By Hervé Suys
The story I am about to tell started on a cloudless evening. Some people might even consider it to be night already.
I returned from giving a lecture at the invitation of Het Genootschap. I myself had not been a member for several years, but I felt very honored that they hadn’t forgotten about me and could still appreciate my work.
On my way to this lecture I had to deal with several traffic diversions and I arrived only just in time for the introductory meeting, so I afterwards asked the Pretor, who knew this region better than I did, if he could recommend an easier and less traveled route to drive back.
At first he suggested that I could spend the night at his house with him and his family, but I didn’t feel like spending the night elsewhere than home.
I made up an excuse that I had a few pets and that they still needed to be fed. The Pretor gave me a few rather confusing directions, which I carefully noted and I wrote down a number of checkpoints, such as an abandoned farm or the remainders of a chapel.
I was very surprised when I arrived at a railway crossing on the way back. The barrier on my side was down and two big red lights were blinking non-stop. I could not imagine that the Pretor had forgotten to mention this crossing or that I would have missed this part of the description.
I estimate that I was standing in front of the closed level crossing for several minutes before seeing two lights approaching in the rear-view mirror. A moment later a vehicle pulled halt just behind mine. The driver, a man who seemed to be a dozen years younger than myself but who was a lot taller than I was, got out immediately. In the light that came from the open door, I noticed a woman with medium long dark hair. I don’t know if it was the spectacles she wore or not, but in her eyes I saw a mixture of fear and disbelief.
The man looked around in amazement and wanted to say something when a second car approached. His words, I don’t even remember if he had already said them out loud, were lost in the honking of the other vehicle. Two men got out of this car.
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One of them, I think it was the passenger, got out of the car and went determinedly left past the barrier, looked right and left several times as a child who anxiously stands on the footpath and does not dare to cross the empty street, then he climbed onto the train tracks, turned to us and shrugged his shoulders, indicating that nothing was wrong.
That was the last movement I saw of him, because the next moment a bright light flashed at shoulder’s height without a sound, it seemed to pass from left to right. No locomotives or wagons were to be detected, but the man seemed to be gone. His companion, presumably the driver, walked onto the tracks as well, searching for what was left of the man. The name he screamed escapes me at this moment, but it was the first and also the last thing I heard of him, because a similar light as earlier flashed again, this time it seemed to pass in the other direction.
I was bedazzled. The man from the first car approached me and for a moment we stood with our hands on the barrier and peered at the train tracks. He stammered that no train could pass there at all. He assured me that he had taken this road the previous day. He wanted to take a closer look when the woman with the dark hair got out and called out his name.
He turned in her direction and ordered her firmly to return to her seat in the car.
I don’t exactly recall what happened next and can not display the exact number of cars, but in the following moments other cars arrived. In a few words we tried to explain what had happened. Obviously they stared at us suspiciously at first, but when we drew attention to the railroad which suddenly seemed to glow loomingly, every attempt at ridicule disappeared.
Something had to be done, that was beyond dispute. The others would spread out to get help. Because, as I mentioned earlier, I do not know this region so well, I suggested to stay put in order to warn new drivers. Hardly a few moments passed since the others had left, when a young man in a glitzy sports car ignored my words and attempted to cross the railway. The car did not make the slightest noise when the white light flashed by.
Meanwhile, the darkness is gradually. There is no car on the other side of the railway and no living soul to be seen. When I look behind me, it seems as if the horizon is slowly disappearing. I try to make sense of it myself: the end of the horizon is getting closer. Where a windmill could still be observed a moment ago, I can now only detect a blue sky. If I did not know any better and if I wouldn’t be aware of the absurdity of my thoughts, I would think that the earth is slowly disappearing.
I will put these sheets of paper in an empty bottle of water and then throw the bottle to the other side of the railway. Dear reader of my message, I hope you take this message seriously and send us help, before it’s too late.
I found this letter at the break dawn when I stood in front of this closed crossing. The barrier is downwards along this side and two red lights are continuously flashing. But I can not see the other side, it seems like the earth stops here. Strange, because I know for sure that no train has ever passed by here ….
(°1968 – Ronse, Belgium) started writing short stories whilst recovering from a sports injury and hasn’t stopped since. He has published his disturbing fiction in The Netherlands, Belgium, France, India, Estonia and the USA. So far …