The Freight Train: by Dave Moores

Excerpt from his best selling novel ATTITUDE.

Published by MiddleRoad Publishers

Lyle desperately needs to find Laura. Her best friend Darlene may know something. She’s at volleyball practice

Lyle couldn’t bear to wait on this any longer. During the phone calls, horrid visions of what might be happening to Laura kept surfacing. He tried to push them aside but they wouldn’t go away. Idiot! How could he have wasted a whole afternoon hanging out at Garth’s? The need to know if Laura was alright had become a fire alarm jangling in his head.

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 Volleyball practice for the Southmead Storm girls’ rep team would be at the school gym. Mom wouldn’t take him, no point asking. He’d have to ride his bike. Really, dipshit,? Three kilometres on snow-covered roads? Walk instead? It was already past seven and he needed to get there. So it was bike or nothing.

Lyle shrugged on the parka and mitts he wore for mornings waiting on the school bus in the frigid darkness. He headed for the back door. “Mom, gotta go out, forget supper,” he yelled, slammed the door without waiting for an answer, ran to the garage and grabbed his bike. 

Dad had got it for him, a mountain bike with knobbly tires, not long before he went away. It could handle the winter roads in a pinch, but was hardly ideal transport at this hour, lacking lights.

A bitter night, no wind for once. No moon either. Instead, an endless canopy of stars, enough to light the way as Lyle’s eyes adjusted. The spectacle caught his attention and brought to mind a TV program about galaxies and the Big Bang and stuff. Here it all was, right there above him, and for a moment the reality of it was almost scary. Here he was, biking across the flatlands by the light of a billion suns. Sorta awesome, he’d have to tell Garth about it, the little nerd got off on that kind of thing. Then images of Laura being used by Brad and Mitch returned and eclipsed the majesty of the Universe.

A couple of vehicles passed going his way but nobody stopped to offer a ride. Which they could have, a pickup and an SUV after all. Lyle didn’t care, he could do this, was going to do this. A hard knot of purpose had formed. Wheeling through the freezing darkness, he’d embraced a mission. The women he cared about needed help and he would find a way to bring it. And right then, his distress about being the not-totally-up-to-the-task younger brother fell away, no longer shadowing him like an unwelcome revenant. It felt strange, yet free, and he pedalled on.

The deep insistent drumming of a locomotive sounded across the fields. Lyle approached the railway crossing. His leg muscles had begun to burn but time was short and the approaching train would be one of those mile-long freights that took forever to pass. He stood up on the pedals and made all deliberate speed toward the tracks. The air started vibrating.

No problem, he’d make it with a good hundred meters to spare. He sped up to the crossing, the locomotive’s siren deep and urgent in his ears. The barriers had come down and the red lights flashed a warning. No problem again, a quick zig around the barriers and he’d be by. 

The train’s headlight was a staring white eye getting big. The bike’s front wheel hit a skim of ice and Lyle slammed down hard, sprawling. The siren sounded staccato, urgent blasts. Lyle’s left leg got hooked through the bike’s frame and it was taking way too long to drag it free. The train had become a child’s nightmare monster bent on ending his life but in the final panicked moments Lyle managed to free his leg and scrabble, like some crabwise crawling thing, across the last rail. He barely had time to twist around and watch the locomotive thunder past, shaking the ground.

Every part of him felt like jello. His leg hurt bad. Freight cars rumbled by, that close, stirring up gusts of cold air. The bike was gone.

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