The Trolley

There is an old, dust-covered road on the outskirts of Bakersfield that leads to the long forgotten town of Nadiña, California. Where demolished building’s line the shattered concrete, stretching passed the frayed town sign that used to house its name. And where rusted windmills creek to life beneath unyielding winds. Many within the neighboring cities would attest that the town was never more than a vacuous ghost town, their recreant remarks roused by the grief-stricken tales past down by their ancestors. Its Forgotten memories forcibly buried below the rubble and battered skeletons of abandoned brick structures and stripped machinery. For those who choose to acknowledge it, the bitter memory of lost souls are forever etched into their subconscious, and the horrendous past of Nadiña lives on.

The towns downfall came at its peak, amidst the installation of its first streetcar. Those who could not afford to journey north to San Francisco, opted to travel its bounded rails, drifting past horse-drawn buggies and cross-wing construction. The trolley’s popularity grew with the wondering curiosity of the neighboring counties, soon becoming a bustling tourist attraction. But, as all good things do, its unbridled fruition soon came to an unrelenting end. On the 12th of April, 1898, a series of fires ravaged the town, killing over 700 civilians. Poverty ravaged the land, and those who survived soon deemed the town cursed, eventually abandoning what little possessions they had left for a new life elsewhere. The stench of burnt flesh and terrified howls still quiver along the chilled winds, leaving the souls of the damned behind, and forging the town into a permanent afterlife.

As a historiographer, I find myself often drawn to the enticing lure of historical cities, and after learning of the buried treasures and execrations it’s said to hold, I quickly opted to travel the 14 hour trip to uncover its secrets for myself. Despite my foreboding curiosity, the fear of the unknown left me a bit weary. I had no idea what sort of horrors awaited me nor what breed of inhabitants I was sure to encounter. Word of drug peddlers and moonlighters occupying the area left a taste more sour than apple cider. Regardless, I pressed on, deducing that the risk was well worth the reward.

Serveral hours into my trip, the paralyzing threat of fatigue soon swept over me, lowering my lids like sunken anchor’s over my eyes; the bounteous amount of coffee and energy drinks I guzzled were beginning to lose their potency. Nonetheless, I elected to continue against the lull of sleep; having already traveled the majority of the trip, sleep would only deter my initial excitement. As I gulped down my last energy drink, I could see the faded town sign languidly creeping towards my vision. As I rounded the corner onto the dirt road, a chilling screech erupted through the air and a blinding white light quickly followed, slicing through my eyes like whetted needles. As my arms tried desperately to cloak my eyes from the devils light, the sound of screeching tires drilled into my ears and before I could regain control of the wheel, a thunderous jolt knocked me unconscious.

A few hours later, I awoke slung across an omnibus terminal, my last memory being a dashboard view of the dirt road that led me here. My shirt was shredded to rags and dried blood caked between the seams, an obvious remnant of the scars that lined my forehead and cheeks. I had no recollection of how I ended up there, nor how far my comatosed state allowed me to tread. I fixed my eyes upon my surroundings, quickly taking notice of the noisy inhabitants I was once so weary of, none of which resembling their dangerous counterparts I was warned about before travelling. Most were cloaked in bulging cotton garments reminiscent of the 1800’s, their children garbed in clothing more aged than their maturity. Either I had stumbled upon the set of an old western, or the new residents really strived to embody the towns rich history.

I continued looking around, taking in the sites of old cathedrals and Victorian-styled architecture. It was truly marvelous, I was one of the very few who braved the trip to this seemingly dangerous and cursed city. I watched on as children played in the street while the adults conversed amongst each other, wondering why so many feared to travel here. As I scanned my eyes over the area, a darkened shadow washed over me, dimming my vision. I looked up, and the iconic streetcar was parked right in front of me, its doors partially ajar. I was dumbfounded, how did this thing survive a fire from over 100 years ago? After closer inspection, its charred and desquamate exterior suggested that the newfound squatters had been intelligent enough to get it running themselves. Despite my curiosity, I had no need to come aboard, at least not yet.

I waved it away, stood erect, and sauntered off in the opposite direction. Ever since the damn thing’s been tailing me on and off for hours, like a starved puppy looking for an alms of sprinkled dog biscuits. I wasn’t alarmed at first, but most vehicles restricted to rails couldn’t partake in such behavior. As my curiosity swelled, I began keeping a mental note of its passengers each time it passed, causally cataloging every man, woman, and child aboard. There were never more than three to five passengers at any given time, and on most occasions none at all. Eventually, I began counting the seconds it took to make its rounds; approximately thirty minutes before making a full cycle, a pretty short trip for a town as large as this.

