Slowly at first, but leading to a high crescendo, chaos erupted in the cabin. Nerve-racking screams reverberated across the aluminum walls. Some passengers stood, not quite sure whether to run or hide. The utter foreignness of what had appeared emotionally disemboweled them.
The nightmarish figure took a slow step forward. The floor sank under his feet, like his entire body was made of lead. As if under the influence of a gravity-laden black hole, the metal frame of the cabin contracted slightly toward him, creaking loudly as it did so. His body absorbed even the light around him, leaving passengers in semi-darkness.
Despite the figure’s slow procession, his dark, featureless face solicited panic from every direction. That face turned from side to side, scanning the passengers. Its slowness was deliberate. For him, time stood still.
Overwhelmed by the adrenaline flooding her system, the old woman near the front began to convulse. The dark figure shot out an arm—black like buried coal—that stretched. As it stretched his body grew in proportion to the length of his arm. He grabbed the old woman by the neck, lifting her out of her seat, and shrunk back to his typical, still-ominous size. The woman’s feet dangled in the air.
At first, she appeared to be getting younger while under the grip of the powerful hand that held her up. The skin on her face, legs, and arms grew taut. For a second, this monster seemed to be a Giver of Life. But the mirage did not last long. The old woman’s skin continued to stretch. Her calves were the first to split. Like pressing an unpeeled banana, the muscles burst through their soft covering, jutting out—vibrant red. The skin on her face split open, as well, revealing the blinding white ivory of her skull. Blood dripped down her neck, arms, and legs.
The nebulous creature tossed the old woman to the side and turned to face the other end of the cabin. He watched the door close as more passengers flooded the isle toward it. He leaned back, arms bent besides him, head pointing upward as if screaming to the heavens, but no sound came out. Instead, the cabin ceiling rumpled under the weight of his power like a pressed can. People screamed. He walked forward, hastily now, reaching out and eliminating those in his path.
* * *
“We gotta go, we gotta go,” said Victor, as he pulled the women away from the door, turning the lock.
The impression of the old woman’s limp body bouncing against the seat where she was tossed burned itself into Trish’s and Tanya’s minds. Without thought, without logic, just raw survival instinct, they turned at the sound of Victor’s voice and ran after him. He still held the now red t-shirt to the back of his head. The trio ran, breathless, to the other end of the cabin, pushing a few confused passengers out of the way.
“Hey, what’s going on out there?” A middle-aged man standing over his seat asked the question while Victor, Trish, and Tanya huddled in the back trying to figure out what to do next.
The trio ignored the mostly empty cabin. The few pairs of eyes in the room watched them silently.
“Hey! Can you tell us what's going on?” asked the same middle-aged man, yelling this time.
Tanya was the first to recuperate.
“We need to get out of here. We all need to get off this train,” she insisted.
“Get off the train? Why? What’s happening?” said a soft voice somewhere in the cabin.
“Something really, really bad is out there. I don’t know how to explain it. We just need to get out of here somehow,” she said.
They heard more screaming coming from the other side of the door they just ran through.
“Come on,” said Tanya as a final appeal.
Victor fidgeted with the back door handle. It was locked from the outside. Victor nudged the women aside and gave the door a hard kick. The impact travelled through his feet to the top of his head where the throbbing intensified. He wobbled, tumbling against Trish.
“Here, let me try,” said the middle-aged man who led the remaining passengers to the back of the train car.
He kicked with all his strength. A dent appeared on the metal door. He kicked it again, and again, deepening the dent, but the door remained shut.
“Stand back,” said the man, giving himself more running room.
He ran a few steps and threw out his leg, pushing forward with all his might. Two loud clangs rang simultaneously. The group turned to look behind them. Someone was trying to get through the door on the other side.
“Hurry up!” yelled Trish.
A few more kicks and the back door came loose. It swung open revealing a darkly blanketed night. A few weak bulbs lit the train tracks running away from them at dangerous speeds. Strong winds spattered cold rain on those near the door frame.
“Hell no,” said Trish.
“What are we supposed to do? Jump out?” said another voice.
Victor took the lead. “We need to move. This thing is not going to stop.”
“But what is it? You can’t just expect us to jump out, risking our lives. I’d rather face whatever’s on the other side of that door,” said the middle-aged man. Seeing the unforgiving metal tracks running under the train scared him.
Victor did not respond. He poked his head through the frame and looked around. Rain washed some of the blood off his matted hair.
“There’s a small ladder here on the right. We need to get everyone on the ladder and onto the roof.”
“Are you crazy?” said Trish.
“I don’t think we have another option. We can try to crawl to the other side and stop the train,” said Victor.
“If that’s the case, maybe just one of us should go. It’s too dangerous for everyone to be up there,” someone else said.
As if on cue, the top hinges of the other door broke open, sending pieces of metal ricocheting toward the back.
“Let’s go,” said Victor, urging the first passenger, a young lady, through the door.
She grabbed the doorframe with her right hand, her fingers turning white from the pressure she was exerting, and reached out for the ladder. With Victor’s help, she pulled herself onto the wet, metal rungs and began a slow ascent.
“Come on, Tanya, you’re next,” yelled Victor.
Tanya looked at Victor, fear filling her eyes. She gathered the remaining dregs of courage left in her and stepped forward.
The ladder was wet and slippery, and Tanya’s short arms forced her to stretch uncomfortably.
“I’m holding you tight,” said Victor, grabbing hold of the back of her pants.
Tanya gripped the ladder and pulled herself over.
The door on the other side burst open with a final cold bang. Pure darkness seeped through. Something moved toward the opening, something even darker than the darkness, in the shape of a man—a monster. The figure walked through the open door. The metal cabin creaked toward him.
The train shook. A loud squeal pierced the night. Something was jamming the metal wheels. The passengers’ momentum threw them forward, toward the dark figure. Tanya’s face hit the rungs of the wet ladder in front of her. Her head wobbled painfully. Victor held onto her and the doorframe trying not fall.
Suddenly, the train lurched forward and the squeal disappeared. Victor’s body swung through the open frame. Tanya’s head snapped back. Her stubby fingers lost their grip on the slippery ladder. She screamed.
Victor’s arm sprung out, attached to Tanya’s pants, attached to Tanya, who now flew through the air. He tightened his grip, but the force ripped through his shoulder like a knife. He cried as his fingers snapped open and his shoulder seared, half his body in the train and the other half outside. He watched Tanya's limp form bounce disturbingly against the metal tracks, away from danger.
(End of Part III of IV)