This week’s flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig on Terribleminds.com is about travelling. It can be any genre, but no more than 1000 words.
It’s been a while since I’ve written something that’s a little chilling, and this one developed from a train of thought (pun intended) after watching ‘The Lady Vanishes’, the Margaret Rutherford one of course.
Let me know what you think.
Flash Fiction: The Journey
The rhythm of the train buffeted Mark, his eyes wanted to close but the noise from the other passengers stopped them. A child in a bassinet cried incessantly at his mother next to him, and teenagers conducted a loud conversation with each other as tinny music blared into their ears. Even the old woman’s knitting seemed to click in an abnormally loud way.
Mark rubbed his eyes and stared at the empty seat across from him, the strong coffee he’d had was keeping him in a limbo state of both brutally tired and wide awake.
‘Ticket’s please’ said the balding inspector as he pushed his bulky frame down the restricting train aisle.
Mark frisked himself, even checking an inside jacket pocket he didn’t have for his ticket, holding it out to the emotionless inspector. The ticket was snatched out of Mark’s hand and punched. As Mark reached out for his ticket, something happened. It was like the train shook but he didn’t feel anything, and his eyes stung forcing them to close. As he struggled to open his eyes again, something changed but Mark wasn’t aware of it until he re-opened his eyes.
The train was silent, then his brain processed the information and it hit him like a sandbag, the train was empty. Everyone had gone; the old woman, the mother and baby, the two teenagers. Mark half stood up, and looked around the entire carriage ‘Hello?’
He stood up and walked down the aisle. ‘Hello?’ Mark repeated. There was no response, the carriage was empty. Well, nearly empty. As he passed the seats he noticed the items seemingly left behind. Mark peered into the empty bassinet, and pulled back the tucked-in blankets. The baby certainly wasn’t there but his clothes still were, still forming the outline of a baby, its dummy placed on his pillow. Mark tucked the blankets back, and looked at the seat next to the bassinet. The seat was covered in an ash like powder and there was no sign of the mother.
Mark continued to search the carriage, the seats of the two teenagers were covered in the same white powder, yet the old woman’s clothes were draped over the seat with her knitting, and her shoes sat on the floor with her thick stockings hanging out of them.
‘What the hell is going on here?’ Mark thought. His heart was thudding in his chest and as his mind raced he started to sweat as if the temperature in the train had been turned up to full. The train’s whistle pierced the rhythm of the train causing Mark’s brain to stop panicking long enough for him to think clearly.
‘The whistle? Someone’s driving the train? Someone must be driving the train.’ Mark ran down the aisles through the carriages in the direction of the driver’s carriage. Each carriage had seats covered with the same ash or laid out clothes as his own cabin, though he didn’t stop to inspect any of them. The look of the buffet car screamed of the Mary Celeste, steaming meals and coffee sat on the tables. He continued to run through the carriages, his mind focused on finding the driver’s carriage.
Finally Mark got to the driver’s carriage and knocked on the door, surprising himself a little at how polite he was even when terrified, to the point of second guessing whether knocking was appropriate in this situation. When his fear returned, and after a few seconds silence, Mark opened the door.
‘Thank god’ Mark said as he saw the shapes of the two drivers in front of him ‘Everyone’s gone, what’s happening?’
The driver’s continued to face forward their hands flicking the various switches and buttons of the dashboard in front of them.
‘Hello? Can you hear me, I said everyone’s gone.’ Mark reached forward to put his hand on one of the guard’s shoulders. As he reached out the two drivers spun round, their faces were gaunt and blackened holes stared back where there eyes should be. Mark recoiled, and backed away towards the door.
The drivers pointed their grey bony fingers at Mark ‘Get out! It’s not your time yet.’
Mark felt the train shake again, and his eyes stung. When he opened them again he was back in his carriage. The baby was crying, the tinny music from the teenagers was back as was the clicking of the old woman’s knitting.
Mark blinked his eyes a few times, coming to terms with what could only have been dream. He sighed and hoped he hadn’t made a complete fool of himself while he was asleep, but everyone seemed to be ignoring him so he relaxed.
The train pushed past a few more stations, but nobody got on. In fact it wasn’t until the stop before his that someone entered his carriage.
Mark looked at his watch as the man sat in front of him, Mark looked up and saw the man disappear behind a large newspaper. Mark returned to his watch, and flicked through the settings. Then something he had seen only briefly flashed in his mind. He looked up and read the front page heading of the passengers newspaper.
‘MARK, IT WASN’T A DREAM.’
The paper lowered, and staring back at him was one of the train drivers from his dream with the same empty eye sockets and leering grin
‘Now it’s time’ said the driver, as the train breaks screeched and Mark was thrown from his seat.
It took rescue crews twelve hours to sieve through the wreckage of the trains, no survivors were found.