It was the middle of the afternoon when I boarded a train in Salt Lake City, Utah that was bound for Las Vegas, Nevada. I had been on many train trips, but I had no idea that this trip was going to be so much different than any trip that I had been on before.
I was the only person sitting in my car which I thought was going to make it a very quiet trip. I always enjoyed looking out at the scenery as I went by regardless of whether it was an urban place or a rural place. I continued to look outside until night came when all I could see was pitch blackness. At that time, there was nothing to see but the inside of the train. I slowly began to get sleepy. My eyes were getting heavy. It was about this time when I felt the train make a very abrupt stop. A train would normally not stop that quickly.
I began to figure that something was wrong. I looked outside, but I saw nothing but pitch blackness. Although I did not see anything, something did not feel right. I remained calm, but my mind was getting very boggled wondering about what could be happening. I heard the door open towards the front of the car. I peeked over the seats in front of me, and I saw something that was very out of the ordinary. I saw a person standing in the doorway wearing a black cloak with his or her head covered. The person walked towards me and came to my seat. The person looked at me, and I saw that the face was covered with a black mask. I could not tell whether it was a woman or a man. This person spoke to me in a very disguised voice and asked, “Sir, can I sit with you?”
The voice terrified me. I had a huge gulp in my throat. Here was a person of whose identity I had no idea of, but I wanted to show kindness. I replied saying, “Sure. Have a seat.”
The person sat down in the seat across from me. I reached out my hand to the person and said, “My name is John.”
The person reached a hand to me and saw that he or she was wearing gloves. We shook hands, and the person replied to me saying, “I am very happy to be sitting with you, John.”
I asked the person, “What is your name?”
The person replied, “I must ask you to not ask that particular question to me.”
I began to feel very uncomfortable around this person, but I was able to stay calm. I asked the person, “Is there a reason that you wear the hood, the cloak? Why are you completely covered?”
“Sir,” said the person in the same very disguised voice, “That is a question that I cannot answer. Let us just sit and have conversation as we enjoy the ride.”
“Alright,” I replied trembling. “What is it that you would like to talk about?”
“That I do not know,” said the person.
I was feeling very uneasy, but I did not want to show this person any unkindness whatsoever. I was able to ask the person, “Since you cannot tell me who you are or what your name is, can I just refer to you as the Phantom One?”
The person was extremely stunned by the question. The person looked at me and said, “That is very amazing. Nobody has ever asked me that before. Most people see me, and they either go away, or they push me away. There are those who would have me thrown off this train. You, on the other hand, have chosen to give me a name. Because of your excellent kindness unto me, I will gladly accept that name for myself.”
“I just wanted to know who I was talking to,” I said to the Phantom One. “I have talked to many people on my journeys, but I do not recall talking to anyone who completely covers his or herself for a reason that they will not tell me about.”
“Who I am, what I am, and what I do will never be known to you nor to anyone else,” the Phantom One said. “Who I am, what I am, why I am dressed this way, and the facts about me will always and forever be a mystery not just to you but to everyone who comes before and after you. This is something that you and all others must understand.”
I remained silent in my seat. The Phantom One continued on saying, “You have shown more kindness unto me than any other person that I have encountered. I will always remember that about you. As for now, I am approaching my stop. I will be getting off this train. I do not know if we will see each other again, but if we do, so it be. I say farewell to you.”
The Phantom One stood up and waved at me, and I waved at him. The Phantom One then walked towards the front of the car to the door where he opened the door and walked right through it. I felt a huge weight lift off me. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I then grew very tired, and, seconds later, I was fast asleep.
It was morning. I woke up just as the train was pulling into the station in Las Vegas. I looked out of the window and saw a very beautiful woman wearing a black cowboy hat, white shirt with a black vest, and black jeans standing barefoot next to a black Corvette convertible. I made my way to exit the train. As I stepped onto the platform, she was standing there next to me. She asked me, “Sir, do you need a lift?”
I was very confused. I asked her, “Do I know you?”
“Do not ask questions,” said the woman. “Just get in the car.”
At this very point, I saw my story about the Phantom One starting over again.
The story was originally written for a writing course I had taken years ago with the Long Ridge Writing School in Connecticut. With all of the current downtime with no trains running or museums open, I thought that it would be a great story to share with you. Enjoy!!!
The locomotive in the photo is from the New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, Indiana.