Title – Midnight in Moonville
By Jana Denardo
Author’s Note: This was written for the Sweet & Scary Flash Fic Blog Hop. I’m looking forward to reading the other offerings (Follow the link to more!) It’s not my official offering because it ended up being longer than the limit (typical for me). I set this one fairly local. In fact I was writing this one in my head while I was standing in line for over 2 hours at the event depicted here. All the characters are original though the ‘historian’ is one of my friends who was doing the historical/ghost talks at the festival. Hopefully he won’t mind too much that I’ve had a ghost toss him about. And if you’d like something a little longer for Halloween, you can check out what I wrote for Spook_Me here.
Midnight in Moonville
A fat full moon crept over the tree line, decorating the festival with pale light. The moon and the balminess were the only pluses Alex could attribute to this night. When the Moonville fest first started, Alex regretted he had agreed to be one of the musicians entertaining the crowd. What could be more interesting than spending a perfect October night surrounded by forest and the remains of an iron-forging ghost town, complete with a haunted defunct train tunnel? He’d wanted to jump on the horse-drawn hay wagon to ride up the ghost town’s abandoned cemetery. Alex even had his camera and recorder tucked over by his guitar case, ready to capture any ghosts, as he wouldn’t be playing the entire night. Alex had come here thinking he’d be able to sneak off to the tunnel at the very least, and to the cemetery if he were lucky.
He’d thought that up until the point it was obvious the organizers had greatly underestimated the interest in spending the night at a haunted train tunnel in a ghost town. Someone apparently didn’t realize how much the paranormal interested people these days. Instead of a few hundred festival goers, there were over a thousand surly people furious after waiting hours to be shuttled six people at a time to the festival grounds. A few of them sitting on the bales of hay across from him seemed to be enjoying his music, or at least enjoying finding a place to sit in the milling mass of people.
Alex wondered if the next band would even be able to get up here. He knew if they hadn’t arrived before the shuttles had started, there would be no way of getting to the site now. He’d be playing his fingers off if that was the case. As much as he enjoyed making music, if he didn’t get a chance to go back and talk to that amazingly cute paranormal investigator from Athens who had a booth up the hill inside the tunnel, he’d be pissed. He had seen Travis only briefly at the Mothman festival a few weeks before. He’d attended Travis’s talk at the State Theater but had to go on stage himself before he could get a chance to talk to Travis at Mothman, and ditto earlier tonight.
He’d been thrilled to see Travis here. Alex had taken a good second look at Travis’s bright blue eyes and dark wavy hair, and wanted to haul him off ostensibly to look for the sandstone fountains, the remains of Moonville hidden in the woods. Travis could start ghost hunting, and Alex planned for it to end with recorders off and so very naked. Granted it would never happen. He didn’t want ticks on his bits and that’s about what he’d get in these woods. Outdoor sex couldn’t be as fun and romantic as novels made it sound.
Turning his mind from thoughts that could get in him in trouble, Alex concentrated on his music. Alex wanted to perform a little more rock, but he’d been asked to keep it more folk and country. That was easy enough. Alex loved the music he and Cody, his friend who usually play drums but was doing it more electronically as drums weren’t easy to haul back here, had selected. After all, his guitar hero, John 5, played a wide variety of genres, not that he’d ever be as good as John; not many would. Music was Alex’s hobby, his creative passion, but he had no dreams of making it big. Besides, he loved his day job as a surgical nurse.
Halfway through CCR’s Bad Moon on the Rise, Alex lost some of the sourness hanging in the air. He nearly dropped his guitar as screams echoed down the trail from up near the tunnel. These were not the screams of someone having fun or being silly. These were shrieks of panic. Suddenly, the crowd ran as if Sasquatches were pouring out of the woods. Tripping and flailing over the coarse gravel path, the crowd seethed past his mini-stage. Alex picked out the words “Ghost in the tunnel.”
Grabbing his mic, Alex cried, “We need rangers at the tunnel!” He knew all the cops and rangers were at the mouth of the path up by the roadway, valiantly fighting the losing war against getting people to and from the event in a quick orderly fashion.
Alex thrust his guitar at Cody. “Take care of this.”
“They might need help. They’ll never get an ambulance up here if someone’s hurt.”
With that, he jumped off the stage. Forcing his way through the crowd was nearly impossible. Thankful for his hiking boots, Alex scrambled along the potentially ankle-breaking, sloped sides of the path. People pushed and shoved their way down the path, screaming and cursing. For people who came here expressly to see ghosts, they sure weren’t ready for the reality. Vendor stalls had been knocked about, spilling their wares. By the time he crossed the bridge, the crowd had thinned, probably trampling each other up by the food vendors at the entrance.
From the tunnel, he could hear strange noises mixed with human shouts. Alex spotted a couple of people on the ground, moaning and holding various limbs he assumed to be twisted or bruised. “Are you okay? I need to get into the tunnel and help them.”
“You’re crazy man,” the fallen man said, rubbing his wrist.
“Just sprained my ankle,” the woman added.
