… 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.


Picture This – a new challenge!

A new month, a new challenge!

I’ve decided to go in a totally new direction with my photo prompt challenges. Starting today (Monday), at the beginning of every week I will post up a picture that I feel has a story is living in. Then the following week (Monday) I’ll post that story, pick a new photo and start it all over again.

While this is more of a challenge being issued to me, all of you are more than welcome to play too. If you feel a story speaking to you from the image (and you have time!), by all means please share it with us. If not, maybe next week’s picture will, so no worries, no stress, no deadlines, remember the object is to have some fun!

Guidelines (not rules),

  1. Have fun. No stressing allowed! If you get stressed I’ll be forced to find you and challenge you to a pillow fight! (I am truly awesome at pillow fighting so beware)
  2. Write the genre that the picture tells you to. You hear mushy, then write mushy. You hear mystery, then write mystery. And if by chance you hear Alien-Zombie-Werewolf-Apocalypse, I really really want to read that story!!!!!
  3. Word count. Hmmm? More than 1 and less than 1,000,000 will be fine. Seriously let the story decide, they usually know long to be. But if you need a firm number, not more than 1500 words should work well.
  4. Post a link to your wonderful story in the comments below, and I’ll list any on the next weeks posting.
  5. Oh yeah, have fun. Yes I’ve said that already, but its worth saying again!

So without further delay (or puns, or jokes, or…) here is the very first “Picture This” photo prompt.

The picture was taken by my very talented friend Sara Hannaford, and I thank her very much for allowing me to use it for a story. When I first saw it, I could tell there was a tale hiding somewhere inside it.

Even now the voices are starting to speak to me from it, so I’m going to have a chat with them. Happy wordsmithing friends, and I look forward to reading what ever comes out of the picture.


More Changes!

Hey all!

July has come and gone. Half the summer has passed by in the blink of an eye, but hey life is like that  sometimes. For the past several months I’ve posted photo prompts for a flash fiction challenge. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed the stories that have been crafted from those pictures.

But my little challenges are just one small part of the wordsmiths that I call my writing friends creative output, and while I look forward to next tale they will share at the campfire, I worry that I’m cutting into their already limited writing time. Therefore, goodbye “Snap” challenges and hello “Picture This”.

Each week I’ll post a single photo for inspiration. My goal is to write a story to match it (I realized I haven’t actually written a Snap challenge!). Should anyone find a story lurking inside its four walls, they are welcome to join in too!

But first I have to finish up the book-keeping so to speak. Last month the incredible writing machine (and blogging buddy) Ozlem Yikici offered this response to my challenge. She even managed to use ALL 4 photos! You are a true inspiration Oz. Check out her story;

Ferocious Fireworks by Ozlem Yikici

So I offer many thanks to all my friends that have contributed stories to this challenge. Now on to the new month and a new challenge too! Stay tuned.

Message Waiting…

I’ve been doing some house cleaning on my blogs, and I came across this story again. It was my very first piece of flash fiction. Funny, but when I wrote it, I never figured how much it would change the direction I was going in. My love of flash fiction (reading and writing) plus the “campfire” are both direct results of it. It remains one of my favorite stories which I have told. So for those of you that may have missed it (or feel like reading it again) here is…

Message Waiting…

She had been warned, but now it was too late! The text messages were all the proof needed. Alone on the rain-soaked front porch of the house she stood frozen, trapped between fight or flight. Staring at the doorknob and fiddling with the keys, Sara replayed the events of the last half hour over in her mind. It was a nightmare come to life.

It had been a good day at work, and she had felt quite pleased with herself that nobody had figured out her “little secret”. Smiling, she had shut down her computer when her cell phone alerted her to an incoming message. Checking the ID she didn’t recognize the number, so she opened the text. “I know” was all it said. A cold shiver ran down her spine. She snapped the phone shut and quickly looked around. Not a soul in sight. She took a deep breath and flicked off the desk light.

By the time she exited the elevator, she had convinced herself that it had been a wrong number and was nothing to worry about. Shoes clicking on the foyer floor, she walked past the guard at the security desk.

“Night Sara” he said as she came along side the counter, “any big plans tonight?”

“Nope Dave” was her answer “just a nice quiet night. See’ya.”

The guard smiled as she left the building, then picked up his cell phone. She was unlocking her car when the text alert sounded again. The ID was the same number, and this time the message said “I’m waiting”. This can’t be happening she thought. Quickly she got into the car as she scanned the parking lot. No one was visible. Frightened she jammed the car into gear and speed off towards home.

Her breathing had slowed down by the time she had pulled into the driveway. She was resting with her head on the wheel when the phone chirped a third time. The same number, and this time the text said “soon”. No this wasn’t real, this happened to other people not her! Looking at the street she saw nobody around, so she bolted from the car to the front door where she stopped.

Finally Sara thrust the keys into lock, and pushed the door open into the waiting darkness. Her hand found the light switch, but it didn’t work. Slowly she edged down the hallway towards the kitchen. From the darkness of the living room she heard a bump followed by a low curse.

“Hello, is there someone there?” she challenged, as fear twisted in her chest.

Suddenly the lights blazed on revealing her friends and co-workers.

“Surprise! Happy birthday Sara!” they shouted.

Sara screamed and fainted.

A few hours later as the sounds of laughter spilled from the house, no one noticed the uniformed man standing in the backyard shadows. He opened his phone to check the clock. Oh well he thought, I have time and besides, she had been warned.

Photos: (Top left) “Street” by jijis (Flickr), (Bottom right) “Stormy Night” by Christina Welsh (Flickr)