Lost to the Horizon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


I thought I'd never see my missing daughter again, recently however, she saved my life.

Submitted: August 11, 2018

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Submitted: August 11, 2018

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An older version of myself would never be writing this, he'd be lost, in some unfathomable tangle. I'm here to tell you how I broke free from that tangle, and became the person I am today. I heard the sound of the weight around me shifting. A heavy jostling noise that droned away, filling the interior of the transport locomotive. I listened carefully, its whispers obscuring some secret I was sure not to miss. But the sound of my life never enlightened me. My work was everything. Sleep evaded me, and the extra hours gave me less time to think. Just listen, listen to the shifting wheels of time turning and propelling me forward unto nothing.

I'd felt this way since I lost my daughter to a sunset. A field in summer, covered in wildflowers, was the stage upon which the worst experience of my life took place. I heard her laughter long and sweet like a stream of honey, then it stopped abruptly, and she went quiet. I remembered looking around, confused, and finding nothing. No sweetness, no laughter. The flowers lost their beauty, the suns rays became burdensome as they obscured my view, the sky seemed so large stretching out without bounds. The sound of my calling voice filled the air. She was gone with the breeze it seemed, and I wondered if she was just an illusion all those years. The sound of her mothers anguished screams reminded me that things weren't that simple.

Her room, her bed- the covers still in shambles from when she jumped out eager to explore the foothills of our new Montana countryside home. It was all there, as it should've been. But she wasn't. My memories failed to tell me what happened to her, and the police were even less helpful. Just a recommendation to some hospital out of state. A place for mindfulness. Bullshit.

I had made it a habit to cry every night since. Even before the divorce. Eventually I ran out of sadness, long after I ran out of tears, even longer after I ran out of hope. Then there was just the droning buzz of the train, and the passage of time along the tracks leading to nowhere. That was everything.

Until she appeared.

I thought I saw her a few times that chilly month in November. Small indications peeking into the revealing glow of my headlights, then disappearing again into darkness. A skipping pair of feet on the periphery of where yellow light turned to opaque blackness. A piece of cloth indicating a dress. Sometimes in the darkness I'd see her in my minds eye, and sometimes my tired vision would follow suit, forming her image. A fairy on a brook. A siren on the sea. Then as if she was slowing from fatigue, she fell into the light before me, and I saw her. I saw the fear in her eyes. I felt a pang of reminiscence I couldn't pin-point, like trying to flesh out a dream upon waking. Then she vanished into the darkness again. I accelerated the train, with loud protests from it as the chattering of metal from below grew louder. Red lights beeped about me. After a short while, I gave up the chase. There was nought but interlaced metal before me.

The days were... exciting. If that's the right word to use. I was eager to see her. Even just the slightest sign of her. I started to notice small flowers left on the tracks. I'd started collecting them, just as a nod to the reality of my situation. Assurance that this isn't some sleep-deprived nightmare. One night on some indistinguishable date I found something else on the tracks. Not just a flower, but a note.

Take the day off it said. I remember laughing. Laughing through maniacal tears. No- I couldn't stop, I had to find her. I had to know what happened. I had to... apologise. There was a white rose with the letter. The letter smelled of memories: Mimosa, her mothers favourite cocktail on a Saturday in August; grapefruits for breakfast in May; Pineapples from our trip to the Bahamas in December. It smelled of life, and I kissed it gently. Feelings of loss reemerging after so many years of nothing. The pain was almost cathartic. The next day, my eyes red and bloodshot were peeled to the light in the darkness. To what might pass before it. The drone from all around was louder, more cacophonous, but it had nothing to tell me. She did, however. And I would hear it.

The nights blended together. The days were spent were uneventful. Light and dark passed over. One morning, I prepared to climb aboard for the days work. A colleague of mine approached.

"Donny, bossman says you've got the morning to yourself. There's some trouble with the engine, we'll have it fixed in no time. So you just... take some time for yourself. Alright?' I don't know why he was so afraid. Ringing his hands around the hat he should've been using to conceal his balding scalp. His name evades me even now. John? Tom? They were all called something like that.

"Do it tomorrow.' I replied.

"I don't know if-' I cut him off by slamming the door, he only looked around for someone to support his claims, but found nobody and gave up. I regret how I acted toward him.

The afternoon was uneventful, but as the sun and darkness descended upon the tracks I knew something was going to happen. I felt it in the vibrations beneath me, in the rain spattering on the windshield, in the loud chortle emanating from the Locomotive. The night went on, and hours passed.

Sometime past midnight, I saw her. Her white dress fluttering like a trick of the light against the rain, her raven hair. And a bouquet of roses in her hand. She sprinted ahead of fast-moving vehicle, and I heard her sweet laughter. I called out to her as best I could, but she didn't reply. I did so again, and again, for what felt like an eternity. I was trapped for a while in some Athenian tragedy, chasing her ethereal trail, always moments away from catching up to her- but never doing so. But then she stopped suddenly, as if she was fed up with running, bored with tormenting me. She turned. I pushed the breaks, my teeth chattered as the train complained and spewed loud mechanical obscenities. I kicked the door open and slid down, rushing forward toward her form.

"Bethany! Please, come here, come to Pa. I've missed you.' I said through fatigued sobs, lumbering forward. I rubbed my red eyes. She was still there. I approached slowly. A breeze took her away from me before- I wasn't going to ease my alertness until she was in my arms and safe.

"Pa. You remember me.' She said matter-of-factly. I nodded.

