Short Story – The Train Job

Something you should know about explosions is that they are much, much louder than you would expect. When an explosion happens in a movie, it’s a loud, bass rumble that vibrates the theater. When an explosion happens on your train, it’s a cacophony of noise so potent that it replaces your hearing with a high pitched whining. Imagine you are at a concert for your favorite rock band. After several hours of brain-murdering high decibel enjoyment, you can barely hear the person next to you. Now, imagine that same scenario turned up to eleven.

It’s disorienting.

So, as I sat, suspended in the open space above passenger car six, my clothes smoldering off of my body, I was forced to face a very serious question. What exactly was the elderly woman screaming about?

I assumed she was commenting on the fact that a fat man was hurling above her head at roughly the speed of a major league fastball, but I can’t be too sure. I’m almost certain she wasn’t worried about the explosion itself. One of the benefits of not being me is that she didn’t see or hear it. What she did see, and I can only imagine, was my rather bulbous girth hurdling down the car. I would have told her it would all be alright, and almost did, but was stopped when I collided with the far end of the rail car.

Something about a sudden impact really shakes the words out of your mouth.

I pushed myself off of the floor of passenger car six and tried to shake the ringing out of my head. Being deaf is a serious disadvantage in these situations. It’s hard enough to explain why you just jumped across the train, never mind even trying when you can’t hear a word anyone is saying to you. The most I managed to spit out was, “Big boo…” before he caught up to me again.

A truly fortunate thing for the human race is that most of the denizens of the dark are not able to interact with the majority of the living. Spirits and spooks have to be pretty potent before they can actively haunt anything. This is good because it means that most people are completely safe from that which bumps in the night. The downside to that is, if a scary bad monster is causing problems, it probably has some hellish juju behind it. Bogey Men fall somewhere in between the two. They can’t affect adults at all. Adults can’t see them, hear them, or sense their presence without a little mojo of their own. Children before the age of innocence, however, are completely open to their advances.

They are the white-van-driving mustaches of the supernatural world.

The big ass bogey headed my way liked to prey on children riding alone on the Amtrak commuter line between Kansas City and St Louis. Normally, I don’t do transient cases. The railway is outside my normal jurisdiction. I’m more than willing to go out of my way for something that targets kids. I have issues with beasties messing with the innocent. Bogeys are not the worst of them. Very few monsters can be as bad to kids as real humans can. I help where I can.

Hobo Ralph, the bogey in question, was a big one. He was old, probably popped up during that time in the 1800s when parents would literally mail their kids off to live with relatives. He stood close to nine feet tall, his form a sickening mixture of greens and blacks. It wasn’t bad enough for him to attack kids in my hometown, but he also stole my color scheme. His face was twisted with rage, the jaw hanging loose on one side, broken clean across by my sucker punch. I’m a dirty fighter, it helps.

“Ooo haaag noo riiigck Draghkar,” it bellowed through it’s gaping face hole. I tried to suppress my chuckles. I really did. It’s best not to laugh in the face you just smashed up. It’s rude.

“I have every right, Ralph. It’s my job to put you back in the dark and you know that.” You might be asking how I knew what it was saying. This is pretty simple. Bogeys have no originality at all. They basically always scream about their rights. They seem to think they have them. I disagree. Fortunately for me, there isn’t a Spook Bill of Rights… yet. Just to be safe, I read him his charges. “Bogey Man Hobo Ralph, you are charged with five counts of Stealing Innocence and two counts of creating and feasting on misery. By the power granted me by right of being a bigger bad-ass than you, I find you guilty of existing. The sentence is banishment back to the dark. I’m pretty sure for a bogey that’s the same thing as non-existence. Let’s make this quick. I want to get off at the next stop.”

I hoped that I hadn’t shouted that too terribly loud. There were people on this train. Most of them would probably think I was insane already. I took the time to brush the ghost fire from my jacket, Merser would be pissed that he had to stitch it up again if I let it burn too long, then pulled out my badge.

That’s right. I have a badge.

I was going to start a rousing speech about an electrical problem aboard the passenger car when Ralph lost his patience. When you’re a moderately powerful bogey like he is, you have two choices when facing down a fully trained Drakar. You can run, by far the most reasonable and logical choice, or you can do like Ralph.

