August 6th, 1999
I was only fourteen at the time of the railroad demon encounter. Now at age thirty, I'm finally telling the story of that horrific day that changed everything. Me and my two best friends since Kindergarten, Derrick and Shooter loved everything supernatural. If there was a haunted house within a hundred-mile radius we'd be there, armed with flashlights, cameras, and junk food to keep us going through the night. Time and time again we'd debunk a myth, urban legend, or find out that the creepy figure lurking about in the middle of the night was just old Mrs. Jenkins, stoned out of her mind on painkillers and gin. Looking back now, I can't imagine her son taking care of her every minute of the day and night. That man never had a life other than his mother's care. Running outside at night with his bathrobe on convincing her he wasn't a leprechaun. It was on one of those crazy nights that I got an anonymous phone call. I was up in my bedroom going through my ghost and ghouls comic books when my mom calls out for me. "Jimmy!". "Yeah, Ma?" "Phone!" "Who is it?" "Dunno, just come and get it." I rolled my eyes at the thought of it being fat Ed the school bully. Once in a while, he'd make phone calls to kids' houses and when they'd answer, he'd either belch or fart in the receiver then hang up. I felt sad for anyone having to use his phone. Once in a while, someone would have the guts to write some interesting choice of words on his school locker but that seemed to give him more reason to cause harm. I lazily sauntered down the stairs and saw the phone was on the landing and picked it up. "Hello." I said in a bored tone. No one on the line. "Hello?" Then a quiet hiss was heard. Almost like steam escaping pipes. Anger suddenly flashed before me. Maybe it was the interruption from my comic books or the fact that I was a pimply-faced fourteen-year-old boy that had no girlfriend and probably never would but either way, I wasn't going to waste one more minute on this joker. As I was about to hang up, I heard it. My name. It was barely audible but it was there. "Who is this?" "Noooo oooone." Came the response. Everything in my being told me to hang up but I couldn't help but listen. "The tracks are where you need to be Jimmy. Come to the tracks at the cross anytime, I'll be waiting for you" Then the line went dead. I just stood there frozen and confused. "Tracks? What tracks?" Then it came to me. The railroad tracks on the outskirts of town, the crossing. Could that be it? My thoughts were interrupted by my Mother ordering me to set the table and call my Father for supper. Roast beef, boiled vegetables, and mash potatoes with gravy were on the menu which told me that I'd be getting roast beef sandwiches for lunch for the next two weeks. I accidentally sighed out loud as I was playing around with my food, the thought of the phone call running through my mind. "What's wrong with you?" My father looked at me with slight irritation. "Nothing." I answered and that was a good enough answer for him as he went back to sawing through an extra dry piece of meat. My poor Mother could take a delicious piece of meat and with a smile on her face and all good intentions in her heart, murder the hell out of it. My Father loved her beyond anything, even including me I felt sometimes, so he never mentioned her cooking unless it was to lie and say something nice. "I know something's wrong James." Mom picked up where Dad left off. That was the only problem, she was perceptive to every emotion no matter how much you tried to hide it. She stared with sweet patience and concern for my response. "I, uh, I had a fight with one of my friends today. I don't want to talk about it." Hoping that would be enough to keep her at bay. She nodded slowly and said "okay, eat your food" but I could clearly see that she believed none of it. That was Mom code for, now I'm going to snoop in your room, check your backpack and pockets, and pretty much stalk you because you are lying to me. I sighed again but this time in my head.