There was something very strange about this mysterious trolley, something that I was now hellbent on finding. As it began to make its next round, I quickly ducked behind a buggy positioned against the sidewalk. I waited for it to pass, then immediately followed closely behind, careful of being spotted. It made multiple stops before rounding the corner into a blind alley. I abstained from proceeding any further, unsure if misplaced tracks led it astray. To my bemusement, it continued its advancements, seemingly unknowing of the approaching dead-end. I braced myself for the impact, waiting to hear the grating sounds of sheet metal searing against the stone surface. I waited, but heard nothing. Only the immobilizing embrace of silence greeted my doddering percipience.

I slowly regained my composure, scouring the area for any sign of the trolley. Not a puff of smoke nor the shattered remains of metal sat where the it once tread; it was as if some magician had used it in an elaborate stage show. Without the continuous howls of electrically powered rails traversing overhead, I finally noticed how quiet the town had become. Only the low growl of street lamps interrupted its hushed ambience. Something was off, just a few hours ago the streets were filled with life, and now it seemed like I was the only one left. Before I could jump to any conclusions, a low rumble resonated from the direction the streetcar had vanished. I unwillingly crept closer, oblivious to what might happen next.

The rumbling grew louder and louder before a familiar white light beamed into my retinas. The sound of rotating cables pierced through the air, and the iconic streetcar once again bestowed its presence. I watched as it pulled up beside me, its doors creaking open ever so slightly. I stared with a look of confusion; why did it want me to come aboard so badly? I slowly ambled towards it, scaled the narrow steps, and stepped onto the soot stained tiled floor. I looked around carefully examining each passenger, feeling my blood run colder with each glance. What sat aboard the trolley sent cold shivers down my spine.

The passengers all stared blankly in my direction, their skin blotched with dried blood. Sickening blisters and deep lacerations riddled their bodies, some still excreting sanguine-esque fluids. Gaping holes occupied areas of seared flesh, exposing fractured jaws and visible grey matter. The stench of decaying flesh forced vomit up my esophagus. I swallowed hard, turning towards the driver for any explanation for what I was witnessing. The sight of him left me in a cold sweat; I was even more terrified than I was before.

Beneath his ebony cloak lied the face of death. A luminescent red light glowed from within its sockets while tiny maggots danced inside its skeletal orifices. I wasn’t sure if this was real or the towns version of a practical joke, but I wasn’t planning on sticking around to find out. I turned towards the door preparing to run when I felt the icy grip of fleshless bone clutch tightly around my wrist. It pulled back with incredible force, but I wasn’t going to accept the fate of death so easily. I twirled around, connecting the sole of my foot with the side of his temple, then leaped from the trolley as he screamed out in pain.

Before I could even get a running start, he lunged towards me, tackling me to the ground. He griped tightly onto my ankles, and began pulling me back aboard the trolley. I tried desperately to loosen myself from his grip, but his brute strength undoubtedly surpassed mine. I couldn’t allow myself to be dragged back onto that traveling nightmare, I had to do all I could to break free. I jolted violently beneath his grasp, digging my nails into the shattered concrete below. I could feel my ankles slipping from his hands; the moment I felt fingers retract, I shot up from the ground and darted in the opposite direction.

I ran as fast as I could, creating as much distance as I could between us. What the hell was going on in this town? I tried to cook up a liable explanation, but all of my theories managed to conjure more questions than answers. I continued running, hoping to stumble upon my car or that dirt road, running for what seemed like hours before finally reaching it. When I arrived, the townspeople were all huddled together; something or someone was holding their focus. I forced my way through the muttering crowd, curious to what had them all so tranced. As the dirt road came into view, that all too familiar sense of terror engulfed what little hope I had of ever escaping.

My car had crashed into a large pile of rubble just beyond the towns entry. My risky habit of rarely buckling my seatbelt forced my body to propel itself through the windshield; broken shards of glass and a fractured spine had caused my demise. I walked closer towards the vehicle, staring at my exaggerated reflection with utter horror. My appearance had not differed much from those aboard the trolley. I turned slowly towards the others, watching their worried expressions turn to those of rage.

Their murmurs grew from quiet whispers to howling shrieks. I quickly covered my ears, trying desperately to shield them from their horrid cries. As their shrieks grew louder, a sea of flames erupted around us, engulfing the city in a reddish glow. As the flames drew near, one by one, the physical forms of the townspeople slowly dispersed, leaving only their battered souls behind. A frozen look of dread crept onto my face as I watched their ethereal flesh catch fire, their screams burrowing deep within my subconscious. I now understood what that streetcar was for, and now more than ever, I had regretted my decision of ever leaving it.