The Rail Trail
On a warm autumn day not unlike today, a few boys are meandering along an almost forgotten and little used rail trail. As they walk down the trail they can’t help but check out the over growth that had overtaken the path in various areas and in the process try to scare each other using the shadows and the plants.
After what seemed like hours to them, they realize that it is time that they made their way back towards the area of town that they live in by going back the way they had come. As they made their way back they were heading towards the brilliant reds and blacks of the start of an early autumn dusk that is in the not too distant sky.
As they walked playfully back a light wind stirred and with in minutes it was a steady breeze and with each gust it stirred up the fallen leaves and blows them round in circles. With each gust the boys could swear that the wind was carrying someone’s voice calling them, each hearing just their own name on the wind and looking around to see if they could see if they could find someone calling them as the daylight faded.
As they walked, slightly startled they could not help but be a little spooked a the growing shadows that looked like they were stretching out like arms even more so with the bare tree limbs that are bare enough to look like they are bony arms with long bony hands and fingers.
While walking they tried to avoid the piles of leaves to the point a couple times a one of the boys ended up being hit by branches that were being swayed in the wind as they got close to the trees lining the trail, and in the process his shirt got caught in the branch causing the boy to freeze in fear. This was made worse by the whispers of their names on the wind that had been increasingly grown louder, which now sounded like it was telling the boy "you’re next".
After a few moments of paralyzed fear that had gripped the boys after seeing that their friend was caught in the tree branch, the one that was caught up in the branch started trying frantically to free himself from the branch causing a commotion while whimpering in fear that was made worse with each passing gust of wind causing the fallen leaves to swirl around them like a small tornado and whispering.
His friends then tried to help him as he cam loose as his shirt ripped loudly leaving a swatch of fabric caught on the branch. When he came loose he didn’t hesitate to start running being tripped up by a root a few steps by a root inside of the shadow which were exaggerated enough to hide the root. As he fell he fell into the overgrowth which hid a slope that he slid down.
As the other boys realized what had happened, they started looking and calling him, at first getting nothing as he got up and shook off his fall and the dirt off of his clothes, then he yelled up saying that he was fine and just needed some help to get out of where he had fallen.
Frantically the other boys tried to find something; anything that they would be able to toss down to him so that they could pull him up. After a few minutes they realized that they could not do it by themselves and told him that they were going to have to go for help. When they left they said that they would be back as soon as they could not leaving anyone behind on the rail trail due to being too afraid to be there alone given the wind howling and sounding like it was whispering to them. They were so afraid that they ran as fast as they could to both get off of the rail trail and to get the help.
After a few minutes he realized that he had seen the slope before from looking at the view in the distance away from the slop but had just never seen the slope up close or where the slope led too for which he now knew. He also realized that it would not be easy for anyone to send anything down to him for him to grab onto since it would be almost impossible, for anyone to find where he had fallen through. With the next gust of wind he heard on the wind grab hold as a makeshift rope came flying at him that looked like it was made of the overgrowth.
The person that the wind sounded like was a kid that may have been just a few years younger than he was and he yelled back asking why he was out so late without his parents especially in a place like the rail trail. While waiting for the answer he grabbed the rope and started to climb up as the kid yelled down saying it’s not late but if you don’t hurry it will be too late.
As he climbed the wind seemed to die down almost completely as the boy’s voice got clearer with every passing minute saying please hurry, you’re almost there. When he was just about there, there seemed to be a hand that came out of no where as the kid said grab my hand so I can help you over these roots. As he got back up to the rail trail he looked around and it looked nothing like it had been before he fell down the slope. It looked like it was late afternoon like it been earlier that day just before it had started getting dark, it also had railroad tracks on it which hadn’t been there since before he was born.
