Saturday, October 13, 2007

Carolina Special ~ Part One

The train creaked on it’s axis on the top of Saluda Mountain. The sounds were comforting in a way. The brakemen gave the go-ahead and they started down the mountain. The brakes screeched like a banshee in the night drowning all. The train gathered speed at an alarming rate, only held back by the howling brakes. Suddenly, the train gave a lurch. Dusty slammed his head against the engine and crumpled to the floor.

“Dusty! Dusty!” Floyd shouted over the brakes. “You all right, old man?”

Floyd eased over to him and a smear of blood came away on his hand from the back of Dusty’s head. He put a hand on the old man’s neck and couldn’t feel any pulse. The old man was dead. Floyd started to panic then looked up at the gauges and the firebox…looked like he was on his own in this nightmare.

He stood and looked out down the track, just in time to see the bank of fog drawing steadily and swiftly closer. It felt to him like they were going much faster than they should and then he heard it weakly over the scream of the brakes.

“Runaway Train!”

They were approaching Slaughter’s Cut at a dangerous rate. The brakes screamed in outrage. The clacking of the train against the tracks fused into one seamless roar. Floyd adjusted the steam input and held on for dear life as the train crashed down the mountain.

He felt the wind whip by like a tornado. His eyes seemed to lose focus and his ears roared. He lost consciousness the moment they hit the fog bank.

The next thing he knew, he was floating in the fog. He opened his eyes to the mist. The world was going by in slow motion. The silence was deafening, like being in the middle of a snow storm. It was as if the fog had absorbed the momentum of the train, suspending it. The tiny lights he’d seen earlier were floating around him like fireflies. The machinery in the cab glowed and shimmered. He heard voices as if in a tunnel. They were like the whispering voices you sometimes heard on the edge of your consciousness just before sleeping. The ones you strained to hear but never could.

Floyd slowly reached a coal dust begrimed hand out and cupped one of the tiny lights. It flickered and tickled in his hand giving off a tiny bit of heat. The lights swarmed around him like moths to lantern light. They pulsed and swarmed around Dusty’s head and the old fireman’s head raised off the floor as if the lights were gently raising him. Floyd heard the tinkling sound of the voices.


Be well…be well…be well…

Floyd looked on as the lights seemed to form into one large mass of brilliance. He felt as though he were moving through molasses . The lights formed into a face and shoulders. The brightness of the image blinded him for a moment and when he blinked and looked back at it, he saw that it was the face of a beautiful woman with long flowing hair. She had a long narrow face with kind eyes. Her shoulders emerged from the mist and were white and glowing.

“You see us, don’t you?” She asked, looking at him curiously.

“Who are you? What’s happening?” Floyd asked with a quiver in his voice.

“We are the ones who came before and the ones who have come after. We are the Nunne-hi or the sidhe or the ghosts of time.” She said cryptically. “We guard this pass.”

Floyd had no idea what she was talking about. He reached a hand out to try to touch her and she drew back in alarm.

“No, it is enough that you see me. If you touch me, you will not be able to return from this place.”

“This place? This place?…As far as I know I’m in the train cab in a fog bank.”

Floyd blinked hard. He wanted to believe this, but even in the glowing of the cab and the strange roaring silence, he could see nothing beyond the window. No movement, no sensation of movement was felt. He just saw the whiteness of the fog and the lights.

“You are between the worlds with us.” The apparition said. “And when you go back to your world, you shouldn’t remember any of this. But you may see other things because of this… Now sleep….sleep…sleep...

And then, the sound was roaring in his ears again. It was as if a door had suddenly opened and he had fallen through it. He stood there in the dimness of the rocking train that now sounded completely as it should. No squealing brakes, no howling wind…they seemed to be chugging away at a normal rate.

Dusty was sitting peering at the gauges as if nothing had happened.

“Dusty! Are you alright?!” Floyd called over the din of the engine.

Dusty turned and looked at Floyd and frowned.

“Of course I am, you daft boy. Why shouldn’t I be?”

“Where are we?” Floyd asked. He realized they were not hurtling down the Saluda anymore and seemed to be winding around the foothills on the other side of the mountain.

Floyd hung out the side of the cab and drank in the cinder-flecked wind. He turned back and grinned at Dusty.

The old man paused and took a hard look at him.

“You saw them, didn’t you?” He asked. “You saw the lights on the mountain. You saw the people there.”

“Yes! Yes, I saw them and I remember it all! She said wouldn’t but I remember.”

Dusty gave a heavy sigh.

“You best put them out of your mind, son. I saw them once too. They saved us that time and I s’pose they just saved us again. But just forget them, boy. You’ll be better off. And maybe you won’t see the things that only folks who see the lights see.”

And Floyd looked out into the night and he could swear he saw a spectral hound running beside the train and keeping pace with it. It seemed to float over the land and solid tree trunks passed through its body. Flecks of glowing drool and blood streamed from its mouth.

Floyd gawked and pointed. Dusty looked out into the night.

"Eh, yep. That would be what I'm talkin' about. "

Carolina Special ~ Part Three


  1. Mary said...

    This was great. I had read part one and now have read part two. Loved it!

    Take care and thanks so much for dropping by my blog. You're welcome anytime.

    threecollie said...
    What a story...I am all over goosebumps..and Alan's dog is howling mournfully for some reason, which doesn't help a bit.

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