Prairie Monster: A Tale for My Kids
We rolled down the iron rails into a setting sun. Centuries worth of cremated prairie grass and creatures protested our passing in clouds of dust. Our steel dragon trudged along spewing its steam of indifference and shaking the earth to its vast core. Some say the prairie reminds them of the ocean, the wind rippling the tall grass like gentle rolling waves. All I could see in the dying light of that late summer day was the orange and red rays reflecting off amber waves like scales of a foreboding shadow that stalked beside us.
We all heard the tales, but they didn’t stop us. Just a new found legend to scare travelers away we told ourselves. Some “thing”, if it could be called a thing as it wasn’t man or beast, ravaged the maiden voyage of the newly laid line just weeks before. Most of the passengers simply vanished into the uncharted prairie. Few survived. Little sense came from their lips, only a few words: dirt, wind, screams, pressure…monster. Many dismissed it as nonsense. Others said it was a twister, that feared wind they say feels and sounds like a locomotive rumbling past. A rare few believed something unknown had been disturbed.
Our train came to a sudden forceful stop. Even the engine seemed unable to resist and its geared wheels failed to spin. Silence overcame us in fearful anticipation. The prairie grass stood motionless and the sky turned a sickly green and brown as the earth rose to meet it. In one brief moment, myth begat mayhem. Doors burst in and windows shattered out. Dirt and grass, shawls and hats, whipped the air with the cries of passengers young and old. I was unable to move, an immense pressure held me in place. The creature roared down the aisle pouring over passengers and sweeping them away in its wake. I saw it crest and felt myself drowning in prairie dirt as it crashed over me. A sandpaper grip pressed me down then lifted me like a blade of grass and flung me through an empty window. I splashed unconscious somewhere on the plains below.
I woke a few days later. They thought I’d gone insane between my mumblings, groanings, and strange words of wind, dirt, and it all being true. The railroad shut that line down the next year. No one would pay to ride a train destined for destruction. The company even organized a group of adventurers to squash the superstitious rumors and restore their good name. The promise of gold, land, and fame enough to allure them to an uncertain fate. They were never seen or heard from again. The army had better things to do than send out another rescue party.
Call me mad if you wish, a babbler of grim fairy tales. It’s all true. I was there. One of the few to live to tell the tale. Perhaps the prairie is an ocean. Its waters run deep. In those depths dwells a mystery, an ever lurking presence. Call it what you will, I know what it is. The Prairie Monster.
– Jacob Potter