The Ghost Watchers

Here’s a Blog Battle entry for the word, “Train.” I want to call the genre Western, but supernatural is probably a good fit.

Heh, so… This week’s word is actually “Ride.” Well, this is pretty clearly a story of a ride on a train, so maybe it’s not too much of a stretch?

We all love creative writing… Maybe I was practicing my creative reading skills this week.

Hope you enjoy the ride…

UPDATE: And apparently enough people did that this scored a win for this week’s challenge. Thanks to all who voted for my Old West ghost watchers, Tommy and Jake!

Thanks, Rachael!
Thanks, Rachael!

Heavy silence hung over everything like a church sanctuary at midnight. Darkness stretched forever like a moonless sky.

Thomas had only been to one funeral in his eight years, when a cholera outbreak on the frontier took his little cousin Annabelle. The whole McMillan clan gathered in one place for the first time in years, but no one had the heart to say a word.

The dream always felt like that.

“Tommy, wake up.” Eagerness gave his brother’s deep voice an edge. “We’re almost there.”

Thomas blinked a few times and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The gentle swaying of the southbound Union Pacific train and the clacka-clack of the tracks below threatened to lull Thomas to sleep.

Jake poked Thomas several times. “You’re gonna miss the ghosts.”

“I don’t believe in no ghosts, Jake. That’s little kid stuff.”

Jake laughed and tousled his brother’s hair. “You’re still young yet.” He turned to the window and gazed into the night. “Folk say they always appear on the hillside before we cross Clark Canyon.”

Thomas yawned and stretched. “Think we’ll spot some Injuns? I hear the Shoshoni attacked some wagons an’ such.” His eyes lit with glee, even if a few drowsy passengers shot him a stern glare. “Maybe train robbers! I hear Jesse James been spotted in these parts.”

“You never know,” Jake said, then grinned. “You’ll have to help me watch. We passed through Dillon a bit ago. Should be comin’ up on the river soon. We’re that much closer to home.”

Thomas squinted at the roiling clouds of mist curling across the flat landscape. “Too foggy out. Can’t see much of anything.” The sight brought a strange familiarity, though they’d never ridden this train before.

Jake nodded. “Rolled in a few minutes ago. That’s why I woke you. I really could use an extra pair of eyes, ghosts or no.”

A soft glow appeared in the mists ahead, and Thomas leaned toward the glass. The fog parted and revealed a brightly painted metal sign with a golden arrow pointing west, lit by the shiniest electric lamps Thomas had ever seen.

Except… he’d seen them before, hadn’t he? Those same bright lamps, that very sign?

Better with his letters than Thomas, Jake read aloud as the train lumbered past. “The historic ghost town of Bannack, Montana?”

He looked at Thomas with a furrowed brow. “Bannack’s just down the Montana trail from Dillon.”

“I knew that,” Thomas muttered, unsure why or how it was the case.

Jake ignored the comment. “They got a gold rush goin’ on, so the conductor claimed. You’re not gonna believe it, but people say a man can pull up a sagebrush–”

“–And shake out a pan full of gold,” both said in unison.

They stared at each other in wonder for a moment then settled back in the padded seats. A few minutes later the low, mournful wail of the train’s whistle broke the silent spell.

Jake turned toward his little brother. “How did you–”

“Look!” Thomas pressed his face against the window.

A cluster of bizzare carriages in a variety of odd shapes sat at the base of a small hill. Soft electric lanterns of some sort fastened to the carriages gleamed in the swirling mist, their beams pointed toward the tracks.

“No horses in sight,” Jake mumbled.

“The ghosts,” Thomas whispered.

Wispy figures gathered on the hilltop under the moonlight, watching the train. Someone had a looking device mounted on a tripod that made Thomas think of photographers back in town. But a camera needed daylight, and surely couldn’t be so small.

Jake squinted at the distant crowd. “What sort of attire is that? Not even tribeswomen are that immodest.”

Nearby passengers stirred at the commotion, and conversation about the spectacle swept through the railcar. A trick of the fog, some reasoned. Spirits from beyond, perhaps the victims of Shoshoni attacks, others said. A messenger of Satan meant to deceive, a preacher declared, then proclaimed everyone in imminent danger of hellfire.

“We’ve been here before,” Jake said. “More than once. Every word they’ve been saying, I knew it before they finished talking.” He glanced about the car and noticed similar reactions among the travelers.

“There’s another sign comin’ up, Jake.”

Jake shook off distraction and peered into the fog. “Clark Canyon Bridge,” he read, then gasped. “A. K. A. Ghost Bridge, site of the 1884 Union Pacific disaster–”

Screams resounded from the forward railcars. The passenger car angled straight down and plummeted toward the ground, passing through the metal structure and railroad ties. The rock wall of the canyon raced past the window with increasing speed.

Jake and Thomas lurched forward, smacking the seats in front of them. Thomas reached for his brother and clasped his hand, then squeezed his eyes shut.

Heavy silence hung over everything like a church sanctuary at midnight. Darkness stretched forever like a moonless sky.

The dream always felt like that.

“Tommy, wake up. We’re almost there.”

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19 thoughts on “The Ghost Watchers”

    1. Thank you so much. I had some time on a boring lengthy military flight and made the best of it. I’ve seen and read some stories involving the “ghost train” idea but rarely from the ghosts’ perspective.

      Like

  1. I thought these were the ghosts forever riding the train as well. Fabulous tension and mystery. Had me on the edge.

    Love, “Heavy silence hung over everything like a church sanctuary at midnight. Darkness stretched forever like a moonless sky.” Then the repeat again. 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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