The Ghost Train of St. Louis
Janis pulled the old Ford Taurus off the main highway. “This is it,” she whispered, her breath puffing out in front of her in a cloud of cold air.
Wrinkling her nose, Keira peered through the windscreen. “Are you sure? It looks like the back end of nowhere to me.”
With a sigh, Janis handed Keira an information leaflet. “Look at the picture. It’s right here. Come on. Let’s go.”
As she flicked on the interior light and straightened her hair, Keira tutted and muttered under her breath, “It’s not like we’re gonna see anything, no matter where we go.”
Pretending not to hear, Janis climbed out of the car and took a deep breath. “You smell that, K?” she said, with a wink.
“Whatever. Geez, it’s freezing out here,” she said, her teeth chattering on cue. “Let’s get this over with. Which way do we go? Where is the ghost train of St. Louis supposed to haunt?”
“Ugh!” Janis knew it was a mistake to ask her little sister along for the ride. It’s not like she didn’t have friends who would have loved the road trip from Saskatoon. As she tried to remember the instructions in the leaflet, she realised there were none. Simply, park up and follow the gravel path some time around the midnight hour. “This way,” she said, making her voice as authoritative as possible.
The pair followed the path, kicking up gravel as they walked. Just as they reached the end of the path and the start of a much coarser, grassy track, a large orb of white light almost blinded them. “Shit! Is that it?” asked Keira, her voice five octaves higher than when they left the car.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb and say yes. Of course it is!”
The girls froze, except for Keira’s hand, which reached out to hold her sister’s. The light seemed to be heading straight for them. If they didn’t move, it would hit them; knock them over. Closer and closer it grew. But there was no sound and no sense of movement in the air. The trees on either side of them stood motionless, without even the slightest breeze.
When she glanced at her little sister, Janis saw something she had never witnessed in her before: fear. Nothing frightened Keira normally. She loved nothing more than to watch horror and supernatural films, and she never batted an eyelid. When she thought about it, her sister’s fear should have made her wary. Instead, it made her even more determined to investigate. “Come on,” she said, dragging Keira behind her.
As they walked straight toward the light, it grew and started moving from side to side. Next to the big, white circle, sat a small, red dot. “The headless conductor.” Janis stopped walking. “Remember? I told you about the old conductor who was decapitated one night when he was checking his engine, didn’t I? Well, sometimes the red light of his lamp can be seen with the train’s lights. This is so exciting!”
Swallowing hard, Keira nodded her head. Her face looked pale in the beam of light that grew ever closer. “It’s . . . gonna . . . hit . . . us,” was all she could say.
When Janis looked ahead, she saw her sister was right. She yanked Keira’s arm and they jumped out of the way, landing in a ditch that ran alongside the path of the old tracks. And just like that, the lights had gone. Both of them.
Climbing out of the ditch and back onto the old tracks, the girls dusted themselves off. “What happened?” Keira’s eyes were wide and her hair had come loose, covering her face in a dark veil.
“The ghost train. I believe we just witnessed it.” Janis laughed, but it was more from relief than amusement. “Okay. I’m happy now, let’s go home.”
“That’s the most sense you’ve made all—“
From behind, the giant orb of bright white careened toward them. They shot each other confused looks and moved aside. Just as the time before, the train grew closer, until they thought it would hit them, then vanished, leaving no trace it had been there.
This time, though, before it disappeared, a high pitched whistle travelled through the cold night air, sending shivers down both girls’ spines. “Okay. Time to go now,” said Janis.
Without the bright train light leading the way, Janis pulled her flashlight from her pocket. The girls walked in silence, until Keira grabbed her sister’s arm and said, “What the hell is that?”
Looking to where her sister pointed, Janis gasped. “What the . . . ?” There, in the middle of the tracks, lay three pieces of coal, smouldering and sending out tiny smoke clouds. “That’s not possible.” As she reached to pick up a piece, she yelped and recoiled. “It’s red hot, K.”
“Shit. Oh, shit shit shit. We gotta go, Jan. Now.”
By the time the girls reached their car, they were out of breath from running faster than they ever ran in their life. As she fumbled with the ignition key, Janis turned to her sister and said, “I don’t wanna talk about this ever again. I’m gonna have nightmares, like, forever.”
Shaking her head, Keira replied, “No way. This was your idea. I’m telling everyone.”
As they sat in the car squabbling, neither of them noticed the enormous, white light heading toward their car. Until it was too late.