The Time Train

The Time Train

by Eric M. Bosarge

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Overview


When Amos, a rebellious young man in the 1930s, attempts to stop time travelers from kidnapping a girl, he learns the future is overrun by aliens — and his future grandson will cause the invasion by contacting them. When the time travelers realize who Amos is, they hunt him down with murderous intent in order to save the future.

But when their plan fails, the time travelers must offer Amos an uneasy exchange — knowledge and wealth for his help in creating a secret refuge outside of time for the survivors of the alien attack. Their goal: to change the future before it happens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942546115
Publisher: Medallion Media Group
Publication date: 07/12/2016
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author


Eric M. Bosarge grew up in Stephen King’s hometown of Durham, Maine, and started writing stories in fourth grade. He earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. He loves being active and spending time with his wife, Megan, and dog, Scruffy. He lives in Brunswick, ME.

Read an Excerpt

The Time Train


By Eric M. Bosarge

Medallion Press, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 Eric M. Bosarge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-942546-11-5


CHAPTER 1

Amos

I couldn't outrun the shadow of Christ no matter how many trains I jumped on. I baptized myself in the wind of freedom every ride, holding my arms up like a saint atop the car, but he was everywhere I looked, everywhere I stopped, condemning me.

In the jungles, what they call tent cities made in copses a mile or so from any train station, someone would always mutter a prayer of thanks for beans or the chicken they stole from the local farmer, or beg forgiveness for having stolen it. Every town had a church, every street corner a preacher talking about the wiles of the devil. It got so that even I thought I knew what evil was.

Back home, Christ had been nailed to the wall: my father's crowning achievement. Some kind of artist, Ma said he was, creating the Lord out of soft pine like that, even taking the consideration to carve the folds of his loincloth. They pinned him to the plaster behind the radio, and he sat there, his idiot-crude face listening to every word and every song, and when we were at church, I could picture his little wooden body jumping and twitching every time Reverend Simmons pounded his fist off the pulpit or shook the Bible above his head, threatening brimstone.

It wasn't the only one my father carved. There was plenty of firewood. Before long, there was one hanging in every window, and when we bowed our heads to pray in the evening, the sun cast the long shadow of the crucifix across the table, blessing what little we had. Tough to live like that, in someone else's shadow, never able to be proud of what you did, or take responsibility for nothing. The cow had a new calf, it was because of Him; we had a good crop, it was because of Him; and when the bad stuff happened — like the time I had to stay home from school because Minnie bucked and my father fell off, hurting his shoulder so bad he couldn't lift it to plow, or when a storm came through and ripped half the shingles off the house — it was all because Jesus willed it and worked in mysterious ways. It didn't make any difference what anyone did because they felt like it; it was either divine inspiration or the devil made him do it.

I didn't want to live like that. I wanted to make my own choices and be responsible for what I did. I took the carving from above the radio and dropped it into the stove, just when there weren't any more flames but still a decent bed of coal, so that when he burned up, if there weren't any wind in the flue and if Ma were real keen when she opened the stove to stoke it, she'd look in and see the stillborn Christ turned to a pillar of ash, thin as a Bible page and twice as fragile. I don't know if they saw it or not, but I knew when I jumped my first train that I couldn't go back home.

The rush of it was something I didn't expect, seeing the countryside move past at a rate your mind could hardly keep up with. The stack of smoke pouring out of the engine was thick and dark and snakelike. I thought of the fire and the coal shovel and the ashen Jesus I left behind and thought, This machine might carry me straight to hell.

When I arrived in New York City, I knew if there was a hell, I might have found it. Dirty and noisy; people moving everywhere; the air was filled with the sounds of people trying to sell newspapers, clanging carriage bells, the clomping of hooves, motorcars passing, dogs barking, and the constant hum of conversation. It all made my head feel like I'd been kicked by a mule.

It wasn't like the other stops, the ones in the country, where everyone who'd hopped a train would jump off as it crawled into the station, walk into a shanty, share what they had, and talk about which cities might have work and how much money they needed to earn before they could return home. If they were going to return home at all.

After stealing a few apples and failing to get a job shining boots, I decided it was time to leave, but I barely knew how. The tracks at the station were a tangled mess, rail ties all woven like a basket, bulls roaming in tight-fitting uniforms. They weren't like other bulls I'd seen, a pocket watch hanging from a sweat-stained shirt and leather vest, the worry lines of a father etched into their faces. These were young men, hard and clearly well fed, wearing blue uniforms. They carried batons and chased after even the oldest men trying to hop a train.

I jumped on the first one I could find leaving the station, but I could tell by the speed and direction that it wasn't going to leave the city, only go to a different station. Before long we were crawling over a long bridge and heading to what looked like more of New York.

Sitting inside the open boxcar on hay and what was probably goat shit on the floor was the first time I wanted to return home; the first time I thought that maybe I'd made a mistake. I started thinking about my future, or what there was left of it. I didn't want to work inside a factory with one of those long, black snake spires of smoke rising into the air. I didn't want to be a farmer, like my father, always depending on providence and hoping for something to work out.

