Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection‘.
One by one, the passengers filed back to their seats. They eagerly gazed through their windows, hoping for a glimpse of their destination. But the only thing they saw was their own reflections. Outside was black as pitch. You wouldn’t even be able to tell if the train was moving by looking out the window.
Everyone felt the train was slowing down. The normal excitement and anticipation of arriving at their destination was instead replaced by a subtle dread. No one understood why. They all dealt with it in the same way though, denial.
At last they lurched to a stop.
The iron beast that had pulled them all this way let out a hiss of steam that sounded like a sigh of relief after a long journey.
The conductor appeared in the doorway and announced, “End of the line, please take all your belongings with you.”
They looked in their seats and in the overhead compartments, but none of them had belongings, just the clothes on their backs. This struck a few people as odd, but the rest just shrugged it off. The conductor helped them off the train.
“Watch your step.”
He directed them down the only visible path. It was made of intricate stone-work and lit with antique gas lamps, but the light didn’t extend beyond the path. It was as if they were floating in a sea of darkness.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, they came upon a large set of beautiful brass doors. Both of the doors were marked ’Enter’, but neither was marked ’Exit’. The conductor heaved the massive door open and beckoned the passengers inside. Hesitantly, they followed and were met with a remarkable sight.
The inside of the building was massive. It was Grand Central Station times ten. The ceiling seemed impossibly high and painted to look like the night sky. As Emily stared up, she noticed a painting of the moon. Nothing about that seemed unsettling at first, except the painting was slowly moving across the painted sky. She rubbed her eyes and looked again, just to be sure. Not only was the moon moving, but the stars seemed to be twinkling too.
The passengers moved forward, awestruck by the sheer size of the place. As they struggled to take it all in, one of the passengers said,
“Something’s not right here.”
“What is it?” Emily asked.
“How many people do you think are in this room?”
Emily panned across the gigantic room full of people.
“I don’t know. Thousands, maybe more.”
“A lot more. I would say we’re talking a hundred thousand people here.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is, you could hear a pin drop in this room. How many times have you seen a crowd this big, being this quiet.”
“Never,” she said softly.
“It’s like the worlds largest funeral home.”
“There’s something else,” she said. “Look around, what is it that’s missing?”
He scanned the room. “I don’t know.”
“Everything,” she said. “There’s no ticket counter, no concession stands, I don’t even see a restroom.”
The man looked around and saw that she was right.
“In fact, all I do see is a line. Where does it even lead?”
The man called over one of the other passengers that he had spoken with on the train and convinced him to climb up on his shoulders and look around.
“What do you see?” the lower man asked.
“I see people,” the upper man said. “So many people it’s impossible to count.”
The upper man strained his eyes to see to the other end of the building.
“There’s two escalators, one going up and the other going down. There’s also a man sitting at a desk, reading from a huge book.”
“What is the man wearing?” the lower man quietly asked.
“A white robe.”
The upper man suddenly held on for dear life as the lower man’s knees buckled.
“What’s wrong? What is this place?” the upper man asked, but the lower man seemed to be in shock.
“Why this is your destination,” the conductor said, nonchalantly. “Didn’t you read your ticket?”
He directed them to a sign that said, ‘The end begins here.’
“I wish to thank you all for your stories,” he said, tipping his cap. Then he turned toward the doors.
“Wait!” Emily said. “Where do I know you from?”
“My dear,” he said, with an air of astonishment. “Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
She paused uncomfortably.
“Please tell me.”
He turned back and drew close so only she could hear.
“About four months ago, you were a passenger in a very bad automobile accident. I took the driver right from the scene, but you held on to life. You lay in a coma for a month.”
“Several times I came to take you, but you refused to go. You even boarded my train once. Imagine my embarrassment as you disappeared, having been revived by the doctor. I had quite a bit of explaining to do to that load of passengers. The endless questions I dealt with for the remainder of that trip were something I’d rather forget. Eventually, you recovered, and I had to wait, but not for long.”
“After I took care of the doctor that snatched you from me, I pursued you covertly and allowed you to see me. As you ran down the path, I extinguished the lights, hoping for the result that I eventually got. So once again, I had the pleasure of having you as a passenger, only this time there was no one to rescue you.”
He smiled broadly, but she felt no warmth, no comfort from it. All the color drained from Emily’s face. She shook all over.
“So that would mean that you’re … ”
“Yes,” he said.
“And I’m … ”
She recoiled in horror, slowly backing away.
“Well, I must be off,” the conductor said, turning to leave.
“What will happen to us?” a passenger asked.
“I just transport. That keeps me quite busy nowadays, I don’t do the sorting,” he said, pausing. “But judging by your stories, I would say two of you will be going up.”
They looked at the escalators, then each other.
“Which two?” one of them said, but the conductor was gone. They looked all around, but he had vanished.
Off in the distance, they heard a train whistle sound its mournful note.
Emily looked down at her ticket, it said, ‘Afterlife express.’
Thank you for reading my story. Even though this is the end, I do have one more chapter that I will share next week as a bonus.