Excerpt from “Fate and Destiny”
– published in Crossroads in the Dark Anthology
She blinked as she slowly woke up. Lynn found herself sitting in a window seat on a train but didn‘t remember getting on. She looked out the window but could only see fog. It didn‘t feel as though she was on one of those new expensive smooth riding trains. This one felt older, rougher somehow; yet it rocked soothingly from side to side. She looked around at the other passengers and saw several of them asleep and who were awake looking around as lost as she felt. A young woman across the aisle and down a row looked up and around and Lynn saw a red mark on her neck. She squinted to see better and could‘ve sworn it looked like her throat was cut. But that was impossible; she’d have blood all over her! Could it just be a horrible scar? The woman turned back to face the front again and Lynn could no longer see the mark.
“Are you there, Sara?” The frail man sitting next to her woke up and looked around with watery, sad eyes.
“I‘m sorry,” she answered, “But I don‘t know a Sara. Was she with you when you got on the train?”
“Sara?” he repeated weakly, “Where are you?” He acted as though he didn‘t even hear her.
Uneasy, Lynn peered through the window again to get an idea of where they were. But the fog was thick and gave nothing away.
“I‘m sorry I can‘t help you.” she spoke to him softly.
The poor man; he was so thin he looked as though he would blow away in a light windstorm. He looked very sickly and Lynn thought he‘d been that way for a while. He leaned back and closed his eyes again. He whispered one last “Sara,” before drifting off to sleep again.
Lynn decided she needed to investigate her surroundings and couldn‘t do that sitting here. So she squeezed past the man‘s skinny knees and into the aisle. As she continued down the aisle she noticed that no one was talking to each other. Not a single one. Every one of them had the same vacant look on their faces. She walked to the dining car to see quite a few people sitting at the bar and tables but no one was eating or drinking. Not even water. No one was talking to each other here either. The background music was so light she couldn‘t place what instrument or song was playing.
She sat down even more confused and found herself facing a nice looking man with graying hair. Out of nowhere he spoke.
“I‘d buy you a drink,” he said wryly, “but it looks like a dry car.” She was surprised that he spoke at all.
“Don‘t they allow any food or drink?” Lynn asked.
“Be damned if I know,” he answered. ”I don‘t even know what I‘m doing here.”
He looked around and his necklace came loose from under this shirt. It was a small gold coin with a face on it. She leaned in for a closer look. He caught her looking and shoved it back in his shirt. The coin was adorned with a face that looked vaguely familiar.
“Sorry,” she muttered and got up and walked off. She knew that coin; she‘d seen it before but couldn‘t remember where. She walked down to the next car and found it had rooms with beds in them. They looked like little bunkhouses. These must be sleepers. For some reason she found herself in one with a newspaper in it. It felt like the right place to be; so it must be her room. She lay back and tried to sleep but found her thoughts wandering and wondering.
She gave up after an hour and picked up the newspaper. Newspaper?
In an empty sleeper? She unfolded the paper which was printed on strange yellowish paper. It looks surreal and the text was in an old fashioned font. It didn‘t have regular stories or advertisements like a normal newspaper. It only had articles about murders; a lot of murders. On page three she saw a picture of the frail man who had been sitting next to her. Robert McMann had been slowly poisoned over the course of two years by his young bride, Sara. She inherited all his money when he finally passed on; his liver finally giving out completely. But wait! He can‘t be dead. He‘s out there sleeping in a seat! She flipped the page to see the woman she had seen across the aisle. Lacy Barton was found murdered in the city park, her throat slit. Lynn was shocked to see the date of her murder was more than five years ago. She quickly went back to Robert‘s story on page three and saw that he was murdered more than 10 years ago.
“What the hell is going on?” she muttered to herself.
She went back to the front of the paper and decided to read the entire newspaper, no matter how horrible it was. This had to be the key to what was going on here. People were murdered by friends, family, and strangers. They were poisoned, stabbed, shot; one was even thrown off a cliff. Some of the murders took place as long as thirty years ago. As she got to the last page she sighed and was about to fold up and toss the paper aside when she saw the photo and froze.
It was her! She quickly read the story and her heart skipped a beat. Not possible! According to this article she had been murdered sixteen years ago; her throat slashed open. Not possible! She had bled out in the same park that Lacy had been found in years later. She stood up quickly and hesitantly stepped up to the mirror. Her eyes widened. She had an almost identical red mark across her throat she‘d seen on Lacy earlier.
Clutching her throat as though it hurt she cried aloud. “What is happening? Why am I here?”
She started to feel the first tendrils of panic taking her over. “Please help me!” she called to no one. She was startled by a knock at the door.
Veronica Smith lives in Katy, Texas, a suburb west of Houston. Her first full length novel, Salvation, was just published in December 2016. Her first novella, Chalk Outline, was originally self-published but is the process of being re-released. She also has several short stories published in anthologies. In addition to writing, she’s a co-editor for two anthologies. Follow her to get the latest on her works.