Modern Vampyre – Prologue

Contrary to popular belief, vampyres do exist. The modern interpretation, however, is so far removed from reality that one would hardly know a vampyre if it bit him to his face.
-William S. Christos

Somewhere in New England, 178X

As the rain beat down upon the roof of a horse stable with torrential might, two men looked at each other in the eyes. One was weak with a crippled leg and sallow skin. He wore an old leather hood and clothes that were worn well past their prime, yet still sufficed enough to do their job. His hands were tightly bound together with thick rope behind his back. He took long, heavy breaths that could be seen each time he exhaled. Drawing some phlegm back into his nose, he glanced down at the ground around him. Three of his fellow villagers lay dead at his feet; their warm blood soaking into the hay and dirt. With a gulp, he looked back up at the man in front of him.

“Are you going to kill me?” he asked.

The Redcoat before him pursed his lips together and paused to think for a moment. He glanced down at the bodies and then back at the man before him.

“What is your name?” the Redcoat asked.

There was a long hesitation and a trembling in the man’s jaw before he managed to compose himself and finally speak.

“Albien,” he said.

Before the war had started, Albien had been a humble farmer. He didn’t have much to his name; a small one-room house and a tiny plot of land to grow his food. Having little land was not good for a farmer. Having poor land was even worse, and his land was the poorest of the poor. Not much grew and what little did was considered of inferior quality. Oh, it was edible and nutritious, but to the eye and to the tongue, there was no delight to be found. In a general sense, there was very little flavor to the crops he grew and the majority of it was malformed. All in all, it was so unappealing that few were willing to buy his crops. This often meant selling what he could at a severely reduced rate, which afforded him very little income.

Despite his plight being the result of a poor choice of land, Albien had placed the blame solely on the British, so when the War of Independence broke out, he was quick to take up arms. In a sad twist of fate, however, this was perhaps the worst choice he could’ve made. If he had remained farming, his life would’ve likely improved as a steady supply of rations was always in need, regardless of appearance or taste. His decision to fight would, however, prove to be disastrous. Being a soldier was something he was altogether ill-equipped for. Though focused, Albien struggled through every aspect of army life.

The years of the war were hard on him and things took a turn for the worst a few months ago when he took a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the back of his leg. The one to the shoulder somehow went clean through without striking any bone. The one to the leg, on the other hand, had lodged itself in the calf muscles.

Albien was taken to a local hospital, which was little more than a large tent full of cots and curtains, where he was treated. With some remarkable luck, the doctors didn’t need to amputate. After extracting the musket-ball, the wound to the back of his leg healed surprisingly well, though it left him with a permanent limp. The shoulder wound, on the other hand, only seemed to get worse. Green pus began to ooze from the stitches while cold sweats rolled down his entire body. During this time, Albien didn’t eat. It’s not that he refused, he just didn’t have the strength to do so. As the infection from his shoulder seemed to spread and his body lacked the strength to receive nourishment, his belly began to swell and his skin began to shift to an almost pale greenish-yellow giving a ghoulish look to him.

And then, one day, the wound stopped oozing and healed, and he sat up.

Soon, he had the strength to again eat and to walk soon after that. Though the wound had healed, his complexion never changed and his belly remained bloated. While some at the hospital feared his ghoulish appearance, the staff remained ever considerate, which is why he was gracious and understanding when it came time for him to be discharged. “There is nothing more we can do, I’m afraid,” they told him. “Unfortunately, we don’t know how to fix what has happened to your body, but you are able to take care of yourself now and we need to make room for other patients. Surely you understand.” He did understand and he was grateful for all that they had done. And he returned home.

As he gimped into town with his discolored skin, bloated belly, and sunken features, few people recognized him as the man who once sold unremarkable crops and those that did let out gasps of horror. The women shooed their children into their homes while the men stared and judged. It seemed as though there was not a friendly face to show pity on an old neighbor. With a slow, yet deliberate pace, he soon made it back to the home he had left years ago to fight the British.

