Tag Archives: excerpt

The Journey: Chapter 9

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection‘.

 

Some of the passengers took the conductor up on his offer of a drink and departed for the dining car. The rest settled back to sleep. The dining car was decorated as ornately as the other cars. Six tables were set, each prepared for four people, and in the corner was a bar made of mahogany that ran half the length of the car. Seven drinks were already set out, one at each barstool. The passengers appeared amazed to find their favorite drinks waiting for them. The eighth passenger sat down at an empty space. She had no desire to drink but had come along for the walk. Indeed, each of the passengers were glad for an excuse to get up and move around a little.  The conductor sat quietly in the corner as the passengers enjoyed their drinks and light conversation.

“Come on, man, ask him,” one passenger whispered to the other.

“No way, he gives me the creeps. Whatever secrets he wants to keep he can have as far as I’m concerned.”

The conductor, for his part, seemed content to read from an old, leather-bound book that had no title.

Emily kept a wary eye on him while sipping her ginger ale. Something about him didn’t feel right. The answer was buried in her memory, she knew it, all she had to do was wait. Eventually, she would remember.

The conductor was watching her in the same way. This silent standoff went totally unnoticed by the other passengers.

In the meantime, tongues loosened as the passengers sipped their liquid courage. Pointed questions better kept to themselves were asked.

“So, what’s your story?” a passenger said to the conductor.

“Me?” the conductor asked. “You wouldn’t find my life very interesting.”

“Why not?”  he retorted. “Everyone else has told you stories, why don’t you tell us yours?”

The conductor seemed to consider this for a moment.

“Very well,” he said. “But don‘t blame me if you‘re soon bored to death.”

“I think anything is better than sleeping on a train.”

“So be it. I was born long ago, much longer than any of you. My childhood was quite unspectacular, with the exception of a knack for preserving things. Unlike other children who seemed bent on the destruction of everything they see, I wanted to keep things. I suppose that’s when I first started collecting stories. It was the twelfth year of my life when the defining event happened for me,” he said, his gaze drifting off.

“What was that?” the straight-laced woman who couldn’t find her Bible asked, pulling the conductor out his reverie.

“Oh, my pet cat died.”

“That must’ve been horrible,” Emily said.

“You would think so, yes. However, that was not the end of the event,” he said. “I read a book on taxidermy, and used the knowledge to keep my childhood friend with me forever.”

“You stuffed your pet cat?” she asked, repulsed.

“Quite right,” he said. “I continued to develop my skills, practicing on some of the lesser wanted animals around the neighborhood and became quite adept. My efforts were noticed by someone other than law enforcement, and I was offered an apprenticeship in my true calling.”

“Conductor?”

“No, mortician,” he said with a smile that made everyone in the room feel like calling nine one one. “It turned out that the human form is infinitely easier to work with than animals.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, I had so much more room to maneuver. Didn’t have to worry about ruining the fur, it was much easier. I was considered to be something of an artist for my profession. I was as happy as I had ever been at that point in my life.”

“If you were so happy, then why did you quit and become a conductor?” the straight-laced woman said.

“Patience, I shall get to that part of the story,” he flashed a mirthless grin. “It turned out that there was another mortician in that town who had been quite prosperous until I began my career. It seemed that his work simply could not match up with mine, and he began to lose business. So, he did the only thing he could do.”

“Find another job?”

“No, sanction my murder,” he said. “You see, this man also had a jealous streak along with a very bad temperament. A dangerous combination you will agree.”

“So, what did you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“That’s correct,” he said. “I had no idea the sanction was active until a certain gentleman arrived on my doorstep.”

“So, a hit man just walked up and rang the doorbell?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“What did you do?”

“The only thing I could.”

“Run?”

“No, invite him in for tea,” he said. “I must say, you people just don’t have much of a knack for guessing.”

They nervously chuckled, each one probably regretting that they had asked for this story, but now felt so involved that they didn’t want it to end either.

“Like any proper host, I invited him in and we sat down to discuss our dilemma.”

“Unbelievable.”

“What is even more unbelievable was the solution,“ he said. “It seems my guest was getting ready to retire and needed to provide a replacement. Seeing the great care I took of the recently departed, he offered the job to me.”

“What about the contract on you?”

“Ah, yes, that was a difficulty. He was sworn to fulfill the contract. This created quite a conundrum for him, but in the end, I provided a solution for him that would suit his needs.”

“So, then you became the assassin?”

“Not quite that dramatic, I prefer to call myself a deliveryman. Whatever is needed, I deliver.”

“Did the mortician ever find out?”

“Oh yes, he was one of my first customers,” he gave a wicked grin.

“So what was the solution you provided?”

The whistle blew its long, mournful note, as the train began to slow.

“Ahh, it appears we have arrived,” the conductor said. “You should all return to your seats. We will be disembarking soon.”
 

