Trish screamed. The scream ripped through her vocal chords like a serrated knife. In an instant, her best friend disappeared, her body swallowed by the night.
Victor stared, dumbfounded, his head throbbing and his shoulder burning. As if from a distance, he heard more screams coming from inside the cabin. His gut told him to turn around, but he didn’t think he could face anymore of this nightmare.
“Victor,” yelled Trish, “We need to go!”
The monster had grabbed one of the disoriented passengers when the train lurched. In seconds, her skin popped right off her body. The dark creature moved forward, distorting the metal floor with each step. Three passengers stood between the monster and Victor, and Trish was one of them.
“Hurry, Trish,” he shouted over the loud wind rushing into the train car.
Trish moved forward, pushing past Victor. She reached out and grabbed the slippery metal ladder from which Tanya just plummeted. Short and stodgy like her friend, it took every ounce of strength to pull herself across. With every grunt she mumbled prayers that quickly fled into the slipstream.
“Come on,” said Victor once he felt Trish could make it the rest of the way. He yelled at the middle-aged man who could do nothing but stare at the monster gunning toward him.
Victor yanked him by his shirt, pulling him toward the open door.
“Go up, hurry!” said Victor.
Another victim delayed the monster’s relentless progress.
“I can’t,” said the older man. “I can’t!”
Panic branched across his face like parasitic veins.
“You don’t have a choice,” said Victor.
The man resisted, but Victor managed to push him halfway through the door.
“Grab onto the ladder,” said Victor loudly into his ear.
“No, I can’t. I’m going to die,” the man replied.
Victor turned. The monster stood only a few yards away, standing over a growing puddle of dark liquid. No one else remained between them.
White light sprang across Victor’s field of vision as pain sensors in his brain exploded. Victor’s eyes reeled to find the middle-aged man standing away from him, holding onto his now injured hand. The man did not know punching someone in the face could hurt so much, but he would not be forced onto the slippery ladder.
“Don’t be an idiot,” said Victor through gritted teeth, trying to ignore the pain. Behind them, the dark creature watched as if entertained.
Thumping sounds flowed down from the ceiling. The monster looked up, quickly realizing some were getting away. He walked forward with murderous intent.
Victor felt the creature moving. He could do nothing about the older man. He turned and grabbed the ladder, inching forward until he was in position to pull the rest of his body onto it. The wind beat against him, pulling him away. Victor hauled himself upward. Beneath him, he heard the man he tried to save begging someone for forgiveness.
Ahead of him, Trish lay sprawled on the train roof. Victor could tell why. The hard rain made even crawling over it incredibly treacherous. Ahead of Trish was the young passenger he first helped up. She had already made it to the next car.
Victor inched forward on all fours.
“We’re going to make it Trish,” he yelled. “Just keep pulling yourself.”
Trish must have heard him because she reached out, trying to grip the slippery aluminum roof. She wobbled, barely moving. Slowly, Victor moved further up.
A voice rang out from behind him, asking for help. The older man seemed to have changed his mind and was pulling himself onto the roof.
Victor had not gone far. Without hesitation, he turned around to help the man, but his hands slipped. Victor’s chest slapped the roof. His limbs laid sprawled, covering as much ground as possible to keep from slipping.
The man pulled himself up and reached out, grabbing Victor’s wrist. Victor pulled hard away from the edge, trying to help the man forward. Suddenly, the pair slid toward the back of the train. A look of surprise appeared on the older man’s face. The Night had caught him.
They slipped another foot. The man screamed, his eyes begging Victor to do something. Already the skin on his face began to stretch, making him appear abnormally younger. Victor tried to yank his hand away, but the man’s gripped tightened. Victor was thrown back, nearly falling over the edge.
Beneath him laid a horrific scene. The dark creature stood under the frame of the open doorway suspending the older man by one foot as the metal track rails grinded the the man's upper torso. The monster released his grip and the man's twisted figure slipped away.
