Starlight Spectre • Part 8: Draining Away


This is Part 8 of a serial horror novella. Learn more about it here.

Previous Part • • • [ List of Parts ] • • • Next Part


Part 8: Draining Away

Summer drained away, marked by the presence of cool winds. The days had been getting shorter for a while, but it was around the time when one really began to notice.

Barton felt Gabriella draining away too.

She’d come down with something the following week, and when he saw her again there were dark circles under her eyes and her usual zing was muted. It was torturous, because part of him wanted it to be because he’d blown the chance for intimacy along those tracks. That hurt, but it would at least make sense.

He’d expected the ghost train to fade in his mind, relegated to the type of memory reserved for remembering dreams. And most of it did fade in that way. The scratch on his cheek healed and disappeared. The visage of that thundering white locomotive could have been something he'd only read about.

But certain sensations brought it all back with too much clarity. A squirrel chattering in the park sent his arm hairs prickling. A bleating car horn would fire up a memory of two thin shiny lines. Even a door opening at the right speed would make Barton jumpy, as if something mean and fatal was about to slingshot out from around it at any moment.

A day after she had gotten over her bug, he met Gabby for lunch. He wanted to talk about the terrible little mental pinpricks but had no clue how to broach such a demented line of conversation. She clearly didn’t remember a thing—her mind was on the coming semester and course selection it seemed. And she kept checking her phone.

Having made no headway by the end of their meal, he had become frustrated and heartsick. So, at length, Barton just dove in.

“Gabby, can we talk about the night at the tracks?”

She looked up, slow, her eyes peeling away from the phone screen. He thought he saw a hint of fear in them. “What about it?” she asked.

“I keep thinking about… about when I fell and cut my cheek.”

A passing moment of recognition crossed her face, then it became flat. “Oh yeah, you okay then?”

“Cheek’s fine. But when I fell, it was weird. Like I felt something strange that night. Do you remember anything like that?”

She scratched up high around her shoulder, avoiding looking at him. She checked her phone again and shrugged, and he was about to push once more when the server came over with their bill. She snagged at it, maybe looking for something else to focus on, staring hard at the paper as the server went off to find a machine.

“This is way overpriced, no?” She put the bill down and glanced at her phone again.

He had never heard her complain about price. They were at a tiny, local hole-in-the-wall where they didn’t even bother to end the prices in 99 cents. She was so... off. Barton tried to catch her eye, concern overriding any insecurity now. “Gabby, are you alright? Why do you keep looking at your phone?”

“Hm?” She looked up, and actually brightened. “Oh, it’s wonderful for keeping the time. Look.”

She held up the screen, which displayed the basic clock app. There were a few different clock faces, complete with ticking second hands.

The server returned. “Credit or debit?” they asked.

“My credit’s good here,” Gabby said, furrowing her brow.

The server blinked at her and turned to Barton with raised eyebrows. He produced his VISA and paid while Gabby once again watched the clocks on her phone. He thought he knew then, or at least had a sense of what this was.

“Gabby, you saw that train. Didn’t you?”

“Thanks for lunch, Barton, I gotta shake a leg. Can’t be late.”

He didn’t ask for what. He was fairly sure she didn’t know herself. Barton watched her go, power walking away with a purpose. She reached the street, flinched as a car rolled by, then crossed and walked away.


Continued in Part 9: Tired Eulogies – April 22

Previous Part • • • [ List of Parts ] • • • Next Part

The complete story is also available as an NFT on Polygon. Includes a built-in PDF Reader.

📗 Reg. Edition • 🌟 Collector's Edition


💎 Giveaway #2 is Live! 💎

Five winners of 800 DEC tokens each, along with bonus prizes for Scholar and Scribe members.


🎁 Every week I'm giving five readers of Starlight Spectre chances to win big prizes, such as 35 PIZZA, 800 DEC, 4,000 STARBITS and more! There will also be a massive grand prize giveaway when the tale ends. See the story index post for details on when giveaway posts will drop. 🎁


About the Scholar and Scribe Community

Scholar and Scribe is a new creative writing community founded in the forges of Hive's passionate Pizza Guild. It sets itself part from some of the other writing groups on Hive with its unique dual-token system.

[ Quick token guideS+S 'Whitepaper' ]


Current story followers: @thinkrdotexe@agreste@emrysjobber

Thank you for reading. I own the license for all images in this post. Follow me or the #starlightspectre tag so you don't miss new parts! I can also @ tag folks to alert you, just ask in the comments.

3 columns
2 columns
1 column