Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
I opened the front door of the old house where I grew up and felt the odd aroma of dust rush into my nose. The first step I take makes a rickety board beneath me creak eerily. I make my way towards the stairs and begin to walk up them. The entire house was only a shell of the once lively abode that previously stood, only a distant memory of good times and bad, only a reminder to me of the Train Man.
One day when I was just a boy and I still lived in the old house, me and my brothwer decided to investigate a tree house my mother breifly mentioned that our uncle had built out in the woods. I entered the woods that day not knowing what I would find, or who I would see.
We roamed an old trail for close to and hour before the surroundings around us became greatly unfamiliar. I knew not to panic so not to frighten my younger brother. I quickly began to assess the situation. All around us tall trees stood, peaking through the clouds and faintly touching heaven. Out of the corner of my eye I see a wooden building in the trees and without acknowledging my brother I began to walk towards it.
There sat the tree house in the forest, high in the sky ever so powerful. We climbed the ladder on the tree and entered the tree house. Inside on the walls were posters that told stories of my uncle’s past, the ground, full of toys of a childhood. On a desk inside, sat magazines and books almost falling apart from age. I notice one of the books was a private notebook left behind my my uncle. Everything in here was full of wonder and me and my brother thought of this place out very own sanctuary, our very own Mount Olympus.
Our immersion ended as quickly as it began with my mother’s voice beckoning through the trees, for us to return home. Me and my brother slowly left the place where my uncle’s childhood lives and I allowed my younger sibling to race ahead of me home. As I slowly walked towards the back of my house the faint crushing of leaves behind me startled me beyond comprehension.
I spun around swiftly to see only the trees and the cold dead ground. I shot my eyes all around the area and saw nothing until I looked back up at my uncle’s tree house. In the small window hole I saw a glimpse of a man more than three times my age staring down at me hauntingly.
Dark,dead black eyes, wild hair held only back by a train conductor’s hat, and dark green disgusting teeth, that slowly grew into an grisly smile. The Train Man’s grin threw me backwards and tripped me on a tree root. I could barely climb the tree back onto my feet to sprint back towards my house, not even daring to look back at the demon that lived in my uncle’s past.
Later at my house I hugged my mother harder and with more fear in me than ever before, and when I told her about the Train Man she got angry with me and told me never to bring him up again. I stood shocked that she would ignore my childhood fear so evilly, and do little to console me on the traumatic experience that I was just dealt. My brother looked at me like I was crazy and did not believe me when I told him a man was in our uncle’s tree house.
I was worried that I had not really seen the Train Man, that I did not really see a figure ominously smiling at me from an old tree house. I was worried that I was crazy, but even more so that he was going to get me. While fear blocked most of all the thought in my mind about the Train Man, curiosity also lurked within me. I wondered if my uncle knew about the Train Man, if my mother secretly knew about the Train Man. I had no proof of his existence, but maybe something in the tree house could help me in discovering more about him.
It took almost two weeks for me to even pull together enough courage to even step foot into the deep and mysterious woods behind my house, but when I did an invisible force made me continue onward towards the tree house. I had no memory of how to get to there, but somehow I found my way through the shadows of the trees. I stood under the tree house and it looked down on me like a powerful demon, ready to strike my well being at any moment.
I cautiously climbed the ladder with my eyes closed tight, with my hands gripping the old wood for dear life. As soon as my head breached the floor’s entry-hole my eyes opened and the world I had entered once before made itself aware to me.
My first instinct was to go to the desk and open my uncle’s private notebook. I pulled open to a random page and saw writings my uncle had made. They explained things he did and saw, dreams he had and wanted, and told a tale of an experience not so different from my own. My uncle wrote that he and his friend Toby saw a homeless man sitting on the railroad tracks in the road, drinking beer and rambling to himself. They stared at him curiously and laughed when he began to doze off. When he saw them, he got aggressive, and threw his bottle at them. They sprinted away back into the forest and went back to the safety of my uncle’s house.
My uncle called him the Train Man, which is where I first thought to call him that. A simple name, I thought, for a man so eerily frightening. At the time I had no proof that the man my uncle saw was the man that I saw in the tree house, but I knew that he was in fact, the Train Man. While reading the notebook I heard a raspy cough and distorted laugh beneath the tree house. My heart began to beat faster than a butterflies wings and inside my chest a warm fear started to spread.
I did not dare to go towards the exit hole and started to look for something in terms of protection. I looked in a box beneath the desk and found a small pocket knife and pulled in out fast. As soon as I got the knife out in a protective position, years of rust forced the blade to fall off the handle and slide through the cracks in the floor.
