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The Runaway Train

by Cindy Read 4 months ago in Short Story · updated 4 months ago
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Montreal Canadiens!

The Runaway Train
Photo by Josh Nezon on Unsplash

This guy is incredible!” roared the announcer. “He has out skated everyone on the ice, he’s headed towards the net; there is only 3 seconds left, can he make it?” The announcer continues, “He pulls his stick back……he hammers the puck, Oh no…..

The crowd is hypnotized, and the silence resonates, until broken by a thundering shout by the announcer “Ohhh….it…” The buzzer breaks the deafening silence, and the crowd goes wild, with a blend of cheers from the opposition and screams from the Montreal fans.

Francis Beaulieu, is on the ice, his stick resting on his thighs as his head is bent in agony, coasting in circles, thinking of what he just did. The sounds of the crowd wailing are piercing through his heart. He feels the defeat, but even more the shame is choking him, as he tries to get his breath. He pulls himself upright and skates over to the bench. The trainer opens the door and lets him off the ice, giving him a pat on his back, as he walks past under the spectator seating into the hall towards the dressing rooms. Francis, is one of the fasted skaters in the National Hockey League’s history and his stick handling ensures that his stats are in the top five.

In the dressing room the coach looks Francis directly into his eyes, and asked him “What happened, you were alone, you can make that shot with your eyes closed?” Francis pulled off his helmet and shakes his head, beads of sweat flying off his hair. He throws his helmet onto the bench, and throws himself down onto the same bench

“I don’t know…..I just don’t know?”

There is a quietness in the dressing room that recks of sadness, along with the stench of sweating men, and smelly hockey equipment. His buddies, give him small words of encouragement as they walk past him to the showers, but Francis is lost in his own thoughts. He is the last to hit the showers, and as the steam clouds around him he knows he has to leave the dressing room and face the media.

Travis Leblanc, his best friend catches him as he is pulling on his tie, “Let’s get a drink, at the hotel bar” Francis, looks up and says,

“Nah, let’s get away from the team tonight”

They drove off the beaten path that night, in the back of a taxi, and headed to a small town in Lac-Megantic Quebec. The taxi driver suggested, that this small town, just outside the big city could provide some anonymity.

By Rojan Manandhar on Unsplash

They walked into the small rundown bar, and the smell of beer and mold hit them like a hammer. This was definitely not the usual type of place they would frequent for a drink after a game. Of course, winning or losing played a big part in where the team went after the game. Winning brought jubilation, fame, welcomed publicity, and woman.

Tonight, Francis wanted to be far away from that type of atmosphere, and clearly this was the place. He wanted to be far away from watchful eyes, far away from those he had responsibilities to uphold. He wasn’t sure he could run that far……but tonight he was going to forget that side of Francis Beaulieu.

Travis had been his best friend ever since he joined the Montreal Canadiens in 2005. He wasn’t sure why Travis took him under his wing, when he first arrived, especially since they were so different in nature. Travis was witty, taller than him at 6’ 1’’ and much darker in coloring. His temperament was strong, independent and humorous. He was definitely a ladies’ man, and at times had encouraged Francis to be more daring than he would have been on his own.

Francis liked the ladies, but didn’t really find a need for them in his life, at least for now. Maybe it was because his sister was such a major handful. Ever since their mother died ten years ago, Francis has been saving her ass. He was only twenty when he got his break in the NHL, and his sister was two years older than him.

She worked at the casino, as a waitress, and he wasn’t sure what else….. but he knew she had a gambling problem. That was the source of all the trouble. He couldn’t have a permanent woman, because most of his money was used, bailing his sister out of trouble. This last time was the worst, he just didn’t have enough money to pay off the bookie. Tonight’s loss was the worst action he has had to take, and he just didn’t know how to help her anymore.

Travis knew something was going on with Francis, but he didn’t push. He just thought that Francis was a quiet man, and saved his money, looking for the right woman to come along. It worked for Francis to let Travis believe that lie.

