Sunday, January 22, 2012

Short Story: End of the Line

Seems to me it's been far too long since I posted a short story . . .

. . . hey look, here's one now. And it's, what else, a horror story!


End of the Line
by Paul Darcy

Malcolm had one of those days, and all he was thinking of, as he boarded the train at Marigold Station, was a hot supper and a early bedtime. The crowd of commuters found places to sit and when the mini-rush settled down, Malcolm found himself next to an elderly gentlemen; looked German, at least what Malcolm thought an old German should look like. He wore a very expensive looking watch, and his clothes looked like they were worth more than Malcolm’s entire wardrobe, which maybe wasn’t saying too much.

Several stops later, and only three from his destination, the train was suddenly emptying out like he had never seen before. Odd, but then he was too tired to wrack his brains for the probable cause.

On the second to last stop only he and the German were left, and one other, a student by the look of him, that had just entered. The newcomer was young, disheveled, wild-eyed and in obvious distress. He carried a large stuffed backpack and had his fist squeezed tightly around his cell phone. Malcolm dared not stare though. There was something about this guy that gave him the creeps. The doors closed and the train lumbered off to his final destination. Malcolm couldn’t wait for the next stop so he could get off this train.

They had just passed into the tunnel leading to his stop when a flash of light and a sound like thunder nearly made Malcolm leap from his seat. Then, like something from a dream he could see the student pushing his thumb down on the top of his cell phone and grinning maniacally. What the hell was happening?

As quickly as the strange occurrence began it ended, and they had passed out of the tunnel. The German man next to Malcolm seemed not to have noticed anything, and the student was seated such that Malcolm could not see his face. He no longer held the cell phone. But something was wrong. It took Malcolm a moment to realize what it was. Instead of the forested section of track outside the window he expected, there were no trees at all. The train was slowing, and came a stop. Had Malcolm fallen asleep? They were certainly not at any stop Malcolm new off.

The doors opened and the student got up, shouldered his pack and stepped outside. But this was no station, it was a field of sand and Malcolm was sure he could see other figures off in the distance. The student left the train and stepped into the sand leaving indentations which were nothing more than dimples as he walked off into the distance.

Watching his footfalls Malcolm could see the student was about to step on something which gleamed on the sands. It became evident to Malcolm what it was a moment before the student trod upon it ;a landmine!

Malcolm winced the millisecond before the student triggered the trap. Malcolm thought he was braced for the shock, but the explosion punched at him like a giant fist. Sand was blown everywhere from the concussion, and a muted scream could be heard seconds before something heavy crashed down beside the open doors of the train. It was the mutilated body of the student, both his legs were blown off.

But he was not dead. He was screaming from a face which was partially torn away from the blast, and, Malcolm noticed in horror, that the student was regenerating right before his eyes. In what seemed like no time at all, the student was whole again, up and walking across the sands towards another gleaming mine.

The doors closed and the train shuddered and left for another location. It’s got to be a dream, Malcolm thought. Some horrible dream from which he could not wake. But, before he could test his theory, the train had reached another destination and the doors had opened again. The German man beside his rose without a word and exited the train.

Outside Malcolm could see railway tracks, barbed wire and an open pit. Inside the pit he thought he could see the twisted remains of bodies, hundreds of naked bodies; emaciated almost beyond recognition. The German man had walked to the pit and knelt down. Malcolm could see now that his hands were tied behind his back and he was not wearing his fine clothes anymore, but striped prison garb. Malcolm knew with a chill that what he was looking at was a death camp of the second World War. But how?

Before he could make sense of it all, a figure walked up behind the German and pointed a luger at the back of his head. Malcolm, despite attempting it, could not look away. The figure pulled the trigger and the pistol fired. The German. head blow apart, toppled into the pit to land atop the many other victims already piled there. In a moment, the German twitched and screamed and came crawling back out of the pit. His head was almost hole again. He positioned himself again on the side of the pit again as the doors of the train closed and the train sped off once more.

Dear God, Malcolm said aloud. This was a train to hell and he was the only passenger left. But why? What unbelievable evil had he perpetrated to warrant eternal torment? He could think of nothing. He had lied, stolen petty things, been mean to others at times but nothing heinous enough bring him to this. It was a mistake.

The train stopped and the doors opened up. Malcolm, unable to resist, walked to them. Outside was a beautiful meadow, butterflies flitted from wild flowers and the sun shone in a sky full of fluffy white clouds. The air was warm and pleasant and a slight breeze wafted the delightful aromas of a hundred flowers to his nose. This was not a train to hell after all, it was merely an instrument to deposit the dead to their deserving destinations.

Several robed figures approached Malcolm and he felt at peace in this haven. No words were exchanged. One of the figures touched his back and he got a strange sensation there. Soon, Malcolm knew what was happening. He was sprouting wings. Just like a child dreaming of flying, he was being given the opportunity in this, his next life, to experience that joy.

Smiling and flexing his knew appendages, Malcolm made to lift off and join the multitude of beautiful butterflies in the sky, but two of the figures stopped him, each taking hold of one of his wings. What was this, Malcolm thought amused, maybe he had to wait for his harp? The smile of amusement on his face quickly changed to shock and pain as the two figures roughly grabbed his wings and began to pull.

Malcolm screamed in agonizing pain as he felt the muscles in his back tear, heard the joints at the base of his wings pop and break and then, on the verge of passing out from mind-numbing terror and agony, saw the figures, each with one of his severed bloody wings in its hands toss back their cowls to reveal multi segmented eyes on their insect heads.

Bleeding and screaming on the meadow, Malcolm could feel new wings beginning to grow back again as hundreds, if not thousands, of cowled figures approached forming a line as far into the distance as Malcolm could see.

* the end *

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