The Night turned its head upward with a jolt. If he had eyes, he would have been staring directly into Victor’s only a few feet away. Victor felt his jaw go loose and his saliva glands tingle. He was going to lose it.
Victor managed to crawl away from the edge of the train, turning around and seeing Trish at the first junction before the next train car. Victor desperately struggled forward as rain continued to fall. He wondered how fast the monster could climb.
From behind him came a loud sound. Victor turned to see the back half of the train roof collapsing as if crushed by an invisible weight. Skirting forward as fast as he could, Victor quickly glanced back to see his enemy walking on the crushed ceiling, which had formed a ramp from the cabin floor to the roof. The dark creature advanced on the makeshift ramp heedless of the rain or the wind. It was as if his feet were magnetized.
“Hurry, Trish!” Victor called out.
Trish had managed to climb onto the following car. Victor was not far from her.
The creature, now on the train roof, looked up at the sound of Victor’s voice, watching the three passengers trying to escape. He focused on the young girl furthest ahead, three roofs away, and lifted his open hand. Slowly, he closed his hand and as he did so the roof beneath the girl sank. The creature heard her faint screams pass him by. He clenched his fist and the roof collapsed completely. The girl fell into the cabin below, crushed by a pile of debris.
Without hesitation the monster focused on Trish. With a flick of his hand the side of the roof beneath her bent inward, creating a slippery slide that Trish unexpectedly fell into. Frantically, she slapped the metal trying to find some friction and slid unceremoniously over the edge of the train.
Victor looked away from where Trish’s body disappeared. Tears threatened to burst from their glands. He was hurt and tired. There was no one left on the dilapidated train roof except for him and the Darkness. And still, the train sped unceasingly through the wet night.
Victor shoved his hand into his front pocket and pulled out the cell phone he had stowed away, keeping his eyes on the monster who seemed to be waiting for his next move. With dexterity, Victor unlocked the device and hastily pressed a few numbers, holding the phone close to his ear. He heard three rapid beeps and a long, low tone.
“You know what will happen when I enter the code,” said Victor, staring directly at the monster.
The creature cocked his head.
“It will take a hundredth of a second for the signal to reach the satellite and another hundredth to relay it back, and then you will die,” shouted Victor, finishing his thought.
Victor still lay crouched at the end of the train car. The monster stood a mere six feet away, looming in all of his glorious darkness, visible only as a darker shape against a black, night sky.
As if from within him, a thought birthed in Victor’s mind. He didn’t hear anything, but he felt it in his gut. The creature had put it there: If I die, so will you.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter. You’ve killed everyone else on this train,” said Victor, rain soaking through his clothes.
I can be brought back, but you can’t.
Victor knew that’s what the creature wanted him to hear, but the monster had not moved. No sound could be heard other than the wind and grind of the train wheels.
“Do you think I would leave the base without making sure you couldn’t return? I knew the moment I couldn’t rest that something wasn’t right. I knew you had followed me.”
Your discomfort is meaningless compared to the imprisonment I endured.
“And I would do it again, if I had to,” said Victor, his finger near the dial pad.
The creature moved forward, his massive steps ringing loudly, successively. Victor had expected this moment to come the minute he asked Trish and Tanya for a phone charger, which now felt like ages ago. When the train jumped off the tracks the first time, his worst fears were confirmed. He knew he wouldn’t be able to save anyone, but he tried anyway. He had time to prepare for the end. Without hesitation, he dialed a seven-digit pin as the dark creature lifted him up by his neck.
Victor looked down into the Night’s featureless face, lost in its dark abyss. A star exploded in that empty space. The light from the supernova branched out like gaseous tendrils. Somewhere in that darkness another star exploded. Victor let the light wash over him, his mind falling to no end.
The light engulfed the pair standing on the moving train, erupting from within the monster. Victor felt the creature dying, but it didn’t matter at that point. They were both gone in a blinding flash of white. The empty train continued gliding toward the next station like a moving ghost town, its cabin lights flickering on and off.