Susan took a deep breath as she peered toward the full moon. The forest was silent as the grave and the ground was covered with frost. As she released her breath, she saw it turn to smoke in front of her. The comfort of the manner house was far behind her. The thought of her warm bed and comfort of her dolls seemed like a passing thought.
Pausing, she looked around her. The forest was covered with newly fallen snow. The Pine, Fur and Sycamore trees where covered with snow. There branches too where covered with hoarfrost. Breathing out again she looked up into the night sky. The sky was clear without a cloud in the sky. Pale rays of moonlight filtered down through the branches.
"Man." She said as she watched her breath turned to smoke. "Its super cold out here.." She said stuffing her hands into the front pockets of her hoodie. A cold wind was blowing through the forest, the wind traveled around her legs pushing a sudden onrush of cold air up her skirt. The onrush of coolness made her shiver and sneeze.
"Better not be coming down with a cold again." She groaned as she started moving along. "Last thing I need is another bloody cold." Susan though something of a tomboy was cursed with a weak set of lungs. Sue did not get your basic cold, she always got a infection of some short. And that normally lead to her going into Hospital.
For ten minutes she walked, she had left the main trails some time ago. In fact she clearly remembered passing the last overgrown and abounded tree house some ten to fifteen minutes ago. For all she knew she was on virgin ground.. Then she blinked as she came to a clearing..
Dozens of small wooden crosses appeared before her. With dozens of more appearing behind them. There was no order to them, some where grouped together others stood along. The air became heavy as she started to move through the row of small wooden cross. A sudden shiver traveled down the spine of her back. She was passing through the fabled pet cemetery.
"This is so not cool, so not cool." She said shivering a little as she peered toward the row upon row of wooden crosses. "So not cool." She said again as she started to press on. She should be getting close. Her older sister said it was only a stones throw away from the abounded pet's cemetery. Soon she should finding the old railroad bed with its tracks still there. Maybe, maybe she should have used Google Earth to help her pin point the location or something. No, that would be have been the smart thing to do, the clever thing to do.
"Its not like we are allowed to use Google Earth at camp." Susan said as she dropped her backpack on the ground. Susan was a Girl Scout, and had been one for years. And it had been her training in scouts that had ingrained her to carry a small backpack with her on this little adventure. The pack held some basic items any would be adventure would need. Small items that years of hiking and exploring pristine woodland and lush hidden forest meadows.
The list of items included a small box of kitchen matches that had been coated in paraffin wax. A few old sheets of newspaper to aid in the start of a fire. A few plastic bottles of water drawn from the tap of the fridge in the kitchen. And a basic first aid kit to tend the most basic cuts and scratches. And last but least a compass to help her find her way.
And because she was a seasoned adventurer, or as seasoned as a dozen or so sessions of playing Dungeons and Dragons with your older brothers would make you, she also had a small battery powered lantern, a folding pocket knife and a walking stick. Now she mused, if she just took a little more care in choosing her clothing, she would fine and dandy.
Her spirit grow bolder as she touched teach item. Finally pulled the zipper tight and picked up the Lantern and started walking toward what she thought was the right direction. And soon she came to rails. The steel tracks ran far as the eye could see before it came to a bend.
Taking a deep breath she eased down on a old log and started to collect her thoughts. For a long time, she just sat there, peering around at the trees and up at the night sky. She was just about to call it quits when a sudden, ear piercing scream filled the air and the tracks in front of her started to move.
She looked up and the first line of the story her older sister told her a few nights before came to mind. 'It always happens on a night with a full moon. The first thing you'll notice are the old tracks starting to shake, then a whistle, loud and clear will pierce the night. It will turn your blood to icy water and your palms will start to sweat.'
Susan then stepped onto the tracks and noticed around the bend there was a lone light. A reddish orange ball of light and it was coming straight at her. Again she could hear her sisters voice. 'Then you will spot a orb of light coming toward you. it's the headlamp of the locomotive. At the throttle is the demon train driver himself. Driving his train toward madness and death. His eyes burning like the embers of hell, his eyes black as tar and his tattered overalls engulfed in flames!'
Then she saw the outline of the locomotive. The boiler was glowing red hot, the brass whistle was pouring out long streams of white, hot steam and yellow sparks jumped from the wheels as it pounded upon the old iron rails. Hanging out the cab she could sinister grin of the driver as he pulled down whistling cord. His insane laugh filled the night air.
Once more she heard her teasing voice of her sister in her ears as she watched in horror as the train started toward her. She seemed rooted to the ground. As it drew closer she could plainly see the hull was full of holes and the some of the rods driving the wheels where broken and bent and smokestack was bent crooked at a angle and yet it still poured out clouds of black smoke.
"It will appear before you, looking like a soul released from the fires of hell. Something so damaged and decayed that common sense would tell you it should have been scrapped years ago. Its boiler will glowing hotter than coal in hell, its smokestack bent crook at a angel, the hull full of holes and the rods broken and shattered. And hanging out of the broken cab.. The demon driver himself." She whispered as she felt the blood drain out her face and the palms of her head grow cold.
