Chloe, Alexander, Mouse, and Elizabeth stood in silence in the witch’s train car. It was difficult to process all that had happened. The witch was gone, and with her the front of the train. The train had stopped moving. They were now stranded in the desert. Chloe couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. Before they were traveling somewhere and now they were still. If the train had a destination, they would never reach it.
“That was boss.” Mouse broke the silence. “You were cool Chloe.” Mouse gave Chloe a reassuring pat on the back. “Now we don’t have that witch to worry about.”
“Yeah.” Chloe wasn’t sure how to respond. Everything had happened so quickly. She was surprised at her ability to react so fast. Playing all those video games had finally paid off. Elizabeth gazed out of the train car in disbelief.
“Elizabeth, are you okay?” Chloe asked. She nodded her head wildly, then turned and flung herself on to Chloe hugging her tightly.
“Thank you thank you thank you.” She repeated joyously. “I never thought I’d be free from her.”
Chloe wasn’t sure how to respond. The child was thanking her for potentially murdering someone. While it was true the witch lived, it could have ended differently. Chloe had to keep herself convinced that this wasn’t real, and the witch was part of the simulation. It was no different than killing a monster in a game.
“I must admit Chloe. You’ve done what I thought impossible. Here we stand in the witch’s territory, an area we all feared.” Alexander had been inspecting the room, something Chloe still hadn’t done. She was too busy being lost in her mind to focus on her surroundings. The room was dark, but now her eyes had plenty of time to adjust to the lack of light.
The room was a complete mess. There was a large bed in the center, perfect for fitting a large person like the witch. There were several shelves along the walls all containing a wide variety of tools. The tools were stored in small boxes, the same kind of box Chloe took the wrench from. On the ground were scattered papers, Alexander had already picked one up.
“Look here.” He held the paper out for the rest to see. The paper was covered in rudimentary drawings, like something a child would make. The drawings were mostly stick figures, with a few other scribbles of some vague shape that looked like a train. They also weren’t drawn in pencil, instead a rougher source like charcoal. The rest of the papers were similar, some of them had some writing on them though Chloe did not recognize the language.
“Can you read this?” She asked Alexander.
“The alphabet shares some letters with English, but some of these symbols I don’t recognize. I’m not a linguist, but I’d guess ancient European. It doesn’t seem to be derived from Latin.” Alexander focused on the words trying to make some sense of them.
“Nerd alert.” Mouse chuckled, pouring through the papers clumsily. “So when are we going? I want to see what’s in the next train car. With that witch gone we should have the whole train to ourselves, except the front part of course!”
“We should further investigate this place first. I don’t want to miss anything important.” Chloe insisted. She and Alexander spent about ten more minutes shuffling through papers, but it was just more of the same. Mouse looked through the tools, grabbing a large hammer and arming himself. He claimed it was in case they ran into any more suspicious witches down the line, but Chloe figured it was more to keep himself entertained.
“I haven’t seen a pencil. I wonder how she made these drawings.” Alexander inquired something Chloe had already thought of.
“She scratched the drawings in with her decaying fingernails. They are drawings of us, everyone who’s ever set foot on this train.” Elizabeth whispered quietly. Her voice was strange, full of darkness.
“Elizabeth? Are you okay?” Chloe asked. It was strange for a little girl to give off such a creepy vibe.
“I am now that she’s gone.” Elizabeth’s dark aura dispersed and her eyes welled up like she was about to cry. “It’s been so long. The nights when I was alone with her were the worst.”
“Elizabeth has been here longer than any of us.” Alexander reminded Chloe.
“I don’t know where you heard that Elizabeth, but it’s not true. I think the drawings were made long ago with charcoal, we don’t even know if the witch was the one who made them. Don’t let your imagination get the better of you.” Chloe spoke strictly. Elizabeth gave Chloe a gentle nod and hugged her again.
“Thank you Miss Chloe.” She murmured. Her face half stuffed against Chloe’s pajamas.
“Let’s go Miss Chloe.” Mouse mocked. He had reached the limits of his patience. He held the hammer behind his neck, leaning back against it like it was a pillow. The hammer was just big enough for him to rest his neck on the shaft while his hands grasped the ends.
“Fine, let’s go.” Chloe groaned rolling her eyes. “Alexander, are you ready?”
“Yes.” It took a moment for Alexander to respond, he was so engrossed in the drawings. He left the paper behind, having no place to store it and took up the rear as the four crossed over to the next train car.
