Travel Diary: The Midnight Train To Montana (Part 2)
In part one of her adventure, Winona and her travel companions discover that they’re in for more than they bargained for on a mysterious trip from Portland, Oregon, to White Fish, Montana. Today, read the conclusion of her trip.
We were silent for a moment, examining the dimly lit Spokane skyline in the distance. “I didn’t even know Spokane had a skyline,” I said, and the boys nodded in agreement.
An hour passed. And then another. The train remained stopped at the abandoned station. Our cellphones, laid out on the table, let out their last beeps and chimes before succumbing to dead batteries. “Why aren’t we moving?” Nick muttered. “Why won’t this damn train move?” Devin left to brave the restroom. Corwin’s leg fell asleep and he started pacing the cabin. Cuyler and I entered the stage of fatigue that induces fits of giggling and rocking back and forth in the fetal position.
A few minutes later we heard the door open and saw a figure stumbling toward us…
It was Devin, back from a bathroom break and looking positively traumatized. Apparently, the bathrooms were located near the exit doors, and Devin had seen a man standing there, surveying the empty train platform. “Are we in Montana now?” the man asked, but before Devin could tell him otherwise he had stumbled out into the darkness and disappeared.
“We’re never leaving here,” Devin said, staring blankly out the window. “We have to make peace with the fact that we will be trapped in Spokane forever. I can get a job here. I will find a wife, have a family. I will make a new life for myself.”
Corwin slapped Devin across the face. “Get ahold of yourself, man!”
I put my head down on the table. “Maybe we should just go back to our seats, breathe through our mouths, and try to get some sleep.” Reluctantly we filed out of the observation car and back into the fray. It was 3AM. The train hadn’t moved for hours.
As we split up and found our seats, we realized that the man next to Devin was the one I’d heard coughing violently earlier in the night. He would wake from his sleep every 3 minutes or so and let loose a round of deafening, phlegmy roars. I covered my face with the stale-smelling train pillow and prayed for sleep to come.
At 4:30, I was startled awake by the clanging sound of pots and pans. We were stopped again, god knows where. It was pitch dark outside and the train was eerily quiet, except for that clanging sound–distant at first, then closer, approaching me from behind. I turned slowly in my seat, craning my neck to see what was making such a racket.
Five feet down the aisle, lumbering toward me, were two large figures dressed in brown floor-length cloaks. They bobbed their heads as they walked and for a second I honestly thought they were Skeksis from “The Dark Crystal” (for reference, photo on left). I turned back around in my seat and froze, holding my breath. These enigmatic creatures had cast iron pots and pans and various kitchen utensils hanging from ropes around their waists, and as they passed I could make out two pairs of bright little eyes staring at me from the backs of their heads. “Oh my god,” I whispered, as they turned toward an exit a few rows in front of me. My eyes adjusted just in time to see that each of the Skeksis had a baby strapped across their shoulders. And then they were gone.
Horrified, I looked to my right, and saw Nick was sleeping. Lucky bastard. “Devin!” I hissed across the aisle. “Devin! Did you see that?”
Finally he whispered, “Were those humans?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, and I really didn’t. By this point I was fairly sure that the entire trip had been a fever dream, but I’d never felt more awake, nor had I ever been more hesitant to fall asleep. I sat straight up in my seat for the remainder of the ride. The rest of the passengers started stirring around 6AM. The sun came up over the breathtaking landscape of Montana but I didn’t even care. I just wanted to get off that awful train.
Finally we pulled into the White Fish station. As I frantically gathered my things and made a break for the exit, a conductor stopped me. “Are you OK, ma’am?” he asked.
“Best I’ve ever been,” I said. “I’m just not cut out for life on the railroad.”