Thursday, June 17, 2010

Midnight Train - #FridayFlash

Stella woke to the sound of a train blowing its whistle. The lonely sound bled away as metal ground against steel to slow for a turn in the tracks, leaving her disoriented. There weren’t any trains that ran near her house.

Wondering if it was just a vivid dream, she looked at the clock. Midnight. Flopping back down on her pillow, Stella fell back asleep within moments.

“Did you hear a train whistle last night?” Stella looked at the morning newspaper sitting across from her. It waggled a bit, presumably in answer to her question. She just didn’t know if it was a yes or a no.

“Well, did you?”

Martin folded the paper in half, looking at her for the first time that morning.

“Train? What are you talking about?”

“Why do I have to repeat everything? I said did you hear a train last night?”

“There aren’t any trains around here.” He went back to hiding behind the paper. “Is there any more coffee?”

Stella got up and poured him more coffee, splashing it into the saucer for good measure. He didn’t take notice.

That night the train woke her up again. Stella got out of bed and walked over to the window. A low ridge nestled against their backyard. She’d climbed it many times and knew there weren’t any tracks up there, yet a dim light moved through the fog as brakes hit metal to slow for the curve.

“Martin, wake up. I can see the light from the train up on the ridge.”

“Go back to sleep. You’re dreaming.” She turned to see her husband cover his head with a pillow, unwilling even to check on her.

She stood there for a while, listening to the ka-clunk sound as the train continued on its journey. After a time, it seemed to blend with the beat of her heart – ka-clunk, ka-clunk. At last she climbed back into bed, wondering what it meant. An owl hooted into the silence that followed; an exclamation point to the emptiness of her life.

At 11 the next night, Stella slid out of bed and dressed, grabbing a flashlight as she left the house. It would take about a half an hour to reach the top of the ridge.

Just before midnight she saw the light of the train coming towards her. There weren’t any tracks, but she heard the ka-clunk sound anyway. The whistle blew as the train slowed to a stop. The conductor stepped out of the first car and tipped his hat to her.

“Will you be boarding?”

Stella turned and stared down the hill at her house before answering. She thought she saw movement at the bedroom window. Turning back to the conductor, she made her decision and placed her hand in his.

“Where are we going?”

He shrugged one shoulder and gave her a smile. “I don’t rightly know, ma’am. I guess we’ll find out together, won’t we?”

Stella smiled back. That was good enough for her.

©2010 Laura Eno