I find it quite boring. Writing code gives me insomnia and the idea of fixing computer problems for repulsing customers is like chugging castor oil. If there was a best time to be at work, it was when I went home for the day.

Another blare of the train whistle told me time was passing on and it was time to get off, but when I looked at the time, I nearly slid off my seat. It was still 10:29PM. Disbelief settled in my bones, as I shook my watch hoping it was stuck. But being digital, shaking my watch had no effect. The watch continued to flash at 10:29. I began staring out the window hoping to see a familiar sight, but since the skyline was enveloped in the darkness of the night, I failed to see a thing.

Panic began to creep in. Why hasn’t the train stopped, even once? Then, a dark thought emerged from the shadows of my mind. How far can it go before running out of track? Considering how quickly it was rocking back and forth, I figured we were going at least sixty miles per hour. I pulled my phone out and watched my fingers tremble as I tried to dial 911, but like before, it failed to connect. How is this possible? My phone never had a problem calling from the train before. This time I succeeded in throwing the phone against the wall and watched it break into several pieces.

There must be something I can do. Searching for any means of escape, I spotted the “Emergency Stop” switch. I braced myself to prepare for the sudden stop, but when I yanked down the handle, nothing happened. In fact, the train picked up speed. I lunged at the door and tried prying it open, but I only succeeded in twisting my fingernails back. It was hopeless. My shoulder slid down the door as I fell to my knees, and tears streamed down my cheeks.

As I lay there curled up in the fetal position, I heard the door opening. When I discovered the silhouette of a man standing over me, I thought I was staring at a ghost. He was so thin and tall, and with his pasty pale skin taunt around his face, I wasn’t sure if he was even human. Still, I was relieved, for I wasn’t alone. I pulled myself back up on my feet, faced my companion, and resisted the temptation of touching him to see if he was real. Instead, I heard myself asking him, “What’s going on?” But of all the possible answers I could imagine, his was the farthest from my mind.

“You’re what’s going on,” he answered. Then he leered at me with his lifeless grey eyes and continued, “Do you remember what happened before you boarded the train?”

It seemed like a simple enough question, but tried as I might, I couldn’t recall. Until that moment, I’d thought something was happening around me, but now I had my doubts. Was it possible something was wrong with me instead?

As if the “Tall Man” could read my thoughts, he replied, “Since you’ve reached the age of reasoning, there was only one person you ever loved, and that was yourself. Even when you bought your parents a gift, you knew eventually they would give you something back of greater value. And Marla. How long would it be before you’d break up with her? For sixty-three days you two have been together, but the longest relationship you had before her was seventy-eight days. Do you think you’ll make it to seventy-nine days and break your record? I doubt it. This was the life that you have chosen and now, you’re going to pay the price for it.”

This is madness! How can this “walking white two by four” know so much about me and how dare he threaten me like that?

The “Tall Man” continued, “Do you remember what happened when you left the office today?”

As if the fog lifted from my mind, it came to me. “I walked out of the office like I always do. It was drizzling rain, and I was in a hurry to get out of it. When I reached a crosswalk, a beggar came up to me and asked for a dollar. I told him sorry, but he pushed himself up against me and asked again. I pushed my arms out and thrusted him away. I remember saying something like, Backup, dirtbag. I don’t have time for your shit. I’ve got a train to catch.

Then, the fog settled in again. “Strange, I can’t remember what happened after that.”

“I’ll tell you. George, that homeless guy you pushed. When he fell to the ground, he snapped. As you started to walk away, he walked up behind you and stabbed you in the back. As he ran off, disappearing in the shadows, you fell to the ground and bled to death before an ambulance arrived. You, my friend, are now living out your last wish.”

I heard myself whispering, “He stabbed me three times.”

“And now you’re on your train.”

I’m dead. It all makes sense. I forced myself to look at the “Tall Man” and dared to ask, “What happens next?”

It was the first time the “Tall Man” smiled. “You’ll ride this train, and if it ever stops, you can get off and go on from there.”

“Will it ever stop?”

“That’s not for me to decide. But if it does stop, you’ll be here to witness it.”

As if on cue, the train slowed down and came to a stop. The door open, and the “Tall Man” stepped out. When I tried to follow him, he turned around and pushed me with all his strength, hurling me to the other side of the car.

As I laid there sprawled on the floor, the last words he spoke to me were, “This isn’t your stop.”

Before the door closed, I was able to see the sign displaying the name of the station. Clarksdale was written on it, and the digital clock next to the sign was flashing 10:29PM. Then, I heard the hissing sound of the brakes being released and the train began its accent to sixty miles per hour.

Trapped and alone, I had nothing but the pieces of my broken phone to keep me company. As I sat there, I came to realize I had an eternity to wrestle with my unanswered question. Will this train ever stop? I was afraid to hope, but as the same time, I feared sinking into despair. So, I sat there motionlessly, ever gazing out the window, watching the shadows of unrecognizable objects pass me by.

October 20, 2022 16:24

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3 comments

14:59 Oct 28, 2022

What a jerk! I like his sarcasm, especially with reaper and calling him a two-by-four. A few areas where there are excess words like at the very end of the fourth paragraph you can nix the second "as well". Can also be edited for typos and grammatical edits (I think you mentioned something like "when they met" as opposed to "when we met") but it's all typical for these quick turnaround stories and I know mine are littered with those as well. One line I would edit out is, "Like the evening sun, I gave up my hopes to darkness." I really...

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Howard Seeley
17:05 Oct 28, 2022

Thank you for your input. I appreciate any guidance offered to me. If you happen to read any of my other submissions, please don't be a stranger and let me know what your thoughts are on them.

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Howard Seeley
16:26 Oct 20, 2022

Be good. Be very, very good. Enjoy!

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