Saturday, November 12, 2016

Rail Yard Ghost - Guest Author: Samantha Shattles

(Hello Lovelies: As promised, today you get to check out the tale from our guest author, Samantha Shattles. While I normally like to place my words to you at the end of the story, I feel the need to warn that the story in question is a bit more graphic than my own pieces, and I would say reader discretion is advised as the tell contains scenes of gore and suicide. If you're not comfortable with that, no worries whatsoever. You're welcome to return shortly for more Xenophobia. Otherwise, please enjoy the words of Samantha Shattles.

Please note: she currently doesn't have a site of her own, but maybe we can convince her to do so or to join RB Publishing. Either way. Enjoy.)


***WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT*** Trigger Warning: Suicide/Gore

We hunkered down in the thicket of wild blackberries next to the tracks. Matisse pulled off his boots and massaged his aching feet. Artemisia wrinkled her nose at the smell coming off her brother's socks. Dante opted to keep his boots on. He became more fascinated by the prospect of fresh produce. I, however, had my eyes glued to the tracks, almost shivering with anticipation at the thought of getting on another train.

"We won't be catching out from here," Dante said, popping a fat berry into his mouth. "Nothing but hotshots. Still gotta hike a ways down. It's an okay place to camp for the night though."

I nodded absently. I was still high on the rush, even though we'd been walking for two days. Dante nudged me, offering a few berries. I popped them into my mouth and felt my face shrivel up at the tartness of them. Better than nothing though.

"I need to piss," Artemisia announced, standing again and trudging off a distance.

"Hey, don't sit in it this time," Matisse called after her.


The twins cackled in unison. I gave them a scathing look as I shoved another small handful of berries in my mouth. As a girl, going to the bathroom was difficult enough. Having boys around to remind you of mishaps made it that much worse. Artemisia didn't really need my help though. She had dealt with the two since she was four. They weren't even phased by my look.

Matisse waved it off. "She's not really mad. If she was she'd chuck a handful of hot shit on us both. Besides, what are little brothers for?"

A pain twisted in my chest and I looked away, struggling to swallow the fruit over the lump in my throat. I was not going to cry now. Crying wouldn't change a thing about what had happened. But, damn, I missed my own little brother. His cries rang in my skull and I could still almost feel his little arms around me from his last hug. There was no way of knowing if I made the right decision or if I made his life a living hell and there was nothing I could do even if I knew.

"Little brothers are not for pissing off their older sisters," Artemisia snapped, slapping Matisse upside the back of his head with a loud thwack. He just laughed as he rubbed the sore spot, Artemisia shaking out her sore hand. I managed a smile. It was nice to see Matisse laughing. He was too serious most of the time.

I nearly leapt out of my skin as hands cupped my face. Dante was staring at me with a great deal of concern, his thumbs wiping at my cheeks. I had hoped he wouldn't notice. But he did, like he always seemed to and I knew that he knew why I had fat tears rolling down my cheeks. He pressed his lips to mine, softly and chaste. My stomach fluttered but my heart twisted. I wanted to smile and break down at the same time. It was more emotion than I wanted to deal with. He pressed his forehead to mine, his fingers sliding into my hair.

"It's gonna be okay," he said softly. "It's gonna work out. Alex is never going to forget you or how much you love him. You'll see him again."

His other hand took my wrist and he gently stroked my brother's initials tattooed there. I wanted to believe he was right. It was just hard to see it the way he did. Alex was my life, my reason for living through the horrible things I endured. And now I didn't have him anymore. Dante had a lot of empathy for me because he missed his little sister, Georgia. But he knew he could go home whenever he wanted, while I was exiled, so he did his best to comfort me. All I could do was nod along to his words.

"We should play something. Cheer Fox right up," Artemisia chirped. Matisse was already opening his violin case. I nodded quickly at the suggestion. Nothing boosted my morale as much as watching the three of them play.

