Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Strange happenings on a train

The trouble with trains these days is that we’re all strangers… and that’s just fine with me. Peoples subconscious leak all the time so being on a train makes things even worse, and if it wasn’t for the damn snow I’d surely be driving. However, (un)luckily, the trains are somehow still working. Or at least they were.
Five minutes ago they stopped with no explanation and it’s starting to get cold now. We’re about an hour’s unforgiving walk between stations, but at least the train is offering us some comfort. I say us, but there’s not many of us around. It’s past rush hour and there’s not many sods mad enough to take the chance, especially when the news has been warning people not to travel… course, I’m here… well, because.
One day I’ll learn not to act on these impulses but it’s like a compulsion; like having a nagging wife but at migraine level.
There are nine people in the carriage with me, most of them keeping to themselves. Even in the frozen wastes no one wants to acknowledge the other, let alone talk. Whatever happened to the Dunkirk spirit, eh?
The snow’s coming down harder now, I don’t reckon there’s much chance of us moving for a while. A message on the tannoy confirms this; the driver sounding more stressed than apologetic as if he’s got better places to be than here. Yeah, well.. me too!
I walk up and down the carriage a couple of times just so I can get a feel for the people I’m going to be spending the foreseeable future with. First of all the Flemmings, Bob and Jo. Nice couple, old and still very much in love; holding hands against the cold with eyes only for each other.
And strangely enough Harry and Sue Ellison are doing the same, spending a lot of the time staring at Bob and Jo as well. They’re not making it obvious, of course, but they can see them reflected in the carriage windows. There’s a strange hunger to their gaze; but Harry is wearing a dog collar and Sue has that hypocritical piety that only comes from being the Vicar’s wife. I tell myself that I’m being overly cynical, that they’re only looking at the old couple in prayer and not as prey….I just don’t trust Christians. The fact that I get very little from them adds to my cynicism. Bob and Jo are very warm, obviously compatible, but Harry and Sue just aren’t; they seem so uncomfortable as if even their skin is ill-fitting. In fact, all I can gleam from them is their names; this level of mental shielding is unparalleled but I move on before I get a headache.
Robert and Barbara Deighton match me for my cynicism though; they have every reason to hate the clergy that makes my subtle distrust seem healthy. Their son had been ritually abused for many years by their local Priest and I could see that Robert was using all his restraint. I could see that all he wanted to do was strangle them with their own dog collars. Barbara is shifting between wanting to stop him and doing the same thing herself. The hate is infectious so I move on again to Jim and Edith Maclean.
Both seem wholesome and… knowing. I sense a kindred spirit and when Jim turns to wink at me I know I’m right. I get a glimpse of a smiling sun from Edith and then I’m blocked out. I make a mock bow to both and move on again.
Alistair Fowles is seething; he really did have an important place to go and I can see his mood just getting worse as the time progresses.
The sky is getting blacker, even for Winter this is unheard of; I’ve never seen storm clouds this severe before; the wind is buffeting the train, making it shake. There’s no way we’ll be leaving for a while yet so I go to sit back down in my own spot but Jim and Edith beckon me to sit next to them, which I do gratefully.
“What are you thinking?” Edith asks.
“Probably the same as you, something rotten is happening and it’s not the lack of customer service.”
“I haven’t seen weather like this since ’86.” Jim concurred and I knew exactly what he meant.
“You were out in that too, eh?”
“We needed to hold the fort somehow.”
“You got the dreams as well, then?” I asked. They nodded gravely. “I never want to meet that eight armed bitch again…She was one of the scariest apparitions I’ve ever faced.”
“We saw Fenris.” Edith replied. “A group of us ended up protecting Cissbury Ring; sitting at its base in a circle.”
“That must have been dicey.” I replied. “Chanctonbury was in negative that night.. it must have been terrible!”
“You don’t know the half of it… I was a redhead!” Edith smiled, she was now a very dignified silver-grey.
“I was given the Yew tree at Slaugham to guard; we’ve looked out for each other over the years so it was the least I could do… So what are you feeling now?” Both looked at each other.
“If it gets any worse then we’ll have to pull together; strength in numbers and all that. Will you be able to do that?”
“I’ll find a way.. I can be dead persuasive when I puts me mind to it.” Just then the lights go out and despite it being nearly mid-day you’d think we’d been plunged into darkness. There was the inevitable scream but for once I could understand it. There was something unnatural about the darkness. Jim and Edith’s hands found mine and, for once, I felt pleased for the sentiment. They were completely right as well, it was far safer this way. We could feel our energies radiate out and then suddenly the lights flicked back on.
“Right… that’s enough! I’ll bring us together.” I told them both and stood up.
“Look guys!” I shouted to the rest of them. “We’re going to be here for some time; it’s going to get a darn sight colder before too long and I can’t imagine that we’re going to get rescued for a bit so I reckon we should all get a lot closer together and keep each other company, like.”
“Who died and put you in charge?” Alistair said. I knew he’d be the one to cause trouble.
“Don’t be so foul, mate. You want to end up like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, that’s fine by me. The rest of you scoot up here with us three.” Being a frozen arse-icle didn’t appeal to Alistair so he joined us and pretty soon we were all huddled together with Jim and Edith providing the tea and sympathy to my rugged practicality.
