by Mark Figueroa | Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen
There’s a platform at the edge of my quiet, little town.
The train shows up at 2:34 AM on peculiar nights, or so they say.
To date, several people have gone missing, but no one seems to remember them—beyond a name with no meaning and an age.
The missing all have a combination of 3, 4 or 2 in their age, and they are all between 23 and 44.
There’s an urban legend that claims the train is for the wicked:
Those who board are bound for a place worse than hell.
I have never believed such a tale, truth be told.
There is no train that runs through that platform, other than the silent freights that run well after midnight.
I dismissed the urban legend altogether.
Then, on my 43rd birthday, I met him.
He wore a black trench coat, black gloves, a black cap and spectacles.
His mustache was curved at the ends, much like a gentleman’s; however, this creature was no man. He appeared human enough.
In his eyes, rage and violence violence flickered like buildings ignited under a burning sky.
I’ve encountered this man many times since my birthday.
The train from the city where I worked would always arrive at half-past 4 p.m.
I’d depart and encounter him exactly two minutes later.
This occurred for approximately 2 months, 3 weeks and 4 days.
I paid little to no mind.
In such a bustling city, you’re bound to see the same people for weeks, months, if not years.
This man, Mr. Francis E. Wayne-Wright IV, seemed familiar enough, but his placement always felt off like a real person in a dream or a dream person in the real world.
As it were on this occasion, Mr. Wayne-Wright approached me.
I hardly heard him as I tried to hide my fear.
His black gloves squealed as he squeezed his cane.
“Do you understand my request, my good chum?” He asked.
“Pardon me,” I responded, scurrying away.
Truth be told I did not understand his request.
Nor did I comprehend how dogs and man did not relieve their fluids or turn into defensive beasts in his presence, but as fate would have it, that was not our only encounter.
Several weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, my wife and I took our daughter to watch a play-read in the park.
The play was slated for 2:30 p.m., but began 4 minutes late.
That was when he appeared.
Mr. Wayne-Wright was but a face in the crowd. A distinct face that appeared to be completely present here and elsewhere. The kind of face that stares back at you from the darkness when your eyes linger upon the shadows for too long. Even on this bright day, his face carried the same feeling.
As the play-read shouted, I scrambled to my feet, clutching to my daughter and desperately grabbing my wife.
We ran to the nearest road and I hailed a taxi, but there he was.
Watching and waiting from the other end of the street.
On our way home, I let out a shriek, as I saw his face in the glass.
I saw his face on the driver.
He was passersby.
I glanced in a mirror, and he was me.
It was then that my family and I stumbled out of the car.
I recovered from the spell with a shot of brandy and some contemplation.
Several weeks passed, and on my train’s arrival this afternoon at 4:32 p.m. Mr. Wayne-Wright stood on the platform.
“This is the wrong one,” he said, seeming to relish in my discomfort. “I’ll skip the pleasantries, Monsieur. At half-passed 2 a.m. and 4 minutes, March 24th, you were picked. Not by choice or by knowledge of course, but nonetheless, you were chosen. You are to hereby summoned to appear on the platform on the edge of town. Do I make myself clear, my good chum?”
I nodded, coming to my senses. “May I say my peace to my wife and child?” I spat out, quivering like a roach crushed under a thumb, waiting to be squashed.
“Does one say good night to a dream?” he asked. His red pupils glared through my soul. “I should think not, lest they wish to be cradled by an illusion. This ill informed delusion which you call a life is merely a stop along the way. These carefully-constructed halcyon days have lasted long enough. Your number has been called. You selected your destination. You must move on,” Mr. Wayne-Wright said.
I clenched my fists and shook. I was angry and afraid at the same time. My knees shook and my forehead burned as I grit my teeth. I pointed at Mr. Wayne-Wright, but he spoke before I could muster the strength.
“One never asks for life to end, but conversely, one never asks for it to begin. So which is wrong? Ending life or bringing it to be? Are you wrong for leaving your life, or are you wrong for giving your child life?” He said. Mr. Wayne-Wright laughed and went on his way. “At half-past 2. Do not make me come looking for you,” He called out with his back turned, waving a gloved hand and tapping his ornate cane.
I stand here at the platform.
I see no train, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I catch occasional glimpses of a giant masked face and white gloves.
Profanity and shrieks compel me on to the tracks.
The light becomes more focused as the platform and tracks behind me grow darker.
Eventually a warm darkness surrounds me and the light becomes sharper and brighter, until it blinds me.
A violent force yanks me from the station, from my life, from my existence and my mind begins to atrophy.
The memories of my life fade with blink until my confusion devolves and I express myself through screams and wails.
“Congratulations,” a giant man yells, holding me upside down. “It’s a boy!” he wails as I let out a harrowing shriek. A woman reaches for me and my memory starts to fade as sleep overtakes me.
Then, I see my wife and my daughter. They call my name and I run toward them, reaching my hand out as my wife smiles in the sun.
“You can do it,” my wife says. I reach further and my steps get heavier. I fell and shrink in my clothes.
I squirm out of my suit and see my wife and daughter towering over me.
“Mommy, where’s daddy?’” my daughter says as I reach for her.
I try to speak. “Baaaa! Aaah’pahh!” I utter, babbling like a baby.
It’s my birthday those who tend to me state as they enjoy my day more than I do.
My plushy underwear is soiled as I shriek and squirm in a plastic seat, embarrassed.
“Calm, down, Walter Jr.,” my mother says, shoving a pacifier in my mouth. Sleep tugs at my eyes. My wife and my daughter wave at me from the tracks as my sight goes black.