"Of course I do, you went missing, but that's OK. You're back now. I'm not angry, and ma, ma'll come around- she will. We'll be a family again, just like all those years ago.' Her face was unreadable. Her voice lacked any dips and high notes, it wasn't the same familiar song it once was.

"Pa, Ma's not coming back. Neither am I.' She said, her face seemed more pitying than anything- but her voice was ever-emotionless. If a bit tired. I instinctively wanted to tuck her in, to rest her head on a pillow. To get her out of the cold. To stroke her hair and await the morn so I could make her breakfast. I frowned, furrowing my brow in confusion and frustration. I reached out to grab her arms, to bring her home, but my hands stung with intense cold as they touched her arms. I flinched, buckling over in pain. I looked at my hands, gazing up. "I told you pa, I can't come home. But it's not your fault.' I started to cry again, as I lurched to wrap my arms around her. It was like latching onto pure winter. Cold moistness swirling beneath my arms. My body failed me and I fell down beside her, a numb, wet, quivering mess. "None of it was your fault. Ma only blames you because you were the only one there. But she doesn't know anything- just like you. I remember though.' I felt something warm, comforting, against my cold shivering body. A hand. I looked up at her as the chill left me. She smiled now, and blended in with the beam of the headlights. As pure warmth, pure love, thawed me from the grips of death. I knew in that moment what had to happen.

"Before you go... what happened, Beth? Where'd you go?' She only smiled wider. Like a floating flame her being dissipated into the horizon, toward a tall steep hill flanking the tracks. Up and into the starry horizon, becoming one with the glistening void. There was a moment of silence.

"...Who the fuck are you?' Another voice sounded off, splitting the calm air and jolting me back to reality. I was kneeling now, and so was she- a stranger. A girl, late teens and red-haired. She was crying, sat hugging her knees in the middle of the track. She was hurt. "Why are you just... sitting there?' She squeaked fearfully, sniffling. Her voice adjusted me to proper awareness and care. My immediate memories were shifted to one side as pensiveness and depersonalisation were replaced with analysis of the situation at hand. I stood, immediately reaching down to offer her help.

"I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not, I'd never hurt you.' My thoughts back in order, I knew she had to get home. I looked her up and down. A damaged leg, blood, a small piece of bone sticking out.

"I fell...' She lifted her hand, pointing at the Hill. I gazed at it, long and hard. Then lifted her, turning to face the Locomotive. With three steps a loud bang erupted covering our surroundings with noise and light. My senses were stripped from me in that moment. I fell back, her with me. There was nothing but buzzing silence. The bright orange light obscuring my view became a sun setting on the Horizon and I saw her again, the same trailing white dress, the same roses. I heard her laughter, and saw her running toward the sun. I ran after her this time as her laughter did not go silent, but was replaced by a scream that shot fear and anguish into my heart. The dream-like world became lucid, and everything was in focus now, nothing had felt this real in years. I rushed ahead, stopping myself before a massive rocky drop. But she didn't stop, I heard the sound of her breaths forced out of her lungs as she collided with hard rocks and dirt on her way down. The heaves grew quieter and quieter as she descended alongside tumbling rocks she displaced with her weight. I screamed, covering my face with my fingers to no avail. My eyes were wide, attached to her. I saw her crawling with her hands. Her whining cries echoed up the quarry.

Papa

Then other memories flashed before me: Her mothers wails from the bathroom I was locked out of after she condemned me for Bethany's death, the Police investigation, the Morgue, my family abandoning me at my Wife's behest. Then the guilt, and afterwards the delusions. The memories of that day, growing more vague, until she simply seemed to vanish into the sunset.

I blinked, and saw the flames burning high and bright. I heard cries again, and snapped my head to attention. I saw the girl, helpless and afraid, dragging herself away from the oppressive orange heat by her arms. I steeled myself, quickly scooping her up, trying to contain her limbs in my grasp. It was a long way to find help.

I moved down the tracks with her in my arms. Walking with Lizzy proved cathartic. I told her everything about me, about Beth. The first time I'd told anyone since it all happened. I told her... simply because she asked. She was a lot like Bethany. She had a strong distaste for laziness, and was always eager to be about the place. Always doing something. It proved to a vice in this case. She was out looking for wildflowers to bring her mother who was sick: some horrid tumour. I hoped in that moment she would return to good health from the bottom of my heart. The first notions of humility I'd felt in some time. Other emotions I thought buried beneath the oppressive routine of my existence came to the forefront. Laughter, such was its surprising sound, staggered me when I heard it from my own throat. I felt gratitude toward Bethany for stopping the train from hitting Lizzy and for saving me from a life heading nowhere.

We found a maintenance stop, and the crew assisted us in calling an ambulance. She gave me her phone-number written on a piece of paper she stripped from her pocket-diary, and said if I ever felt alone, she would be there for me. I thanked her, and then a new emotion drifted by and possessed me- Hope.

Soon the Ambulance arrived to move her. I waved goodbye as we parted. In the quiet afterward, I contemplated with a greater grasp on time how much these past few years had been wasted, but closure had afforded me a great deal of motivation. I had no time for regret. I turned on my heels. Behind me I saw but an orange burning dot on the distant horizon. Smoke rising ever-higher from it like a bonfire. Ahead of me was the pale blue dawn- the sun peeking over the Horizon. I walked on, holding the piece of paper in my two hands firmly. A breeze would not take this from me, that was for sure.

My only thought in that moment:

I think I shall buy a phone

 

 

 


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