After supper, I ran upstairs to my bedroom taking the cordless phone with me. I had to tell Derrick and Shooter about the call. I sat/jumped on my bed and dialed. A few rings in..."Hello." "Hey Derrick, it's me, I got something to tell you. I..." "Ugh, not now Jimmy." He sounded annoyed and angry. "I just got grounded for a week for putting my sister's Barbie doll in the microwave." He hung up abruptly and I didn't dare call him back. You see, in Derrick's house it was never a simple you melted your dear sister's doll on a platter so therefore you're grounded and can't watch tv. Everyone knows he was being beaten. Even though he'd try and hide the bruises, they eventually showed. No one talked about it to him because he never wanted to talk about it. He just pretended like nothing happened, got over his mood, and went on with life. The worst the abuse, the more he'd do dangerous things like jumping off of bridges into waters of unknown depths or shooting metal signs with his b.b. gun which was the cause of a small scar on his left cheek. We worried for him at times but when you're fourteen and you can barely survive yourself, what do you do?... Call your next best friend so I rang Shooter. "Ya." He answered in his signature way. "Shooter! I got something crazy to tell you." "What is it booger?" It always irritated me that he called me booger but I didn't have time to argue with him. "I got the strangest call from no one." "What? Are you high right now? What are you talking about?" I paused a moment before I spewed everything. Shooter listened without interrupting once which was shocking as that's how he got his nickname, by always shooting off his mouth. I finished my story and waited. "Wow booger, that's pretty creepy." "So, what do you say?" The anticipation was killing me. "Sign me up! I say we catch this phony and chalk another one as debunked." I could hear the excitement in his voice. Sometimes he was more enthusiastic about this stuff than me. "Did you tell Derrick yet." "Yeah, well, he's grounded and stuff." We both fell silent and changed the subject. Comic books and horror movies were on the list of debates and I spent the rest of the night too restless to sleep. We would have to wait for Derrick to be un-grounded and then we'd check out the tracks. I made a list in my head of all the things we'd need and started on the lie I'd tell my parents to escape another Saturday afternoon of board games and lemonade.
The week passed slowly as molasses even though I made sure to keep myself occupied with a variety of interesting activities. None the less, Saturday arrived, my lie was believed and before I knew it, I was on my way to the secret meeting place to meet Derrick and Shooter in the woods, a.k.a Shooter's back yard. His father had been promising to mow the lawn since 1972 and now it had become a jungle. I got to a small clearing where three plastic chairs circled a small barbecue pit. That pit brought back some pretty good memories. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows while we swapped comics and talked about everything under the sun. I was the first to arrive and took pride in choosing the better of the three chairs. Leaving the one with the slightly wobbly leg and the other with the broken armrest. My watch showed 2:45 pm, the exact meeting time. I understood why Derrick would be late since he lived farther away and had to ride his bike to make it to the meetings but what was Shooter's excuse. He lived half a mile away. His family had owned acres and acres of land around their house, all of it was unkept. Two paths lead to the clearing, one that I took that connected me from the back road, and the other if followed, would bring you right to the back door of Shooter's house. I waited, bored, and hungry so I opened my backpack and dug in to see what surprise I would pull out. A bag of ketchup chips surfaced and I opened the bag just in time to see Derrick zoom in full speed on his bike. He slammed on the breaks two feet away from me, throwing dust and dirt on me. "Asshole!" I yelled as he gave me a huge grin and untied his backpack from the back of his bike, swinging it over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. A faint yellowish blue colouring could be seen under his right eye, I looked away from it. "You are such a wuss Jimmy. Can't handle your tighty whities getting dirty." He punched my shoulder hard and took the seat to my left. "Yeah, something like that. You want some dirt covered chips?" I offered and he kicked the bag out of my hands making them scatter everywhere. "Where the hell is Shooter? He God damn lives here. HEY SHOOTER!!! YOU DUMMY. YOUR BREATH STINKS LIKE CRAP AND YOUR A LAZY PIG." The words echoed through the trees and fell only on the sound of a light breeze and few chirping birds. "Hey Jimbo, can you go find dummy before I light his house on fire?" "You go. I got here first and besides, the moment I get up to go, you'll steal my chair." The twinkling in Derricks' eyes gave his little plot away and just then Shooter entered the clearing carrying a heavy-looking cooler. "Hey guys! I've got something special in here." He said in a tone so happy that his voice went an octave higher. "What is it? Your brains?" Derrick shot back with a devilish smile. "Shut up doofus or you'll be banned from having what's in here." We both leaned forward in our chairs as he sat the cooler down before us. He opened the lid with a triumphant ta-da! and we peeked in. Derrick put his hand in, a serious look on his face as he slowly brought out an item clutched