 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

The Journey: Chapter 3

The Journey: Chapter 4

The Journey: Chapter 5

The Journey: Chapter 6

The Journey: Chapter 7

The Journey: Chapter 8

 

The Journey: Chapter 2

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection’.

Warning: graphic violence

 

“She”

She staggered awkwardly down the empty street, not really knowing where she was going.
With one arm, she clutched the wound in her side, the other arm was outstretched in front of her, as though searching for something. Never looking back, always moving slowly forward. On and on she trudged, tireless, relentlessly looking for something but not knowing what. She only knew it was out there. It had been there before, but when? Where?

The empty streets were slowly disappearing through darkness and late evening mist. Nothing moved except for her, even the air seemed still. Deserted cars, half-destroyed buildings, and rubble were her only companions, and still she kept on going.

‘Reason’ and ‘blame’ were the furthest things from her mind. The beginning didn’t matter, ‘now’ was all that mattered. The few street lights that still worked flickered to life. They gave her a dim, somewhat eerie view of her surroundings, but there was nothing she wanted to see. ‘It’ wasn’t there. So on she went with her endless search.

All around was evidence of chaos and destruction, yet she wasn’t afraid.
How many days, or weeks, had she been silently walking, yet she didn’t feel tired? All that mattered was the search. Whatever it was, she knew, somehow, that she had to have it.

Had something caught her eye, or had her fevered brain begun to hallucinate? She scanned the ruined landscape. There it was again, movement. Her pace quickened. The silhouette of a moving human form stirred a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. But what was this feeling?

Joy, at finding another living person?

Fear of what they might do to her?

No, those weren’t it. The feeling grew stronger with every step she took. Finally she recognized it…

Hunger.

She steadily approached, mere steps away, when the man turned toward her with a look of shock etched into his face. She realized that her search was over. Not remembering the last time she had spoken, the sound coming from her throat was more like a feral growl. Struggling, as though the line from her mind to her mouth had been damaged, the word she had waited so long to say attempted to escape her lips.

She looked him in the eyes and said, with a raspy voice,

“Brains!”

She lunged at him before his shock wore off. He reached for the gun on his side, but her inhuman strength was too much. She ripped his arm off and cast it aside like a candy wrapper, then pulled his skull apart, and started eating while he was still screaming.

The body laid lifeless on the ground, she rose from gorging herself, and started walking. Never once did she look back at the shell of a man she had just torn to shreds.

She staggered awkwardly down the street, not really knowing where she was going.

***
After the man had finished his story, the conductor softly cleared his throat. The storyteller whipped his head around quickly. For just an instant, he thought he saw a skeletal hand outstretched towards him, with bones as white as ivory. Blinking hard to clear his head, he looked again and saw merely the milky white hand of the conductor, beckoning for their tickets.

“Pardon me, sir,” the conductor said, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I wasn’t startled,” the man said, “I just thought I saw…”

“Yes?…” the conductor said, expectantly.

“Nothing,” the man said, mentally shaking himself.

The conductor punched the tickets of the four passengers and began to move on, then paused.

“I hope you don’t think it’s too forward of me, but I collect stories, and I was intrigued by yours.”

“Umm … thanks.”

“Would you mind if I wrote it down in one of my journals?”

“Well, the thing is, it’s not actually my story. I just told it.”

“And why did you choose to tell that particular story?”

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “it just seemed appropriate somehow.”

“They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I have found that to be false. I believe that the stories one tells hold much more insight into their true feelings,” the conductor said, with a knowing smile. “So, may I collect it?”

“I‘ll make you a deal. I‘ll tell you a riddle, if you guess it you can collect my story, if you don‘t, I get to ride for free.”

The conductor rubbed his pale chin thoughtfully.

“It’s a deal.”

“Okay,” the man said, rubbing his hands together. “A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays three days and leaves on Friday, how did he do it?”

The conductor smiled. “My dear sir, you take me for a fool. I thought that you were going to offer me a challenge.”

“All right, smart guy, what’s the answer?”

“The horse’s name is Friday.”

The man’s face fell. “You’re the only person who ever got that riddle.”

The conductor merely smiled.

“Just one question, what is your profession?”

“Biochemical engineer, why?” he said.

“No reason,” the conductor said moving on to the other passengers. “I was just thinking about your story.”

“Hey, hold on there fella,” said the man seated across from the storyteller. “Ain’t you gonna write his story down?”

“Yes, when I’ve finished my duties.”

“Won’t you forget it by then?”

“No,” the conductor smiled. “I have an eidetic memory. It helps in my line of work.”

“A what? An electric memory?”

“Eidetic, you would know it as a photographic memory.”

“Well what good is an electric memory on a train?”

“You’d be amazed,” the conductor said.

“Well then, if you think his story was good, you’ll love this one.”

The conductor turned and faced the man with rapt attention.

“It goes like this … ” he began.

***
 

The Journey: Chapter 1