PART ONE OF THREE
Larry Steinberg drove down the highway and whistled happily to the country tune that came on the radio. Some cowboy had lost his girl along with everything else, and listening to the lonesome man's sorrow made Larry feel grateful for his own life. After spending three weeks out of town at an investments convention, he was finally able to go home to his wife.
He didn't like to be away from Pam for a long amount of time, but he wasn't ready to give up on work just yet. Staying at home all day every day, would drive him stir crazy. Pam too, eventually. She'd made countless attempts at convincing him to retire, but he couldn't bring himself to. He liked working, and he was lucky to have had such great opportunities still, and being sixty two years old certainly wasn't going to slow him down as far as he was concerned. It was just an age after all, and he felt as though he still had quite a few more good years left in him. Life had turned out pretty well.
He smiled to himself as he saw the familiar sign on the town limit, that indicated he had almost reached his destination. His town. The place where he had lived for all of his life, the place where he belonged to after coming home from his work. It was always a comfort to know that the long roads that he drove down, always led him straight back to here eventually.
The song finished up, and an announcer came on to read the news, stating that the time was now midnight. Another day was finally over, and being reminded of this caused a yawn to erupt from Larry. He couldn't wait to get home to Pam, she would always wait up for him when he was due back, no matter what the time was. He smiled to himself for a moment, as he pictured her tender smiling face welcoming him home. He also looked forward to being able to sleep in his own bed. The motels and hotels that he got to stay in were nice and all, but nothing felt more comfortable then the feel of his own pillows, and his own sheets, and the way they smelled of the floral detergent that Pam would carefully pick out from the store.
For a moment, he needed to turn off the thoughts of home and instead, concentrate on the road. A layer of thick white mist was suddenly hovering over the asphalt, illuminated brightly by his headlights. It was strange, he thought, for it to be here on such a clear night, even the moon was shining down full and strong overhead, but he simply shrugged it off. It didn't matter. He'd be arriving in town in a minutes time, it was waiting for him just behind that very patch of mist, then he'd be home in less then five minutes after that.
Suddenly, something interfered with the radio's signal, and the newsreader's voice crackled, then faded in and out on a wave of distortion. "What the hell...?" Larry said out loud to himself as he reached over and pressed a few buttons on the panel, but the signal did not recover properly.
After failing at his attempt at re-tuning into the station, he turned it off altogether, cursing under his breath as he was plunged into the silence of the night, only the sound of the engine for company. But just then, the engine started to stutter and cough roughly.
"Oh hell! What now?" Larry shouted out in anger as the whole car suddenly started to die. The noise that he could hear in the engine became worse, it cried out with mechanical pain, causing the whole car to start jumping and misbehaving, before finally, it cut out, and it all went silent.
Before Larry had managed to apply the brake with his frustrated and fumbling foot, the now un-powered car rolled for a couple of short moments coming out of the mist before the pedal went down, and it came to a stop.
Larry applied the handbrake, and shot a quick glance out of the windshield. Just up ahead, he could see the town's first house, which looked out towards the road, a huge tree stood on the property's boundary, it's branches silhouetted black, and jagged like a worn wire brush against the moon lit, star speckled sky.
He tried the ignition, a few clicks and choking sounds were let off as the engine struggled, but the car just wouldn't start up. After trying a few more times, he gave up, and instead, hit the dash with fisted hands in frustration.
He squinted his focus back towards the house, and saw that it's resident had left the porch light on, but the rest of the house was in total darkness. For a moment, he considered taking a walk up there, seeing if anyone could come and help him out with his car, but realised that at this hour, most folks would already have turned in for the night. Instead, he reached over to the glove compartment, and let his hands search through the various receipts and CDs that were shoved in there in a disorderly fashion, and pulled out his cell phone.
He didn't like to use the phone normally, which is why he kept it stowed away. Not only did he despise the damn things, but he just wasn't very good at using the latest type of gadgets. Besides all of that, he tended to accidently press two buttons at a time whilst dialling with his thick fingers, but Pam had insisted that he always carried it around in case of emergencies, and, as it was just that, he figured he had no choice but to give in to technology just this once.
He'd call Pam. She'd have to come out in her car to get him, then he'd be able to sort out what to do with his in the morning. To hell with it tonight, he was too tired to call out the break down service, especially when he was so close to home now.
He looked at the phone screen, then scratched his head in puzzlement with his left hand as he tried to remember how Pam had told him to use it. He supposed that the young 'uns were better with these things then he was, but these gizmos wern't around when he was younger and he'd managed just fine without one, at least until now. Funny how these things could creep up and bite you in the ass.
