Image by ponsulak, Freedigitalphotos.net
By the light of our lanterns we gazed at the train, Mandy, Amelia, Roberta and me.
Part of the driver’s cab and a lone carriage was all that was left, hanging out of the bushes in bits and pieces as if it had made a break for it. There were no tracks in sight, just a trail of debris around the carriage that disappeared off into the darkness behind the trees.
It began to rain. We huddled a little more closely together and Mandy and Amelia began whispering to one another so Roberta turned to me.
“There was nothing here before,” she said. “The trains haven’t run here for like, years.”
“How do you know?”
Roberta shrugged. “My brother Cam did a project on it, all about how the trains stopped coming here, and how they closed the tracks and got rid of the old railway bridge.”
“Why?” I asked, as we followed the others towards the carriage in the lashing rain.
“Oh,” Roberta’s face took on a sort of knowing look, her mouth forming a dramatic oval.
“Well, people kept throwing themselves off the bridge,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I think they hung themselves.”
I shuddered and she nodded with that same knowing look in her eyes.
“And they had to shut down the train tracks because of the accident.”
“Oh a big crash or something, no one talks about it anymore but lots of people died. It was a really long time ago though.” Roberta said, growing disinterested in the conversation as we approached the train.
It was in a real mess, all broken bits of wood and twisted metal just lying there with the rain bouncing off it. It gave me the creeps but I stood there with the others, just staring at it until my arm got tired holding the lantern.
“Let’s go home.”
Amelia shot me a look. “Are you kidding? This is cool. We’re not going yet, I want to look inside.”
Shivers passed over me as the storm beat heavier on our backs, but I didn’t say anything because Amelia was the boss. We all moved forward, swinging the meager light from our cheap, battery-powered Halloween lanterns at the wreck.
“It must be really old,” said Mandy, uncertain. “It looks like an old steam train, like it’s been here forever but I don’t remember it.”
“That’s because it wasn’t here.” Roberta repeated, hanging back a little, but Amelia shot her a look like murder, and so she trod forward.
“Somebody must have cleared the trees around here, it must have been hidden before that’s all. Don’t be such a baby.”
We got up to the cab and Amelia said for us all to hold our lanterns up so she could see inside. Mandy’s lantern went out with a POP; the vampire face with the plastic fangs suddenly vanishing from view.
“There’s nothing in there anyway,” Amelia said, banging the side of the cab. We all followed her in silence as she moved further back towards the carriage section.
“Gimme that,” Mandy said, snatching at my pumpkin lantern.
“Get lost!” I snatched it back, but it made me stumble and feel stupid. Mandy was older than me, so was Amelia. I didn’t want to go along with it but I was afraid to look like a coward.
“Give her the lantern and stop being such a child.” Amelia said, but again I shook my head, I was tired and cold, and just then I thought about my parents and how late it was.
“I’m going.” I said, and practically ran off because I didn’t want to hear them making fun of me, and I didn’t want them to try and make me stay.
“Pathetic!” I heard Mandy shout after me. I turned after I’d crossed the street and saw Roberta standing a little way behind the other two, looking back at me. I felt bad then for leaving her, because she wasn’t as bad as the others. From where I was standing at the crossroads I could now see Roberta join Amelia and Mandy, her skeleton lantern bobbing along until it joined Amelia’s werewolf. They were trying to get into the carriage, I could hear their voices but not what they were saying.
I was about to give up and head home then when I heard a noise. It was like a door creaking in the wind, and there was a rattling sound too, it was so strange that it made me stop where I was. A light appeared in the wreck, it lit up Amelia’s face and showed her shock. She raised her hand up to cover her eyes as Roberta grabbed for Mandy and pulled her away from the carriage. I heard steam hiss and a whistle blow and suddenly the carriage was moving; the cab reared up in front like a dancing cobra, pulling the carriage back underneath it. Fallen, rusted metal rods leaped up from their place on the grass and reached out like grasping fingers, sweeping the girls off their feet with a roaring whooosh as their bodies disappeared into the darkness inside of the carriage. Their screams lasted only a second before cutting off dead.
I was frozen to the spot, watching speechless as the light within the train-thing flickered on and off in the lashing rain. It stood up tall, big metal arms hanging limp at its sides now somehow attached to the body of the train-thing.
It watched me for a while, and I suppose it was thinking. I couldn’t do anything I was so afraid. In the corner of my eye I could see Roberta’s skeleton lantern fizzle out and die by the roadside. That changed things. It made me want to move as fast as I could to get away from there, and I’ve never run so hard in my life. I ran so hard that I tripped and fell, skidding on the wet concrete and cutting my jeans open. I cried out in pain and looked back because I was convinced the train-thing was closing in on me.
But it was gone. I was all alone in the street.