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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Adventures of Fish and Chips - Book 3

The Ghost Train

“Fish, wake up! I've got to tell you about Billy McPhee.”

Harry's younger brother sat up, rubbing his eyes. “What? Go away, Harry. I don't care what Billy McPhee said.” Fish lay back on the pillow and pulled the blanket over his head.

“Wake up. Last night Billy stopped by. You were in bed. His face was as white as your sheet.” Harry nudged him.

Fish sat up. “Why?”

“He and some of his mates had got to the old Inverlarich Train station,” Harry said.

“So. Chips and I go there all the time. It's boarded up, you know,” Fish slipped out of bed and put on his bathrobe.

“Will you let me finish? They went to the old train station and while they were sitting there, they heard the sound of a train.” Harry sat on the edge of Fish's bed.

“I hear trains all the time. Why did you wake me up just for this. It's Saturday.” Fish put his slippers on.

“If you'll be quiet, I'll finish. They heard a train and so they jumped down onto the tracks. They walked around the bend and a train headed straight for them.”

“I didn't know trains still used that line.” Fish combed his hair.

“That's the whole point. They don't. The train ran right into them and went right through them. It was a ghost train.” Harry's eyes bulged with fervor.

“A ghost train? That's nonsense, Harry. Billy McPhee is pulling your leg.” Fish turned the door knob. “I've heard enough of that.”

Harry pulled him back. “I say tonight, after Mum and Dad go to bed, that we go up to Inverlarich and see for ourselves.”

“Not another one of your schemes, Harry. We'll be in big trouble if we're caught.” Harry pulled himself free of his brother's grasp.

“We can go and get Chips and take her with us. Come on. You're not chicken, are you?”

Fish stood at the open door. “No. I'm not chicken. We can go, but I know we'll not find any ghost train.” He shut the door behind him and went to eat breakfast.

After a busy day helping his father with the chores, Fish was ready to relax. He ate supper, bathed and climbed into bed. When he was on the verge of sleep, the bedroom door creaked open. “Pssst. Fish. Are you ready?”

Fish yawned. “Go away, Harry. All you do is wake me up. Go to bed.”

“We're going to Inverlarich Train Station. You've forgotten already?” Harry crept over to Fish's bed. “Get up and get dressed. I made a phone call to Chips earlier tonight. She's waiting for us.”

“All right.” Fish put his clothes and boots on and climbed out his bedroom window. “I hope Mum and Dad don't find out.”

“Don't worry. They're both sound asleep.” Harry dropped to the ground and urged his brother to hurry.

After a five minute jaunt to Chip's house, they stood outside her bedroom window. “Toss a stone at her window, Fish.” Harry handed him a round pebble.

“You do it. What if it breaks the glass? I'm not doing it.” Fish ran over to the window and tapped on it.

Chips pulled the curtain back. Her dark eyes looked like pools of deep water. She put her finger to her puckered lips, telling the boys to be quiet. Slowly she slid the window open and climbed out. “Hello Harry. Hello Fish. What grand adventure are we going on tonight?”

“We're going to Inverlarich Train Station to see the ghost train,” Harry said, running into the woods. “Come on you two.”

“Ghost train?” Chips put her hand on Fish's shoulder.

Fish shrugged. “Billy McPhee told Harry that he and his mates saw a ghost train. It went right through their bodies.”

“Do you believe that, Fish?” Chips looked ahead for Harry.

“I don't know. Harry made it sound real.”

“Come on. Get a move on!” Harry waved his arms as he shouted.

They found a worn trail used by backpackers, leading them straight to the old train station. Crumbling mortar fell away from between the bricks, leaving them to fall at the slightest touch. The door, wooden and dented with years of hammered papers, hung open and covered with lacy spider webs. The scent of pine penetrated Fish's tastebuds. “There's nothing here, Harry. Let's go home.”

Harry rapped on the boarded up windows with his knuckles. “This place hasn't been used in decades.”

“Since we're here, Fish, we might as well have some fun.” Chips jumped down on the tracks. “It wasn't that long ago,” she said. “I remember my mum telling me about how she took this train. At one time it used to run through Highlands on the eastern Scottish coast. Many times she traveled to Wick to visit her Auntie Phamie. My mum's not that old.”

