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Into The Night

by Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters 15 days ago in Short Story
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Clickety-clack . . . Clickety-clack . . . Clickety-clack . . .

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

He knows that sound. He is sure of it. But what IS IT?

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

Waking from his stupor, wondering why his head was filled with strange noises and a throbbing that rattled him to his bones, while his mouth was as dry as the Simpson Desert and the world seemed to be spinning, it finally dawned on him. It was a train.

What? How? Where?

With some effort he managed to sit up and look around him, taking in the tattered red vinyl seats, the graffiti sprayed or written in marker pen on the walls, the cracked linoleum floor and the stale smell that hung lifeless in the air. It reminded him of the change rooms at the high school from which he had only recently graduated: all sweat and teen spirit. Not pleasant at all.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

God no! Why won't it stop?

Again, he looks around him. It's definitely a train carriage. An old one. It looks like one of those old red rattlers that serviced the city tracks in Sydney for so many years, he thinks. But weren't they retired from service twenty years ago?

Through the windows he can see suburbs flashing by at lightning speed. Odd. Pin pricks of light in a dark world marking homes, row upon row of street lamps marking the layout of the city, headlights of cars following the lines marked by the street lamps. This was getting weirder by the minute.

When did I get on a train, he wondered? He certainly couldn't remember that. And he doesn't even live in a city big enough to have suburb after suburb. He had only just moved away from home and out into the boondocks to start his first job, to a town that had a certain appeal to him.

The train rocked back and forth as it swung around a bend in the line. The sound of steel wheels squealing on steel tracks filled the air, then . . . clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.

Damn. Why are they travelling so damn fast? Surely this can't be safe?

Despite having a head filled with fuzzy thoughts he tries to stand, attempting to pull himself up by using the back of the seat in front of him, but his body fails him before he can make it to his feet.

Something is wrong.

'Geez kid, you look like shit!' someone says, startling him. The voice came from somewhere behind him. He manages to twist in his seat and look in that direction, where he finally spots an old man, on the other side of the aisle and sitting about three rows back.

'That's funny, coz I feel like shit! Where am I?' he manages to ask.

The train lurches around another bend in the tracks. Wheels squeal. The carriage rocks from side to side again, just as a man dressed in a uniform, a train guard, bursts into the carriage from the rear and hurries forward.

'Just stay in your seats please folks. Everything is fine. I’ll check tickets on my return.’ Then he disappeared through the door at the front of the carriage, leaving the old man and the young man looking at each other in amazement.

‘You got a ticket?’ the old man asks. A shake of the head was his reply.

'Where am I?' the kid asks again. 'And how did I get here?'

'You don't remember?'

The lad shakes his head and instantly regrets it, as his head spins some more and his stomach lurches.

Maybe it was the motion of the train? But maybe it was something else? What had he been doing before he got on this damned train?

'Maybe your girlfriend knows?' the man says.

'Girlfriend? I don't have a . . . .' he starts to say, but he stops before he could finish the sentence. He didn't need to tell a perfect stranger all his secrets.

'Really? The blonde in the glittery blue dress isn't your girlfriend? You don't remember her? She looks just like Marilyn Monroe, right down to that little mole on her cheek. Maybe a bit butch looking, but still quite a doll, if you ask me.'

The kid stares at him, obviously confused.

'What? You never heard of Marilyn Monroe?'

Once more a shake of the head is all the answer he receives.

'Check your phone. I think your girl took a photo of the two of you.'

'She’s not my girl,’ the kid insists. ‘But where did she go?' he asks, as he picks up his phone and presses the button to bring the screen to life. Suddenly he is confronted by a photo of him being kissed on the cheek by a blonde woman. She appears to be a few years older than him and is vaguely familiar. And he is asleep, or at least has his eyes closed.

There is something odd about the picture, but he can't quite put a finger on it.

'What's her name?' the man asks.

'I don't even know her,' the boy answers.

‘Well, she obviously knows you,’ came the amused reply. ‘You might want to check your wallet, too. Maybe she slipped you a roofie and cleaned you out?’

Before the kid could respond, however, the front door to the carriage bursts open and a trail of people start hurrying through. Some were ashen faced. Some even looked terrified. But no one stopped or slowed.

And there was that sound again.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

‘Mummy, are we going to die?’ a little boy asks as he is towed along by the hand. He received no response from his panicked mother.

‘What’s going on?’ the old man asked as the carriage rocked again.

‘We’re on a runaway train,’ a passenger replied. ‘They told us all to get to the rear carriage.’

The kid and the old man looked at each other again, just as the rail guard came hurrying through.

Was he going to ask for my ticket, the kid wondered?

‘Everybody to the rear carriage. Everybody to the rear carriage,’ he commanded. ‘We have a situation.’

For the first time the kid now feels anxious. He tries to get to his feet, but the motion of the train makes it difficult and his legs give out beneath him.

‘I need you to move, please sir,’ the guard commands once more.

The wheels screech and the train lurches yet again.

This time the kid manages to stand. The old man takes a few steps and reaches for him, offering to help. Grateful, the kid leans on him and they begin to make their way along the passageway, soon finding themselves in the end carriage, along with a dozen or so other scared travelers.

The woman with the boy calls to the guard. ‘Can’t they DO something? Can’t they slow it down?’

The guard’s expression is grim. ‘They’re trying everything they can, ma’am.’

‘Why don’t they just shut the motor down?’ another passenger asks.

‘It’s not quite that simple, Sir.’

At this instant the carriage is lit up with bright lights as the train careers through a station, unchallenged. The passengers catch a glimpse of people standing on a platform, themselves trying to catch a glimpse of the doomed travelers, before the outside world is once again plunged into darkness.