“The witch’s train car looks bigger on the outside than on the inside.” Mouse commented. It was strange for him to make such an observation. It showed how easy it was to see the obscurity of the simulation, even if someone from his era didn’t understand.
“Try not to think about it, it will only make you dizzy.” Alexander replied. Elizabeth held Chloe’s hand tightly as they crossed the metal bridge between cars. The sun was blinding on their eyes after being in the dark room for so long. Mouse hastily opened the door to the next car, and nearly let out a yelp.
It was another dining area, similar to the one at the front of the train. This one looked slightly less luxurious. There were more booths, but each booth was smaller than the ones they were all used to sitting in. That’s not what Mouse yelped about. The train car was full of spectral human shaped figures. They were completely transparent, and had no other features other than size and shape. The only color they had to them was a tint of white which made them barely visible in the dim light of the car.
“What in god’s name?” Mouse backed away, allowing Chloe to take the lead. Elizabeth withdrew her hand refusing to step any closer. She was frozen in fear. Chloe felt a shiver run down her spine looking at the ghostly figures. While she was afraid, she didn’t feel threatened. Alexander moved up next to her, apparently sensing the same thing she was.
The figures didn’t pay them any notice and continued moving about the train car in a natural manner. It looked just like a crowded train would look. There was even a small ghostly child running up and down the aisle. Some of the ghosts sitting in the booths gestured like they were talking, but they made no sound.
“Ghosts? Victims of the witch.” Elizabeth whispered under her breath. Chloe could only make out her faint voice because of how quiet it was now that the train was no longer moving.
“They’re not ghosts. At least I don’t think they are.” Alexander stated confidently. “I don’t know how I know, but I don’t think ghosts look like that.”
“Have you encountered a ghost before?” Mouse asked doing his best to hide his fear.
“I don’t know.” Alexander admitted. “I feel like I have, but I can’t remember it.”
“I don’t think they can see us.” Chloe told the rest of them. She tried knocking on the wall as loudly as she could. Each beat made Elizabeth quiver more intensely. As she predicted, the ghosts, or whatever they were, didn’t react at all.
“Maybe we should just skim through?” Mouse suggested. He stood forward, moving in front of Chloe. “I’ll protect you if anything happens.” He stuttered. He was trying to act cool, but it wasn’t working.
“If you’re scared, maybe I should go first?” Chloe suggested. He shook his head adamantly.
“Try not to touch them if we can help it.” Alexander told Mouse. After a brief moment of hesitation Mouse slowly stepped into the room and the rest followed. He took careful steps to avoid bumping into any of the spectral entities that moved down the aisle. Dodging them was easier said than done. Elizabeth clung to Chloe even tighter than before. She whimpered like a lost puppy. Chloe did her best to embrace her. It was scary, but they had to persevere.
Chloe observed the specters’ movements further. They would bump into each other like normal people on a train, and then would look at each other as if apologizing. Everything they did felt so fluid, so natural.
“I’m sure we’ll pass right through them harmlessly if we do come into contact. I have a theory that we are seeing into an alternate dimension, but it’s only an image of that dimension, like the barrier between dimensions is weaker here, but only on our end as they haven’t noticed us.” Alexander began ranting to himself. He continued to speak faster. Chloe had a hard time keeping up with him while following the movements of the entities.
“Would you shut up?” Mouse snapped. He yelled at Alexander, even turning back to face him.
“Sorry.” Alexander quickly did as he was told.
“Look out!” Elizabeth pointed as one of the ghosts made their way towards Mouse. He turned back but it was too late, it bumped right into him. Mouse stumbled backwards thrown off by the sudden impact. Alexander’s theory was wrong, they didn’t pass through harmlessly. Despite being transparent, they were solid.
The ghost stopped in its tracks facing the group. Chloe looked around and saw the rest of them had suddenly become still as well. Every single one of the figures was facing them now, and they were dead center of the train car. Escape wasn’t an option.
“What’s happ-” Alexander began to say but was cut off. A loud wailing screech came from the ghosts. Their faces split open, creating a small hole in their form that worked as a mouth. The screaming grew louder to the point where they were forced to cover their ears. It was horrible noise, like a cheese grater wrapped in Styrofoam rubbing against a chalkboard. Chloe dropped down turning her gaze to the floor, ducking as the screaming grew louder and louder. There was nowhere to run.