As he took it all in he could not help but notice that the tracks looked well used and the area looked like it was well maintained so the tracks could be kept clear. As he looked up to see and to thank the kid that had helped him he was momentarily stunned by how young the kid was that he was looking at. He only came to his senses when the kid said that was a close one, thought I lost you there for a moment, then the kid introduced himself to the boy and he thought it was kind of odd because he had heard the name before but didn’t know anyone who new about the person.
The kid then started playing on the tracks and said that mom will kill us if we don’t make it home in time for dinner, especially where the sheriff had to drop us off the last time we got home after well after dinner. The boy even though knowing something wasn’t right with the situation could not help but be drawn into the whole thing almost like he was watching from the outside while the whole thing played out.
As they went along the boy failed to realize that they were going in the wrong direction and heading back towards where him and his friends had turned around to head back home. He ended up asking the kid almost pleading with him to get off of the tracks because he kept thinking that he was hearing a train in the distance blowing its horn, not knowing that it was really the search party that the other boys had gone to get. As they were walking, he did not know that they were busy trying to find where he had fallen trying to cut all of the overgrowth as they went to see down the slope.
The search part ended up completely clearing the surrounding area where they had found the torn piece of shirt and didn’t stop until someone noticed the makeshift rope made out of the overgrowth going down most of the visible slope. With the sight of the rope going down the slope they knew that it was futile to keep searching in that general area and knew that they had to split up in an attempt to find the boy.
Half of the search party went back the way they came to see if he had made his way back to town not knowing if he would be safe at home or not when they got to his home. They ended up looking through the underbrush as they walked back to ensure that he didn’t fall into the overgrowth a second time due to being disoriented or being unable to see from the darkness and the shadows. The other half of the search party continued on the rail trail in the direction that the boys had been heading in before they had turned around to go home.
As they went along searching they were all in turn calling out the boy’s name but the boy didn’t hear them calling him, instead he heard what he though was the whistle towards him and the kid. The boy when he looked back seen what appeared to be the billowing white smoke from an old steam engine slowly making its way towards him rather than the lights from the flashlights that would be pointing towards the sky temporarily as the people walked along the rail trail during the search.
The kid even though he wanted to play on the tracks, kept telling the boy that they had to hurry up and get home before everyone else finished their supper. The longer they walked along the tracks, the more the boy pleaded with the kid to get off of the tracks because of the on coming train slowly making its way towards them.
The kid told the boy on the last time to quit nagging him about getting off of the tracks because the train was no where near them and that by the time the train got to where they were, they would no longer be anywhere near the tracks.
As the search party got closer to the boy they thought that they could almost hear him on the wind speaking loudly as if he was carrying on a conversation with someone else that they could not hear but rather heard the wind as if the wind itself was talking to the boy as is stirred around them. What they didn’t know was that he could not hear them calling his name and could not see them even with their flashlights going in multiple directions as they walked, as well due to the fact that he thought that it was a train in the distance making its way towards them.
Even though they thought that they could hear him, they could it for granted and continued to cut away at the overgrowth as they walked, even though they knew enough to listen for him to respond to them calling for him. As they walked they kept noticing that there were periodic places that looked like it was disturbed with the footprints a single child, but in the way kids would horse around with each other.
After a number of times seeing this, one of the members of the search party noticed that there seemed to be a pattern to the placement of the child sized footprints. It had taken a while for the person to realize that the disturbances in the dirt were going in somewhat a zigzag pattern in a straight line almost like the boy way stepping over something while playing.
While the boy and the kid walked and played along the tracks the boy decided to ask how he knew that the train would not blow right past them before they had moved the tracks. The kid responded without even thinking saying that he didn’t know why he was asking since he knew as well as anyone what the train schedules are for the area especially since they lived by the tracks and you could set your watch by the trains. He then said, besides you should know that we are going just beyond the next ridge, which isn’t far at all. With that the boy decided to let the subject go so they would not end up in an argument.