He pressed down a random button, and the screen became bright, which faintly lit his car up with an eerie blue glow. Then, making an effort to press each button in turn carefully, he punched in their home number, then lifted the phone to his ear.
As the phone rang out, it started to crackle, much the same as the radio had, but Larry kept it going anyway. Finally, he heard a different sound in the earpiece. It was a throaty whistling sound. Strange, he thought. Then the phone cut out and the power went off on it. "Damn stupid thing!" he shouted, chucking it onto the passenger seat in anger.
He let out a heavy sigh as he tried to calm his temper. Then he heard the whistling again.
This time, the high pitched noise was accompanied by another sound, and whatever it was, sounded as though it was getting closer.
Larry shifted uncomfortably on his seat, and turned so that he could see out of the passenger window, the direction that his ears were telling him the sounds were coming from. But there was nothing there, just an empty dried out field bleached by the moonlight, though he could still hear the sound getting closer and closer.
He reached down to his side, and undid the seat belt so that he could Lean closer to the window, looking out to find the source of the sound, the whistle again sounding over the heavy clickedy clack, clickedy clacks. "What on earth is that?" he asked himself as a puzzled expression crossed over his face. He squinted into the night that surrounded him.
Suddenly out of nowhere, more mist appeared in the distance, though it seemed to spray outward as if something were pushing it's way through. Then a strange darkness shimmered where the mist was parting, at first translucent, then solidifying as it drew closer, fast. Very fast.
Larry's face dropped in horror as the shape became clearer. He reached for the door handle, but it was stuck. Without hesitation, he scrambled to the other door, and reached out to open that. But that's when another strange thing happened. The locks suddenly went down on the remaining doors. He was trapped inside.
As the panic started to eat away at his nerves, he beat his fists on the windshield, yelling hopelessly as the huge locomotive carried on heading towards the side of the car on a direct collision course. Failing to break the glass, Larry tried one last attempt at the ignition, but to no avail.
In his last moment of life, Larry turned his gaze on the speeding train, which was identified as 'No. 5' from the plate on the front of it's boiler, and that's when he realised that he now knew exactly how that cowboy had felt.
The car was thrown into the air on impact, the side now a mangled mess that resembled a crushed tin can, as it fell and rolled on the ground numerous times before landing on its squashed down roof, debris shuttling outwards in all directions.
The locomotive started to slow down as it whistled again, it's wheels screeching to a halt on a non-existent track, as steam was sent pouring from it's boiler in a flurry of cotton-like strands. Then, it flickered, carriages and all, and finally disappeared into thin air.
ONE WEEK LATER...
"Okay, this is kinda strange." said Dean Winchester. He was looking down at the newspaper that he had opened out on his lap as his hands cupped a steaming hot coffee. His feet were up on the small table that was set in front of him, crossed at the ankles.
"What is it?" his brother Sam asked curiously, looking up from his laptop.
Dean looked up from the paper and met Sam's gaze, "Well, I think I just found our next gig."
Sam was relieved. They'd been stuck in this damn motel for almost a week now, and they had been looking through obits, keeping an ear on the police scanner, and he'd scoured the internet for signs of anything supernatural happening somewhere in America, but for some strange reason, things had been kinda quiet recently. Until now, that is.
He'd never been a fan of just sitting around waiting for things to happen, that just made him feel useless. He liked to be out there, active. Trying to make a difference, even if it were only a small difference. He had to be doing something.
He closed the screen on the laptop down, and hopped off the bed on which he'd been sat, then walked towards the table and sat on a plump padded crimson chair opposite Dean. "So what have you found?" he asked.
"Well," started Dean, looking back down at the paper, referring to it, rather then reading it out word for word, "Two people have been killed in Jasper, Texas. The first victim, was a Larry Steinberg, a business man who worked out of town a lot. According to this, he'd been travelling home after some convention he'd been to, when the accident occurred, just as he'd driven back into town. His car was completely messed up. The're pretty certain that he died instantaneously on impact. He had multiple skull fractures, and both of his legs were broken, amongst other things. From what they can tell, it was probably some sort of large vehicle that collided with him, hitting from the side."
"What about the second victim?" Sam asked.
"A Ray Henderson. They found him in his car, which was in an almost identical condition as they'd found Larry Steinberg's, except for the fact that instead of it happening as he was heading into town, it seems that he was leaving at the time. He also died from fatal injuries, and his car was banged up the same way, and both accidents happened on the exact same bit of road."
Sam's interest piqued, "The same place? Did anyone see what happened?"
"It says here, that there was one witness to Henderson's death, a Dolly Hancock, but the sheriff's department have dismissed her statement, saying that it isn't a viable enough eye witness account."
"Not viable enough?" Sam asked.
