The night was cool, quiet, and uneventful thus far. The moon was full and high in the night sky. It was late October and Aleu was running TEXAS Light to a small town in the Arizona territory called Mesa Verde. The run was made very late at night. The wolven enginess checked her pocket watch which read 2:30 in the morning. Mesa Verde was near the base of a small range of rocky foothills, the railroad headed West and the grade of the line steepened. A few hours back a wire was sent; a westbound freight had broken down and was in need of a new locomotive. Aleu and TEXAS were the only engine and crew available ad she was sent out into the night to Mesa Verde. She still had 15 minutes to go before reaching the small town and her mind drifted back a few hours prior.
Aleu normally didnt run trains in the Southwest; usually she operated up in Alaska or in the Wolf Creek area of Colorado. She brought in a small mixed local to Twitchal, the southern most terminus on the WRR on the Texas Panhandle. Her orders told her to stay there until told otherwise. Aleu didnt take too kindly to sitting around but didnt have much choice in the matter. She wandered about the yard asking other railroaders if there was a caboose that wasnt going anywhere soon. Soon she found one and began to make herself at home. Later she headed into town to get a bit to eat. Although her last run was a local it seemed like it took ages to complete. She found a small eatery poplar with the railroaders. She stepped inside and took a seat at one of the booths by the window. Soon the waiter came and took her order. The waiter jotted it down on his notepad and hurried off to the cook. As Aleu waited patiently she couldnt help but over hear a conversation in the booth behind her.
I TELLS YA I DID SO SEE IT! said an old wolf sternly, two others sat with him.
Cmon Jack, are you sure its not your old age catchin up with you? I mean a 6-4-0? Theres no such locomotive anywhere! Said a young Coyote.
BUT I DID SEE IT!!! The Damnedest lookin thing I ever saw! A 6-4-0 with drivers at least 7 feet tall! The cowcatcher was nothin but angled blades stickin outa the front, the stack was angled back and its like it had a spotlight for a headlamp as big in diameter as the boiler! It looked like the thing was covered in armor and it had to be goin 80 miles per hour up on that abandoned branch near Mesa Verde! Jack said frantically. I aint never been so shakin in my life! Newt Im tellin ya it was REAL!!! Newt, the coyote, leaned back in his seat.
How do you expect me to believe that? Some unknown locomotive of unknown origin and of radical design is operating around these parts and no one has ever found proof of it? Cmon now! Jack wasnt through with his tale.
But Im not the only one to have seen it! Many folks in Mesa Verde have and the same loco been seen elsewhere in the Southwest! Explain that! For a moment Newt paused with his mouth open as if he were to speak. Instead he slunk back in his seat. Aleu started to chuckle and the group took note.
Whats so funny!? Aleu turned around to face the bickering men.
Whats funny? All this talk about Phantom locomotives, thats what! Aleu continued to laugh. Ive never heard of anything so asinine! Jack was less than amused. Newt on the other hand agreed with Aleu and nodded.
M-My point exactly! Newt said; Jack then glared at the coyote.
Listen, it aint the first time I seen it! The first time my eyes caught the thing was back in 1877 on a passenger run to Tucson through Dragon Pass. I was up on the mountain side when I saw it runin on the old Devils Gulch & Hellington line! My Ashcat saw it too! Newt once again jerked his head back and sighed.
Jack! That road had been LONG abandoned before then! Even if this Phantom Engine exists how could it run on such ill maintained track? That line was primarily a mining road with small passenger service. Theres no way for a locomotive of your description to be able to run on track like that! Aleu continued to chuckle as the two kept arguing. Soon Aleus food came and she quickly ate it and then went to retire for the night. She had only been asleep for a half hour before a knock was heard on the cabooses door. The she wolf grumbled, turned on her belly and covered her head with the blanket.
Miss Aleu? Ive got a message for you. The railroader said.
Go Away! Aleu groaned to the fox. But he didnt obliged and opened the door.
Im sorry Miss Aleu but Im afraid your needed. Aleu moaned in detest but sat up and rubbed the sand from her eyes. She took the note and read it over, and then she let out an agitated sigh as she looked up at the Fox.
Are You Kidding Me!!?! Right Now? Are you sure there isnt anyone else?
Im sorry Miss Aleu but youre the only Engine and Crew we can spare! And that trains cargo must reach its destination on time! Aleu fell back in the bed and groaned in annoyance.
.. Give me a minute. Aleu muttered. The railroader left the caboose so Aleu could gather her effects for the trip. A special westbound freight broke down at Mesa Verde, the same place where Jack said he saw some kind of horrid phantom locomotive. Aleu and TEXAS were the only Engine and crew available to pick up the train and take it west to the next terminus. The freight was carrying a Museum Exhibit and was on a tight schedule. The locomotive braking down was a major set back. Among its cargo were items from the heart of Europe, ancient artifacts along with a mysterious orb. Within the hour Aleu was ready to head out and did so with haste. She barely kept to yard speed but once beyond the Twitchal Yard Limit she went full throttle with TEXAS and headed West.
Soon Aleu snapped back to reality and the first leg of her journey was almost complete. It was almost 2:45 am and she could see the lights from Mesa Verde. But something was different. Mesa Verde was a VERY small town with a couple of sidings and a small stock yard. The amount of light the town was giving off wasnt right. It was only when she approached the town did she realize why. The town was ablaze! Or at least what was left of it. She could see the freight waiting on a siding. The sides of the box cars were chard and badly burnt but still were structurally sound, say for two others. Among the smoldering ruins two box cars seemed to have exploded! As if some great force escaped from one and damaged the other! The town itself lay in ruin; everything was burned to the ground and smoldering as the fires died. Shock and disbelief stricken, Aleu looked on slack jawed. She brought TEXAS to a halt and leapt down from the cab. The fires died down quickly as Aleu began to wander through the remains. The strangest part was that there was no one, nothing, not a single shred of life! There were neither corpses to be found nor survivors of the blaze! Not even the smallest animal or insect was seen. Then something came over Aleu, a feeling that almost never came over her. The feeling of eeriness fell over her and the area which she was.