In no time the thicket was filled with their music: Matisse and his fiddling, Artemisia with her small banjo, and Dante on his travel guitar. Eventually, I joined in with my harmonica, stopping only to sing along to the songs I knew. Punk rock never sounded so good.

Between songs I heard the familiar high singing of the rails. A train was coming. I crawled out of the bushes to watch it go by. Aside from riding the freighters, nothing was better than feeling the blast of wind as one barreled by. Dante was right behind me. I could already see the bright orange engine down the line a ways. They must have spotted us too because the horn shattered the air, sending shivers up and down my body. I heard Dante chuckle.

That was when I saw her, crouched in the grass across the tracks and up the line from us. I'm not sure she saw us, but she probably knew we were there because of the music. I instantly got a bad feeling in my gut, though I wasn't sure why. The train horn blew again and the woman tensed. Dante's fingers curled around my arm and he tugged gently on me. I pulled away, wanting to see the train. It was almost to us, engines roaring and horn blasting. The woman stood up and Dante tugged on me again.

I made a sound as the woman threw herself in front of the train. She was trying to lay on the rail when it hit her with an audible THUMP. She flew a few yards towards us before hitting the ground, the train overtaking her quickly and running right over her. There was a mist of blood and screeching of emergency brakes being applied. Her torso, or what was left of it landed in front of us, dead eyes staring past me. I couldn’t tell if she had been pretty before now, she was just gore on the ground in front of me, around me. The smell was gagging me already.

"Holy shit," I heard Matisse say. "Holy fucking shit."

"We need to go," I heard Artemisia gag out.

I just stared at the pile of oozing meat at my feet. The train was slowing, the screeching deafening. Artemisia was trying not to vomit. Matisse was shuffling around behind me. Dante was talking. And the eyes rolled around one last time. I've lost my god-damned mind, I thought. My legs turned to jelly and I collapsed, screaming. At least, I think it was me screaming. My throat felt shredded after and I was fairly sure my lungs were inside out by the time I stopped. A few seconds felt like hours. Dante hauled me to my feet and gave me a good shake.

"Stop that! We have to go NOW," he barked. He was scared. He gathered me up against him and pulled me along back into the thicket. Matisse had his boots and pack on, looking ready to bolt. Artemisia had already started down the trail, not waiting for her brothers or me. Dante shoved my pack into my arms and pushed me along as he grabbed his own things. I stumbled over a rock and Matisse caught me before I could eat shit. I heard the train jolt to a halt finally as we followed Artemisia's tracks.

I was on autopilot. I had never seen anything so horrible in my life. Sure, I had cleaned up roadkill and half eaten, maggot infested rodents that my cats or coyotes had killed. But that been a person. I had just watched a person die. I saw a person get obliterated. And Dante had known it was going to happen. He had tried to pull me away from it.

I was numb for the rest of the day and well into the night. None of us felt like playing music when we finally made camp for the night. Artemisia, tough as nails, went a little ways from camp to cry privately. Matisse followed her just to watch her back in case of any big animals that might want to make a meal of her. I stayed with Dante while he made a fire. He was quiet while at his task. I sat cross legged with my pack in my lap, hugging it tightly.
"You knew," I said finally, my throat still hurting a bit.

He nodded.


"Not the first time I've seen it," he sighed.
Not the first time? He had seen something that awful before? And he was okay? I reached out and touched his shoulder. He sighed again.

"It was while we were on the road. Some rest stop in gods only know where. My folks had stopped the bus. Smoke break. Pee break. Some kind of break. Matisse and I were maybe... 8? He was in the bathrooms with Mom and Artemisia. Dad was checking the engine or whatever and I wanted to help. A train was coming and I got excited. Then all the sudden, this guy got out of his car and just ran up to the tracks...."

I stared at him. He said nothing else, just prodded the log in our little camp fire with a big stick. I scooted closer to him until I was right against his side.

"I've seen people fall under trains while catching out," he continued. "Dumb first timers who read an article on it and thought they could do it. I've seen people killed at rail crossings because they were dumb enough to think they could actually beat a fucking train."

