By Joyce Jacobo
[Author’s Note: My brother challenged me to write a short story about a train passing through a station that no one can see. The results were an experimental flash fiction.]
Evening has arrived at the small train station. Like many stops along the railway line, it offers a brief pause between one destination and another, where hopeful passengers tend to keep their minds focused on the places the westbound or eastbound train might take them.
Despite the late hour, you climb a set of steps onto the platform for the westbound train. Fog surrounds the station, and the chill in the air makes your heavy coat a great comfort. You sidestep puddles left from an earlier rainstorm and take a seat on a bench beneath a broad awning. Lampposts standing at regular intervals along the platforms offer enough illumination to reveal you as the only person here. You have the distinct feeling of having stepped into another world, cut off from everything you have ever known. Even the sounds of the surrounding city seem muffled and quieter than usual.
You check your watch: 7:30. The next train is due at 7:45.
The minutes tick by slowly.
7:31… 7:32… 7:33….
Then you hear the whistle of a train, but an involuntary shudder runs through you. While the westbound and eastbound trains have strong, reedy whistles to signal their arrival, the whistle for this one is closer to a chorus of shrill, indiscernible voices crying out in the darkness.
A pair of greenish lights pierce through the fog at one end, on the same track yet in the opposite direction from which your train is supposed to come. You spring to your feet, expecting to see a train burst into sight.
Instead, the green lights disappear and the fog swirls as something barrels through the station. It passes inches in front of you as the shrill whistle reaches a bone-tingling pitch. Before your mind can process anything, it has moved on into the distance and the whistle has faded away.
The fog clears from around the station, and the noises of the city intrude in full force.
But all you can do is stand there and stare after a train you had never seen.