The kid decided that they had more time to kill so he wandered over to some wetlands that they were coming up to, picking up some rocks as he went to start throwing them into the water. The boy followed behind filling his pockets as he went with rocks. He started throwing his rocks by lobbing them as high and as far as he possibly could trying to get the kid to compete in trying to see who could throw the furthest, saving the flattest of the rocks to skip across the waters surface, for which the kid would not compete.
The boy was glad in a way that the kid strayed from the rail road tracks to throw rocks in the water but also dreaded it as well given that he knew that the kid would inevitably go back to the tracks and of the fact that by wasting time there the train gets closer and closer allowing it the time to catch up to them even if the kid was telling the truth about where they were going not being too much further from them.
The sound of the train’s whistle was getting slowly stronger with each passing moment as it chugged along and the boy could have sworn that he could hear the faint clacking of the wheels of the train rolling over where each section of rail meets another and over the imperfections in the smoothness of the rails even though you could not see them. What the boy didn’t know was those sounds were actually the sounds of the people walking at a good pace trying to find him.
After what seemed forever, the kid decided that was enough and started back towards the railroad tracks, at first not paying any attention that the boy was, still there not knowing that he had left.
After going about half way up he yelled down to him asking if he was coming or not. With that the boy said "you could have let me know sooner that you were heading back" and started racing to catch up and not fall while doing so where it was kind of slippery in places.
The while racing to catch up turned it into a race to see who could make it back to the tracks first, during their little race a small trinket fell out of the kids pocket and neither one of them realized it at the time.
The while racing to catch up turned it into a race to see who could make it back to the tracks first, during their little race a small trinket fell out of the kids pocket and neither one of them realized it at the time.
When both of them were back up on the tracks, the kid started looking through his pockets and becoming frantic over something not being in one of his pockets. The boy after hesitating for a few moments he asked what are you looking for and the kid at first didn’t answer the boy and when he did he said that he had won something that he was going to give to our brother when we got home since he was too sick to come with us today.
With that the boy wanting to help look for what ever it was asked what it looked like but the kid could not answer coherently because he was to frantic over having lost it. The boy then started looking anything that he thought didn’t belong to the surroundings as the kid tried to explain what it was which all he could muster was a few grunts and some hand gestures as he looked himself.
After a few minutes he found a few things that he thought that it could be and one by one the kid had said that each piece wasn’t it so the boy went and tossed them down towards the swampy area that they had come up from a few minutes earlier. While tossing the items the boy noticed something that he could have sworn wasn’t there before when he was looking over the area and ended up going down to where it was to grab it. As it turned out it was the very piece that the kid had lost and the kid thanked the boy and then gave him a great big hug of appreciation for finding it.
The boy and the kid ended up heading back up to the rail road tracks after they were done and when they got back to the tracks they could see off in the distance the train that they had kept hearing off in the distance. They were able to see the headlight and the billowing smoke from the smokestack of the engine, not realizing that it wasn’t a train but rather the search party that had been looking for the boy.
While the boy and the kid had been looking for the trinket, the search party could hear the boy, distantly as he asked a couple times if what he had found was the item the kid had lost and again after the boy and the kid had gotten back to the rail trail as if he was horsing around with someone. They didn’t know that there was someone else there with him that they could not see or hear.
With each passing moment the search party got closer to the boy due to the frenzied pace that they were at and knowing that they had to keep up that pace from the lead had on them. They also knew that with each passing moment they needed to try to go faster and faster where he appeared to be horsing around with someone unknown which meant that he would be running at times which would increase the distance between them.
Even though they could not see him from where they were they were relieved at the fact that they could hear him, sounding more like he was having fun and not distressed in any way. Even still they did need to get to him as fast as possible to ensure that he was really as ok as he sounded.
After what seemed like hours, thanks to a small clearing on one side of the rail trail enough moonlight was shining through to show the figure of the boy for a few minutes. They also were able to see something that they never expected to see which was another figure along with the boy, a figure of another boy who looked a couple years younger than the boy. Both of them were still overshadowed by the darkness of the night, which made only their silhouettes visible in the moonlight, but there was something odd about the kid’s figure. His silhouette was oddly bright against the darkness that surrounded the boy and the kid.
