Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection’
Emily stood alone in the darkness. Her only source of light was an antique, gas powered, street lamp. She couldn’t remember how long she had stood there or why. Somewhere deep in her mind, she knew she had no choice.
What is this place?
The lamp had become important to her, it was her only companion, in fact, it was the only light in this desolate place. It was her protector, her shining knight, holding the horrid creatures at bay that she imagined lived in this darkness. This place seemed familiar, like some half remembered nightmare from long ago. Emily was sure she had been here before and the thought still gave her chills.
The light also provided her sound, the occasional flicker of the flame burning the wick and subtle hiss of gas was all she heard in the deafening silence. There were no night sounds in this place. No crickets chirped, no owls hooted, no distant mournful wail of a wolf. The thundering of her heart and the rushing wind of her breathing were all she heard, until …
What was that?
She frantically searched the darkness looking for the source of this new sound.
Finally, a pinprick of light emerged, getting stronger. Soon she could hear the ‘chuff, chuff’ of the approaching engine. She knew it was coming for her.
All at once, she felt the excitement, the exhilaration of a trip to the unknown. Just as quickly, fear settled into her mind. What new horrors would the train hold? But most of all she didn’t want to leave her lamp, her protector, and friend. As the train slowed, the massive engine lumbered by, followed by the first few cars. She had fought with herself and decided to stay at the station.
And no one will change my mind.
The train came to a stop as she stood, arms folded, resolute. She refused to leave. As the engine blew off its excess steam, a strange wind whipped around the platform. It grabbed the steam and carried it toward the lamp, smothering the flame, and casting everything into darkness. Emily’s heart leaped into her throat. It was all she could do not to scream. Panic washed over her like an ocean wave. Just when she thought she couldn’t stand it, a light appeared.
She was so overjoyed, she ran to it. Any light had to be better than this soul-crushing darkness. She approached this new light with a sense of dread. Some tall, thin old man in a uniform was holding up a lantern. She was drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. She paused when she reached him, but he held out his hand and said,
“Come along now, child.”
He sounded so much like her grandfather that she took his hand without hesitation and followed him into the train. He led her to an empty seat, punched her ticket, and turned to leave.
“Excuse me,” Emily said, making him pause. “You seem familiar, do I know you?”
“That’s quite possible young lady. You seem somewhat familiar to me as well.”
“Could I trouble you for your name?” she said.
“No trouble at all,” he said. “My name is … ”
But his words were drowned out by the blowing whistle as the train lurched forward, starting down the rails again.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have other passengers to attend to,” the conductor said, then continued punching tickets.
After his duty had been done, the conductor sat in a room that seemed much larger than the size of a train car. There were no decorations, no windows, only book shelves. Floor to ceiling, the walls were covered with book shelves. On the shelves were thousands of large books, each one looked identical to the other. There were no markings on them, no title, no author, only a number.
The conductor sat at his desk, writing the latest story in his newest edition. He finished, then sat back to review his work. He was restless, and he knew exactly why. The last passenger, Emily, was one of ‘those’ passengers. Every once in a while he would get one. He knew them immediately, even though they had no idea that they were different. He tried to treat them no differently than any other fare, but personal feelings sometimes crept in.
He made a mental note to treat her the same, but a subtle feeling was crawling around in the back of his mind. It wasn’t quite fear, but maybe trepidation. She had done it to him before, and even though he was certain he had her this time, doubt clawed at him like a hungry predator. Needing to clear his mind, he put away the current book and pulled out one that seemed much more worn than the others. It automatically fell open to a certain page, as it had innumerable times before. He sat back in his chair and re-read his favorite tale.