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Derailed

Not everyone loves a winner.

By Mark GagnonPublished 6 months ago 5 min read
1
Derailed
Photo by Andrew Scofield on Unsplash

A gentle rocking motion coupled with the rhythmic clickity-clack sound that filled the air made it difficult for me to wake from what I presumed was a deep sleep. One would assume that returning from my near catatonic state, I would be well-rested and full of energy, but that was not the case. I felt groggy and listless and my head pounded with a dull pain. Summoning all my energy, I forced my eyes open to take in the surroundings. None of it looked familiar.

That’s not entirely true. The long metal cabin, rows of seats, and ever-changing landscape flashing by the windows on both sides told me I was on a fast-moving train. Two things made no sense to me: First, I was the only person in the railcar, and second, the last thing I remember was leaving my house this morning in a taxi on my way to the airport.

Using the seat in front to steady myself, I stood and looked around. It was obvious I was in the last car, so I walked toward the front. Before crossing to the next car, I checked my pockets for money, I.D., and a ticket, and found nothing.

Bizarre is the first word that came to mind as I tried to make sense of my situation. I wasn’t rich or a prominent politician, so abducting me for ransom or political leverage was absurd. About the only item of note, in my otherwise mundane life, was that I had won a local writing contest last year. I received my five minutes of fame in the town newspaper, then it was back to my normal life as a traveling salesman for a security device company. My job is why I was on my way to the airport before this—whatever this is—happened. Maybe the next railcar held some answers.

I entered the car only to find it was as empty as the one I had just left. I searched every row of seats, every luggage closet, even the toilet, and again, nothing. My only option was to keep moving forward from empty car to empty car until I reached the engine. Access to the locomotive was blocked by a well-secured steel door locked from the inside. I pounded on it until my hands went numb, but there was no response. Exhausted, sore, and lost for answers, I flopped down onto the first row of seats I came to.

It may have taken five minutes or fifty-five minutes before I could compose myself. Time had no relevance for me. Commonsense told me finding myself in a situation like this didn’t just happen. Someone was behind it, but who and why? I must have asked that question out loud because the train intercom sprang to life.

“Perhaps I can answer that question for you, Mr. Ingram. You are Charles Ingram, winner of the Ohio Weekly writers contest, are you not?”

“Yes, I am! But you have me at a disadvantage, sir. You know who I am, but I don’t know who you are or why you have trapped me on this train.”

“Fair enough. My name is James Pierpont, III, and I own this railroad. The train you’re riding in runs on a one-hundred-mile closed loop. It’s part of an experiment that tests a new suspension system designed to see how many G’s a train this size will take while cornering before it derails. Every time the train reaches a curve, the speed will increase by twenty miles per hour until it eventually flies off the tracks.”

“Okay, you’ve told me about the train, but not why I’m here. What can your experiment possibly have to do with me?”

“Your winning story about a great escape artist was both intriguing and the reason I came in second. I hate to lose! Now I’m going to see if you’re as good at escaping as your main character. If you’re not, then I win.”

“This is insane! I wrote a story about a fictitious character and now I’m supposed to be him? Don’t you have anything better to do with your money?”

There was a long pause before Pierpont answered the question. “For someone like me, money is only a tool to help me get what I want, nothing more. What I want now is to see if you can beat me one more time. I doubt if you can. Better hurry, time’s running out.”

The intercom went silent, and I sat for several more minutes, reassessing my situation. Now that I knew what I was involved in, I could hopefully devise a solution. The engine compartment entrance looked daunting, but if it was like an airplane cockpit door, there was a way to unlock it. My previous actions were based on irrational emotion, now my logical self was in charge.

Next to the doorjamb was a small, unmarked rectangular panel. As I pushed on it, the plate slid into the wall. Hidden inside was a device used to unlock the door. I entered the locomotive control center and peered out the windshield. Coming into view loomed another curve. Just then, I heard the powerful engine increase its RPMs and felt the train surge forward. Frantically, I searched for the main breaker. After some trial and error, I located the correct switch and shut down the massive machine.

The train was slowly coasting to a stop when the intercom once again sprang to life. “Congratulations, Mr. Ingram! You have beaten me once again. It seems you are a worthy opponent, after all. We’ll have to try something different next time. As I said, I hate to lose.”

With that, the intercom went dead for the last time. Once again, I had derailed Mr. Pierpont’s plans.

Mystery
1

About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (1)

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  • Jyme Pride6 months ago

    How I loved this! I wish it had been one of my own. You have a skill about you that's smooth and free flowing. It almost reads like poetry, with the pace of a song. So masterful. So challenging. So amazing.

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