The lights on the train burst as my back smashed into the floor, all seven hundred pounds of oozing monstrosity piled on top of me. I couldn’t hear anything but the damn ringing in my head and now, I couldn’t see anything either. For a moment, all I could feel was the shaking and rumbling of the passenger car, rocking dangerously on its wheels from the force of the impact. This could get bad very quickly.

There are a few rules involved in my job. There are two in particular that seemed at odds with each other at the moment. One was maintaining the illusion of the status quo in front of civilians, and the other was protecting said civilians. I decided that the second rule definitely trumped the first rule. The paperwork on this one was going to be a god damned nightmare. I closed my eyes, cutting my senses off from my body and looked deep inside myself.

Inside everyone, there is a place where your soul rests. With enough training and meditation, anyone could access it. Sages and monks have been doing it for thousands of years. It is part of the true path to enlightenment. For people like me, it’s a little easier. I’m not entirely human. It gives me an advantage in situations like this, as long as I don’t mind the world knowing exactly what I am. Floating there, inside my head, locked in its cage was my other self. Some might say my true self. I reached out and unlocked to the door.

Sounds flooded back into my mind. I could hear screaming and scrambling. I could smell fear, the weak, fleeting scent of human fear, so temporary, so passing, so damn intoxicating. Then I could smell the true fear. The eternal fear of the damned. The pungent powerful odor of those that know what waits in the void. I could smell Ralph’s fear. Its dread was mixed with the perfume of true loathing. It smelled delicious, and I was ravenous.

Ralph noticed the change. It tried to scramble back away from me, but it was too late. I had its scent. I had its flavor in my jaws and I would not let such prey escape. I let my talons unfurl around my hands, the blackness absorbing the little light left in the train as they formed into long blades. I clawed into the puss-like flesh of the bogey and held it firm as it screamed. Yes, bogeyman, your pain smells delightful. I pushed myself onto my feet, reaching through the floor of the passenger car and grounding myself to the earth beneath. The speed pulled me and stretched me, increasing my hunger. How long it had been since I had last feasted. The shaking of the car stopped. Some part of me rejoiced in that, but the human fear was lowering, steadying into the apprehension of being trapped on a train with a madman. It was not as succulent, but it would do.

Wrapping a talon around the mass of darkness and holding the bogey in place, I ripped a hunk of him free and swallowed. The taste of hate and fear sliding across my palate was orgasmic and delightful. I did not wish to savor this meal. I needed it to be eaten quickly. There was more food, endless food in the city. I would hunt again, I would feast again tonight. I tore the bogey to pieces, devouring each morsel and licking the stains from the floor.

I looked up at the dozen sets of eyes starring at me in shock. They were afraid. They were disgusted. Their emotions poured out of them with their sweat. I could feed again now. I could…

Pain. Unbelievable pain. An ax in my mind, ripping through me. Then cold. Frozen iron bands wrapping around my chest, pulling at my arms and legs. “No!” I screamed, “NOT THE BOX! I HATE THE BOX!” Then darkness and banishment.

My ears were ringing again. Not as bad now, but it was back. I deserved that. I deserved the discomfort. Humans feel discomfort. I was laying on the floor of passenger car six. There were civilians around, looking at me as if I was a madman having an episode. I shook my chest and foamed at the mouth, reaching for my jacket. I pulled out a pill bottle and popped several pills down. Slowly, methodically, I let myself stop shaking. It was practiced. Seizures were always a good explanation.

I stood slowly, shakily, and walked to the exit door. The screaming old woman came over to me, smiling warmly, “Are you okay? You had a bit of an episode.”

“I’m alright,” I grinned, “I forgot my pills. I’ll get off at the next stop and take a cab to a hospital, get checked out. Epilepsy. I think the lights caused it.”

She smiled again, and I could tell that she was worried. Worry is an emotion I’m not sure how to read. Was she worried about me or for me? I can never tell. In Missouri, it can go either way with the drop of a hat. “I took my pills, I’ll be alright.”

“Alright, then. Just take care of yourself,” she backed away and sat back in her seat.

I don’t think she bought it. The paperwork in this was going to be a bitch.

Author’s Note

I am hot and sweaty. Summer sucks. I moved to the arctic north to avoid heatwaves and humidity. 

Damn you, Aquanet. This is all your fault. 

To be fair. I wrote this a while back, but I also forgot what day it was and now I’m trapped in an endless loop. 

Send help.

Or bacon.

I will also accept bacon.