"Yeah," Dean continued, "She claims to have seen what happened that night from her porch. She lives not too far from where the accidents happened, the first house on the edge of town. Anyways, it seems these reporters," he tapped his finger onto the paper, "quizzed her about it themselves later on, and she told them that she'd seen a train appear, then hit Henderson's car, before it kinda just...vanished into thin air. Of course though, like the police, no one is taking her seriously."
"Great. So we've got ourselves a ghost train?" Sam asked slightly bewildered, his eyebrows raised.
"Sure looks like it. I mean, I think we should definitely go check it out before anyone else gets killed." Dean answered seriously.
Sam sighed, "We get some interesting jobs that's for sure." but deep down inside, he was glad that they had finally found something worthwhile to do.
Steven Bradbury franticly threw the suitcase from the closet and across the room where it landed on his bed. He paced around, his hot skin flushed red and sweating with the stress, as he decided what he would need to pack. Finally, he bent down to a bottom drawer, scooped the entire contents up into his arms, took a few steps across to his bed, and threw everything messily into the case. He didn't have time to worry about the fact that he was creasing everything up.
He repeated this ritual a few times, until he'd managed to gather himself a mixture of different clothes, shoes and under garments. Finally, he hurried over to the night stand, and opened the small top compartment. He took out a thick wedge of dollar bills that he'd been keeping in there for emergencies, and pushed them deep into the inside pocket of his denim jacket. His hand reached back into the compartment searching once more until he found the other item that he'd been looking for. His passport. He wasn't even sure if he'd be needing it yet, but thought it would be a wise idea to take it just in case.
Stuffing the passport into the same pocket as the money, he turned on his heels, and leaned across to zip the suitcase up. The zipper tried to fight back due to the un-even bulkiness of the items within, but he persisted. Pushing around the edge with his left hand, he brought the zip around with his right. It took him a couple of minutes, but in the end, he had succeeded in sealing it up, and immediately lifted it up by the handle.
He took big strides through the house, until finally reaching the front door. He let himself out, slamming the door behind him as he made his way over to his truck. He opened the drivers door and tossed his suitcase across to the passenger seat, then climbed up into the cab, where for a second, he paused to take in a deep breath. "It's gonna be alright Stevie," he said out loud to himself, "gonna be far away from here in no time at all."
He reached the key down and slotted it into the ignition, turning it straight away. His old truck came to life, and he drove away fast, his tyres scratching against the dirt before they caught hold of the friction.
As he soared through the town, his head was far away, filled with chaotic thoughts. Things were just getting way too crazy for his liking, and he needed to get the hell out of here.
Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he reached the other arm up and wiped away the sweat from his brow with his sleeve, but more soon formed across the line of his greying hair. It was darn hot today, and the sun was blazing down on the truck's exterior, heating up the insides like an oven, and Steven found himself regretting to get the air conditioning fixed. He would just have to put up with it for now.
A few minutes later, he was relieved to see that he hadn't got far to go before he could put the whole nightmare behind him. Before he could get away from Jasper and the whole god damn mess for good. He quickly glanced out of his window as he passed the old Hancock place, before returning his eyes to the road. That crazy old lady and her meddling stories, he thought to himself.
But all of a sudden, his engine started to sound funny. It coughed and spluttered loudly.
"Oh c'mon! Not now!" he yelled.
But the engine ignored his plea and cut out.
Forced to apply the break, the truck came to a halt. Steven felt a surge of panic overwhelm him as he looked out of the windows, jerking his head backwards and forwards, searching. But there was nothing to see, everything outside was quiet and still. Maybe a little too quiet and still, an atmosphere just like the calm before the storm.
He reached for the door handle. But it wouldn't budge. "Sonofabitch!" he yelled, the annoyance creasing the deep lines on his aged skin.
He tried again and again, this time with more force, to open the door. But it was stuck. He tried the passenger side too, but that wasn't opening either. Deciding that wasn't going to work, he tried to wind down his window. That handle wouldn't budge either. "God damn piece of shit on wheels!" he cursed.
He sucked in a big lung full of air and relaxed in his seat for a moment. His eyes ran over the dash, then to the floor on the passenger side where he saw his torch. "Ah ha!" he said as he reached down to grab it.
He began to hit at his window with the end of the thick heavy torch, when finally, the glass cracked then gave way, falling outward. He then carefully placed his arm through the hole he'd made, and reached to the handle from the outside, but the jagged glass had snagged on his jacket sleeve. He tried to pull free, but he was caught near his upper arm and couldn't move. His face was almost touching what remained of the glass towards the edge of the frame, and he had to stay still so that he wouldn't cut his face.
That's when he heard the whistle.
