House by the Railroad

May 17, 2012
By , Olathe, KS
Ten years ago I had been standing in the same spot at which I was standing in right that moment. The large, pearl-white mansion towered ahead of me as I stepped through the gate for the second time in my life. All around me was dirt; the run-down town had no other residents. The beaten and isolated railroad was the only interesting sight. I assumed my uncle owned all of the land. I thought back on my previous visit; how naïve I had been.

At age 8, I had excitedly entered the household eager for what adventure was coming. Uncle John always had the greatest stories and toys. When he saw me, I was enveloped in a hug and presented with a small toy train. He told me there was a track for it going straight through my own room. He warned, “Enjoy your time, but do not play past 9 p.m. You must not disobey my rules Max, or else you will be in for quite the punishment.” At the time, the words frightened me. I conformed to the rules completely. On my first day, I occupied myself with the train. It was so realistic. The lights had a faint glow to them. The wheels had a rustling movement. The chug had a flamboyant whistle. Even the passengers on the inside looked as if they had been frozen in time. I rearranged the railroad countless times, never getting bored. As night fell, I would watch the clock, ensuring that I stopped at the right time. Around 8:30 each night, Uncle would come to tuck me into bed. He turned off the light and walked away, but I knew he stood outside to certify that I actually fell asleep. I would wonder why it was so important for me to be asleep by 9. One night, I told myself I would stay awake to discover the big secret. Pretending to sleep, I shut my eyes and even let out a false snore. I heard Uncle walk away. I stayed up, waiting for something crazy to happen; I imagined the furniture coming to life or lava filling the room. Through my fantasies, I would fall asleep within 10 more minutes. I never witnessed a strange happening.
This year, I planned to uncover the secret, despite my uncle’s stern warning. At 18, my curiosity from the last 10 years wanted an answer. I entered the house, warmly hugged Uncle, and went into the room, which was completely unchanged from the last visit. Uncle John gave me the same warning, “I expect you to be in bed by 9, Max”. I waited for him to leave and for nightfall to arrive. I didn’t need to be tucked in at this age so Uncle checking in on me was not an issue. Time went on and I just kept watching. Suddenly, I heard a wailing whistle, identical to the one from my toy train. I glanced at the track and it was gone. The wail turned into a death-like chug--it sounded like a speeding demon was headed through the door; glowing lights appeared around the corner--I could make out the silhouette of a person staring through a window, just like I had noticed in my toy; the wheels rustled across the now life-size tracks and is rapidity stunned me in place. The last thing I saw was a blaze of bright, fiery light that I recognized as my childhood train.





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