What Could Be Out There

Photo of railroad tracks, woods on either side of them.
from Google Photo Frame

Here’s a new story, inspired by Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #112. Looking at the photo and coming up with different ideas for stories is fun. I’ll try to make this a weekly habit, as long as I can fit it in with my other projects.

I hope you enjoy the story…

What Could Be Out There
by Dave Wiliams

What things might be waiting after the curve of the railroad tracks were mysteries. Hiding now, but could show themselves soon.

Paige and Alondra had locked their bikes at the parking lot of the hiking trail. The fifteen year-old girls had taken the beaten path until they spotted the tracks. They had stopped to listen to other hikers, heard none and saw none, so they jogged from the path through the slice of forest, and came out to the clearing formed like a channel. Walls mostly made of trees, some concrete here and there to keep an incline of land at bay.

The girls had rested their ears on opposing railroad tracks, iron pillows, and wondered aloud if the saying was true. Could you actually hear a train that’s farther off by listening to the tracks instead of relying on the sound traveling through the air to your ear? Possibly. Vibrations could travel a long way. At least they thought they remembered something like that from science class.

Paige and Alondra balanced on the rails, arms extended like high-wire walkers. But only for a minute, since Alondra had heard that a surprising number of people died while they walked the rails. She couldn’t remember the exact number, only that it surprised her by being higher than she had thought — because she figured the number should’ve been very low, as you would think they could’ve told when a train was coming and had enough time to jump out of the way. Maybe they were distracted by their smartphone. Maybe they were on drugs. Or some other reason that Alondra hadn’t imagined.

“So glad we’re doing this,” Paige said. “This is much better than the trail.”

“But it’s got some pretty trees,” Alondra said.

“Yeah, but it’s so flat. It’d be better if you climbed up a bunch of rocks. This is more adventurous.”

“Seriously,” Alondra said. “It’s like we’re always saying. Boys get too much attention in movies and books. A group of boys gets together and they go on some wild trip.”

“Good thing that doesn’t happen as much these days. Like on Stranger Things. They’ve got a girl.”

Alondra laughed a derisive laugh. “A girl. That’s it. It’s like a bunch of people complained and the writers said, “Okay, okay, let’s put in a girl. But just one. Let’s not get crazy here.’”

“At least they’ve got her,” Paige said. “That’s better than The Goonies. Just some dork boys in that one.”

“Sad, so sad,” Alondra said. “Same with It. They had more boys in their stupid club and still only one girl was allowed in.”

“No boys allowed on this adventure.”

Alondra grinned. “No way. They’d only go mouthing off about how they can do this, how they can do that. Boasting to look all manly.”

“And who needs that? Not us.”

The girls fist-bumped and cheered and enjoyed the sounds of their voices lifting, expanding into the sky. Their enjoyment increased as their volume increased, the cheering more akin to bellowing. Paige ended the yelling first, and both girls laughed.

On they walked in the area between the sets of train tracks. With each step, their sneakers made the small stones clack together, like bodies colliding, miniature sumo wrestlers in training. Their backpacks held water bottles and trail mix. Alondra’s also held sliced apples in a plastic bag.

“So whaddaya think we’ll find in these here woods?” As Paige squinted one eye, she spoke in an affected manner, a gruff and world-weary traveler.

“Don’t rightly know.” Alondra tried to match the affected voice.

“Maybe a dead body?”

“Could be, could be,” Alondra said. “This looks like a good place to stash a body after you’ve killed him.”

“I’m with ya, man. And some people deserve to be shot, you know? They’re no-good sons a bitches, so you shoot ’em like dogs and throw their bodies in the woods.” Paige spit to the side to emphasize her toughness.

“But all the dead bodies could’ve decomposed by now.” Alondra’s voice returned to normal.

Paige nodded. “I got ya. Worm food.”

“Right. And we could find a monster instead.”

“A monster?” Paige asked, sounding more like a cartoonish pirate. “What kind of monster are we talkin’ about?”

“Could be anything. Bigfoot, Mothman, werewolf.”

“Don’t think so about a werewolf. They only come out at night, so we’re safe there. How about trolls?”