"Oh God.." She said as she flung herself on the ground. As she fell she felt the wind leaving her lungs. She had not know there to a log there and her body had landed across the log. As her body fell across the log and the wind left her lungs. She felt the train pass in front of her, a sudden gust of hot wind that caused the skin on her face to burn. Small specks of ash fell from the crooked stack and onto her. It only last for a second.. But for her it seem to last hours. Finally, she had gathered enough strength to roll herself off the log she had landed across. As she rolled, she landed on the ground. Her ribs stung and breathing was a chore.
"Oh God.." She muttered as she tried to open her eyes. She could still see down the tracks. Slowly she shoved herself up and finally her senses returned to her. As she placed her hand over her ribs to ease the pain she noticed something. Walking down the bed of the railroad was a figure.
The figure was covered in fire.. As tried to breath in, she found herself gagging on the smell of roasting flesh. A sweet, almost mouth watering smell that left one gagging in the end. It was like somebody had grilled rotten chicken.. Before she could catch herself she found herself bent over and vomiting up the remains of her supper. Pieces of chicken floated around a piece of bread in a sea of greasy yellow stomach acids.
Weakly she peered the figure that was drawing closer and closer to her. She could see a old style railroad lantern in his hand, and outline of his skull. Drawing on her last remaining ounces of strength, she forced herself to stand up and run.. And boy did she run.
It was not a graceful flight. More like a staggering run, as she pushed through the thick woods, she fell down. Low hanging vines wrapped around her neck and threaten to choke her, she clawed at them. Thorn bushes with brown horn thorns cut at her exposed skin and tore at her skirt and socks. She paid them little mind as she could still feel the figure walking toward her, his long, measured strides matching her inch by inch.
Then it happen, she found herself sliding down a steep bank. And soon she found herself face planting into gravel. Once more the wind left her lungs as her face fell into the dozens of small stones. A sudden onrush of water was pushed into her mouth. It tasted.. Refreshing. The water cooled her throat and she swallowed without knowing. For a solid minute she laid there, her body sprayed out in the shallow water. Every inch of her body filled with pains. And all she could do was swallow that water. And finally after another minute she raised herself up.
A low whimper passed her lip, her ankle.. She could barely move it. She could barely move at all. Using some of her last remaining ounces of strength she rolled over on her back. And there she laid. On her back, bedrock for a pillow and the willow trees above her as blanket. She found she could only take shallow breaths, small shallow breaths.
Finally, after laying there for several more minutes she raised herself up. And there to her horror she noticed the remains of a old locomotive. A twisted metal body, half covered in sand, half consumed by nature. A loud scream rushed from her lungs as she started to force herself back up the steep bank.
Several hours later. Just as dawn was starting to break and the first of the adults in the manner where starting to wake and start on the list of daily chores, among those was a early morning head count of the still slumbering children. The count reveled that one of the girls was missing. Her name was Susan Elizabeth Mari Bell of Room 8. She was not in her bed, nor was in her room doing some early morning reading. Nor was she in the kitchen getting a early morning bowl of sweet cereal or snacking on the remains of last nights grilled chicken tenders. Nor was she in library.. Nor was she in the computer lab checking her Gmail account or checking for replies and doing a few post on the many role-play boards she belonged too,
Josephine was the first to sound alarm. Adults and children alike where roused from there beds. Lavender her mother went into full commander mode as she marched up and down the hallway of the girls wing. Barking for the older ones to get dressed. Demanding each girl pack her kit. Like a general going to warm she demanded of the older girls form search parties.
William the head of the boys wing and the long haired Latin teacher, tried calm her. But instead was given a dressing down and told that the boys should be rallied. She then went one step further and demanded the boys be ready to march in a quarter of a hour. With full kits, a days worth of water, field rations to last them for days and hiking clothing ready.
Finally with the troops mustered and ready for deployment. And the Kendal Grove police department having been called and a Sapphire Warning having been posted. Lavender was ready to move out and find her missing daughter. She was just about to give the order to have them move out. When Susan came stumbling through the backdoor in the kitchen. She stumbled through the kitchen, before falling down upon the carpeted floor of the living room.
All eyes where fixed on her as the fourteen year old peered back at them. Her face was cut and bruised. Her hoodie was covered in sticks and stained with vomit. Tried blood was smeared across her head. Her breathing was shallow and labors and her fingers nails, where caked with mud and the pastel polish chipped.
"Ghost train.." She muttered as she finally gave up, her last ounce of strength passed through her breath and her body was forced to shut down.. She then fell into a dreamless sleep, she felt like she was being carried. She swore she was carried to the families SUV, then she swore she was being buckled up and finally she felt the car crank up. Warm air blew over her like a warm blanket.. The last thing she remembered before going asleep again was the red flashing A&E sign.. And entering a hallway of all white.