Weird West Tales No. 4: The Nightingale Wails (unfinished)
The Nightingale Wails
By Morgan James
Darkness has always been my friend - enveloping arms encircling me in its protective embrace, giving me a sense of being more than I am in the harsh reality of daylight.
I smile as I peer around the darkened station perched catlike at the edge of the platform.
It will be a grand depot when it’s finished.
Scaffolding encircles the Union Station like a madman’s spider web, a wooden clock tower jutting through the canopy of tangled beams. I can almost imagine Lolth and her children swarming from the building, mandibles seeking the soft promise of human flesh.
I frown thinking how Scully would love this setting – eerie and still. He will join us soon, his illness only temporary. Strange, I can almost smell his Irish pipe tobacco - sweet and heady compared to the bitter weed found in Colorado.
A shrill whistle and I jump, turning quickly to watch the approach of the fierce-throated beauty, an 1874 Nightingale.
Ah Whitman. No doubt Scully would respond with Keats’ Nightingale or a more obscure and pedantic verse, but no bother, I will see him again soon.
Almost on queue, three forms rise from their shadowed enclave on the iron bench near the station’s new façade. Detaching, they walk into the moonlight of the open platform. A woman, far too fetching to be ignored, and two men - sullen and dangerous - flanking her.
I smile – the nightingale surrounded by hawks - my traveling companions for the long trip to Coffin Rock.
My only traveling companions, it seems, as the station is otherwise empty.
A conductor shuffles from the shrouded caboose at the end of the line, seemingly pulling the darkness and shadows with him. He speaks briefly with Miss Lowe and helps her onto the train – then moves stiffly towards the large crate-laden wagon and horses at the far end of the platform.
To me, neither a word nor glance – as if to him, I am a ghost.
I follow my companions aboard, running my hand along the worn wooden railing of the iron car. This train feels old, impossibly ancient and – although my words now appear irrational when written – alien.
The coach car is elegant by American standards with plush red sofas and hickory paneling glowing yellow in the dim lights of copper oil lamps placed carefully on each table.
I have become accustomed to an ancient feel from my years in Cambridge – rooms that have seen little change in two hundred years, leather that still hold the odor of medieval smoke.
This Nightingale, however, is different – a subtle shade of decay, a mustiness of the grave – earthen and cold.
I shake the feeling from my bones.