They were standing at the bar when the old wooden door swung into the shit hole, and Travis turned and then whistled. Francis looked up from the bar and said “I guess the atmosphere of this place dictates your behavior, ah bro” Laughing Francis turned to see the woman that Travis was smoldering at, and he was shocked to see such a beauty in this dive. Gorgeous black hair that fell away from her face, as the motion of her walk, lifted her long curls out and up as she continued to sauntered to the opposite side of the bar. Her large dark eyes where bewitching as she starred directly at Travis and raised her brow, glancing side long as she passed at Francis. The bar tender quickly went over and set before her a shot glass and poured tequila for the lady.

It wasn’t long before Travis had encouraged the lady to join them at the bar. When asked if she was alone, the lady replied,

“I guess I’ve been stood up, gentlemen” Travis was all over that “Join us?”

As he asked the bar tender to set up a round of Tequila shots. She did, and the night continued. This wasn’t the night that Francis had expected, but at least Remi was company for Travis, while Francis kept to himself. After the second round of shots, Francis’s phone rang, he glanced down to see it was his sister. He walked outside the bar, and looked around at the little town, as he dealt with his sisters’ questions about the game. “Janice, I told you, I don’t know what happened.” His sister replied “It looked like you tripped….” Francis said, “ I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I really don’t want to talk right now, I’ll call you later” Francis hung up and went back into the bar, and downed his third shot of Tequila and wondered, when the hell they could leave.

Tequila!

The long mournful blast of the whistle jerked Francis to consciousness. Disturbing the sound of the unforgettable whistle of a train, was the rhythmic motion of wheels turning on a track. He bolted upwards, and was rewarded with a sharp pain in his head. Looking around he recognized the inside of a sleeping compartment of a train, but he had no recollection of how he got there. He looked out the window and saw mountains passing by, that resembled the mountains of Mont Saint Anne’s, a fashionable skiing area outside of Quebec City. But in all honesty Francis really couldn’t determine where he was, or why?

He found himself in the same suit as last evening, or so he thought. He checked his jacket to see if he had his phone. It was there but the date was two years in the future. Francis was sure he was losing his mind. He patted his upper body and found nothing amiss, so continued downward, and found that his left leg was rather painful. Francis pulled up his pant leg and found a cast on his left foot.

Acknowledging that the last thing he remembered was being at the bar doing shots with Travis, speaking out loud Francis called out

“Travis, are you there…?” as he reached for the door in the small cabin space, he found the bathroom empty.

Francis was frantic now, wondering what had happened, so he checked his pockets and found nothing, not even his wallet. His heart rate was rising and he could feel it beating in his chest. Something wasn’t right. Trying to remain rational he went through the facts. He was on a train, he had a cast on his leg, he had no money, not even a train ticket and a phone with a date of two years in the future. He sat back down on the pull-out bed to find his thoughts. Just then, a flash of black curls and sultry eyes passed through his mind, an apparition.

Trying hard to focus and think of that thought, a knock at the door broke his reverie. It startled him, and as he quickly stood up, he made note that the train seemed to be speeding up as he worked to balance himself to answer the door. When he did, he was shocked to see the attendant smiling at him. His face was ghastly thin, and his frame was bent over as if his shoulders and head where much to heavy to hold him upright.

His breath was sour, such that Francis had to pull back, when he asked “Ticket please”

Well, I, now I seem, well……I can’t find one.” Stammered Francis.

The anxiety was increasing in Francis, and he could feel the warmth in his face. “Hmm…..that’s not right, now is it” Think fast, Francis thought, “What day is it sir?” The attendant grimaced at Francis and said

“Not a good day for you, come along”

Francis made note again, that the train was increasing in speed, the rhythm of the wheels on the track had increased and the train itself was oscillating back and forth. Looking to the side of the attendant, Francis could see nothing but darkness. It was eerie, and made worse with the look of the man, and the frantic speed of the train. Francis swerved, as the attendant made a move to grab his arm “Listen, is my friend Travis here? We were hanging out last night, and I’m not sure how I got here” The gangly man spoke as he reached again for Francis “There is no time, you must come now.”

Putting a death grip on the arm of Francis, he had no choice but to stumble along. In the passage way he noted there was no-one around. Not a single person. Still, it was dark, and difficult to follow, but the man just kept dragging him forward. At the end of the passage way, they moved into the next car, which appeared to be a lounge, with tables set up along the side and what appeared to be fancy chandeliers hanging over the tables. He could see that the design had changed, and he could smell perfume.