Albien’s home was much as he had left it, with few items except for the necessities. His crops long gone, there was nothing for him to eat, so he scrounged some coins he had hidden away in case of an emergency to purchase some bread. That would get him through the night at least. For the next few days, he got by with begging, though few would help him. Some that knew him from before the war gave him some fruit or coffee, but none would let him into their homes. The rest of the townsfolk shunned him. By the end of the week, with no money for food and so few willing to help, he was enervated and malnourished and as such, he took to the shameful tasks of survival.

Every evening after sun-fall, he would head out to the alleys with a wicker basket from home and rummage through the trash in search of food. Most of the time there was very little worth eating. On a good day, he might find a half-eaten piece of fruit or some stale bread. On a great day, maybe a bit of leftover meat. If luck was on his side, he’d catch a rat and kill it to cook and eat at home. Though he tried to be as discrete as possible, passersby would sometimes see him and turn their faces in disgust. It shamed him what he had become, but he knew he must do this to survive. Perhaps by spring, he’d be able to cultivate his crops once more and resume a more dignified life. This, however, was not meant to be.

One evening when Albien was making his rounds, he came across a body in the trash. It was naked and appeared to be male, though he couldn’t be completely sure as the genitalia was missing. Though the body seemed to have been dumped not long ago, it was quite withered in appearance, it’s flesh sunken in. He reached out with two fingers and gave it a push. The corpse’s limbs flopped over with the push fully exposing its left arm. The flesh felt dry, but not so old dry that it had been dead long. He also noted that by the way the arm flopped, rigor mortis had not yet set in. And then he noticed a peculiarity on the arm that was now exposed.

A chunk of flesh was missing from the underside of the wrist. It appeared as though it had been torn out, exposing the muscles, veins, and tendons. Splotches of desiccated blood held to the internals and edges of flesh where the tear had happened. As he leaned in for closer inspection, an ear-piercing scream broke the silence of the night.

Albien looked up to see a woman and her husband looking in his direction. He shook his head and pointed at the body saying, “No, no. This was here. I…I just found it.” As more people came to investigate the screams, he panicked and ran.

As he ran through the village, he could hear more shrieks and screams as more people came to witness the corpse he had left behind. He ran and ran as fast as he could, bounding around corners and darting through alleys, hoping to make it home unscathed when he heard another scream suddenly silenced by gunfire. This scream was different, though. It did not come from behind him where he had left the corpse, but instead from the direction he was running towards.

In an instant, Albien was frozen in his tracks, unsure of what to do. He stood still and firm like a plank, arms down to his sides, his body rigid as if it had turned to stone. He dared not even breathe. As he listened for anything at all, silence seemed to engulf the world around him. No screams. No gunshots. No footsteps. Not even the sound of the wind. It was as if the entire world stopped to prepare itself for the end of time. When it seemed like eternity had finally passed, the sky opened up and drenched the Earth in the tears of God.

The sudden downpour snapped him back to his senses. The rain was coming down so hard, that sound of it drowned out anything more than a few yards away. As a cautionary measure, he ran to a house nearby and pressed himself against the outer wall. With deliberate circumspection, he peered around the corner in the direction the gunshot rang from.

Off in the distance just on the outskirts of the village, he could see what appeared to be the body of a woman lying on the ground. He squinted a bit, attempting to get a better visual of what was happening through the rain. At first, she didn’t appear to move. She just lay there without any sign of life. He put his hand to his forehead in an attempt to shield his eyes from further rain. This allowed him to see her much more clearly. With this better view, she seemed very familiar to him.

She was young, around sixteen. Her skin was ashen and dotted with light freckles. Golden blonde hair spilled out of her cream-colored bonnet. Her dress was yellow and stained with grass in ways indicating that she had fallen somewhere nearby and either slid or rolled to her current location. Not far away was a basket with apples spilled about on the ground around it.

Oh goodness, he thought as he pulled himself back around the house. This was Harold Markinson’s daughter, Rebecca.

