secret_history: (Beyond the Pale)
[personal profile] secret_history
Good afternoon, gentle readers!

Did you miss me? Fear not, BTP is back with another thrilling instalment!

*****


With Dr. Yates’ blessing, Vicky took a room at the Restful Arms hotel that day. In spite of the fact that she knew it was perfectly safe inside the good doctor’s practice, she nonetheless felt unsettled while she was there. For one, it seemed to her as though the ghost of Dr. Yates’ son haunted the place: everywhere she looked, there was a portrait of the missing boy, sometimes as a young lad, sometimes as a man in his very early twenties. She kept feeling as though the portraits were following her with their eyes, which was an unnerving sensation at the best of times, and had been the stuff of some rather disturbing dreams the previous night, in which she followed Cal through the twisting streets of Junkyard until he led her right into the sludge, dragging her under its slick murky surface and holding her head under until her lungs filled with the toxic substance. She’d awoken gasping and sweating, and wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.

Sleeping at the Restful Arms, in spite of its name, proved to be no more pleasant. After several more bad dreams which mingled images of the Diablos charging at her on the train platform with Rufus Abelard standing on their backs and laughing, his eyes rolling madly in his skull, then shifted to the Prospector –whom she had met only once before– who leaned on his shovel and grinned toothlessly at her, looking expectant. She thought she heard her mother’s voice calling to her, and then the voice changed and became that of Wright (or was it Grey?), telling her that she couldn’t turn her back, that she would always belong to the dead.

Her eyes sprang open, took a moment to adjust to the darkness. By the dim light of the moon outside she could just make out the time on the clock in her room, which made it to be just before midnight. She pushed herself upright, resigned to another sleepless night. She’d hoped that being given a new lease on life might have rid her once and for all of the nightmares, but she didn’t appear to be so lucky. Then again, she reminded herself, she’d always been prone to night terrors, even as a child. She remembered her parents rushing into her bedroom when she was a little girl, alarmed by her screaming. She remembered clinging to her mother, trembling so hard that her teeth rattled in her head, incoherent with terror and unable to tell her parents what it was she had seen that had frightened her so terribly.

May as well get up. She wouldn’t get back to sleep now, that was for sure. She swung her feet over the side of the bed and sat there for a few minutes, catching her breath. She felt oddly wrung out and tired, as though she’d just been running for a very long time rather than asleep. Outside the moonlight was filtering weakly through the constant cloud of soot-filled smoke that hung over the city, supplemented by the greenish-yellow glow of the electric street lights which cast long, eerie shadows over the street. She gazed out the window for a few moments, then decided it would be all right to go for a walk. If she’d been safe in Silver Springs, she’d be safe enough in the middle of a well-lit boulevard. The worst that could go wrong was that someone might try to rob her, and that was why she would take her pistols with her. At this hour of the night it was unlikely that anyone would bother enforcing the anti-gun ordinance. If she wasn’t safe in a city full of practicing Mormons, then she wouldn’t be safe anywhere.

She got dressed and let herself out through the front doors, past the night clerk who was dozing at his post. Good. That way she’d avoid having to answer awkward questions. Nothing worse than having desk clerks snooping in your business, especially when it was something as innocuous as going for a walk because you couldn’t sleep: none of their business, after all.

The night air was cool, if not exactly refreshing due to all the smoke and soot. She walked slowly down the street, having opted to leave behind her walking stick, and hoping she wouldn’t regret that decision later on. She didn’t want to get used to using it, though, and after resting for most of the afternoon she was feeling a lot better, if still tired. Her boots struck the cobblestones with a rhythmic clacking sound, and she found herself enjoying the feeling of solitude even though she was surrounded by buildings that were theoretically filled with people. There was something special about being out at nightime, though, when everyone was asleep, that was electrifying and profoundly moving. To know that you were the only consciousness still active was a powerful feeling, compared to the tumultous atmosphere of daytime, when it was all too easy to get swallowed by the teeming mob. It was different in the city than in the country, where the silence often threatened to engulf you at night, pulling you into the empty vastness of creation.

She shook her head to clear it of the unaccustomed thoughts. Thinking wasn’t her forte, she chided herself, and too much of it invariably got her in trouble. She turned down a street and found herself making her way back toward the railway station. Stone had mentioned something about there being a reward offered to the three of them for disposing of the Diablos, but she didn’t for a moment suppose that the shop was open at this hour, nor even was it likely to be near the train station. Perhaps she ought to get a map of the city, if they were planning on spending any length of time here. The city was laid out along a straightforward grid, with numbered streets, but it would still be helpful to know exactly where things were.

The station was all but deserted when she reached the platform. There were a few people obviously awaiting a long-overdue train, looking tired and a bit unkempt after waiting for so many hours on an uncomfortable bench. From over to her left the sound of extraordinarily loud snoring caught her attention, coming from what looked at first sight to be an enormous bundle of rags under a ratty sombrero. Upon closer examination, the bundle of rags turned out to be the filthiest, smelliest human being she had ever laid eyes on. She thought he might be Mexican, from the sombrero and the mule that stood patiently to the side. Her eyes widened as she noticed that the mule appeared to have knocked over a bottle of clear liquid marked “Tequila” and was contentedly lapping up the puddle that had pooled on the platform. It brayed in a friendly fashion as she approached, and she backed away again, leaving the Mexican to deal with his drunken mule whenever he awoke from his stupor.

A shrill whistle from the distance announced the impending arrival of a train. The schedule showed it to be a Denver-Pacific train, rather than a Union Blue, like the one on which she and the others had travelled to Salt Lake City. Given that the railroad itself belonged to Denver-Pacific, it made a certain amount of sense. Vicky hadn’t been paying much attention to the rail wars of late, but something sparked in her memory, reminding her that both the Wasatch Railroad (that belonged to Dr. Helstromme, whose name appeared to be cropping up awfully regularly of late) and Union Blue had signed a contract with Denver-Pacific giving them the right to have their coaches ride the rails, rather than be forced to go around Salt Lake City, which would have been disastrously expensive for both, but especially for Wasatch.

The people waiting for the train all shuffled to their feet, muttering discontentedly amongst themselves. Vicky turned and leaned against the station wall, watching the train come in. She squinted at the oncoming locomotive with a sudden sense that something was wrong. Shouldn’t it be slowing down by now? She didn’t know that much about trains, but she knew that it took them a long time to stop, and this train looked like it was coming in much too fast. Her misgivings were confirmed when there was a suddenly screeching and squealing of brakes, and the wheels of the train began to send up sparks from the tracks as the huge machine tried to come to a halt at speeds far exceeding the recommended limit for stopping. A moment later, the locomotive hit an uneven patch in the rails and jumped them, skidding sideways along the platform and sending up even more sparks and smoke. Screaming, the people on the platform scattered.

Before the train had even come to a complete halt, Vicky spotted the conductor opening the door of one of the cars nearest the caboose and take off at a sprint along the platform. She ran forward to meet him, calling out to ask if anyone was hurt, but just as she reached him she saw a silhouette lean out of one of the windows of the caboose, holding what was unmistakeably a rifle. A shot rang out, and the conductor collapsed into her arms, his eyes wide with fear and pain and the terrible knowledge that he was about to die. A red stain began spreading between his shoulder blades.

“Help us,” he begged. “We’re under attack!”

*****
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Profile

secret_history: (Default)
secret_history

November 2009

S M T W T F S
1 234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 06:21 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios