My cousin Ronnie and I used to chase the ghost train on Granddad’s farm.
The whole family lived on the 174 acres; a railway goes through the center. Grandad said those tracks hadn’t been used in decades. That’s why nobody believed when we started going on about the ghost train.
Ronnie said that the disused tracks made perfect sense; that was why it was an old train we’d see. Not like the ones you see operating today.
Ronnie knew a lot about trains. He was obsessed with them. He collected books and pictures of trains the way other boys collected Hustler.
I realize how that sounded. I meant it that way. I walked in on him in his room once. He was looking at one of his train books: naked.
You know the rest.
Whenever we talked about chasing the ghost train, more than once I’m pretty sure his pants bulged with an erection.
The first time we saw it was summer. On nice summer nights Ronnie and I used to take a tent out to spots on Grandad’s farm. We’d watch fireflies dancing in the fields like etheral lights from another world. We’d make fires and tell ghost stories. Ronnie always wanted to pitch a tent by the train tracks.
I realize how that sounded. I meant that in that way too.
You don’t get to pick your family, you just got to love them. That’s what my daddy said every time I used to tell him his brother’s son was kind of weird.
The first time we heard it, it was late, much later than we usually stayed awake; the whistle on the front of the train pierced through 3 a.m. fog.
Ronnie’s eyes glistened: excited. “Do you hear that?” He asked.
Ronnie said the train we saw was a Shay Locomotive, more than a hundred years old. We were baffled by the mystery of it as it approached that first time. Ronnie began running before it had even fully passed us–anything he could do to gaze at it just a few moments longer.
As it made its way out of sight, I watched as Ronnie ducked into the bushes. He didn’t return for almost 40 minutes.
We stayed out there the next night, and the next after that. Each time, Ronnie and I would get a bit closer. Eventually he reached out to touch the train, expecting his hand to cut through it’s ghastly exterior like water.
The ghost train ripped off his arm and pulled him 100 yards. His screams of agony echoed through the night. He died from loss of blood right there on the tracks. What was left of him was a mangled mess of road rash from his face dragging against the gravel and the railroad ties. What was left of his arm was just a stump.
Grandad has been dead for years and in adulthood I moved away. The farm does remain in our family.
My sister says my nephew’s been telling stories of a ghost train. He’s seen a naked passenger inside in the throes of ecstasy.
I told her to keep her son away from the tracks.