Maths was never my strong point but even I could tell that there weren’t enough of us and it wasn’t difficult to realise that we were missing the puritanical Ellisons. I looked around the carriage but they were nowhere to be seen. Strange. There was nowhere for them to go, the doors to the other compartments had stayed shut and it was impossible for anyone to operate the doors to the outside.
I urged the others to look for them but Robert and Barbara, unsurprisingly, refused  to join in the search. I noted it down for future reference but knew that now wasn’t the time to push them on it. In any normal circumstances they would have been my first suspicion regarding foul play. To them it might have been justified, I’m sure, but we hadn’t even found a body yet.
Bob and Jo, the ever loving couple, were almost giggling like a couple of nasty schoolchildren when we all gathered together again; no one had found anything. Somehow the Ellison’s had completely disappeared, which didn’t make any sense at all.
“It must have happened during the blackout.” Alistair remarked, although no one actually asked him.
“Ok, wise guy; what happened?” I asked. I mean, he wasn’t wrong as it was the only time such a thing could have happened, but how? “Go on… venture a theory.” I needled.
“It’s not my area of expertise, mate. More on your line, isn’t it?”
“We met before?” I asked.
“Let’s just say we have mutual friends. Remember the McKlusky’s?” Great. Just what I needed; the power of schadenfreude slaps me round the face again. “Brilliant… look, we don’t have time for this.” I looked at him, sizing him up in case things got out of hand. I really hoped that they wouldn’t, but like with the McKlusky’s, things have a habit of going very wrong, very quickly.  “Are we going to have a problem?” I asked again.
“What happened to the McKlusky’s?” Barbara asked.
“Their daughter had a mysterious illness that no one could figure out. He got involved and then…”
“I asked if we were going to have a problem..” I interrupted. “Look; I don’t have to get involved, believe me. I really don’t want to and never have done. They came to me; perhaps you didn’t know that…”
Edith put her hand on my arm and I felt her energy calm me. Alistair looked at her and back at me.
“No, we got no problem.. this time.” He replied.
“I can live with that…” I looked around me and saw that it was getting dark again. The air around us felt dank and claustrophobic somehow. Something was circling us, I could tell.
“We need to hold hands, in a kind of makeshift circle, the best we can.” I said as calmly as I could. “I know how this sounds but it’s something that we have to do.” I held hands with Edith one side and James the other; Barbara held Jo’s hand with Robert then Bob and then Alistair. I could see all of them, but either it was a trick of the light or both Bob and Jo had a vicious glint in their eyes that was as sinister as it was incongruous. There was something malevolent happening and they should have been at least scared or upset even. However, I didn’t have time for that, it was getting dark again. Everyone looked at me for succour and I almost shrugged my shoulders as if to say “what do you want me to do about it?” but I had just set myself up as the leader of this band of misfits. To break faith now could be disastrous.
“Whatever you do, don’t break the circle; things are likely to get a lot weirder. Keep looking at me. I know I ain’t pretty but keep looking into my eyes.”
I could feel their gaze on me; they drew strength from someone being in control and I drew strength from James and Edith; we were now one and I could see through their eyes as well. I knew what was happening now and what had befell Harry and Sue.
I looked at what remained of the love birds Bob and Jo and spoke so only they could hear me.
“I know what you are and what you’ve done.” Outwith I saw their demon wings unfold as they stripped themselves of their human vestments that had been the Flemmings.
“Smart..” I said with more gusto than I actually felt. “Or should I say devious? Hide yourselves in the last bodies you devoured…” The Ellisons, if they had ever been in the first place, smiled in unison and then spoke as one.
“Clever mortal. We like intelligence, so much more filling. The old couple’s souls were stringy, gristle in our teeth.”
“Ah… one entity…I see, ingenious!  So, why now? Why this train? And why them?”
“Why not? Time is slowly becoming ours, soon there will be no more places for you to hide.”
“Who’s hiding? I came on this journey to find you.” I bluffed. “I’d like to say that I wasn’t disappointed.. but…”
“Silence… you have done a very foolish thing, mortal, meeting with us outwith your plane.” Psychic claws raked at me and I winced in pain.
“Who says I’m alone? There’s perhaps two of you here but there’s at least five others with me!” I drew on the strength of those I’d left behind on the train.
“More for us to feed on then.” The Demon boasted and I felt pain deeper within. Now was the time to play my final hand.
“Don’t… don’t take them. It’s me you want.” This was music to their ears, I could feel their cancerous souls seethe over mine, blocking out the light, leeching through my mind with acid eating away at my core. I allowed them deeper until they got exactly where I wanted them. Whatever had enlisted them obviously hadn’t told them much about me, or they were complete amateurs. This wasn’t much of a psychic trap but it worked perfectly on them.
If you’re going to ‘invite’ demons to claim your soul then make sure you have a more powerful sonnovabitch lay claim beforehand. By the time they realised what was happening they couldn’t turn back; rather than try to consume me it was them who were eaten up, drained of their very life essences. They didn’t even get a chance to scream….
…and suddenly I was back on the Earth plain again, holding hands and watching as the bodies that had been Bob and Jo disintegrated in front of us. Robert, Barbara and Alistair were gobsmacked by what had just happened and even James and Edith were speechless. I don’t think they’d ever had the misfortune to encounter anything this evil before. But the carriage was now lighter and even the snow had stopped. There were still a couple of hours before we were to be rescued, I guessed, but that hopefully gave me enough time to explain to them all had just happened.