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The Train People

Ten-year-old Joey Mercer was the center of attention in the schoolyard, eagerly showing off his new book about dinosaurs to his friends. They gathered around wide eyed as he slowly turned the pages, revealing full-page illustrations of giants from a bygone era.

Long shadows from behind them fell on the pages and then the taunts began…

“Late at night, through the rain, come the people from the train…”

“They don’t speak, they move slow, and it is to your house they go.”

Joey’s friends looked nervously over their shoulders at the older boys, who were now pointing at Joey as they repeated the chant.

“Late at night, through the rain, come the people from the train…”

“They don’t speak, they move slow, and it is to your house they go.”

“Go away!” Joey cried out defiantly.

“Those dinos ain’t gonna protect you, Mercer. The train people know your address, they’re gonna take you on a ride,” the tallest boy cackled with glee as his friends laughed.

“Leave me alone! No such thing as the train people!” Joey yelled back.

“You’ll see, Mercer, you’ll see. Nice knowing ya!” The bullies walked away laughing.

Joey stood alone, clutching his book to his chest. His friends had run off, afraid they’d be next to be targeted by the older boys when Joey yelled back at them. Head down, Joey shuffled out of the schoolyard and began the walk back home, his happy mood shattered. He soon picked up his pace, the clouds above getting dark and full. He wanted to beat the rain, hoping his new book wouldn’t get wet.

He’d just closed his door and set down his book and backpack when the rain began spattering the windows, blurring the world outside. Joey sat in his father’s chair next to the big bay window, anxiously watching for his parents to get home from work. The heavy rain right after the teasing in the schoolyard had unsettled him more than he wanted to admit. As much as he was watching for their cars to arrive in the driveway, he was also anxiously watching every movement on his street. The teasing raised a primal fear that he hadn’t felt since he was little and believed there was a bogeyman lurking in his closet at night.

His mother arrived first, pleasantly surprised by his bear hug greeting, and recruited him to help her prepare their dinner to have it ready when his father would get home.

Hours later, dinner done and dishes cleaned, Joey went into the living room. His mother was looking at a magazine in her chair and talking to his father, who was absently skimming through the newspaper.

“Hey Dad?”

“Yes, Joey?”

“Who are the train people?”

“Train people? Where’d you hear that name?”

“A big kid was teasing us in the schoolyard today.”

“Nothing to be afraid of, Joey. Years ago, when I was younger than you are now, the old Garfield Bridge gave way while a train was passing over it during a tropical storm, and all the cars fell down into the lake below. After days of searching, it was determined there were no survivors. It was the worst tragedy in this area’s history.”

“Wow,” Joey whispered.

“They closed our station, choosing to build a new southern leg on the commuter rail instead. That’s why they never bothered to rebuild the bridge and took the remains down sometime before Mom and I were married. Kids started saying that the boarded-up station was haunted, which started the legend that a ghost train would pull into the abandoned station on stormy nights, and all the victims that were lost in the bridge collapse would get off and wander through the town, searching for new passengers to drag to the station and board that train. That’s where the name ‘train people’ came from.”

“Oh Vic, that’s a terrible story!” his wife exclaimed, shaking her head.

As his father spoke, Joey glanced out the bay window at the pouring rain outside. He was shocked to see shapes walking down the street, looking like dark shadows moving slowly through the rain. Even when they passed under the streetlights, their faces, their clothes, everything seemed cloaked in shadow, untouched by the lights above. They moved along purposefully, oblivious to the pouring rain.

“N… no!” Joey cried out, backing away from his father.

‘Oh, it’s not real, kiddo. Just an old campfire ghost story kids like to tell.” His father said, thinking Joey was reacting to his story.

“No, D… Dad… LOOK!” Joey pointed frantically at the window and his father turned to look at the dark shapes leering in at them, the ravages of hungry fish and decomposition now painfully evident, just as the slow banging began at their front door.

Joey’s mother screamed then, but he didn’t notice it; as he fainted, his mind kept replaying the taunts from earlier…

“Late at night, through the rain, come the people from the train…”

“They don’t speak, they move slow, and it is to your house they go.”

Sleep well…

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