As he was registering the smell and trying to place that scent, the lounge car thrusted to the side, and fell back onto the track. Francis called out “This is madness, what is going on…..stop…..we must stop this train!” The man cackled, and turned his head towards Francis “There is no place to stop…this train is your final destination”

Francis panicked and pulled away from the grisly ghoul and pushed him into one of the tables. Taking advantage of the man’s weakness he moved ahead of him and tried to run, best as he could with the cast.

His adrenaline was pushing him forward, with no thought of the pain in his leg. He reached another exit to the car, moving into the subsequent car, which appeared to be a bar car. The darkness made it difficult to see, but he could sense that this car, was not empty. There were shadows in the distance, a darkness upon a lesser darkness, and the scent was back. Francis called out “Hello… Travis are you here?”

His voice reverberated in the emptiness. He felt like something was near, but he couldn’t seem to grasp what was happening. He felt the danger as real. He was on a speeding train to nowhere, with a ghostly companion. Reality didn’t make sense, neither did the two-year gap. As he paused and looked out the windows, he could see a faint light in the distance.

Is there a destination?

Francis decided to move forward to the next car, although the speed of the train was making it almost impossible to move. The sound of the train wheels, squealing with pressure as they worked to stay united with the track, was constant and the pitch felt like it was driving him further into insanity, knowing that it wouldn’t…..couldn’t last much longer, before the train derailed!

Trying with all his physical strength to move to the next car, Francis had to push himself beyond the physical pain. The door was jammed, and he could hear the footsteps of the attendant drawing closer, he had to get through to the other side. Jamming his foot with the cast in the small space he made trying to open the door between the compartments, he used his good foot for leverage and he heaved with all his might to open the door. The motion of the door releasing threw Francis backward hitting his head on the ground. He fought to keep himself conscious as he rolled into the next car.

As the door flung closed, he laid on the ground in front of the car door, gasping for breath. Francis knew the train was out of control, he didn’t understand it, but he knew this train was not going to stop on its own.

“Francis, how nice to see you again” Opening his eyes, Francis remembered the voice of Remi, the woman with Travis.

“What are you doing here….where is Travis?” Remi was sitting in the first row of seats, by herself on the left-hand side of the car. “You do remember me darling…. Yes?”

“I remember that you had Tequila with Trevor and I last night, or what I think was last night” sighed Francis

“No Francis, you had Tequila with us two years ago, and since then you have been riding this train of debt ever since.”

“Train of debt….why I paid my debts?” shouted Francis.

“Really, you paid YOUR debts, I thought, you paid your sister’s debts” smiled Remi. Francis couldn’t believe how red her lips were, and how white her teeth appeared in the darkness.

In fact, it seemed lighter in this car, he could actually see Remi. Francis focused on Remi’s face and said

“I paid my debts!!! I threw that game just like I was asked!”

Remi looked at Francis, with what seemed like compassion, “How sad for you to have to throw your morals away to save a pathetic addictive gambler like your sister”

Pulling himself up off the ground Francis said “That’s my sister you’re talking about B$txH!”

“Now, let’s not throw insults… you have about 3 seconds before this train derails in Lac-Megantic. Do you not feel the pulsing of this train, the heat generated by the speed, the squealing of metal on metal?”

Francis bowed his head

“What do you want…..I can’t keep doing this….WHAT DO YOU WANT!” he screamed.

“For you to be true to yourself!” said Remi.

The lightness was gone and darkness took over, and the scream of the metal escalated to an unbearable pitch. The thrust of the locomotive threw Francis to the other side of the car, as he heard the crumbling of the train as it started to derail. Before he could even come to his senses, he heard a massive explosion and the brightness was blinding. Then there was nothing!

Francis eyes flicker and he could see the rafters. He closed his eyes again, and he could see the orange sky with blackness swirling around. He could smell the burning fire, so close to his nostrils that he gasped for air, and his eyes opened again, to see a man with a helmet in his face. Holding smelling salts up to his nose, he pushed the guy’s arm away from him.

