Train #165 departed from NewYork City Penn Station on its way to Union Station in Washington, D.C., but never arrived. Something besides the storm rained down that night. It took investigators ten years to figure out why all one hundred eighty-seven passengers disappeared. Once they did, government officials stepped in and silenced them.
* * * * * * *
"You know what, Trish?" said a young woman scrolling through her iPad, a single earbud clinging to her right ear.
"What?" said Trish from the seat across the isle.
"This has been the longest day ever."
"I know. It's like never ending."
"You're telling me," said the girl with the iPad, her eyes never leaving the screen.
A young man lay sprawled across the pair of seats behind Trish. He tried to sleep, half listening to the conversation the two women were having. He found it difficult to drift off with his knees pressed up against his chest. The gym bag beneath his head also provided little cushioning.
A man behind him stared at his laptop screen. He was watching an Olympic qualifying match, checking his stocks, and listening to the news. The screen flickered, but quickly collected itself. Rain spattered the windows.
A voice sounded through the speakers built into the train:
"Ladies and gentlemen, please be informed that we may be driving through hail. The storm is not expected to last long, and we'll be crossing through in a matter of minutes."
The cabin lights flickered. Outside, the rain poured with ferocity. Impenetrable darkness swallowed the train cars as they glided over metal tracks. Hail began to fall.
"Dang, that is loud," said Trish.
Her friend did not reply.
"Tanya, pay attention. You don't hear that?" said Trish, trying to get her friend to respond.
"What?" said Tanya, ungluing her eyes from the tablet in her hands.
"Girl, don't you hear that?"
"What the hell is that?" she said, standing up suddenly.
"It's just hail."
"Dang, that's loud."
"I've been trying to tell you," said Trish.
The girls smiled at one another and returned their attention to their gadgets.
"Excuse me," said the young man who had been trying to fall asleep. "Would one of you mind lending me your charger? My phone's about to die."
"Sure," said Tanya, unplugging her device.
"Thanks. I'm Victor, by the way."
"Nice to meet you."
"You don't seem to be doing so well, Victor," said Trish.
"I know. I think I'm getting sick."
Victor took the charger. He plugged in his phone and resumed his wrestling match with the gym bag. Rest continued to elude him.
A muffled thud traveled down the cabin like electricity through a nerve.
"Hey, what happened to the Wi-Fi?"
The man sitting behind Victor hit the keys on his laptop, hoping to fix the problem.
"Did you feel that?" said Tanya.
"Oh, my Wi-Fi's gone, too," replied Trish, ignoring her friend's question.
The lights in the cabin flickered off and on again. Rain and hail beat the aluminum casing of the train car.
"I'm going to talk to someone about this," said the older man, impatiently.
He stepped out of his seat, walking with purpose towards the front of the car.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be stopping the train temporarily," spoke the voice in the speakers.
"What now?" yelled the older man who was nearing the junction leading to the next car.
The voice came back on. "It looks like we..."
"Something's not right," said Trish.
The two women sat up and stared at the front of the car as if expecting someone to walk in and explain what was happening. A few other passengers sat up to look around. The train continued to roll gently through the darkness, the sound of rain and hail intensifying.
A muffled shriek pierced the air.
"What the hell was that?" said Tanya.
No one spoke, hoping the silence would bring more information.
"I'm going to find out what's going on," said the older man who had been standing in the isle. He reached out to open the door to the next car.
The train shook violently, its right side temporarily coming off the tracks and landing back down with a loud clang. The passengers yelled, grabbing onto whatever they could reach to keep from losing balance. Luggage fell onto the walkway between the seats.
"Oh my god, Trish, we're going to die!"
(End of Part I of IV)