Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Night Queen

artwork by Mary Frances

The Night Queen

“There are no heroes.. . in life, the monsters win.”
--George R.R. Martin.

I live out of a back pack.
I am one of the last of the rail riders.
I hop the boxcars
on slow corners and steep grades.
They call me Boxcar Ben.

I swear, there are more shanty towns
and tent villages today than there ever
was in the Depression.

On warm nights, I love to climb atop
the cars, spread my red Navaho blanket
and lie on my back watching
the star show, one of the last free
moving pictures.

In my travels, I am humbled and saddened
by the huge numbers of homeless folks
I encounter. Some can be dangerous,
but most of them are just down on their luck.
My heart aches for the shivering children
with the upside down grins & hungry eyes.

I’ve been a proud boxcar bandit for 30 years.
I’ve had to fight to defend myself.
I’ve done jail time, gained weight on prison slop.
I was pretty sure that I knew everything
about hobo-hopping--but in 2010, in late July,
I was rolling steel through Louisiana.
I stopped at a homeless camp for a hot meal.

Several people warned me about the next
stretch of track. They claimed the area was
haunted by a monster they called the
Night Queen of the Railway Wastelands.
Cajuns prattle on a lot about their home-grown
monsters, so I didn’t pay much attention.

The next night I was riding the Southwest
Union Flyer, and was slicing through endless
swamp. I could smell the wet moss, bat shit, 
skunk cabbage and gators. It was around
midnight when the train slowed and stopped;
what the hell; turns out a ghostly herd
of Angus cattle were camped out on the tracks.

I sat in the open doorway with my legs dangling,
riven with alacrity, watching for railroad bulls
with clubs and hand cuffs. It was a humid,
dripping night, and there was a full moon.

Suddenly I heard branches popping
and breaking, and the brush shook. The air was
laced with the stench of rotted meat. I was
pole-axed with fear. A seven foot something
stepped out of the shadows, and stood staring
at me.

It wore an alligator head for a hat, and its fierce
face was werewolf-white, with red coals for eyes,
with long yellow canine teeth. It held a staff in
each hand that had human skulls atop them. The
tall lean body was covered with dark fur--on its
chest were two large breasts--definitely a female.
It opened its ferocious mouth and roared like
a cave bear.

I bolted to the back of the car, and scrambled up
the inside ladder. I crawled out on top the car and
peered over the edge. The Night Queen was gone,
but the slaughterhouse perfume still hung heavy
in the hot air. I sure as hell never set foot in cursed
Louisiana again. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub


Jade Li said...

I would NOT want to hear that story out in the woods around a campfire. You do know how to spin a tale, Glenn. "Slaughterhouse perfume"

robkistner said...

What a wonderful amazing tale Glenn... LOVED IT. Great detail, wit, imagination - top shelf stuff man! BTW, you and I chose the samt goddess... what can I say, GREAT MINDS!

sarah said...

Great story telling. I love the voice in this. That story deserves a beer!

Dwight L. Roth said...

I love how you get into your stories with so much imagery! Well done Glenn!!

Kim M. Russell said...

The quotation from George R.R. Martin whetted my appetite for a chilling tale and you delivered one, Glenn! I like the way you set up the first-person story, with a little background, and the hint that something isn’t as it seems in the lines:
‘…Some can be dangerous,
but most of them are just down on their luck.
My heart aches for the shivering children
with the upside down grins & hungry eyes.’
The endless swamp smelling of ‘wet moss, bat shit, skunk cabbage and gators’ is a great touch, a forewarning, and the ‘ghostly herd of Angus cattle’ a clever red herring, which lulled me into a false sense of security before the shock of the ‘seven foot something’ Night Queen and her ‘slaughterhouse perfume’!

Truedessa said...

Bravo! You are truly a masterful storyteller. This was creative and you certainly hooked me with your hair-raising imagery in this haunting tale.

Misky said...

Completely engaging.

Frank Hubeny said...

Nice lines: "and lie on my back watching
the star show, one of the last free
moving pictures." And reminder that it is a free moving picture.

brudberg said...

She sounds really like the scariest thing... and the scents were really the worst of it all...

Really great storytelling.

ChristineB said...

Wow! That was a great read Glenn! I particularly liked the 'Slaughterhouse perfume' 🙂