“Changing Times for Man and Monster”

An ancient terror longs for the good old days.

I miss the train.

I loved the anonymity of the train.

You controlled your identity on those great overland routes. You decided with every stop if you wished to remain a stranger. You determined the time to reveal yourself. You sensed the opportunity to act or flee. There was a surprising independence on those great streamlined trains of the past.

A similar experience is practically unknown today.

You bought your ticket and found a seat on the Pullman.

Not a soul on board knows you. You’re a subtle nod or perhaps a knowing wink. You’re oddly familiar or create a sense of déjà vu at the very worst. You’re an autumnal wind or a winter chill creeping up a menaced spine. You smile and you’re gone out of sight and out of mind.

Step off the coach and you become another feature of the lonely countryside. You’re concealed in the twisting and churning geography just beyond the glass. When the locomotive roared forward again, you were nothing more than a vague recollection or shadowy daydream.

You may even be a nightmare to a fortunate few. Those changed forever with your appearance in their lives, just as the railroad reshaped so many towns in the early years.

There was new purpose. There was new vitality. There was a new beginning.

I do miss those trackside towns. I miss those communities that clung to the railroad for nourishment and survival. Those parasitic clusters of wooden frames and brick walls that seethed with life only when the express stopped.

Connellsville.

Dunbar.

Uniontown.

Fairchance.

Smithfield.

Point Marion.

Morgantown.

Fairmont.

Clarksburg.

You could step off the train at any of these places. No one knew your name or your story. You had new life.

There was new life all around you.

Hundreds of such routes once zigzagged from sea to shining sea. That’s why I loved America.

Anchorage.

Wasilla.

Talkeetna.

Hurricane.

Healy.

Nenana.

Fairbanks.

Those new places were always so shamelessly optimistic and distracted. Those new people were always so hopelessly eager and ignorant.

There were always new routes. Always new corners to explore. Always new havens to seek refuge.

The transient and the nomad effortlessly plied his trade next to the settled and the permanent.

But the educated were never truly prepared. The wise were never truly able in those new places.

Once the hunters had finally gathered their hounds and rifles, the wolf had disappeared into the wilderness as nonchalantly as a fashionably affable man finds a seat in the smoking car next to a beautiful stranger.

The nooks of those new places were my world. The energies of those new people were my sustenance.

No airline can compete with the railroad service of the past. Airlines are too rigid. There are too many checks. There are too many inspections. You’re too isolated when your six miles off the ground.

Some of us enjoy the ground. I love earth. The sensation of sleeping on the ground is really what keeps me going in this crazy time.

I miss the ruins and the wilds. I miss all the out-of-the-way places. I miss the names and details that didn’t exist before I opened a map.

Unfortunately, the train just isn’t the same today. The routes are too few and too fixed. Too often your confidentiality is abused whenever purchasing a ticket. You know too much about the other passengers. There are so few strangers left to meet.

The mystery of the old world is lost. Those times are dead. I cherish the memories of that decidedly more elegant and majestic time.

But don’t worry about me. I have a long history a very long history of surviving. There was a time before the railroad, and I know that I once lamented the dereliction of the great stagecoaches and carriages in favor of those smoking behemoths.

I change with the times. I change as necessary.

I’ve adapted to the buses, light rails, and subways of this age. I just don’t enjoy travel as I had before the automobile. The world is in such a hurry now. I’ve always enjoyed a more leisurely pace. My patience is of an animalistic quality, and I mean that in the most graceful way.

I’m sure I’ll eventually learn to embrace Uber.

We should share a ride sometime.

Author: joshuajscully

That’s my picture up there. I’m not totally sure why I look so angry. I may be thinking about how much I hated the Crypt Keeper as a child. I grew up faithfully watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I missed the boat in terms of writing for either of those programs. I do consider both to have been wildly influential when I think back to my earliest thoughts about becoming an author and I’m grateful my parents let me watch those shows as a kid (although there were probably some nights early in my childhood my mother wished she hadn’t let me watch those shows). If you’re familiar with either program, then you know what genres are my focus. I thoroughly enjoy science fiction, suspense, the twist ending, and some horror or supernatural elements as well. Honestly, when I was a kid the Crypt Keeper scared the hell out of me. As an adult, I’ve really learned to embrace the puns. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine as well, and the root of that is shared with my profession. I am an educator by trade, and I teach American History. I consider some of the best writing I’ve ever done to be within the realm of historical fiction and I really enjoy saturating my mind in the research end of those projects. I would make the argument that storytelling is in my blood. Even my sister mulled, very briefly (about 45 minutes), launching a career as a screenwriter! My last name is one of those Irish (and, apparently, formally Manx) ones with a wonderfully researched history -“the story-teller’s descendant”. On of the first day of school each year, I do share that “my name is Mr. Scully, and that rhymes with Kelly”, just so I do not hear the myriad of mispronunciations on the first day. Several years ago, I started a blog similar to this one to highlight my middle years as a teacher. If that aspect of my life is of any interest to you at all, you can still find that blog online. During my summers, I really have time to pursue my writing projects and this blog will highlight some of that work. My first attempts to sit down and write extensively occurred when I was 15, but only a few years ago did I make setting time aside to write a priority. I’ve also benefited wildly over the years from many willing readers among my family and friends. The direction and feedback from those individuals has been invaluable. Outside the world of the written word, I am an educator, basketball coach, lecturer, and (very, very occasionally) a landscaper. I have only ever known Western Pennsylvania as my home. Although I love a good novel, I am absolutely unable to resist the power of the short story. The latter is really what I hope to be remembered for one day.

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