After a moment had passed a loud and evil cackle shot at me and the sounds of crumpled leaves started towards the ladder. I could nothing else besides get in a corner and pretend to look dead. I didn’t know what to do, what he was going to do to me or what my fate would be once the Train Man had me. I pulled myself into a small ball and began to sob deeply. Maybe he wont hurt me cause I’m only a kid I thought, Maybe he’ll show some mercy.
I heard the creaks of each board being stepped on and the excited and worn breathing of the Train Man slowly coming towards me. The Train Man got up through the floor and stood. My eyes were so tight that I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel his presence as if it was my own. I felt his feet step on the ground fiercely towards me, and could smell his disgusting dank aroma. I pictured him holding a bottle of beer, wearing his old hat, cloaking himself in an old train conductor’s uniform, all while his deep marble black eyes stared at me, and his terrifying smile showed the dark green teeth siting on his jaws.
The Train Man grabbed my neck from the back of my neck and held me up like a prize. He gripped my throat hard and stopped me from breathing. He pulled my face level with his own and croaked, LOOK AT ME BOY, I AM THE TRAIN MAN! He bellowed this again, and again, until I finally sprung my eyes open and stared into his dead black marbles.
KNOW ME, FEAR ME, AND ALWAYS REMEMBER ME! The Train Man’s voice transferred onto my face like a blanket of musk and forced me to cough fearfully. WHO AM I?? The Train Man said this with the look of absolute hate in his eyes, with the face of death, claiming another soul. WHO…. AM… I???? ANSWER ME NOW, BOY! I slowly told him what he wanted to hear, what I dreaded having to say, the Train Man…
The Train Man’s evil grin returned and he dropped me to the floor with a thud. I began to cry deeply and shut my eyes again. Above me the Train Man’s deep laugh rocked my head into a daze, and I began to drift off into a sleep.
When I woke up it was dark, and the only light was from the moon, gleaming softly out the window through the trees. I stood up and walked over to the desk to retrieve my uncle’s notebook. As I walked home, I could constantly hear the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of loud footsteps, but none of this would scare me. Nothing could ever be more frightening than looking into the large deep, dark lifeless black eyes of the Train Man.
At that moment I promised to myself to never return to the Tree House, to never again open my uncle’s notebook. I took the notebook and I hid it under a floorboard in my attic, and made sure nobody would ever find it again.
That day was a long time ago, more than 20 years.
Now I stand in the hallway of the house where I grew up looking at the door to the room where I slept. I made sure not to stay here long, to only do what I had to do then leave. Looking up from the hall I see the small cord that connects to the attic door and I pull it, and almost like magic a staircase appears from the ceiling. I climb up the stairs and walk towards the spot where I hid the notebook under the floorboard.
After pulling off the board and digging my hand through the darkness, I pull out my uncle’s notebook. I glance out the window and see the sun faintly setting through the trees. I don’t have much time… I thought, and opened to the first page of the book.
Nothing concerning the Train Man was here, or on the next page, or the next. I keep flipping through the book until I get to a part where a picture is drawn. It’s the Train Man, sitting against a tree drinking and holding a knife. Behind the tree a pair of small legs are jutting out, and a pool of blood is beginning to form from them.
The page after the picture is something my uncle wrote, a story about him and my mother walking through the woods with a friend of theirs.
The other day, when me and Michelle were walking down to the lake, this boy named Jared asked us if we wanted to see something cool. Michelle was kinda nervous about it but I told her it would be fine and we walked with Jared to the railroad tracks that entered the forest. We walked along it for a few minutes before Jared told us to go this way, and he made us go into this one part of the woods. I started to get a little scared when he said this, but I didn’t want Jared to think I was a baby so I went along with him. After a minute Jared told us to be quiet, and showed us this small wooden house on the ground. We slowly creeped over to it and Jared told us to look into the a small window on the outside of it. Inside on a small dirty mattress was the Train Man that me and Toby saw before, drinking on the railroad tracks. I don’t know why but this scared me and I almost started to cry. Jared then pulled out a match book and lit one, then tossed it into the window. Jared told us to run over and wait behind a tree. We did, and after a moment smoke began to come out through the windows. Jared could not stop laughing, and Michelle started to cry. I didn’t know what to do so I just started to grab Michelle’s arm and slowly back away. Suddenly, the Train Man ran out of his hut with a knife in his hand and started to look around. Jared’s laughing and Michelle’s crying gave us away immediately, and he ran over to us. Me and Michelle ran away, but Jared just stood there laughing. Michelle ran away to the train tracks, but I stayed and watched. The Train Man grabbed Jared by the throat and slammed him hard against a tree. Jared’s feet were kicking but he did not scream, I could not see his face but I assumed he was as scared as I was, The Train Man then rummaged through Jared’s pockets and pulled out the match book, and crumpled it in his hands. The Train Man, still holding Jared by the throat, carried him over to the burning hut and tossed him inside. The Train Man, wielding his knife, then went inside after him. When I saw this I ran away back towards the train tracks and Michelle.