Albien peered back around the corner and confirmed that it was, in fact, Rebecca Markinson. She hadn’t moved in the slightest. Despite his fears, he thought it best that he should go check on her. He took a few steps out when without warning, her head turned in his direction. Stopping dead in his tracks, he looked into her eyes as she mouthed the word help. It was right then, a bayonet plunged deep into her heart and blood gurgled out from her mouth. The shock caused him to gasp loudly and at the other of the bayonet, a British soldier turned to look at him. They locked eyes and the soldier pointed at him and shouted. Albien couldn’t quite make out what the Redcoat said through the rain, but he was certain the words were Kill him!

Albien did not hesitate to see if there were more British around to follow that order; he just turned and ran with as much gusto as his crippled legs could muster up. He hadn’t crossed much distance when a musket ball cut through the air past his head and splinted the corner of a nearby house. With that, he turned into a nearby alley and began zigzagging through the streets, taking every unusual path he was able to. He wasn’t taking note of where he was heading, only that he was moving away from the British troops. If he had made note of his surroundings, he would’ve noticed that he had paused to catch his breath not far from where he initially found the naked body. However, he had not made note and had ended up a mere three houses over.

By this point in time, a sizable crowd had gathered at the scene and though many of the people were simply trying to catch a glimpse of the body, some were hunting about their surroundings for anything out of the ordinary; any sort of clue that may lead them to the murderer. Anything out of the ordinary. The crowd knew a man had been killed in a horrific and vile manner. The crowd knew that Albien was seen with the body. The crowd knew that Albien had become a scavenger and that he ran when confronted at the body. What the crowd did not know was that Redcoats were about to storm their village.

“Hey! It’s him!” a voice shouted.

Albien looked up to see a towns-person pointing in his direction. It quickly went from one towns-person to many and the many began marching to his direction. He ran, and they ran after him. Despite his crippled physique, Albien knew the streets of this town better than anyone and with a little luck, he was sure he could lose them. He wasn’t, however, sure he’d be able to return home.

Without warning, gunshots echoed in the distance and the screams of his fellow townsfolk could be heard. The Redcoats had arrived and they were offering no quarter. Albien hesitated for a moment as he considered going back to help, however, his consideration dissipated when he realized that some of the townspeople completely ignored their fellow villagers being slain to continue their hunt for him. And so he decided to run. Though at this point his ultimate goal was to escape the village lest he die by the hand of neighbor or by the hand of Redcoat, he had to make so many turns to avoid being seen that he never quite reached the outskirts.

Despite the heavy rains, Albien spent so much time running that he was becoming parched. Eventually, he had to stop and catch his breath. When a safe opportunity arose, he ducked behind a house as shots of gunfire and screams could be heard in the distance. His dry throat gasping for breath, he opened his mouth towards the sky to catch some of the rain and then slumped against the house as he reflected on his situation. He had sacrificed what little he had for his burgeoning country and now both the enemy he had fought against and his fellow countrymen were looking to kill him. He almost broke down to cry when he heard voices through the downpour.

“Come on. I think he went this way.”

Blast!, he thought. They’ve found me. And with that, he ran as best as his crippled leg could carry him. It wasn’t long before he found a small horse stable at the edge of the village. Knowing that he would be seen if he tried to leave the community with foes so close-by, it wasn’t a difficult choice to hide in one of the empty stalls and enshroud himself within the straw. Unfortunately for him, the footprints he left in the mud outside the stable led his pursuers right to him.

“Come on. Who do you think you’re fooling?” a voice asked. “Get out of there, lest we drag you out.”

Albien sat up and brushed the straw away from his face and torso. Before him stood three of his neighbors, soaking wet and with various implements to end his life. The one in front had a black mustache and held a musket with both hands at his waist. A large satchel was slung over his shoulder and lay by the opposite waist. As for the two in the back, one had a red wiry beard and carried a pitchfork. The other one was thin as a rail, clean-shaven, and carried a rope.

“Stand up.” The one in front said calm, but firm.