I heard a voice comment on my shoes, and I faced the shadows. I'd thought I was alone.

A Negro leaned forward and smiled. He was missing a front tooth, and his upper lip was twisted on one side and a little bloody, like someone had just roughed him up good. "I said, nice shoes."

I didn't say anything for a moment, remembering all the nasty things my father had said about Negroes, even though he never had any dealings with them beyond harvest time when he was selling the crop, and then he complained about everyone short-shifting him, so I figured they were no worse than anyone else. I hadn't met a bad person on a train yet. They were all together like in the same car, usually all looking for work, and didn't nobody need to be beat down more than they already was.

He took out a small red bottle of something, removed the cork, and gingerly took a sip. He offered it to me. "Sharing is fair," he said.

I took a sip. I shouldn't have. It wasn't shine. It was something else, the thickness of molasses with the bitterness of blood. It didn't burn on the way down so much as make my throat turn cold.

I gave the bottle back and looked at his shoes. The toe was blown out of one and had a floppy sole great for tripping. "Yours ain't so nice." I backed away from the door. The train was over the bridge. Brick buildings rushed by even though we weren't traveling very fast.

"Well, how 'bout a trade?" the Negro said.

"No, thanks."

He reached into his pocket, took out a knife in a leather sheath, set it on the floor of the car next to him, and patted it gently to make sure I seen it, then opened his palm to me. "How 'bout this ticket? It's good for a first-class ride. I got it off one of them gentlemen with a stovepipe hat and them spat-on shoes. Says it's good for today, Brooklyn station. That's where we're headed."

"You can't read." I could hardly read and didn't see why he should be any different.

"Sure can. Look." He held it out to me. It looked like a ticket. Had large, block letters and numbers printed on it. I'd never seen one before.

"Where's it going?" I said, even though I meant to say that I didn't have a ticket for this train. That you didn't need a ticket to move from one station to the next, so long as you was clever, but that wasn't what came out.

"Does it matter?"

I wanted to ask him about his face but didn't want to be rude. The car was small enough.

The smell of baking bread rushed into the car, leaving an empty hole in my stomach. I thought I was hungry back on the farm, but you don't really know hunger until you wonder when your next meal will be.

"It's a passenger train," he said. "Inside they feed ya. From one stop to the next. It's all you can eat."

"How come you don't want it?"

"Look at my skin." He touched his shoulders as if it was something he could pull off. "It look like they'll let me on a white car?"

I leaned my head back and looked out the door. The car was slowing down, buildings moving by at a horse's trot. Carriages with drivers in suits waited for the train to pass across a road behind a motorcar, the driver wearing round goggles. The scene slowed down, then my eyes couldn't keep up with it. I wondered at what was in the red bottle.

"Don't you want it?" His hand was on his knife, and he wore half a desperate smile.

"Sure, I want it. You want my shoes for it, is that it?"

"Yessir, I want the shoes. These have taken me far enough."

I stood, took the ticket slowly, then lunged for the door. You could get hurt flopping from a train, but it probably wouldn't be as ugly as getting stabbed inside one.

He was on me quick, had me spun around and my face pressed to the side of the car with his blade prickling my back before I could do anything. The darkness of the car spun to keep up.

"You wasn't thinking of skinning old Charlie, was you?" He took the ticket from my hand and kicked me in the back of my knees so I went down. "Shoes. Now."

The brakes squealed and the whistle blew. I figured I might be able to get out of the car but not while he was standing in the doorway. It felt like I'd been hit on the head, like either I or the world was about to fall over.

I started to unlace my shoes.

"Dishonest," he said, the knife low next to his side.

"I'll be honest that I'm keeping the laces," I said.

He laughed and kicked his way out of his shoes. "Fair is fair, and I guess that's fair enough."

I didn't have any choice to put them on. They weren't like any shoes I'd seen before. They were made out of a soft, spongy material and cheap, thin leather. They were too big, and I could feel where the pads of his feet wore into the soles. I slid mine toward him, careful to make sure they stopped before the door. I didn't want to get stabbed.

I put the laces through the first two holes and then looped them around the toe, keeping the sole up because I didn't want to trip when catching the next train and land headfirst on the tracks. I thought: He may have just killed me even without using the knife. It's a good thing I kept the laces or they'd never fit.

"That's pretty clever," he said, pointing at the laces as he twisted his ankle back and forth, trying to force his feet into my shoes. Brick buildings slid by behind him. The light spilling in made him look even darker than he was.

"You gonna keep the ticket, too?"

He put the second shoe on as the train braked hard. He had to take a step to the side to keep from falling. He put the knife away. "I may deal with dishonest people, but I'm no cheat." He held out the ticket to me.

I reached for it, and he let it go. It caught the air and was out of the car in seconds.

"Best go get it," he said.