in his hand. "Oh my God Shooter. I can't believe you got...you got...Uncle Jack Root Beer." We both burst out laughing at the stupidity of the situation. Shooter got unusually angry and began rummaging through the dozen or so sodas. "You bunch of idiots. How could I get these out of the house if they weren't buried under the sodas." He said, his anger vanishing quickly as he found his prize. He then pulled out three cans of beer. "Woah!" Was my response while Derrick snatched one out of Shooters hands and before he could protest, it was opened and being tasted. We all stared at him in shock. "What?" He looked back and paused from his drinking. "You can't possibly tell me guys this is your guys's first time drinking alcohol right?" Our dimwitted looks said it all as he stretched back and chugged some more. Shooter tossed me mine and we both took baby sips. It was disgusting. "It tastes like sweaty socks." I said grimacing. Shooter shared my sentiment but after a few more forced sips, a wave of calm and relaxation came over us and we mellowed out like Derrick, in silence, with just the swishing of cheap beer between us. The buzz was great, so great that we forgot about the tracks, the snacks, and even the time. "Oh crap! What time is it?" Shooter jumped up, killing the last little bit of buzz that was left. I checked my watch. "3:30pm." "Oh thank God. We should go over our plan one more time and meet this joker. Make a fool out of him like he did you Jimmy." Derrick nodded subtly and I was all for it. We threw our empty cans far into the woods and got to work, huddled together like footballers before a big game.
It was a long walk and many bags of chips and chocolate bars lost their lives in the process. In the distance, we could see the red and white painted "x" of the crossing. Our playful and joking demeanor eroded more and more the closer we got to it. An uneasiness began to settle on us which had never happened before. It was usually the same old nerd trying to be cool or taking revenge on anyone they could, we would call their bluff and they'd run away or start crying but this was different. It almost felt like there was an evil presence. Even Shooter became quiet. "Do you see anyone?" Derrick whispered and if I wasn't mistaken, I thought I heard a twinge of fear in his voice. We scanned the area as we walked along the railroad tracks but could see no one. "Bet you they were just yanking your chain." Shooter said as he thrust his hands hard into his hoodie pockets. I was about to agree with him until about twenty feet from the crossing sign, from behind the post appeared a figure. We stopped, stunned just at the fact that something the size of an average human man stepped out from behind a post six inches in diameter. It's funny how when you see the most unexplainable thing in the world, your brain just makes you accept what you just saw and says keep calm and carry on. Survival mechanism to prevent you from going insane I suppose. The thing shuffled a little closer to us and stopped. We were frozen with fear and shock. It was clothed in a multitude of worn and shredded garments of all sorts which made it look kind of bulky and misshapen with no arms. Its head hung low at a ninety-degree angle so that its face was facing the ground and shoulder-length dirty white hair hung in greasy strings as to hide any features. Shooter's eyes were bulging out of his head and he wasn't blinking and as for Derrick, his mouth was partially open, his skin seemingly more pale than usual. "Do you guys know what that thing is wearing?" Shooter said slowly, eyes still wide. Me and Derrick gave silence as our answer so he continued. "Do you remember those missing kids pictures on the telephone poles and stuff? I think...I think I recognize the clothi...." His words trailed off as the pieces of the puzzle fell frighteningly into place. The thing then raised its head and finally revealed itself. Where skin would be, it was flayed. Fresh blood oozed from everywhere, even out of the eye sockets where the eyes should have been. No lips but a gaping mouth filled with needle-like teeth made a chomping motion. Derrick was the first to bolt down the line, followed by Shooter who screamed so loud as he raced past me that my ears started to ring. I was the last to get my jelly legs to work. The thing began to give chase. The train station was a mile away and we'd have to run full speed without slowing in the lest to have a chance at escaping it. That's the great thing about adrenaline, it can make you do the impossible. We didn't have to look back to sense how close it was. I managed to somewhat catch up with Derrick and Shooter who were now running side by side. Then Derrick turned his head and the look of terror on his red sweaty face said it all. I followed suit like a moron and looked behind me not only to see the monster about ten feet away from me but also to catch my foot on a loose bit of rail wood and fall face-first onto the metal, wood, and gravel. The pain was immense in so many places but the fear of being eaten alive overruled that pain as I rolled to a stop. It was seconds before it caught up to me and with no other thought process than to protect myself, I curled up into a ball, my arms covering my head just to see it from my partially closed eyes, jump over me with ease and continue the chase. Luckily nothing was broken and I was able to get up and hobble run behind it, not wanting to abandon my best friends. I still to this day have no clue why it didn't attack me but I will never forget what happened next.