I put my head on his shoulder. He put his arm around me and sighed again, rubbing my shoulder gently. "I've seen a lot of shit, Foxy. A lot of shit. I'm sorry you had to see it too."

"Why do people do it like that," I asked, sadly. "It's so fucked up."

"It's fucked up any way you do it," he replied. "There is no clean way to kill yourself. You're always going to fuck up the people around you by doing it. Especially the person who is unfortunate enough to find you after."

I nodded. I had no room to talk. I had scars up and down my arm from trying to find a way out of my misery. No wonder Dante was reluctant to let me come out here with him and Matisse. He'd seen some shit. He was afraid I'd get an idea to do it. Maybe he was scared that seeing it would make me want to do it. I shuddered hard and his arm tightened around me as he prodded the log again.

"Do you think Artemisia is okay," I asked.

"She will be. She's never seen a suicide like that before but she's seen her fair share of shit. She will cry it out and then it'll be like it never happened. That's how she rolls."

"And Matisse?"

He shrugged. "Same as me."


"Okay. I got you to look after. You?"

"I feel fucked up," I said, sullenly. "Like... I don't know how to describe it. It's just..."

I gave up trying to put it into words. His head rested on mine and I knew he didn’t expect me to keep trying to explain it. He already knew because he had been in my shoes before. I sighed and then yawned. I was exhausted but I had no desire to sleep. And definitely none to eat. Sex was also out of the question. I just stared into the fire until my eyes watered, hoping the heat would burn the image of gore out of my skull eventually. Booze sounded like a fantastic idea, but we were at absolute zero there too. There was nothing for it.


  1. Thank you Samantha.
    I volunteer on a crisis line so suicide is a topic/cause dear to me. And the ripples from each and every one grow to tsunami proportions....

    1. Thanks so much. I've been suicidal myself and have lost loved ones to it. I honestly feel like there isn't enough people out there willing to acknowledge it exists and bring awareness to it and how it effects all involved.

      Thank you for all you do to help people in crisis! It's so important. <3

  2. Hi Robert and Samantha - that is one piece of strong writing and yes I can see - just glad I've never experienced it. I'd like to know what the title means though ... those Rail Yard Ghosts will now have added to their number ... so sad - and I see EC has experience from her crisis line work ... with thoughts - Hilary

    1. Thank you so much.

      This piece is actually an excerpt from a book I am working on that is call "Rail Yard Ghost". It's a reference to having to move through the rail yards like a ghost to avoid being caught by the bulls -rail road police- and it was inspired by a hobo band of the same name.

  3. Not an easy read, but a very moving piece of writing. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thank you for reading! I was very hesitant to share the piece because of the content. But Rob and his wife (who I have been close with many years) convinced me that it needs to be out there, just like every other hard to read piece I've written. And I am so so glad it's been well received.

  4. Sure a great piece of writing as you captured it all. Seen it first hand, a road always haunting.

    1. Thank you! I did a lot of research about this particular act itself and I have had a few loved ones who have taken their own lives. I've battled with suicide myself and it's a subject that tends to be close to home for me.

  5. 27 years ago I was in a mental hospital with a man who was pulled from train tracks right before the train killed him. I had tried to kill myself as well which is why I was there. I think you really captured the horror of seeing something like that happen right in front of you.

    1. Thank you! I have personally struggled with suicide myself so it is a subject I like to bring awareness to every so often. I have watched loved ones die from illness and while it isn't quite the same thing, I really drew on those feelings. Also, a few people in my life who did witness terrible accidents and described the moment to me at some point in the past.

  6. While I might normally pick content quite like this I don't think I missed a word along the way. I felt like I knew them somehow and that's an art. Great job painting that picture Samantha you've got an excellent style.

  7. Well written, Samantha.

    Have a good week, Robert.

    1. Thank you, Sandra. I can't imagine it will be exciting as the last one (in a good way, I might add). And you as well. :)

  8. Hard subject matter, but very well written. I was completely engaged in the story the whole way through :)