Alex nodded. He could help them later. He ran into the tunnel. Travis lay crumpled against the graffiti-covered walls, bleeding from the head. Not far away the man who had been presenting the history and ghost legends of the tunnel inched along toward the entrance, in similar bloody circumstance. Travis’s partner – Alex hadn’t gotten his name – floated a few inches off the ground as if caught in an invisible bear hug. Well not quite invisible. Alex could make out a hazy mist around the man.
“Let him go!” Alex cried.
Travis’s head snapped over, his lips parted in surprised. He waved Alex back but Alex had no plans on running until he got these three to safety. His plan lasted up until the ghost dropped Travis’s partner and surged toward Alex. Its misty form swirled as it moved. The energy emanating from it – like a storm-generated pressure in the sinuses – yanked the steel out of Alex’s backbone. Battling down the fear, Alex raced forward, grabbing the partner first as he wasn’t moving. Something winged past Alex’s head.
“Baldie likes to throw rocks,” the historian said, staggering up to his feet.
To prove that point, one slammed into Alex’s back. Yelping, Alex took the helping hand the historian offered. Together they muscled the unconscious ghost hunter out of the tunnel. Braving the stone throwing aggressive ghost, Alex darted back in and helped Travis to his feet. More rocks slapped off of them as they cleared the tunnel.
“Will that thing come out of the tunnel?” Alex didn’t like his chances of getting multiple wounded out of the way if the answer was yes.
“Don’t know and we have people on the other side of the tunnel. Can’t believe you ran into the tunnel,” Travis rasped, putting a hand on his head.
Alex took the flashlight Travis had hooked to his belt. He shone it on Travis’s head with one hand, gently probing the head injury with the other. “Couldn’t stand by and not help. I think you’re going to need a few stitches. How do you feel? Nauseated? Dizzy?”
“A little,” Travis admitted.
Alex stripped off his shirt and pressed it to the bleeding wound. “Hold this here to help staunch the bleeding.”
Travis eyed him.
“I’m a nurse. I have to check the others. You keep an eye out for that ghost. What the hell happened?”
“Some of the kids were taunting the ghost, like you see on some of the TV shows,” Travis replied. “He didn’t like it.”
“Yeah never thought that sounded wise.”
While he checked on the other injured victims, Alex kept Travis talking. Soon enough the rangers and the police made it to the tunnel. The former went the long way up and over the tunnel to lead the people trapped on the wrong side of the tunnel through the woods to safety. Alexis eventually convinced the cops he could transport Travis and his partner, Ian, to the hospital in his truck, which was parked at the mouth of the park. The historian said he was just a little banged up and didn’t need to go.
Ian, who had regained consciousness after being choked out by Baldie the ghost, was able to stumble along holding onto Alex’s left arm while Travis steadied himself on the other. They made their way back to the stage, and Cody joined in to help get them to the truck. He had already stowed the instruments. Getting out of the back forty to the main road took longer than Travis liked but once there, it was further than he wanted to think about to get to the hospital. There would be more visitors, too, because Cody had helped several people off the trail after they had been pushed down.
Alex couldn’t worry about them. He had his own charges to care for, and Travis had started getting sluggish. These back country roads had never been more infuriated.
Alex peered into Travis’s hospital room. “I heard they were keeping you both overnight and I wanted to check on you.”
Travis glanced at the clock. “It’s nearly four in the morning. You didn’t have to stay.”
“I wanted to be sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine but I have a concussion. I’m sorry I’m missing out on the chance to record ghost activity at that level.” Travis sighed.
“I’d say you had more than enough ghostly activity but I suppose that is your job.” Alex grinned.
“It’s not usually this…exciting,” Travis replied, giving his bandaged head a woeful rub. “I did like your music though. I got to hear a little of it before I had to go lead the investigation in the tunnel, such as it was.”
Alex tried not to let that make his head float away. “Thanks. I enjoyed your talk at the Mothman festival.”
“I should let you get some sleep. I’m glad you weren’t hurt worse.”
“Thanks and hey, Alex, want to go ghost hunting with me some time? I’d love to go back to that tunnel when it’s not packed or to the abandoned cemetery.”
Was Travis flirting with him? Alex couldn’t quite tell. He might be reading too much into it. “Could be interesting. Won’t your partner mind?”
“Ian? Nah, we’re just work partners. I’m not his type, not female enough.” Travis grinned. “Maybe I should start with asking you out for coffee or something.”
There was no mistaking that. Alex’s heart pounded harder now than it had in the tunnel. “No reason it can’t be both. I have one of your cards. I’ll call you tomorrow. You rest now.”
“Go home and get some rest yourself. You were brave tonight. I’m keeping that in mind. We have a few more weeks before Halloween, and I have all kinds of ideas on how to spend it.” Travis smiled a bit weakly.
“I’m looking forward to it like you can’t believe.”
Alex said his goodnights again, energized as he headed for his truck. Midnight in Moonville had been anything but boring. And Travis, he was bound to be more exciting than a tunnel full of ghosts. Alex couldn’t wait for that first date even if it was in a ghost town.