Whimsy Wednesday: The Night Train

Here I am to introduce Whimsy Wednesday, a flash fiction/short story section of my site. They may not always be whimsical, but they'll be flights of fancy for me. Now on to the first one.

The Night Train by Ryan Mauskopf

The Night Train by Ryan Mauskopf

    The deep purple of the sky pressed down on me, dampened by the halos of streetlamps. The rattling change in a beggar's cup called after me, chastising me for not adding to it. The warmth of the overpriced coffee chided me. I took a sip, averted my eyes from the faded advertisements.

    I had enough problems of my own, enough debt nipping at my heels that I shouldn't feel bad for passing them up. Hell, all I had was some crumpled bills to get me home.

    I took the steps down into the subway, aware of how alone I was. There were no other footsteps, only the scrape of paper as the breeze trailed after me. I pulled my jacket tighter, my hand slipped into a pocket.

    Checking my watch, I cursed under my breath. I descended the steps, almost tripping on the last one as a barreled toward the ticket booth. The man at the counter rolled a lazy eye at me, skin stretching as his leathery lips settled into a displeased grimace. "Five sixty." His voice came out nasally, lecherous.

    I dug in my pocket, dropping the money in front of him. A gnarled hand dragged it into the drawer. Feeling magnanimous, I said, "Keep the change."

    The toad of a man peered up, the thin line of his mouth setting. He reached out with a ticket. "You get the night train."

    I took it, regarding him with suspicion. "What's the difference?"

    "It's the last for the night. You're lucky. Most miss it," he croaked. He tapped a finger on the glass. "Here it comes."

    The screech of brakes against metal filled the empty station. I turned to watch a shabby single car creep slowly to a rest. Stepping toward it, I fought back the unease at the smoky glass, the filthy metal. I briefly considered getting my money, the walk across the city in this chill, but when I looked back, the ticket taker was gone, the booth abandoned.

    "Fucking skeeze," I muttered.

    Navigating the shadows, I approached the silent car, its doors shut and unmoving. I tried to peer inside the windows, but couldn't see anything. Clutching the ticket like it was a talisman, I stepped up to the door and went to knock.

    It slid back with a hiss before my fingers could touch it. A dark man, his uniform ruffled and stained, waved me in. I squinted to see his face, but the shadows coated him, wafting off every gesture like Vaseline. The light flickered unevenly. I handed him my ticket, was ushered into the empty cab.

    Forcing myself to sit down, I held the coffee in my hands to keep me warm. I took a big swig of the cooling coffee, waiting for the train to start, but it didn't. After a long minute, I called to the driver, "Hey bud, we going to be moving anytime soon?"

    His smooth baritone responded curtly, "More passengers."

    Before I could tell him that the booth had shut up shop, I heard the crackle of a fire, muffled but distinct. I craned forward, trying to discern where it was coming from.

    A figure stepped in, the sound of the fire more intense, as if wafting off him. I studied him, though I couldn't quite get a read on his face. He was well dressed though, crisp black suit, accented with white gloves. His green scarf fell loose around his neck. He didn't carry anything with him, just presented his ticket without a word. He sat next to me without a word.

    He smelled of old smoke, stale cigarettes, burnt cedar. I tried not to breathe him in, but found myself enjoying the mixture. The faint sound of crackling came from his direction, but I thought I was imagining it. The man crossed his hands, sat in silence.

    We still didn't move. I fidgeted, drank the cold coffee, made a sour face.

    "What's wrong, my dear?"

    I turned to the man, still unsure if he was handsome or disgusting. I focused on him, but found myself looking away for some reason. I stammered out, "I-My coffee's cold."

    "A pity," he said, the crackling complementing each word. He reached out a hand, touched the base of the drink with a single finger. "That should do."

    I picked up the drink, drew back. My fingers burned with its heat. "Thanks," I said.

    The man stared straight ahead, wordless. Only then I realized I was sweating. I opened my coat, let out a sigh.

    The tinkle of bells came with the clomp of heavy footsteps. I watched the door, unsure of what could be making those sounds. Pushing a stray hair from my vision, I watched as a hairy creature clomped in through the doorway. It bowed, its bristly fur bending against the frame. Its stubly arms presented its ticket and proceeded to amble its way into the back of the car. I couldn't help suppress my smile as I saw its polka-dotted tie and oversized suitcase. 

    Rather than sit in the seat across from the two of us, it plopped down beside the me, inching its way into the seat. A perpetual smile seemed seated on its face. "Ckilrevs," its tinny voice said.

    "E'rviay," the man in the suit replied.

    "Why are you still in that getup?" It rolled one giant eye to Ckilrevs.

    "Oh shit, I hadn't realized." The indistinguishable face erupted, curling like a bee's hive, a bright flame roaring out from the top of the cone. All that remained of his face was two beaded white eyes and his teeth. He let out a sigh, "That's better."

    "And who are you," E'rviay asked. It couldn't turn its head, but I could feel him baring down on me.

    "Giselle," I eeked out.

    "What a wonderfully human name." It said in its sing song voice. It's gaping maw opened, revealing rows and rows of circling teeth.

    The door slammed shut.

    I began to scream.


Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.