With a busted lip and countless scrapes and bruises, I watched as the creature suddenly picked up speed and closed in on them. I yelled for them to run faster, I yelled at it to stop and take me, I begged God for help but nothing worked. It took Derrick out first, knocking him to the ground with a powerful leaping kick that rendered him unconscious. Then it lunged at Shooter, needle mouth opened wide as it sunk its teeth deep into his left shoulder causing him to yelp in pain. It looked exactly like when a lion would bring down a gazelle and the gazelle would just instinctively keep running while being slowed down by the sharp claws and heavy muscle of the beast. Shooter finally gave in and turned to face the evil that was attached to him. I, at this point, had managed to get close enough to the horror to see the blazing uncontrolled madness in Shooter's eyes. Like a flash, he began walloping the thing's face with his bare fist until I could hear the cracking of bone and the wet sound of blood. He was heaving and shaking and pale but the creature kept its mouthful. Then with a sickening display, it ripped a huge chunk of flesh from his shoulder, letting the meat slide down its throat. My senses somewhat returned to me and I began picking up rocks of all sorts and throwing them at it. I hit its head, back, and legs but nothing affected it. It simply ignored me and went about its business tearing my friend apart as he lay dying in a pool of blood. Shooter's nose was torn off, his scalp peeled away from his skull all while he was still alive and conscious. He no longer had the strength to utter even the slightest sound but laid there staring up at the summer sky as bits and pieces of body parts were stripped away and devoured. As a last attempt of courage and bravery, I tried to pull it away from its meal but with an effortless twist of its back and a backward kick, I was sent sailing through the air, landed badly, and broke my leg and arm which rendered me useless. At that moment, Shooter exhaled loudly and that was the last breath he took. "NOOO!!! YOU BASTARD." I bellowed and cried until my voice was hoarse, all the while it pretended like I didn't exist. It zeroed in on the next victim who was now coming to. "Derrick, run!" A crackly hushed voice emerged. It walked toward him while crouching, making its ugly head bob up and down as it went. Before Derrick could react, it had latched on to his foot. With the other free one, he kicked and squirmed to get loose but like with Shooter, it was never letting go. I should have looked away, I should have closed my eyes but like with any trauma, it forces you to watch against your will. Now it was Derrick's turn to pummel the thing senseless with all his might until exhaustion overtook him and he sat slouched and panting. I expected the foot to be ripped off and eaten but it had something else in mind as it slowly began to chew and swallow first the top part of the foot then made its way higher and higher. It sounded like the crispy ends of chicken wings being eaten but louder and coupled with blood-curdling screams. Tears poured down my cheeks as the feast ended at Derrick's knee and the shock and bloodloss turned his piercing screams to pitiful moans. Derrick was amazingly still in a sitting position his jeans soaked in blood and bits of meat and bone. He was moving his arms slowly back and forth like a bird flapping its wings in slow motion, a look of death on his face. He was muttering something that I couldn't hear but whatever it was, the thing responded to the words by staring up at him, grinned, and took his whole face into its mouth. Derrick's body was thrown violently onto its back and then started to convulse. By the time it disengaged from his face, his skin was gone and so were his eyes and for the first time, it noticed me. That's when I lost consciousness.