After reading this I realized that the Train Man used to be just a homeless man, living in the forest, but during my childhood became something spirit-like, and more evil than before. Through the book there were multiple tales of encounters with him, written by both my mother and my uncle. My mother had known about the Train Man, I thought. I flipped to the very last written page in the notebook and found something my mother had written. It was written very sloppily and was almost illegible.
Adam is dead, THE TRAIN MAN KILLED HIM, we went back to see what happened to Jared and we saw the Train Man’s dead body in the ash of his hut and HE CAME BACK TO LIFE. He got up from the ground and killed him with his knife. I couldn’t do anything, he was so big! I’m telling mom and everyone that he drowned in the lake and the river took him away. Nobody would ever believe me! I’m writing this so somebody knows, so somebody wont get killed by the Train Man!
I close the notebook and stand up. It’s dark now, the moon is out and full, and the heavy night is making itself very aware to me. I leave the house and head towards the woods, where the Train Man lives.
Even though it’s been over 20 years, I know how to get to the Tree House just as easily as I know how to get to work. I walked over every branch, every pile of leaves without problem, and slowly the building at the top of the trees becomes present.
What had once looked like Mount Olympus now looked like the fires of Hades, and without hesitation I climbed the ladder up the tree. I sat the notebook on the ground and got out my lighter. I looked around the tree house and saw in the corner, an empty bottle of beer.
Behind me, the all too familiar sounds of the Train Man’s laughter filled me with an ancient dread. I turn around and there he stands, the same dirty train conductor’s outfit, the same old hat barely holding back the agelessly unkept hair, and the same evil smirk, shining brightly beneath those two pitch black eyes.
I quickly rush to the floor where the notebook lay and retrieve it. The Train Man pulls out his knife from his overalls and puts it in a slashing position. I take the notebook and turn the lighter on beneath it. This does little to slow the Train Man down, and he slices my left arm, making me drop the notebook to the floor, and making me fall backwards.
The Train Man’s foot comes crashing down on my face and I think my nose breaks. I can feel warm blood flowing from it and then see his foot come down again. I’m in a great daze at this moment, but still sober enough to see the notebook over in the corner, and feel the lighter being gripped tightly within my fist. I turn over to my stomach and start to crawl over towards it.
I get up off the ground but am suddenly stopped my the Train Man’s blade piercing my side. I can’t decide what hurts my more, my arm, my nose, or my side, but I don’t try to think about any of that, and keep making my way towards the notebook. The Train Man begins to laugh loudly at me and then bellows, YOU CAN’T KILL THE TRAIN MAN BOY! NO ONE CAN KILL THE TRAIN MAN!
I ignore this and keep on towards the book. Just barely within my reach, I grab it and begin to burn a corner with my lighter. After a second it catches flame, and a small fire starts to grow from it. I turn around from the ground to look up at the Train Man, and to my eery delight, the Train Man’s uniform begins to catch ember.
The Train Man’s face had lost it’s smile, and his dead eyes grew to have more life than ever before. I take the lighter and start to burn another corner, and suddenly the Train Man’s face started to burn, and some of his skin started to peel off. The Train Man stumbled backwards into the corner and just as the fires of the notebook grew into the center of it, a hot fire engulfed the Train Man. The Train Man burned fierce fully before my eyes, but I couldn’t believe that this would kill him.
From the ground I slowly stand up and grab the knife from the Train Man’s hand and I stab him in the heart. The knife stays in his chest and the fire inside of him turns the Train Man’s eyes to a dark blood red. And right before the Train Man turned to ash, he looks at me, and smiles.
I leave the tree house and walk towards my old house without looking back, without being afraid of him coming back. Back at the house I get into my car and sit before I drive away from my old house, before I leave a collection of childhoods, and I say goodbye to the Train Man.
Credit To: Ricky Gearheart