- The underlying story is historically true, it’s just my way of narrating it.
Darren wanted to go visit his parents and had some time to make the trip. He’d never been on a train overland for days, so he decided this would be a fun way to see his land and took the train rather than flying out as usual.
He bought his ticket and went to the line for boarding. Put his bags in the correct storage area for his section of the train, and kept a bag with his hygiene products and a couple of shirt and undie changes with him. When he got to his seat, he put that under his seat.
The conductor came by and checked his ticket, and gave him his pass to the dining car and settled into the seat. He wasn’t really hungry and pretty tired, so he settled in for a nap first.
As he dozed off, he saw a few groups of people going off and on the tracks with pick axes and shovels. It seemed odd that they would be working as the train was going on the track, but maybe there was an urgent situation? The train conductor didn’t seem bothered by it, so Darren relaxed.
While he continued his nap, he saw teepees beside the tracks and people surrounding them. They were being sent along their way by men in red coats. Some of the kids and women were crying. Again, Darren looked at the conductor for cues to whether he should be upset and the guy was cool as a cucumber. Did this kind of thing happen often?
Next Darren saw people passing furs to men who gave them baubles and bottles and he couldn’t see how those furs were worth so little in the exchange. But then the men gave the people blankets. Maybe they were thicker than they looked? He wasn’t sure what to think.
Darren woke up and realized it was a dream. He shook off his dream and went to get something to eat.
Later than night, he went to the sleeping car and got ready for bed. The train was going slower so it didn’t rock the people on it too much. When Darren settled in and dozed off, he saw the people repairing the track again. And there were some women and children walking beside the track. The children looked really sad. And the women seemed worried. They also looked hungry and tired, like they hadn’t eaten or rested in days. And some of them looked feverish and sick at the end.
That woke Darren up. He pulled his clothes on and went to the bar car. A few other passengers were there as well. They seemed kind of disturbed, like Darren felt as well. So he asked about the people on the track. The bartender assured him no one had been fixing the track since they began. And he would have noticed if large groups had been walking beside the train, cuzz he had just been on his supper break and looking outside as they had run thru a town he had friends in. He had wanted to see if any of them were walking about. So he could wave at them as he went by.
Darren went back to bed, reassured. As he dozed, he saw a few graveyards beside the track. Nothing fancy, just little wooden crosses and a few stones around the plot. So you knew the size of the body buried there. Some were gathered in groups of what looked like adult men, and some were grouped like women and children. Now and then he saw mourners beside the graves, but most of them seemed deserted and untended. Pretty desolate. Darren was sad to think so many lay forgotten by time.
He woke again and went to the bar car. Darren asked the bartender about the graveyards and was told there weren’t any along this section of track. Darren was willing to shake it off as his dream state. But these visions were something he’d never seen before. It was at least the trip on the train triggering the fancy, for whatever reason.
Darren sat beside an older man and asked him if he was familiar with the area. The man said somewhat. And went into the history of the people of the area. It was a pretty desolate area, hadn’t really had many people around since the reservations were relocated. And there were the shacks they had put up for the men who laid the tracks. But they were disassembled when the track was down and they moved on to the next section. A few farmers had tried to settle in the area, but they just didn’t seem to want to stay for long, or they died in a grass fire or got swept out in a river flood that was higher than most had ever been.
The old man said that many people thought the valley was haunted. He wasn’t so sure about the land, but he’d had some odd things happen on the train. Darren asked, like dreams? The old man looked at Darren and said yes.
Darren went back to the sleeping car and laid down while he thought about all of the old man’s story. He didn’t really sleep till morning was due. Then just for a little. He didn’t have any more dreams then.
Darren got up and ready for breakfast and heard some kids going by in the aisle as he showered and changed. They were gone as he went thru the corridor himself.
He asked the conductor if there was a school trip on board. The conductor looked at him weird and said no. With no other comment. Darren found his old man from the night and asked him about the school trip as well. The old man said there weren’t any on board. But he looked at Darren funny too.
When he was getting ready for lunch, he heard the kids again. And one of the teachers sounded angry and there was a slap sound and a kid started to cry. Darren was not happy to hear that at all.
So he asked about the kids when he again met the old man. So the old man said there used to be a school over the hill. Many years ago. But there really were no kids on the train.
Darren was getting confused and upset. So he went to talk to the conductor. And asked him about the area. He said he hadn’t really been on this route for long and didn’t live nearby. So Darren asked about the old man. The conductor didn’t know who he meant. When he was described, the conductor looked at Darren oddly and said there were no such passengers on this trip.
Darren had had enough. He got off at the next stop and booked a flight from there to his parents’. When he arrived, he just couldn’t shake off what the old man had said though. So he went to the library and looked up the history of the area he had travelled thru.
Everything the old man had described was true. Darren felt ill. He wasn’t sure what to think. But he knew he wouldn’t be taking that train route again. He told no one of this experience.