The kid and the old man find some seats on opposite sides of the aisle. They know that this ride cannot end well. They also know that there is not a damn thing that they can do about it.

‘Did you check your wallet?’ the old man asked him.

The kid thrusts his hand into his pocket. The wallet is gone.

‘That fucking bitch!’ he quietly curses. ‘Where did she go?' he asks again.

‘I don’t know. We did make a stop earlier . . . maybe she got off then?’

As the train sped on into the night, lurching from side to side and with steel wheels still squealing, the tension grew inside that last carriage. They passed stations and low-level crossings with train horns blaring, crossing lights flashing and bells going crazy, but it made no difference.

Cars caught at the crossings could see the lights inside the carriages. They could see people making their way from front to rear, without anyone really knowing why. Inside those carriages people couldn’t help but be filled with feelings of an impending doom, some called their loved ones, some prayed, some cried, or some sat with eyes closed, just waiting for what they knew was coming.

Ahead on the train lines, the worst was yet to come; a steep descent down the side of a mountain, with a winding track. A recipe for disaster.

As the train starts to round a bend and lurches once more, the wheels scream. They are travelling way too fast. Outside there is only total blackness. No pinpricks of light here. No houses. No cars. No street lights.

The guard has a two-way radio. ‘Brace yourselves’ says a crackly, disjointed voice. Everyone in the last carriage hears it.

Somebody screams.

The little boy cries out, ‘Mummy, you’re hurting me,’ as the woman holds onto her son more tightly than she ever has before.

Around a bend the train travels at breakneck speed, steel straining, the carriages tilting. Then another bend. The carriages tilt in the opposite direction. Nameless passengers cling to their seats. Carriage lights flicker. The kid and the old man are each gripping the back of the seat in front of them. They glance at each other, but nothing is said. There is nothing that can be said.

Clickety-clack . . . screech . . . Clickety-clack . . . squeal . . . Clickety-clack . . . . . BOOM!

The carriage flips and the kid realises that this is it.

Odd the things that flash through your mind at this time. In that last instant, when he knows he is about to die and his memories begin to flash before him he remembers his missing wallet. He'll be dead and he has no ID. They won't even know who he is!

Then he sees the blonde. He is being kissed by her. He remembers the bar where he met her. He realizes what is wrong with this picture.

Then there is blackness, broken only by the screams of metal twisting and passengers dying.

Brad Wilson wakes with a start, his heart pumping, his head thumping, his body covered with sweat and the sheets on his bed damp. That dream had seemed so real.

Just outside his apartment he could hear the morning coming alive; the sound of the commuter trains on the nearby tracks . . . Clickety-clack, Clickety-clack, Clickety-clack . . . the sound of the garbage collection taking place, with the noisy truck directly below his window and workers throwing steel garbage cans around, the sounds of them clanging together being enough to wake the dead.

That’s what must have woken him this morning, he figured.

For not the first time he regretted taking this apartment when he moved here a few months ago to start his new job. It may have been cheap rent and close to transport, but as far as pro’s and con’s go, these points were definitely on the con’s side of the ledger now.

Oh well, you live and learn.

As he ponders these thoughts, he hears a noise coming from his bathroom and curiously glances in that direction, where he is surprised to see a blonde wig draped across the top of a chair, with what appears to be a blue sequin dress beside it.

Parts of the night come flooding back to him, just as a person emerges from the bathroom, naked and quite clearly a male.

Now all the dots finally connect in Brad’s muddled brain. The night club. The music. The drinks. The train ride. The sex. The passing out. It all fits now.

On that list of pro’s and con’s, the fact that the town had an active gay social scene was one of the main reasons he had moved here after leaving home.

‘Oh, you’re awake,’ his visitor says as they spot Brad sitting on the edge of his bed, also naked.

‘What’s your name?’ Brad enquires.

‘Oh, honey. Just call me Marilyn,’ comes the reply, as the visitor steps into some underwear, followed by the sequined dress.

‘That’s original.’

‘Be a doll, won’t you, and zip me up?’

Brad stands and walks over to them, quickly zipping up the dress as requested, before watching Marilyn pick up and don the blonde wig, adjusting it by looking in a mirror on the wall, then hang a small purse off her shoulder. The transformation is complete. And it is stunning, even without the benefit of makeup.

‘Would love to stay and chat, babe, but I have to run,’ Marilyn purrs, before leaning forward and planting a kiss on Brad’s lips. ‘Thanks for a great night. Maybe we will bump into one another again some time? I certainly hope so.’

Before Brad could even react, Marilyn turned and picked up her heels from the floor, then reached for the door handle to let herself out of the small apartment, before then closing the door, leaving Brad standing there, more than just stunned.

As he gathered his thoughts something came back to him from his dream. What was it the old man had said? ‘You might want to check your wallet, too.’

Quickly he looked around the room and soon spotted his wallet sitting on the dresser. He couldn’t remember leaving it there; he usually left it in his trousers, which were sitting crumpled on the floor. Picking up the wallet he opened it, not surprisingly finding it empty of all cash and cards. Tellingly, however, there was a train ticket stub that had been left behind.

‘That fucking bitch!’ he quietly cursed, before crossing the floor to the window.

When he looked down at the street below he could see Marilyn crossing the road. She looked back and up at the window and when she noticed Brad standing there and gazing down at her she stopped and blew him a kiss, before continuing to the other side of the road and soon disappearing into the entrance of the train station opposite.

‘Yeah, honey, I’m already looking forward to bumping into you again,’ Brad whispered to no one.

Short Story

About the author

Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters

Aussie, Queer & Country

LGBT themed fiction with an Aussie flavour, reviews, observations and real life LGBT histories.

W: https://ponyboysplace.wordpress.com/vocal-media-index/

E: [email protected]

https://www.facebook.com/mark.p.peters/

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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