"So, that's how you remember it exactly?" The gray-haired shrink with the piece of spinach stuck between his teeth asked. "Yes." I stared at the table we were seated at, embarrassment at the thought of what I just told him. Who would ever believe me? "Sweety, are you sure that's what happened?" My Mother, who had always attended my shrink meetings, asked also. "Yeah, Ma." She leaned back in her chair and began to cry. "I didn't mean to upset you Ma. It's okay, you don't have to believe me. I know you love me. You do, don't you ma?" She sniffled and nodded. I felt a small wave of relief and turned towards old spinach teeth. "So, are we done for today?" "Yes James, we're done for today." He seemed disheartened but I couldn't care a less because today was board game and lemonade day with mom and even though I really did hate it I regretted not spending that time with her as a kid. "Is dad coming to play this time?" I asked her, hopeful. "No sweety, he can't make it. Maybe next time." She said through blowing her nose and wiping her tears. As she brought out the board game and thermos of lemonade from a duffle bag, the shrink, who was stuffing papers back into his briefcase, asked to speak with her in private. Something about him gave me the creeps. Like he was some sort of predator preying on my mom. If he ever hurt her, I'd make sure he'd regret it for the rest of his life. I gave him a death glare as they exited the room. "You know Mrs. Erickson, it's been sixteen years now and I think it's time to close this case." Her eyes grew dark with anger. "I am not giving up on him, he's my son and I will get him help. I will get him fixed." The shrink pinched the soft bit of flesh between his eyebrows and sighed softly. "If he doesn't admit to slaughtering his friends and dumping their bodies on the railroa..." She didn't want to hear anymore so turned and went back into the room with her son. "Hey Ma! Thought you left forever." I joked but she didn't seem in the joking mood so I dropped it. She carefully set up the game and poured the lemonade, put a straw in there, and gave me a weak smile. "Do you think they could loosen the straps on this jacket, my arms are getting a bit numb?" I asked, looking at my arms that were pinned across my chest, the sleeves of the jacket tied in the back. "They sure know how to treat guests here. Why are they doing this to me Ma? I'm the victim, my friends were murdered by some monster thing and I'm looked at like I'm crazy. Why can't we just go home." Desperation filled my voice and tears welled up. "I'll play your side and you can tell me what cards you want and..." "MA! I DON'T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE GAME. I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE. HELP ME!" She banged her fists against the table which made one of the guards outside peek through the little round window. "James, you need to tell me the truth about what happened that day. That's the only thing that will help you and get you out of here." I had never seen her this furious before so I stayed quiet. "You've been saying the same exact story every month for the past sixteen years. Not one word different, not one sentence out of place. Here's the reality of it all James and I don't care what psychological effect it may have on you because in all these years, they prevented me from telling you the truth. They wanted you to admit what you did on your own so they could study your reaction to your own words and help you from there but it's been too long and I'm too tired and I want my boy back so here it is. You never got an anonymous call from anyone. I heard you up in your room talking to yourself about going to the crossing and you were making strange hissing noises. I thought you were just playing around but I started to worry when I found drawings in your drawer of hideous creatures and dead bodies. When I confronted you about them, you said they belonged to Shooter and Derrick. I knew you were lying." I just looked at her unblinking, shocked at what she was saying. "You tortured, mutilated, and murdered your own best friends James, do you hear me?" Her words assaulted my ears, I didn't want to hear this, was she telling the truth? Maybe she was mistaken or maybe all this... My mind was ready to explode as she went on about the gory details. A rocked back and forth on my chair trying to calm myself. "This is not true, this is not true." I muttered but then the thought of what if, what if she really was right, that I did murder my own friends in cold blood. The prospect of that shot pins and needles throughout my body. Why would I do such a thing? It made no sense. Then I noticed something behind her, peeking over her shoulder. My change of expression made her stop talking and look over her shoulder. The hollow-eyed demon was right there an inch from my Mother. "MA! WATCH OUT, IT'S RIGHT THERE BEHIND YOU." I began to panic and struggle to free myself so I could save her. Two guards and a nurse suddenly came in and I then felt a small burning pain in my hip. I looked down to see a needle stuck in me. No matter what I said and how much I thrashed about it was useless and soon the drugs had taken effect and I slowly drifted off into another realm. Safe and sound from the railroad demon.