The Ghost Train
I heard it again tonight. The ghost train that haunted the train tracks two houses away from my home. I could tell it was the ghost train because it sounded different. Like a freight train but heavier. Its horn was deeper and brassy, like a tuba that blasted its way across the tracks.
I’d finally decided to see it for myself. That night, and each night afterward, I stayed up late. Months passed until this paid off. I could feel the telltale rumbling from down the road as it approached, blaring its tuba-like horn at each railroad crossing. I leaped off my couch and charged out the door. Excitement ripped me awake from my sleepy daze.
The streets were empty of any traffic. I ran towards the tracks. Moments passed before an old, black, rusty freight train came into view. The cars behind the lead train had dark, foggy windows. They were passenger cars!
“Where are you going?” I mumbled to myself in wonder, staring into each window.
A man in a disheveled uniform stood by the train tracks. I could see his pale face glowing in the dim light, his hat sat askew on his head. I turned around.
Another figure appeared in the distance. I blinked and found myself at home slumped by my computer.
“God dangit,” I had fallen asleep. I decided it was best to go to bed and try again tomorrow.
I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep. I woke up at 4:56 am, my body paralyzed. I heard my front door open. Footsteps climbed my stairs one soft thump at a time. The sound stopped outside of my door. I struggled to keep my breathing calm.
The door clicked and drifted open. A pale, uniformed figure stepped in. I recognized him as the man from the tracks. His dark, sunken, coal-like eyes contrasted against his white, parchment-like skin. He raised one hand and spread it out.
“The train leaves at midnight. I need your ticket,” he said.
My school alarm beeped, and I jumped awake. The man was gone. I looked at my alarm. It was 3:56. I looked at my dog. She was awake. She stared at me for a few moments, looked at the door, then put her head down.
The same thing happened again the next night. I woke up at 3:57, the man walked into my room with his hand raised and four fingers up. He repeated, “I need your ticket. The train leaves at midnight.” This one lasted longer. His gaze was unblinking. The man vanished and I woke up again at 2:57. I tried once more to sleep but couldn’t. The image of the man stayed in my head.
The following morning, I went to my school’s library between classes and looked up information about ghost trains. I found stories about haunted subways, trains that drive themselves, but nothing about my specific train. I tried to look up the man by describing his uniform. He was a train conductor, possibly from the 1800s.
Despite much trouble, I finished my classes and went home. I decided to stay up all night this time. Hoping to see if what I saw was a dream or if it was real. With the help of coffee and computer games, I lasted through the night. My head ached, my eyes were dry and sore, but I did it. He never appeared. My dread turned to the oncoming school day. I got ready and left for my class.
Between my teacher’s heavy accent and the subject, it took less than a third of the class to fade into sleep. Something startled me awake. No, I was paralyzed again. I dreaded opening my eyes. I could hear the classroom. The teacher talking. Feet shuffling under their desks. Pencils and pens scribbling notes. I chanced a look. The conductor stood outside my classroom window. His hand raised with 3 fingers pointing upwards. Something was behind him. Another figure stood in the distance moving towards the window. I looked at the clock. It was 2:58. I woke up again as the teacher droned on. The clock now read 1:58. That time wasn’t right.
I dreaded going to sleep that night, but I had to. I was too tired this time to try and stay awake. The door creaked open again. I refused to open my eyes as the footsteps climbed the stairs. I heard him come into my room.
“Hurry, you must give me your ticket!” I controlled my breathing. Relaxing my body until I could move. Once the paralysis wore off, I opened my eyes. The man wasn’t there. It was 12:59 in the morning. My dog lay awake staring at the door and growling.
I stayed home from school the next day, spending all day looking up meanings for dreams, ghost stories, and anything that helped put my mind at ease. None of it did. The following night I couldn’t sleep. Midnight rolled around and I lay wide awake. I heard the train again and ran outside.
The train was on the tracks, sitting still. The conductor stood next to the door waving me down. I took a step back. He stopped waving and pointed behind me. I paused, then followed his finger.
A figure in the distance walked down the street. Its movements were unnatural, yet smooth. I looked back towards the conductor, and he beckoned at me once more. “I need your ticket,” he shouted. “Now!”
The figure drew closer. His eyes were black with wet, red streaks moving down his face.
“I don’t have a ticket,” I said.
“Yes, you do,” he replied, opening the door to the train, and stepping aside. I walked onto the train and took a seat. I looked out the window and saw the figure standing outside the train. Its eyes weren’t black, they were missing. Its gaze focused on me even as the train pulled away.
I awoke back at home slumped over my desk. The glow of a news article on my computer caught my attention. It was a missing person’s report. It was about me. The article stated that I had gone missing five days ago. At the night I stayed up to watch the ghost train.