The boys silhouette looked as it should given how dark it was that night but the kid’s silhouette oddly looked like it was almost glowing in the dark and what made it even worse is that as they got closer to the clearing, they could see that looked to be railroad tracks just as bright against the darkness. They knew that there was no way that any railroad tracks could have been left on the trail given that, that specific rail road line was long gone. As far as anyone knew all of the tracks that went though the area were taken up long ago when the boy’s parents were just kids themselves around the boys age.
At that point everyone in the search party knew that what they were seeing was not normal by any means and started calling for the boy as much as they could as they started running for him. Even though they were yelling for him he didn’t hear them yelling for him. Instead every time someone called out his name he heard a train whistle. The first one or two times he heard the whistle he turned around and seen the train that he kept hearing and he could have sworn that he could hear the trains wheels in the distance as they rolled over the tracks.
The boy beginning to get a little nervous as to how much longer further it would be began nagging the kid again about getting off of the tracks, until the kid told him that if he kept trying to hurry him up he would run into the woods and that he could explain to mom why you came home alone and why she needs to get dad away from his radio. The boy ended up telling the kid that he wouldn’t mention it again but that he just wanted them to hurry up where they could see the headlight on the train. When the boy said that the kid turned around and gave a good long look at the on coming train and said why hurry we still have a long time before it catches up to us.
While the train got closer and closer, the boy noticed that at around them was now a few fruit trees that looked like someone had been trying to take care of and he mentioned it to the kid. After he told the kid about the fruit trees, he said you don’t want to touch those, if the guy who takes care of them sees you trying to pick from them he will chase you. Then he said besides you want the grapes by where we will be turning off since he can’t see you stealing them. Even still the boy reached up and grabbed a couple peaches and a couple apples.
After he took the apples out of nowhere this older guy came out and started yelling at him for taking them and started chasing a little bit forcing the boy and the kid off of the tracks down the slope a bit just enough to be hidden by the shadows of the trees. They continued on for a few minutes on the slope to stay out of sight of the guy who was still yelling at the place that they had gone down the slope.
As they got closer to the boy they were now able to see the silhouettes of both the boy and the mystery figure easier through the limited moonlight shining through the trees and the kids silhouette seemed to be getting brighter as they got closer and looking more and more like a kid as well. What was unexpected at that point was that all of a sudden a few of the people were suddenly while walking tripped up by rail road ties that looked like they were in fairly good shape. They only stopped long enough to take in the fact that a few of them were now on the ground amongst something that should not be there.
After everyone was back on their feet and had shaken off the fall, they started running making sure that they were watching where they were stepping to some degree and calling the boy's name. As they ran to catch the boy and what they now knew to be a mystery kid they were now close enough to tell that it was the boy that they were looking for which made them try to run even faster to see if he was alright and to see who that mystery kid was.
The closer they got the louder the train whistle the boy and the kid heard got louder and louder to the point that it almost sounded like it was right on top of them given how loud the whistle was. The boy was more than a little nervous about how close the train had gotten and if it wasn’t for the fact that kid appeared to be unfazed by the on coming train. The boy took to trying to distract the kid enough to get off of the tracks because at that point the kid was actually walking on the rail closest to him trying to show how good he could balance on the rail as he walked.
After a few attempts of trying to get the kid to get off of the tracks so that the train could pass safely by the boy noticed that out of nowhere the trinket that the kid had lost earlier made its way out of the kids pocket onto the tracks. Knowing how much the kid had freaked out earlier the boy went ahead and said hold on you dropped the toy you won. Not realizing how close the train really was, the boy and the kid stopped long enough for the boy to pick up the trinket and for the kid to start walking towards the boy.