“Let's follow the tracks for a while. Billy says it goes through a tunnel. That's where they saw the ghost train.” Harry ran up the rusting tracks, trying to balance on the metal bars. He jumped into the center. Wooden boards lay at strange angles.

Fish climbed over the edge of the station house and jumped onto the tracks, standing next to Chips. “I suppose it won't hurt,” he said.

They walked the length of the track for several kilometers. “I'm tired. Enough is enough. There's no tunnel and no ghost train.” Fish sighed and turned to head back.

The ground beneath their feet shook. “What was that?” Chips gulped.

“Do we have earthquakes in Scotland?” Fish stepped off the tracks into a patch of thistle.

“It's the ghost train,” Harry said. “It's coming.”

The three of them stood in silence. The ground quivered and the loose railroad ties rattled. Chips heard it first. “I hear a train chugging.”

“That's impossible,” said Fish.

“Oh, really? What is that noise then? Is it your stomach?” Harry ran over to his brother.

The rumbling noise grew louder. An eerie opaque and muted light appeared in the distance. “What's that light, Harry? Did you get Billy McPhee and his mates to do this to frighten us?” Chips looked over at the boys.

Harry stood with his mouth agape. His pale face, ashen and cadaverous white gawked at the oncoming light.

“Harry, you're not joking. There is a ghost train, isn't there?” Chips legs froze with fear as the light grew brighter and headed straight for the three of them.

“Jump out of the way!” Fish reached to pull Chips from the tracks, but the train arrived. It roared down the tracks, its auroral spectral light flowed through her body. The train whistle blew as it rushed down the tracks.

Fish and Harry covered their ears from the deafening blast.

Chips stood still until the train passed. Without saying a word she turned to see the caboose in the distance behind her. “What was that!”

“I'd say it was the ghost train. I'm not going to sleep well tonight,” Harry scoffed.

“Billy McPhee wasn't lying. We have our very own ghost train,” Fish said.

“I would say we keep this to ourselves. Nobody will believe us. They'll think we're crackers,” Harry noted.

“Right. We won't say a word.” Chips heard the last blast of the train whistle before it disappeared over the mountain.

“Well, there's something you don't see every day,” Fish said.

“Should we go home, or see if we can find that tunnel?” Harry ran down the tracks.

“We lived through that, so I doubt if there's much more that would surprise us tonight,” Chips said. She ran after Harry.

“Wait for me!” Fish darted away.

The tunnel loomed ahead. “Should we go inside?” Harry ran to the entrance. “It's quite a long tunnel.”

“I don't want to. What if another ghost train comes?” Fish stopped behind his brother.

“Come on, Fish. You're such a baby.” Chips ran into the tunnel.

The three of them were about half way through when they felt the ground shaking. “Uh oh.” Fish gulped.

“It's coming back the other way. It'll run us over. We've no way to escape.” Harry's eyes swung from side to side. “Get off the tracks.”

Fish and Chips threw themselves against the tunnel wall just before the train came from the opposite direction. It roared past them like a herd of wild elephants. Bits of rock fell from the tunnel roof.

“Cave in!” Harry shouted and with back against the wall, moved towards the closest entrance.

The whistle blasted, nearly breaking their ear drums. Before they could utter another word, the train disappeared around the corner.

“I'm outta here,” Chips said. She ran to the tunnel entrance and kept on going until she was home. Fish and Harry kept pace with her.

Catching their breath, the three collapsed on the ground under Chip's bedroom window.

“I'm going to ask my mum about that train. Maybe there's some train engineer's spirit that can't find peace, or something. That was very, very odd.” Chips lifted her window.

“Chips, don't tell your mum. She'll think we're out of our minds.” Harry pushed Chips into her house.

“We are.” Chips chuckled and slammed the window shut. She pulled the curtains closed in their faces.

As Fish and Harry walked back to their house, Fish turned to the mountain. “What was that, Harry? There's no such thing as ghosts, is there?”

“I didn't think there was, but you saw for yourself. There's a ghost of Inverlarich Train Station. Hopefully he'll stay in his train and ride back and forth, up and down the tracks, and leave us alone.”

When the silhouette of their croft house came into view, both breathed a sigh of relief, climbed through the window and into their beds.

Fish lay awake for a long time, swearing he heard a train whistle in the distance.

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