“Could be,” Alondra said. “I think they hang out in the woods. Or maybe an axe murder.”

“Ooo! Now you’re getting more realistic. That’s not as fun. I’d rather see something like a giant spider.”

Not keen on spiders, Alondra shivered. “I’ll skip on that one, thanks. How about a killer gorilla?”

“Killa gorilla!” Paige thumped her chest with her fists and howled.

“Killa gorilla!” repeated Alondra, who also thumped her chest and howled,

The girls laughed, and it melted away Alondra’s tension from imagining spiders. Of course a killer gorilla was also fearsome to think up, but the rhyme softened that reaction.

“What would you do if we saw one of those things?” Paige asked. “Not just the gorilla. Any of them.”

Alondra stopped walking. Spread her stance a little wider. Stuck her hand in her pocket. Whipped out a pepper spray canister. Extended her arm, canister aimed ahead, her finger resting on the top. A gunslinger would’ve been proud of her quickness.

Alondra’s parents had warned her about nasty men in the world, so they had given her the pepper spray and reminded her to carry it whenever she went out—except for school, where it wasn’t allowed. Thankfully, Alondra had never had to use the pepper spray. She had tried it once, in her back yard. The thin jet had launched from the canister, flew an impressive distance, then landed harmlessly on the grass. She had been fascinated by its potential power to cause pain in an adult man.

Yes! You’re a badass!” Paige said, admiring her friend’s stance with the pepper spray canister.

Smiling, Alondra slipped the canister back into her pocket. “That’s right, toots. You’ve got nothing to worry about.” She returned the gruff affect to her voice, sounding like a detective in a black-and-white film.

“I’m not some damsel in distress,” Paige said. “I can take care of myself.”

The girls fist-bumped again and continued walking on the middle, stony section of the mound formed for the train tracks. True, anything seemed to possibly await them after every curve of the tracks—and in the darkness amid the trees growing close together. Excitement mixed with some fear in the girls as they adventured onward.


copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

17 thoughts on “What Could Be Out There

  1. Definitely enjoyed the story. I grew up in a “railroad” family — my grandfather was a railroad telegrapher and I used to play at the depot while he worked. I know exactly how it feels to wonder what lies around the curve of those tracks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Really neat that you spent time like that at the railroad depot. I would think there could be boring times, but also many times your imagination could fly to what the travelers were doing, where they were going.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yes! It was fun to meet so many people from all parts of the world. Even though it was a very small town (about 4,000) it was a world-famous spa known for its mineral water “cures”. This was back in the 1950’s. Later all the “cures” were declared a hoax and all the clinics, bath-houses, and many of the hotels shut down. Now the town is undergoing a re-surge in popularity. But, yes, there were truly people who came from all over the world to “take the waters”. It was so interesting to meet them and to learn about their cultures.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Such an interesting background! It’s a wonderful idea: parts of the world were coming to your town, so you could glean stuff about the world without traveling to various parts of it. Thanks for telling me about that. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes, indeed. I never really thought of it until now, but I think this is where my interest in learning about different world cultures obviously began. Even now, I still love getting to know people from other countries and learning about their lands, their languages, and their traditions.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story! You have an excellent way of capturing the imagination and innocence of kids. The story made me feel nostalgic and think about times my cousin and I would go on our little adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re kind to read several of my posts today. Thank you. “Stand By Me” is what I thought when I saw the prompt photo. Then I thought of how that movie/novella had a group of only boys. I wanted to craft a story of girls doing something similar, which is directly inspired by having daughters. Girls have started solo in adventures, like “Wizard of Oz” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Be nice to see more stories of them in clubs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I like reading you. It feels familiar and warm in some way. Glad to have read this one, and so interesting to think that the inspiration was what I thought it might have been. You did that movie justice and then some.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I appreciate your words — they mean a lot. And I like that we were on the same mindset about the inspiration behind the story. I’m sure others feel this way: I find the coming-of-age stories as emotionally powerful of characters starting adventures on their own, away from parents. The hero’s journey on a personal level.

          Liked by 2 people

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