Friday, 13 July 2012

#FridayFlash - Ghost Train

The train lurches out of the Tottenham Court Road station and rattles east. Elsa flicks from her Kindle app to the clock - another ten minutes and she'll be at Liverpool Street. Plenty of time to catch the train to Stansted before her flight to Naples.

The train slows, and rumbles to a stop. Elsa looks up, expecting to see Holborn station. Instead, she sees simply darkness outside the window. Across the carriage, she sees the familiar tunnel walls, with their cables and metalwork. Just another random stoppage on the London Underground.

A scraping sound, like nails on glass, scratches behind her. She turns to look over her shoulder, and sees empty space where there should be a tunnel wall. She presses her face to the window and peers into the gloom. She makes out a wall several feet away, and the remains of old tiles form a sad mosaic of abandonment. Fragments of facts, dispensed at a party like ice breaking sweets, flit through her mind. Nothing substantial, just enough to amuse for a second or so. Elsa stares into the darkness, wondering if she's really looking at the remains of the British Museum station, closed almost eighty years previously.

A face looms large at the window, its eyes lined in thick kohl and beads hanging among braided hair. Elsa scrambles out of her seat and over her suitcase, terrified not just by the face, but by the fact she can see the outline of the tiles through it. Dark eyes catch sight of Elsa, and painted lips turn up at the corners. Elsa fumbles with her phone, scrolling through the apps to find the camera. She doesn't want a permanent record of that rictus grin, but no one will believe her without one.

The shutter sound breaks the silence in the carriage, and Elsa looks around to see if her fellow passengers have noticed anything is amiss. It is still too early for most commuters, and those few who ride the train with her are asleep, or engrossed in battered paperbacks. No one is aware of the smiling face in the tunnel, or the fingers that now stroke the windows. The curved nails leave grooves in the grime caked on the glass. Elsa stands and reaches for her case, intending to move down the carriage.

She glances at the face, the grin now replaced by a wide open mouth. A scream both surrounds and penetrates Elsa, buffeting her body and echoing inside her head. Elsa throws herself into a seat and clamps her hands over her ears. The scream is wild and unbridled, full of arcane lore and ancient deeds.

The train shudders into life and hauls itself onwards, leaving behind the ghost station and its resident. Elsa leans her head back against the window and closes her eyes, forcing her breathing to slow. The driver makes an announcement, mumbling futile apologies about unexpected delays.

Without looking at the screen, Elsa fumbles to slide her phone into her pocket. She does not see the saved image of the Egyptian princess with the grin of Death itself.

* * *

This flash was inspired by a Twitter conversation with the very excellent Nerine Dorman, whose latest book, Inkarna, is heavily steeped in ancient Egyptian mysticism. It's also inspired by the legend that tells of the ghost of a mummy who allegedly haunts the old British Museum station, that was closed in 1933. It lies halfway between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, and you can read more about it here, here, and here, if that tickles your fancy. As a side note, I was once on a train that stopped in the station, and I could just about make out where the old platform would have been (before they tore it up). Sadly (?) no faces peered in at me that day.

19 comments:

CharlotteC said...

Brilliant story

Helen said...

Cool story - I've ridden the underground many times in the past, but don't remember every going through that station, or knowing about it. I for one shall read the link you supplied. - Facinating stuff.

Good story Icy! ^_^

Carrie Clevenger said...

Yikes! I like ghosts, trains, mummies, and all three? Bang! Dead! xx

flyingscribbler said...

I'd never heard of the station either. I love the way the other passengers are too engrossed to notice anything weird happening. That always happens in horror stories and it isolates your protagonist in her scary moment.

Janet Lingel Aldrich said...

Absolutely eerie... I think I'd have been tempted to close my eyes on the old theory that "If I can't see them...". Cool story.

jackkholt said...

Spooky! Loved this line: "The scream is wild and unbridled, full of arcane lore and ancient deeds."

Tony Noland said...

Well done, Icy. I'm not aware of any ghosts haunting the subways of Philadelphia, but I'll be on the lookout for them now.

Larry Kollar said...

I'd heard of the station, amazingly enough. I do love the premise of this, the idea that an ancient Egyptian haunts the stop. I wonder if the image showed up on her cell cam. ;-)

Icy Sedgwick said...

Charlotte - Glad you liked it!

Helen - There are SO many abandoned tube stations. They fascinate me! I'd love to poke around down there if I could.

Carrie - Glad I could entertain!

Justin - Just another example of my encyclopaedic knowledge of utter trivia. ;-)

Janet - I'm glad you found it eerie, it's sometimes hard to generate that sort of atmosphere in a story.

Jack - I do like to waffle on, don't I?

Tony - Make sure to take any photos if you see one!

Larry - I hope so!!

Aidan Fritz said...

Real life can be so crazy. I love the way it inspired this tale, and the next time I'm on the underground, I'm not going to be looking forward to any delays. Who knows what hidden stations might be out there.

Chuck Allen said...

This gave me a shiver. I think underground train passages are one of the perfect settings for such hauntings.

Matthew Pizzolato said...

Great story, Icy. I enjoyed it.

Steve Green said...

This type of short story make excellent twilight zone episodes, it reminds me in a way of the episode about the guy on the plane who was the only person who could see the demon on the wing pulling bits of metal off it.

Nice one Icy. :)

Natalie Bowers said...

Creepy! It reminds me of the flashes you see out of the corner of your eye and wish you hadn't ...

Sulci Collective said...

I liked how you dealt with the sensations surrounding this, the initial flashes and fragments occurring just below the level of her conscious realisation. Excellent storytelling

marc nash

Katherine Hajer said...

I'll give Elsa lots of points for knowing that the British Museum station is there -- I'm always shocked by how little people know about their cities' histories. Loved the imagery in this one, and that the camera preserves the truth (as opposed to the old, "but it was there!" scenario).

JC Rosen said...

You draw me in immediately every time, Icy. "... a sad mosaic of abandonment." Gorgeous. How you turn horror into such a beautifully rendered story amazes me. Talent, pure and simple. Thanks for this.

Take care,
JC

Cindy Vaskova said...

Your words in this piece are a symphony of eeriness!
I could see that dreadfull face grinning and those cold fingers placed upon the window.

Brilliant story Icy! Gave me chills!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Glad everyone enjoyed it!

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