Albien did as he was told and most of the remaining straw slid off of his body, though some remained stuck due to his dampness. He attempted to brush it off but was interrupted by the one who told him to stand.

“Stop.”

Albien did as he was told and adjusted his posture to make himself as presentable as he could.

“You know why we’re after you, don’t you?” the man with the musket asked.

Albien gulped and nodded before speaking.

“I didn’t do it,” he said.

“Then why did you run?”

“I panicked. I was scared. There was screaming and people were looking at me awful.”

“Because you did those awful things.”

“No!”

The one with the musket curled his lip and thought for a bit before speaking.

“I’m sorry to say this,” he began before motioning to the other two to tie him up. “Under normal circumstances, we’d drag you to the courthouse to be dealt with by the law. That said, it is my regret to inform you that our current circumstances do not afford us such luxury.”

“I didn’t do it!” Albien protested.

“That may be so,” he said reaching into his satchel, “but at current, I don’t really have any choice.” His hand emerged with a small cartridge that he tore open with his teeth. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but the British have arrived and are unleashing a slaughter upon us.” Half-cocking the musket, he opened the flash pan and poured in a small bit of the cartridges black powder.

“But I fought against the British as part of the Continental Army!” Albien protested as he was being restrained with rope as another held him at bay with the pitchfork.

“And for that, we are truly grateful. That does not change the fact that you are most likely the murderer and for that, justice must be dealt.” He shut the flash pan and poured the rest of the powder down the muzzle of the musket.

“Please,” Albien pleaded.

The man inserted the musket ball into the barrel followed by the cartridge. Albien just watched as the man removed the ramrod and pushed the cartridge and musket ball in to seat the charge. After putting the ramrod back, he cocked and aimed the musket at Albien’s chest.

“For this, I am deeply sorry,” he said. “Do you have any last words before I execute sentence?”

“Oh, enough of this!” a distinct voice said from the next stall.

All four men turned to see disheveled Redcoat step out into the open. Pale skin hung on a skeletal frame with messy black hair and pronounced cheekbones. A slight red stain was visible around his mouth. His coat was opened and a torn cotton shirt revealed visible ribs. His shoulder belt was completely missing. In fact, except for his trousers, boots, coat, and shirt, he appeared to be missing every other part of his uniform. No tri-tip hat, no cartridge box or haversack or anything. Not even any weapons.

“I can’t bear to see another man go down for my crimes,” he said. “This individual you have tied up did not kill the naked man in the alley.” He paused for a moment while the others looked on somewhat perplexed at the situation unfolding before them. After an awkward silence, he said, “I did. I’m sorry. I was hungry. I haven’t had a proper meal in nearly three months. I was desperate.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence before the one with the pitchfork twisted his face into disgust and spoke up.

“What kind of person considers another man’s penis a proper meal?” he asked.

The Redcoat was bewildered for the briefest of moments before realizing what he was talking about and gave a relaxed laugh.

“Oh, no!” he said. “No. No. No. No. Noooo. I can see why you would think that, but I assure you, I did not eat his penis.”

This time, the thin one who had brought the rope spoke. He thought for a moment to gather his words, and asked in a somewhat unsure manner, “Then……what happened to it?”

There was another uncomfortable silence in the stable. Albien had not expected to be accused of murder, yet here he was about to die at the hands of his fellow countrymen as a soldier of the people he once fought stood before them admitting the murder was his. The three accusers thought they had the murderer in their grasp, yet here was a lone Redcoat admitting the crime in a situation that would clearly get him killed. And as for the Redcoat, he was now having to explain to those who would surely kill him what happened to someone else’s penis. It was a confusing and awkward situation for all involved.

“It’s not one of my finest moments, I’ll admit,” stated the Redcoat. “The thing is, I was quite malnourished at the time of the killing and he was surprisingly strong and spry. I found him very difficult to restrain and I feared he may escape or worse, warn someone of my presence. As such, I felt it was in my best interest to disable him.” He held his tongue and then spoke his next words carefully. “I ripped his penis off to make it more difficult for him to fight back.”

