Tag Archives: train

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

The Journey: Chapter 1

9-23-13 506copyExcerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection

 

Billows of steam rose from the iron giant like breath from the nostrils of a war horse, chomping at the bit on a cold battlefield. The steam encompassed the great beast in a surreal mist, as though protecting it from the ravages of time. The station was deserted as if no one wanted to approach the beast for fear it would rouse in wrath. Slowly a shadow formed. At first, they seem bonded, mist and shadow. Then the darkness drifted closer and coalesced into the shape of a man. A trick of the light, I never knew, but he seemed to be wearing a hooded cloak, dark as midnight. As he drew near, I saw it was merely a hat and uniform.

He walked slowly, gazing at this great mechanized monster as lovingly as a rider checks his faithful steed before a long journey. His gaze seemed to pierce even metal, looking for any blemish, any imperfection. This slow, methodical inspection continued over the length of the train’s passenger, dining, and sleeper cars, ending where it began, at the engine. He mounted the steps, heading for the control room. The dials and instruments were subjected to his scrutiny. Finally, his gaze settled on the fire box. His eyes seem to glow as the intense heat turned his sunken cheeks from white to orange. His normally impassive face gave way to the slightest of grins.

The conductor greeted the passengers as they arrived, helped them aboard until all were accounted for … save one.
The whistle sounded its final warning.
The iron behemoth belched smoke as it muscled its load away from the station.
The journey had begun …

The train moved steadily down the tracks. Its swaying and clickety-clack sound had lulled many a passenger to sleep, but not the conductor. He sat in a comfortable chair, eyes closed, but not asleep. To look at him, you would not know how he did his job at all. To call him ancient would be an understatement. His steel gray hair, thin white face, and emaciated body made him look as though he belonged in a pine box rather than collecting tolls on a train that was nearly a quarter mile long. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open and stared at the antique wall clock, just as it struck midnight. He rose quickly, put on his conductor’s cap, and left the room.

The conductor stepped through the door into the passenger car. It was richly decorated with beautiful dark red carpet, which perfectly offset the golden fringes and accents of the room. The seats were designed in classic style, two seats faced each other, with a small table in between. Outside, darkness had fallen like a blanket, covering the countryside in its embrace. Most of the passengers quickly grew tired of staring out into the inky black abyss. Conversations had been consummated between strangers and had given birth to stories, lovingly shared. The conductor silently glided up behind the first passenger and paused as the man began to weave a tale …

 

This story continues in The Journey: Chapter 2

Photo op 5

9-23-13 506copyImage copyright 2013 Mike Kelso

I’ve always loved trains. My father instilled that in me at a very young age. That love has endured into adulthood. As my love for photography grew, trains became some of my favorite subjects. Living in an area where there are lots of working railroads within driving distance has fueled that photography fire. 

Four years ago I saw an ad for a photo shoot at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. I jumped at the opportunity, purchasing my ticket the next day. It included a ride on the train to another station where they turn the engine on a working turntable with a platform set up for prime photos. After that, we came back down the mountain and they set up the trains for the photo shoot. Excellent lighting was also set up for better pictures. Once night fell, the engines idling, shooting steam, was magnificent for photos. This shot was one of many I took that unforgettable day. Even the workers were dressed in period authentic outfits.

If you ever get a chance to visit the WMSR, I highly recommend it. The ride and the photo shoot was an amazing experience. It was well worth the cost for any photographer who truly appreciates trains.

 

Photo op 3

WP_20150420_17_28_24_ProI took this picture over two years ago on a whim. Believe it or not, I took it with my cell phone. At the time I had a phone with a 20-megapixel camera in it. When I first downloaded this picture I just saw clouds. But the longer I looked at it, the more it looked like an old steam engine, pulling a train along behind it. The angled clouds at the left of the picture look like the cowcatcher, the rounded part just above that looks like the front of the engine’s boiler, there even appears to be small smokestacks on top. For the record, I didn’t edit this picture at all.

I know this is all subjective, but hey, I’m a writer and a photographer. I use my imagination all the time. And the funny thing is, I can’t unsee the train now. No matter how much I try to look at it and say ‘It’s just clouds’, I always see the train.

Agree? Disagree?