Previously published in BARE BONE 7
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There are cracks between the floorboards of the cafe, wide enough to lose a large coin down, sideways on. They are a constant wonder to me, and I always spend a few minutes each day, sipping hot sweet tea and mopping up egg yolk with a chunk of bread, watching the lights flash through the gaps...
...and hearing the screams of joy as the ghost trains rattle beneath.
Only if you get down on hands and knees will you catch a glimpse of a terrified face, a grasping hand. But that would be rude, to steal terror and enthralment from someone else's ticket, so to speak. I was brought up to respect things like that, as no doubt you were. Another man's fear is his own business. If you are lucky, as my fellow cafe friends and I are, you may find a place such as this, where the floorboards don't meet or the walls are too thin.
Then, and only then, is it correct to share another person's yells of terror, as they plummet from some skeleton infested precipice, into God knows what kind of blackness.
Not that my envy is a dark one. They deserve their particular mode of transport, according to the sum of their worldy goods. I myself, as you know, am merely a retired librarian with a pittance of a pension to get by on. I can just about afford a meal at the cafe every day, and a few hours of TV before I go to bed. Nope, no subterranean ghost rides for me, I'm sorry to say. No dangling, heavy cobwebs, no coffins expelling their inhabitants. Oh well, eh?
At least I have my bus pass.
It's a fair old distance away is my home by the industrial lake. I used to walk it in half an hour, when I was a young man, free of school and my family. Savouring the empty stinking shells of houses and the dark trickling ditches breaking through scraggy gardens. Walking the streets gave you a taste for better things. I was aware even as a tiny child, wandering alone through litter clad alleyways and crossing rusting walkways, that something bigger was going on, somewhere else. Unseen.
Aye, that was when I was young and fit. Can't expect to stay young and fit for ever, can you? And besides, the buses, although not in the same league as the ghost trains, do at least attempt to stir up a bit of fun for us. A sudden detour past the asylum on dark winter's nights. The occasional lump of rotting meat left inside a flat cap or stuck to a seat. One day the driver let on a gang of youths dressed as ghosts and they performed all manner of strange deeds under their sheets. It's not much, but it helps.
It's very much appreciated.
For some of us, though, it's just not enough. Not all the time. Some just can't take not knowing, you see? They have to know, even if it means breaking into the train tunnels and...well, the rest is hearsay. There's always someone with a story to tell. People cut down by the speeding trains, trains full of screaming faces. Others captured by the ones who run the trains...and provide the entertainment. All rumours, you have to understand. No real evidence.
Those that listen to rumour tend to fair better, and go to live in the old factories, swimming about in brown pools, running naked through dark corridors, in the hope that enthralment shall fill their hearts and then they shall have their own eternal ghost train. I can see them during the day, dressed as God knows what, standing about waiting for night. And at night I can only hear them, their echoing screams as they search through darkness for something that will always elude them.
I know, because I've searched too.
Sometimes, when I'm at peace, sat in the cafe, mopping up egg yolk with a chunk of bread, I'm almost convinced that my search has come to an end.
And then the trains come rushing beneath.
Get used to it? No, you never get used to it.