The four recoiled in horror and disgust.

“I agree,” he continued. “However, this issue left me with another problem. While I had disabled the individual, he was now losing precious blood at a rapid pace. As such, I was forced to tear open his wrist with my teeth and consume as much blood as I could before he lost it all through his…..wound.” He sounded uncomfortable as he said that last part and even winced a little as he said it. “Anyhow, after I had finished eating, I needed to dispose of the husk. The first thing I did was toss his clothes into the fireplace. Then I bought the body out into the alley to hide in the rubbish. It was my hope that sanitary practices here were not any better than the part of England from which I hail and that the rats and insects would consume most of the body before it was found. It is my displeasure to say that before I could sufficiently conceal my work, I heard someone approaching and fled.”

For a few long moments, the sound of the rain seemed extra loud. The way it pounded down on the roof of the stable, the way it splashed in the puddles on the ground. Somehow, it seemed to drown out the gunshots and screams in the distance and the only thing in the world right now were these five men. All the cards and been laid out by the Redcoat and no one was quite sure what to do with the hand they had been dealt with. The sound of the proverbial table being flipped broke through that of the rain when the one with the pitchfork shouted out loud.

“You son of a bitch!” he yelled as he thrust his pitchfork into the belly of the Redcoat.

The Recoat staggered backward a few steps as a small bit of blood oozed out around the tines of the pitchfork. To the surprise of everyone, however, he seemed more annoyed than anything. He looked down at the pitchfork in his belly and frowned. With two hands, he grasped the handle and pulled it out of his body against the force of the one who had stabbed him with it. Then, with a thrust, he pushed it away, knocking the fellow to the ground.

“So,” the Redcoat said with disappointment, “this is how it is to be.”

With brutal efficiency and cat-like reflexes, the Redcoat thrust the fingers of his left hand into the stomach of the man with the gun and took his musket with the other hand. Then with the musket, he fired a musket ball into the throat of the man who had carried the pitchfork. And finally, to the man who had tied up Albien, he simply twisted the man’s head enough to snap the man’s neck.

After taking some time to survey the works of his hands, he looked up and locked eyes with Albien. Though quiet, Albien was breathing heavily through his mouth. Phlegm seemed to crawl down his sallow skin from his nostrils to his lips. The Redcoat studied him hard, as though he was trying to figure out what to make of this deformed man with a complexion he had not seen before.

“Are you some kind of ghoul?” he asked.

With a long draw, Albien pulled the phlegm back into his nose. He looked at the bodies of those around and pondered if he would be next. Swallowing the nothing in his mouth, he spoke.

“Are you going to kill me?”

The Redcoat before him pursed his lips together and paused to think for a moment. He glanced down at the bodies and then back at the man before him.

“What is your name?” the Redcoat asked.

There was a long hesitation and a trembling in the man’s jaw before he managed to compose himself and finally speak.

“Albien,” he said.

The Redcoat made an audible hmm and nodded ever so slight. He put his hand to his chin and seemed to think about something for a moment, then he sighed and walked behind Albien and removed his bonds. Albien pulled his hands to his chest and rubbed his wrists as the Redcoat walked back in front of him, but never turning to look at him. Instead, he kept his back to the recently freed man and looked out into the rain.

“You didn’t answer my question,” he said. “Are you some kind of ghoul?”

Albien removed his hood revealing a head of thick, graying hair which made his pale greenish-yellow skin somehow seem more vibrant. In all truth, Albien was not nearly as deformed as people made him out to be and his deformities, for the most part, weren’t all that uncommon. He wasn’t the only person in the village with a gimp; there were others before the war and even more after it had begun. And his hunch wasn’t a hunch at all, but merely a rounding of one side of his back from the way he carried his injured shoulder up and his head down close to it. Really, the only thing that was strikingly unusual was the color of his skin that he tried to hide by wearing a hood. But with a strange twist, the hood only seemed to accentuate all three of these things which may have created the idea of a monster in people. Yet without the hood, he seemed almost completely normal.