And I did, right after I punched where he was missing a tooth. He grabbed for me as he stumbled back. I stuck my foot behind his ankle and pushed.

He stumbled, arms pinwheeling, and caught the door handle. A train roared past behind him, flashing so bright I squinted and held my arm up to shield my face from the fury. Something pulled at Charlie's feet, lifted them up like they was tugging on him, and he screamed as his body stretched like a candle flame straight out behind him, then his lower half disappeared. He shot into the car and rolled onto his back, his legs and hips gone. I knelt next to him and held his hand. The blood didn't flow from him so much as it rose out of the floor. His eyes found me. I'm certain I was the last thing he saw.

I felt bad for going through his pockets but knew he'd have done the same to me.

I jumped out of the car, rolled onto my side, and scrambled between the tracks as another train, not as loud or fast as the one that got Charlie, plunged past. I looked down and there was the ticket, sitting on the edge of a puddle, the water holding it for me. I picked it up and left a thumbprint of blood on its face. I shoved the ticket in my pocket and rinsed my hands in the puddle. I looked up when the train passed.

I was right in front of the platform, muddy water dripping from my hands. I thought of a baptism in a mudhole I'd once seen where the man in the white robe came up dirtier than he went in, and I almost threw up. People stared down at me. I felt like they'd seen me through the cracks in the cars, pushing Charlie out of the car.

A few of the people on the platform laughed at me; others turned away in disgust. That's when I knew they hadn't seen a thing.

A bull started to yell. I scurried down the track toward the far end of the platform, hoisted myself up, and came face-to-face with the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. She had hair black as coal and just as shiny, a smile white as piano keys, and her features were delicate as silence.

I felt my face turn red, so I looked down and noticed she clasped a ticket like mine in her gloved hand.

"You'll be on the train," I said.

She opened her mouth to say something but managed only a gasp as I was jerked off my feet.

The bulls took me to an office at one side of the long building behind the platform and I shuffled in, my feet feeling like they were stuffed full of lead.

The men searched me and found my father's silver pocket watch, the matches and twine I used to start fires, a drawing of my mother one of her friends had done — it was nice but didn't look much like her — and Charlie's red stuff and his knife. They didn't feel the paper ticket flat in my back pocket.

A man with a black mustache and all the stiffness of someone in charge sat down in a wooden chair in front of the small desk facing me. He unclasped the gold buttons of his jacket, spread it to either side of his waist, and set his hat on his knee. Two of his cronies stood to either side of me, their hands on my shoulders. One of them had long, girlish nails.

"You're too young to be a hobo," the man in the chair said, his voice surprisingly girlish.

I didn't say anything.

He sniffled hard and picked up the red bottle off the desk. "Smallest bottle of shine I've ever seen."

The men behind him chuckled. They didn't sound like girls.

"It ain't shine," I said.

He clasped it in his hand, and it nearly disappeared. His hands were big, soft. Like he'd never really worked. "Well, what is it?"

"Don't know. Makes things different, though."

"Different how?" he said, almost snarling.

I looked at the ceiling for a moment. There was half a footprint along one of the boards. It took me a moment of puzzling to realize the board was probably walked on before it was ever nailed to the roof.

He asked the question again.

"Can't rightly say." I knew I should be worried they were going to hurt me. I wasn't. "Are you fellas going to rough me up or cut me loose?"

The man in charge unstoppered the bottle. "Depends. Got anything else of value hidden on that skinny frame of yours?" He took a sniff, and his eyes got real wide before he blinked. "What is this stuff?"


I cranked my head to the side and bit down on one of his men's knuckles, taking a chunk out. I stood and kicked the chair into the other man's knees and stole his baton as he went down, cracked him on the back of the head, wheeled, and grabbed the knife off the desk. The man in charge had eyes wide as Jesus's when he's appalled at a sinner, and I knew then that all I had in mind about the train being a machine of the devil and carrying me straight to hell was probably true and there was no use trying to fight it. What happened to Charlie didn't make sense, but murder never did.

I hit his wrist with the baton, and he dropped the red bottle into my hand. The other man, whose hand I bit, was backed into a corner. I wondered if I looked as different as I felt, if skinny old me had changed somehow and people just sensed I was dangerous, like a hound knows a wolf is nearby in the woods. A boy with a stick and knife wasn't scary. Or was I?

I stoppered the bottle as I stepped outside and stuffed it into my pocket. I plunged into the crowd, knowing that if I could get low, I could get away; and if a train passed, they'd stop looking for me altogether.

People cleared out of my way. I reckoned it was because they were all well dressed and smelled good. I had the stink of a cattle car on me, and it had been several days since I'd looked at water, let alone bathed.

After pushing through the crowd for a few moments, I ran out of people and stopped at the edge of the platform. The girl with the black hair was up the platform apiece and staring at me, smiling almost.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Time Train by Eric M. Bosarge. Copyright © 2016 Eric M. Bosarge. Excerpted by permission of Medallion Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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