As the kid got to the boy to grab the trinket, they heard the train, which at that point was almost on top of them and the boy told the kid to run or to jump out of the way as he himself started to run. The kid just stood there looking at the train, while still in the train’s path and after a few large strides the boy turned to see that the kid was still standing there watching the train as the train was continually blowing its whistle. The boy not wanting to see the kid get hurt, ran back to the kid and by the time he got back to the kid the train was so close that the boy had to grab the kid and he tossed the kid off to one side. As he tossed the kid the train instead of hitting the boy went through the boy where he stood.
After the train passed the boy looked around for the kid and even though there was relatively little to hide the kid he could not find him and started to cry when he got back to the tracks and seen a single sneaker along the tracks and a few pieces of what looked to be the kids shirt. While he cried he got down to his knees and picked up the sneaker, not seeing the people around him trying to get his attention, it wasn’t until his father got there that he snapped out of it and even still at first when he looked at his father he seen his father at his age instead of as a grown up.
The boy started talking to his father asking how come you’re out of bed your really sick and if he didn’t get back to bed he would end up in the hospital like the doctor said. At first the boy’s father was at a loss of what to think or say, then he came out and said to the boy and said I haven’t been that ill since I was your age. Then he came out and asked how could you have known I never told you or your bother and sisters about that time, without thinking and as he was coming out of what ever got him to see the kid and the train, he said can’t you see the kids sneaker and torn shirt on the tracks?
The boys father ended up asking the boy who the kid and was really surprised that the boy who had never been told of his bad illness that had kept him in bed was now talking about someone that he could never have met. The boys father got his answer when the boy stretched out his arm towards his father, opened his hand and said as he came out of what ever he was in that he was just trying to get home to give you this since you were too sick to go with him to where he won this.
After the boy saying that to his father, the people that were part of the search party with him for the most part looked puzzled with only a couple people realizing who the kid was that the boy was playing with and what had happened. A few of the people started questioning what had just happened and wanted to know what they had seen with the boy. The boys father at first could not bring himself to say anything until after all of the memories of what happened as a child had come back.
He ended up looking down at the trinket and started talking by questioning how can this be, he died not far from our childhood home. This must be the spot where he died, with that he looked up at everyone and explained that what they had been seeing was the ghost of my younger brother who died as a young kid. A train had hit him on his way home after going to the town fair. Him and my older brother had decided to walk along the tracks and he had not been worried about an on coming train because he was use to the train schedules for all of the trains going behind our home.
That day he was going by the schedule like we all had a habit of doing and neither one of them knew that a train had been running late due switching problems a couple counties over that caused the train to be late enough to make them think the next train was a little early and figured that they had the time to make it home. One of the people in the search party ended up asking how far from home were they when it happened? With that the father of the boy said come with me and walked only about a hundred feet pointed down and said that is where we lived at the time.
The boys father said there was no way the boy could have known that this was where it happened or any of the information around my brothers death because the memories were buried and he had never been talked about by anyone him or how he died because of how much it hurt my parents. After the tragedy my mother wasn’t the same, every day she kept waiting by the living room door waiting for him to walk in and to give him a great big hug.
The boy ended up asking his father, why was he so determined to bring you back that trinket that I just gave you. The boy’s father said that he knew that this completed a set of toys that I was trying to win from the town fair and wanted to bring it to me so I could finally fill that empty space on the shelf I have always kept up on the wall in the living room. Then he said that the set is now complete even though it took many years to complete, with that they headed for home.
When they started walking, the boys father said come on the least we can do is pick a few of those peaches and apples for the people that helped me look for you, even though the trees are no longer cared for, and I bet they taste just as good as I remember too.
As they made their way, the boy ended up asking his father that if it didn’t hurt too much if he could tell him about his brother, for which the boy’s father did.
In the end the boy’s father was happy that his boy had gone on that little journey on the rail trail with the ghost of the kid who would have been his uncle.
When they had gotten a little ways away the ghost of the kid came back and waved as if to say good bye and then started walking only to disappear.