“I don’t believe so, no,” Albien replied.

“What are you, then?”

“Man to the best of my knowledge.”

The Redcoat thought about this before speaking. Then he turned to Albien and looked him over again. He had never seen such a person, yet aside from the color, there was nothing that couldn’t easily be explained away. Through the rain, the sounds of muskets firing the screams were becoming fewer, but they were slowly getting closer. He looked at the hood in Albien’s hands and decided that he didn’t care what he was. If Albien could help him, he would be most appreciative. Pointing at the hood, he spoke to Albien.

“May I have that?” he asked.

“Uh, sure,” Albien replied.

The Redcoat snatched up the hood and pulled it over his head. He then took his coat and shirt off and began undressing the bodies as Albien just stared and watched, unsure of what to do. He noticed that Albien was just standing there and reached out to shake his hand.

“Forgive me,” the Redcoat said. “My name is Abstinence. Abstinence Jackson.”

“Abstinence?” ask Albien as he returned the handshake.

“Yes,” replied, Abstinence. “My parents were puritans who were deadset on having a girl. Then I came along and like how stubborn puritans can be, they weren’t changing the name they had picked for anything.”

“Puritans? But wouldn’t that mean you’re…”

“Look, we can discuss my family history any other time, but right now, British soldiers are making their way through the village and if we are still here when they arrive, they will kill us both. If you help me get out of here alive, I will guarantee that the remainder of your days will better than you can currently imagine. Will you help me?”

Albien didn’t really see that he had much of an option. Help the man who helped him or die. He opted to help.

“Alright,” he said. “What do you need from me?”

“Thank you,” said Abstinence. “I can’t let the rain touch me and I can’t be seen looking like a Redcoat. Help me put on whatever will cover my skin.”

Quickly and carefully, they removed the most protective clothes they could from the bodies. Leather boots and gloves, a heavy shirt and pants. Unfortunately, these were not enough to completely protect Abstinence. Scavenging through the other stalls, however, Albien managed to find a thick horse blanket and Abstienece was quick to wrap himself in it.

The gunshots grew louder as the two looked out into the rain.

“You won’t regret this, Albien,” said Abstinence. “This I swear.”

And with that, the two ran out into the rain and headed for the forest. By the time that the British arrived at the stables, they were long gone and the rain had washed away any footsteps or mud that would point to them ever being there or where they were going. All that remained were three dead bodies and a torn British uniform.

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Maxwell Hart

Dear Emily,

I regret to inform you that my arrival has come under delay. Shortly after we entered the tunnel portion of our journey, the locomotive simply gave up the ghost so to speak. I’m not sure what caused the issue; I only know that I was on the scenic car enjoying my pipe tobacco when the lights went out and the locomotive slowed down to a stop. As the people on the car with me hurried inside, I remained patiently behind as to avoid the hustle and bustle of the commotion as well as to finish my smoke. Running inside with the rest of the frightened souls would’ve done me no good and shall have only ruined a good smoke.

When my pipe had burned it’s last, I decided then that I should perhaps make my way back to my seat to make sure my luggage was safe from hooligans who would use such an opportunity for their own misdeeds. As I made my way through the cars, groping the tops of seats so as not to trip on anything, I could hear the quiet breaths and fidgits of frightened passengers. Though it seemed strangely calm, I chalked it up to some instructions that I had perhaps missed by remaining to finish my tobacco. I later learned that no such instructions were given as all the members of the crew seem to have vanished as though raptured away by some unseen force.

Making my way through the dining car, I looked forward to sitting down comfortably and reading the news paper I had purchased before entering the train. I figured I could read peacefully by flashlight while I waited for everything to start again. It was in the dining car that I heard the whimpering of a small child. I took out my torch and found the source of the sound hiding underneath a table. It was a six year old boy named Nathaniel Manx. He was writing a letter to his mother when the power went down. It took quite coaxing to get him to come out. Apparently, his mother had instilled an unnecessary amount of “stranger danger” fear within him. I reason that I must have sat with him in the dining car for a day before he came out because I at one point fell asleep for what must have been six to eight full hours. In fact, he didn’t even accept food from me until after I had awakened because he was hungry enough at that point that his hunger overcame him. Unfortunately, by that point all that I was able to offer were some stale bagels and doughnuts from behind the counter.

