A short story I wrote as a part of the Halloween Blog Hop, 'Share A Scare'. Hope you enjoy my first attempt at a scary story, 'The Rail Road Walker'.
Most people ignored the broadcast. That means there are only a small number of us left. I can't blame those who stayed in their homes, turned off the radio; it was a strange command after all.
“Walk the rail roads. Don't turn back no matter what. Avoid the injured and dead. Sleep during the day and walk at night for they will not appear in the open while light. Keep a torch, batteries and matches. We will send aid. Don't stop walking.”
Perhaps the only reason I obeyed was due to my own paranoia. I could see the signs before anyone else. The mysterious illness struck fear into all humans. Most thought it safer to shut the door, never leave their homes. They thought that surely they would stay safer if they never left. They were wrong.
So I walk. I never turn around. I have seen corpses along the rail road but I never pause. Each time I pass these bodies I feel sick to the stomach, I can't look at them, and yet I know I still can't stop walking. Sometimes the things leave them there to trick you. I've seen people lying by the tree line beside the tracks, struggling to breathe, their flesh swelling, the skin splitting with infectious sores. I give these a wide birth although a large part of me wants to help them, even if just to ease their pain. But even so, I must venture from the tracks to avoid them, my torch gripped in one hand as I watch the trees for movement. The light is supposed to hurt them; why else would they avoid the open ground during the day? At each station there is a stockpile of food and water, just as the broadcast had promised. But there are more of the things around the stations. I have been lucky so far, or maybe just careful.
I still haven't seen one of the things. I have heard them, their gargling and harsh screams in the darkness. Those who see them don't survive. They stop walking and they die. Then they disappear.
I look ahead through a curtain of heavy rain, squinting to see. In one hand I carry my torch, turned off to conserve power, in the other was the hand of my eleven year old niece. Hailey shuffles forward beside me, her eyes on the dark trees. I can see a strange structure ahead. As we continue forward, never stopping, I see a bridge. It was old and the wooden supports seemed worn. Below was a long drop to a raging river seen as a shadow in the darkness. I almost stop but out of habit I walk on. If I stop, we die. I could almost sense the soulless eyes watching me from the trees, almost feel their breath on my neck. Waiting. The sound of the rain, along with the occasional crack of thunder, drowns out any other sounds. We step on to the bridge. It groans below us. Will it take our weight? I keep walking. The bridge had been designed to hold a train but the rail road I had chosen to walk was old and abandoned. I believed that less people would follow this path... and that there would be less things. It has been a long time since I saw the last body. Not that that meant anything. Perhaps the creatures here were more efficient, not leaving many bodies behind. A cracking sound to my right startles me and, with a practiced motion, my torch flares to life. Nothing. My heart beats in my chest frantically. I keep walking.
Once upon a time, there lived a boy who dreamed of fighting dragons on a far away planet. He read every last book ever written about this planet and loved the heroines of the stories. Yes, there were also heroes, but it was the women heroes that inspired him.
I am John Sanders, and I write programs by day, to make big dangerous machines behave, and write science and speculative fiction by night to entertain. I pay tribute to one of the greatest female authors I have had the pleasure to have read during my young and new adult years, Anne McCaffrey. Her style of writing of character-driven stories has formed the basis for my own style of writing.
She is not the only author of course that has influenced me, to name only a few. There is; Robert Heinlein, Robert Saberhagen, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Harry Harrison, Philip K Dick, and so many more. Each of these masters of fiction has their part in my own development of writing.
Twenty years ago, I attended the University of Oklahoma where I earned a double degree in Literature and Anthropology. During that time in school, I wrote much and submitted much for publication with a 100% rejection rate. My style was not contemporary with current fiction styles. My writer’s hand and muse went into hibernation. Then one day, two years ago this September, I was reading a science fiction saga, and I was put off by the author’s habit of diving off into tangent stories during his actual story. But I have to thank that author, my life changed after reading his work. I remember clearly during the reading of the third book, thinking, “I can write this story better than he can.” This was both an epiphany in my life and a new beginning.
When I was in college, I had written a 26000-word story about a man trying to save a small sample of the human race from extinction. His name was Dominic, and he built a supercomputer to build another supercomputer time machine. Digging this story out of a box that had been collecting dust for nearly 20 years, I reread this story. It was a good story, and the professor use critiqued it said as much and commented, there was a bigger story in it.
Now I mentioned before that Anne McCaffrey was one of my biggest influences. What I discovered in the story, I had written in college was a character that I knew and understood. Dominic, a man with a past of pain, great sorrow, and a story to tell about loss, love, death, friendship, and adventure.
Hardly before I understood what was happening, the new story of Dominic started flooding out of me. Like a swollen man-made lake. When the dam burst and the story came flooding out in a rush, I did not sleep, and when I did, the characters of my story were in my dreams. I understand how a good story should work, story arcs, plots, and all that stuff. But the story didn’t turn out the way that I had envisioned or planned. As my mind built the characters for this new time travel and AI emergence story, the characters began to write the story. The time travel and survival story became the modus to the real story, not the subject. The real story that my characters wrote was not just an emergence of artificial intelligence, but the very soul and the relationship between the creator and his creation.
This story is the Evolution series. It is three books. The first two are currently available on Amazon. They are L.A.I.R.A. 1st Evolution, Rising, and P.R.E.D.A.I. 2nd Evolution, Transference. The final book in the trilogy, Laira, 3rd Evolution, Quadary Dreams will be available later this fall on Amazon.
About John Sanders
I was born in Syracuse New York at the end of the year in 1963. My father was a United State Marine and as an adult, I became a Marine myself. But with a very different experience. When my father served, the Vietnam war was still happening. I was what is referred to as a peacetime soldier as I served in between wars and military actions. Though I did have many great adventures and some of those tales are in my stories. After the Marine Corp, I returned home to my home state and attended college. After word I got married to my current spouse and started a family.
Today I am the father of three wonderful boys, whom I read to most every night that I am home. I participate in Cub Scouts with my two younger boys. For the last two years I have written over 300,000 words. Early on, I took on the practice of “Write some thing every day.” Writing for me, is a passion and a love for sharing.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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