Horror raged through him, and he realised that facing a few cuts would be better then facing the real threat that was after him. But he still couldn't get free. He tried to stretch his fingers, and felt around for the handle outside, but he couldn't reach it. His nails scratched helplessly at the metal exterior, glass fragments fell and cut his skin as it landed between his fingers. His breaths grew desperate and uncomfortable as he heard the whistling again, now accompanied by another noise that seemed to rumble through the ground.
Suddenly the glass that had held his jacket gave way, but the shard ripped through the denim and bit deep into his skin. He yelled out in pain, and then again as his face fell against the jagged edge and tore through his cheek. Blood poured down, and he felt nausea taking over, gripping him intensely.
Not being able to move for the pain, not being able to do anything to help himself, all he could do now, was wait as the sounds grew closer and the whistle got louder.
Then he saw it.
It appeared in a sudden wisp of thick mist just a few meters ahead of him. No, not mist, steam, he thought.
His eyes widened as the train approached fast. The old woman's story had been right after all.
Dean drummed his fingers happily against the steering wheel as he drove to Ratt's 'Round And Round' so loudly, that he couldn't even hear the sound of the 1967 Chevrolet Impala's roaring engine over it.
It was a really sunny day out, and he felt on top of the world, his good mood unbreakable. He was even looking forward to this next hunt that he and Sam were going on, and was glad to have finally put the motel behind them. Kicking some evil ass would be a whole lot of fun right about now, and as they grew closer to Jasper, he could feel the excitement building up with every moment that he saw the Texas countryside whiz by through the windshield.
Suddenly, the music stopped, bringing Dean out of his reverie. He shot a quick sideways glance at his brother Sam just in time to see him pull his hand away from the radio. "Dude! I was listening to that!" he snapped. Okay, so maybe there was something that could ruin his mood after all.
Sam didn't look at him, he simply pointed to something out of the windshield not too far up ahead. As they got closer, Dean could see a number of police patrol cars parked in a group, and one of the officers was cordoning off an area just off the road with yellow crime scene tape, wrapping it securely around makeshift stakes that they'd temporarily hammered into the ground.
"Okay...this has gotta be bad." Dean said as he started to ease off on the gas pedal and began to drive past very slowly, both himself and Sam glancing over at the accident. At the side of the road they could see that four tyres were stuck up in the air, the pickup truck that they belonged too, crumpled in on itself underneath. A number of police officers were walking carefully around the wreckage surveying the damage, some taking down notes, while others took photographs. A coroners van was also parked close by.
Deciding they should probably find out what had happened, Dean pulled the Impala over to the side of the road just up ahead, and stopped.
Sam had twisted himself around in his seat and was looking out through the rear window, trying to watch on from a different angle. Suddenly, he whipped his head back around and looked directly out of the windshield, and gazed at the house that was just up ahead.
Dean realised that Sam must have thought of something judging from the expression that was now on his face. "What is it?" he asked.
Before Sam answered, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the pages of the newspaper that they'd read about the recent accidents in. He gasped as he confirmed something to himself. "Dean! This is the same road that the other two accidents happened on!" he handed Dean the pages which showed various photos of the accidents before, the town, and Dolly Hancock's house which was the house that was right in front of them now.
"Damn! We didn't get here on time! It's killed someone else!" Dean cursed looking down at the photo, then back at the real Hancock house, "We gotta find out how to stop this friggin' train before it kills off the entire local population. At this rate, it wouldn't take it long!"
Dean was right. Three deaths in this short amount of time wasn't a good sign, and it wasn't as if there was a big population in town for the train to work it's way through. They had to act. Fast.
Just then there was a tapping at the window which made both Sam and Dean jump.
"You fellas shouldn't be stopping here! This is a crime scene! I'm gonna have to ask you to carry on drivin'!" said a young dark-haired man as he glared at the brothers through the glass. He was wearing a smart tan coloured uniform and a hat that matched. Embroidered badges on his shirt identified him as a deputy from the sheriff's department.
Dean shot a quick look at Sam before looking back at the man. "Er...we're sorry deputy...it's just we're from the Texas Tribune, we came to town to do a follow-up story about the two accidents that happened here recently, though it seems that we have arrived just in time for a third."
The deputy seemed to relax a little, "Yeah, this happened earlier on this afternoon. Local man, Steven Bradbury."
"We realise that you must be very busy," Sam said politely, "but is it alright if we ask you some questions about all three accidents, maybe let us take a closer look at the scene? The paper would be very grateful for any information that you might be able to give us."
The deputy's face went blank for a moment as it looked as if he was thinking this through, eying the brothers cautiously as he made his decision.
"Okay," he finally said, "I figure I may as well co-operate now, save from having more of your lot come into town and harass everyone later on. But we'd better make it quick."
"Of course, thank you deputy."