Anyhow, he eventually came with me to my seat and I’ve become something of a comfort to him in his time of distress. I’ve learned that we was to visit his aunt and uncle on Sparrow Avenue. I believe that is just a street or two down from your house if I am correct. Their names are Carol and Stephen Hupper. If you could be so kind and let them know of their Nephew’s situation, I would be most grateful. I would take him myself with the postmaster, but I honestly don’t know what we’ll encounter in this tunnel and I don’t want to put the lad in any danger. He’s had enough of a time as it is.

My regards and I hope to see you soon,
-Maxwell Hart

Letters from Unsung Heroes: The Train – Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth

To whom it may concern

My name is Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth. I am writing to inform you of the dissatisfaction I have over your locomotive as my choice of travel. The experience I have had has been most displeasing and I shall not be using your company again, nor shall I recommend your services to my colleagues. The troubles I have had on your railway have been most disappointing and I can think of no such way in which you can make satisfactory reparations. Allow me to explain to you why I am so dissatisfied.

I had a business arrangement in Albany. Being so close to West Hampshire, I decided it would be in my best interest to take a locomotive from Bethany and renting a motor car when I arrived to maximize my relaxation time before I had to get down to work. I procured numerous periodicals to determine which would company would simply be the best for my leisure. Not only did yours get the highest ratings, but it was especially detailed on how remarkable the food was. It explicitly noted how astounding your cheeseburgers were. With such high marks, I immediately wired for a ticket to what I expected to be the highlight of my journey.

I must say, when I first boarded the locomotive, my  experience was quite delightful. A charming member of the staff assisted me to my seat and helped me to stow my luggage. After which, I made my way to the dining car to read the periodicals and enjoy a nice cup of coffee and a simple plain doughnut. The coffee was brewed to perfection and the doughnut felt and tasted as though it were fresh out of the oven. Top notch. Being late in the morning but not yet lunchtime, I had the car mostly to myself save for one other passenger and a child who delightfully ran through the car with glee. It warms my heart to see children be children. With the right sense of adventure, they could grow up to be great businessmen like myself.

Some time passed, though I cannot say how long as I was caught up in such relaxful delight, and the lights went out and the train slowed to a stop inside one of the tunnels carved out of a mountain. I waited for what must have been perhaps thirty minutes when I decided to spark a match so that I might check the time. Why, it was past lunch! Not only had the locomotive not resumed course, but no one had come around to make my cheeseburger. Hours and hours I waited, and yet still no cheeseburger. Outrageous. By this time, I needed to relieve myself but could not find my way to the bathroom. I ended up doing what the ruffians do and stepped off of the locomotive to do my business. While mildly liberating, it was most undignified and embarrassing. Thankfully, it was exceedingly dark that no one could see me. Why, I couldn’t even see my own male part and am simply grateful that I did not urinate on my shoes.

It is now the second day and my neck is sore from sleeping in a train seat. I have missed my business arrangement and have not yet had my bath. I am very displeased. Why has your company done nothing about this great injustice? Surely you must have known something was up when your locomotive did not arrive in Bethany as scheduled. I have no doubt that it is the bureaucratic paperwork that is causing the delay. No doubt many forms have to be signed in triplicate to get anything done. Perhaps if you cared more about a strong work ethic than paper, we’d have been out of this mess shortly after it started.

I’m not demanding that you make this right. It is of my current opinion that there is nothing you can do to make this satisfactory. I expect a full refund when this whole ordeal is sorted out and I shall not be recommending your services to any of my colleagues ever.

Dissatisfied with your service,
Fieldcrest R. W. Wallace the Sixth

PS. I still have not consumed one of these much raved about cheeseburgers. What are you going to do about that?