Bridge

… Ben’s head snapped upright, he must have dozed off again.

Riding trains always made him sleepy. Once he had slept clear across the state of Maryland, and as a result had ended up missing his stop by three towns. He felt that the rhythmic clack clack clack and the side to side motion was like riding in a giant cradle. Sitting up straighter, he looked over his fellow passengers in the coach car. There was fair number of people making the trip down from Casper to Denver, and most of the seats in the car were full.

He had been lucky to get a seat at all, given that the #30 train was a over-night “flyer” going straight through to Denver for morning. Sadly he had arrived at the station far too late to secure a spot in the sleeper car. The horrible rain that afternoon had put him behind schedule, so now he could look forward to a long night sitting up, instead of resting in a nice and soft little bunk. Damn his bad luck!

Shifting in the hard seat, he failed to find a comfortable place. Sighing after several minutes of fidgeting he pulled out his pocket watch. The time showed only 8:45 PM, which meant it had barely been ten minutes since the train had pulled out of the Casper station. Hell, this night looked as though it was going to last forever. Standing up, he patted down his pockets to find his cigarettes while he walked down the aisle to the door at the end of the car. Maybe a smoke and some fresh air would help clear his head a bit.

As he lit the cigarette, he stood in the open vestibule between the two coaches and pondered the dark landscape as it slid by. The October air was brisk and it wouldn’t be very long before the snow started to cover the low hills that he was watching travel past. Finishing up the smoke, he cast it off into the night and it quickly vanished from sight. Leaning out from the platform he could feel the train’s speed, and was enjoying the rushing wind as it tugged at his hair and clothing when he heard the screech of the drive wheels locking up, followed by the roar of metal and wood tearing itself apart.

Without warning the train had left the tracks and was now in the process of burying itself in a flooded creek. Standing between the cars was most likely the reason that Ben ended up in the racing water instead of being trapped in the now submerged coaches. Caught in the current, he was thrown around like a rag doll before the raging creek finally pulled him under. With debris spinning everywhere, the muddy fast-moving water dragged him along the creek bottom with the current. Just when his lungs had felt as if they were going to explode, a sudden shift in the water flow sent him bobbing up back to the surface and air.

Gasping in the freezing water he managed to twist around to look back at the rail line. The engine, baggage and coach cars were gone, as was the bridge that had spanned the creek he now found himself racing away in. The last image he saw before the water drove him into a large rock was that of the sleeper car standing nose down in the water. Then darkness claimed him.

He had no idea how long he been lying on the creek bank when he opened his eyes, but the sun was now high in the sky. Rolling over he tried to remember what had happened. Why was he wet? Sitting up he looked at landscape around him and saw nothing that he recognized. Swaying, he stood up and tried to walk, but his feet would not cooperate and he crashed back down into the water.

The water! He had been in the water. Now the memories came flooding back. Oh my god he thought, the train had gone into a creek. There must be people still trapped inside it, he had to find help! Trying to stand again he managed to stay upright this time. He prayed there was a farm someplace close by as he stumbled up the bank, but after a few minutes it was clear nobody lived in this part of the country. In frustration he dropped back to the ground ready to give up. That was when he heard people talking someplace nearby.

“Hello? I need your help” he shouted, but there was no reply.

Listening, he followed the voices and soon came across a woman and a boy standing on a trail looking at a metal sign.

“Hey! Help! There’s been an accident. We need medical help. Do you have a telephone on your farm?” but they paid no attention to him “What the hell is the matter with you? Are you deaf? People need your help!”

The pair just continued looking at the sign. He couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t respond. Faster now he started to walk towards them. The trail they were standing on was right beside the railway tracks. They must be able to see the train wreck and the missing bridge from where they were standing. Did they care that little? Were they that cold that they could just ignore his plea for help?

“For god’s sake there are people hurt” he screamed “don’t you care?”

But, the woman and the boy turned and started to walk away. This was more than Ben could stand. He ran after them, planning to shake the woman and make her answer him. As he caught up to them he grabbed at the woman’s shoulder but his hand passed through it. He tried a second time and again his hand passed through her as though she were a mirage. That didn’t make any sense! He was standing right beside them and they were acting as if he wasn’t there.

Then slowly the truth started to dawn on him. Turning around he looked back towards the creek and saw that there was now a bridge spanning the creek bed, and the lone sleeper car that had stood upright in the water was nowhere to be seen. Not wanting to believe what he was thinking, he walked uncertainly towards the bridge, afraid of what else he might find there. As he reached the sign where he had first seen the woman and the boy, he stopped and looked at it.

October 4th,1923

One hundred persons were drowned when Burlington train No. 30, en route to Denver plunged into Coal Creek with little or no warning.

The train left Casper at 8:35 o’clock and was slipping along through the night. Storms had swept almost the entire state of Wyoming during the day and it is believed that a cloudburst had struck the little stream caled[sic] Coal Creek, forcing its waters to a flood height, which carried away the railroad bridge.

Without an instant’s warning the speeding flyer plunged off into the raging torrent while its muddy waters engulfed the cars, sweeping into eternity the unsuspecting passengers, many of whom already were asleep.

The Denver sleeping car was the last to leave the rails. It tipped off the last link of track and buried its nose into the roof of the chair car just ahead, which already lay submerged.

Fairplay Flume Colorado Newspaper

The weight of truth hit him like a sledge-hammer. The woman and child hadn’t heard him because he hadn’t been there! His eyes flicked back to One hundred persons were drowned. If he wasn’t there, then the only answer he could think of was that he was dead…

… Ben’s head snapped upright, he must have dozed off again.

Riding trains always made him sleepy. Once he had slept clear across the state of Maryland, and as a result had ended up missing his stop by three towns. He felt that the rhythmic clack clack clack and the side to side motion was like riding in a giant cradle. Sitting up straighter, he looked over his fellow passengers in the coach car. There was fair number of people making the trip down from Casper to Denver, and most of the seats in the car were full.

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Bridge

    • I kept hearing the same story repeating itself over and over. Quite the nightmare to be caught in a loop like that. The voices were strong in that picture. Thanks for the kind words as always!

  1. Wow, great story, Ken. I didn’t see that ending coming, yet it fits in beautifully. This is a nicely crafted piece of work.

    I thought of a story for the doorway one, but not too sure if it’s too gruesome. I’ll think on it.

    • Hey Mike, nice to see you here and thanks for the kind words. I’m relived that people figured out the he is stuck in a loop. Cheers!

  2. How sad to be stuck in a loop like that but I suppose he doesn’t realize since he just keeps ‘waking up’. Great read, thoroughly enjoyed the story and you are a fine story teller.

    • Hi Indigo, thanks for the kindly comments. I’ve had dreams where I was dead but I was fighting to get someone living to hear me. It was fun to write, though I’ll admit that I think Ben didn’t think too much of his fate because it seemed that he resisted going into the water several times. I wrote then rewrote that part at least 4 times. Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: Picture This | Fictional Campfire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s