Ghost Train


Raider Times photo / Naomi Fandetti / Word Painter

On a sticky afternoon in August, no more than five people traipse down the Main Street of Hallbridge on the Lake, which features a row of simple colonial-style shops, paneled with dusty blue, gray, and white boards that have changed little since the 18th century. The few other residents stay in their large colonial houses scattered throughout the woods around the lake. 

Genevieve Whitney sits under the sizzling Western Massachusetts sun in a white rocking chair on the back porch of her cousins’ red colonial, reading. The last time Genevieve was in Hallbridge on the Lake was when she was four. Two years before her twin sisters Kirsten and Fern were born. Ten years later, she hears nothing but the buzz of heat while her white crop top, denim shorts and golden hair feel muggily pasted to her skin. She misses Gloucester with its cool summer air, the everyday bustle of people, beach, rocks, seafood, boats. 

Compared to Gloucester, Hallbridge on the Lake is desolate, with its murky lake, old New England simplicity, and ghost stories about malicious women living in shacks in the woods.

 Going outside is the only place where Genevieve can get away from the four kids in the house- Kirsten, Fern and their three cousins, Veronica, Turner, and Cormac.

She has been interrupted once that afternoon but it was by her favorite cousin Cormac, the youngest of the family at seven. He stamped out of the house with a black tote bag slung over his shoulder and said with strong conviction that he was going to see a friend named Emma. Genevieve didn’t question him and resumed her reading.

The door bangs open and Kirsten, Fern, Veronica, and Turner topple out of the house. “Where’s Cormac?” Kirsten asks.

“He went to see some friend of his,” Genevieve shrugs, still looking down at her book. “Emma.” The kids all gape at her.

“What the heck Genevieve?” Eleven year-old Veronica throws up her arms. “How could you let him do that?” 

Genevieve slams her book shut and sets it down. “Don’t talk to me like that, Veronica.” Veronica crosses her arms and shoots her a pouty glare. 

“What’s so bad about Emma?” 

“It’s Emmalyn,” Fern says. “Her father was the station agent in the late 1800s. She died of influenza when she was fifteen and now her ghost haunts the depot.”

“A group of teenagers in the 1940s went there and were never seen again,” Turner says with widened eyes.

“Cormac wanted to find her,” Veronica says in a tone that suggests Genevieve obviously should have known this. “But my parents told us to stay away from the depot because it’s falling apart. Cormac got upset and now he’s off finding Emmalyn and he’ll probably die.” Her voice shakes until she sounds like she is a sentence away from tears.

Genevieve looks at the trembling group with an amused smile. “You guys don’t actually believe that story? Really, Fern and Kirsten? The ghost of a girl who died hundreds of years ago haunting a depot? It’s nonsense, as is that stupid myth about those teenagers going missing.”

“Well either way,” Fern says. “Cormac left.”

“Then why don’t you go to the depot and look for him?” Genevieve asks. Kirsten and Turner shudder while Veronica and Fern stiffen. They all exchange nervous glances. “Fine,” she says, standing up from the rocking chair. “I’ll find him myself.” She is met with grateful eyes. 

Genevieve walks down the steps and follows the main dirt road, weaving through the woods until Main Street pops up. She walks to the end of the street, passing the general store, two old women outside the coffee shop, the boutique, and crosses the aged bridge running over a marshy creek. 

The abandoned railroad lies rusting before the depot, and a decaying train with one box car lies dormant on the tracks. The depot is a long one story building with two long windows that are missing glass on either side of the rickety gray door, which lies ajar. White paint peels from the façade’s wooden boards, and black tiles drip from the roof. Genevieve shoves the door aside and steps into the dark and dusty interior. 

She is drenched with confinement as she faces three wooden benches on a wooden floor surrounded by wooden walls. “Cormac?” she calls. A rustle comes from behind the third bench. “Hello?” Genevieve walks to it, goosebumps eating up her arms. She looks over the bench and jumps back, crying out.  

A teenage girl is huddled there. Her face is pale and her dark hair is knotted. A stained white nightgown is draped over her malnourished body, and her arms are bony. She gives Genevieve a cool look, upset by the intrusion and daring Genevieve to pursue her further.

“Who are you?” Genevieve asks. The girl doesn’t respond. “I’m looking for my cousin Cormac. He’s short, he’s seven, and he has light brown eyes and sandy blonde hair. He lives nearby and may have come here. Have you seen him?” The girl stands up silently and walks to the door, looking back at Genevieve with the hint of a sneer. Insulted but eager to prove herself, Genevieve follows the girl out the door and to the dissipated train out front. The girl nods at the rusty and maroon train car with four small windows and walks away. Genevieve wedges her way through one of the windows and lands inside the dingy car.

“Cormac!” Her cousin lies slumped over in the corner of the car. She stumbles over to him, grabs him by the shoulders and pulls him toward her. “Cormac, what happened?” He looks up at her groggily. 


“What? Cormac, I don’t understand!”

The train lurches and begins to move, lobbing Genevieve and Cormac into the wall. Genevieve uneasily stands up and staggers across the car to the slit in the front wall that peers into the driver’s compartment. There stands the girl from the depot, operating the train. Genevieve whips her head around to look out the nearest window.

Hallbridge on the Lake slips from her view behind trees. 


(Published November 2022)