“Francis, can you hear me? “Francis, how many fingers do I have”

He looked at the man, and saw two fingers, and then he recognized the stripped uniform. It was the referee. Francis asked “Where is the train” “What, the trainer?” asked the referee. Francis could see the referee turn his head around and wave someone forward.

He recognized the team doctor, as he looked into the seats and saw that he was at the arena. He was confused, he was just on a train, running from the shame of throwing the game, to pay his sisters gambling debts. Yet, he didn’t remember that his sister gambled.

They moved Francis onto a stretcher and took him out of the arena. Before getting into the ambulance, he asked “Hey, did we lose?”

One of the ambulance attendants looked at Francis and said “Are you kidding man, you scored the winning goal, it was amazing!”

Francis was dumbfounded “Wow, I thought I hit the crossbar” “Nope, you sunk it deep!”

After settling into the ambulance Francis learned from his trainer, that he had taken a hit from behind, after sending the puck flying right into the net. The trainer informed him that he likely broke his ankle from the impact of one of the New York Rangers.

Francis asked his trainer “What about the train?”

The trainer replied, “How in the world did you hear about that Francis, it just happened” Francis said, “What happened?”

“It’s breaking news, a train in Lac-Magentic Quebec derailed, killing approximately 47 people. It literally wiped out a small town, the unattended train carried 7.7m liters of petroleum crude oil, and erupted into flames after it jumped the tracks, burning buildings everywhere. ” Francis asked “My sister, where is she? Is she safe?”

Inspecting the Derailed Train

Two days later, after surgery on his foot Francis woke to an empty room. The nurse came in and informed him that he had suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the ice. Francis was still thinking of the train ride that he had taken that night, when Travis walked into the room “Hey man, how are you?”

“A little confused still; I was wondering about my sister” Travis responded “Janice, is coming in with Tom and the kids tomorrow. They had to make arrangements with work and find a flight from England.” Francis shakes his head “England?” Travis laughs a little “Ya, she married Tom 10 years ago and moved to England. You really are confused!” Frances looks blankly at Travis “So, she isn’t working at the casino anymore?” Travis looks at Francis with disbelief “No, she never worked at a casino, you’re way out man, I’m going to get the nurse.”

Francis is feeling a little better the next day, although he still has remnants of a headache. His sister Janice comes in the room, and is obviously pregnant, and very happy. Two older children come in; each one holding their father’s hand.

“Janice, I am so glad to see you! I had the wildest experience. I lost consciousness. I actually believed that I had to throw the deciding game to get your debts paid off, that you owed to a bookie” Janice looked at Francis and laughs,

“I heard you had a very scary and bizarre experience when you cracked your head, besides crushing your foot. In truth, brother, it was our mother who had the gambling addiction, and indeed we did lose her to gambling, but that was distorted by alcoholism.”

Francis said “Mom was an alcoholic?” Janice warmed up to her brother, grabbing a chair and pulling it close

“You weren’t around much in those days; you were always traveling for hockey so you must have heard bits and pieces. I guess your subconscious was telling you a story that I never really had the guts to tell you. After mom died you were traveling with the junior hockey league. When we did meet up, I never really wanted to burden you with some of our family secrets. I wanted you to be a hockey star! To which you are! Don’t ever believe that you are responsible for me Francis. But I love you dearly and so did mom, she just had an addiction, she couldn’t shake. It is rather hurtful to me that in your subconscious mind you put me in mom’s place” But Janis laughs and gives him a hug “Poor mom!”

“Enough of this sappy stuff” said Travis “Buddy, you scored the winning goal and we won the Atlantic Division! Awesome for our team, but no Hockey for you for a while!” Francis laughed, but he was aware that his physical and mental health needed to be a priority before getting back on the ice.

He said to Travis “You would have loved the babe you hooked up with in my escapade; beautiful, sexy and a little scary!”

Short Story

About the author

Cindy Read

I am Cindy, noting more and nothing less. Dichotomy describes me best. I love to create; and I love the sciences. I have a wild spirit that has calmed. I was born in Canada, but live in the USA and flit between. I am the Yin & the Yang.

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