Every community has its local legend, and my small town in Middle Georgia is no exception. Cochran has always been a sleepy little farming community, dotted with cotton fields and catfish ponds. When I was growing up, the railroad used to cut through the swamp behind my house, and on summer nights I’d hear its keening wail and imagine it was some mysterious animal.
I wasn’t the only one to mythologize the midnight train. My friends and I made up stories about it — where was it going? where had it been? who rode those rails through the humid night, anonymous behind the glass and steel? — and imagined a life beyond the red clay ditches. Perhaps this was the reason for the legend that sprung up about the railroad tracks. Perhaps our parents and grandparents sensed the lure of the outbound train, headed for exotic new horizons. Perhaps it is they who first started the stories of Huggin’ Molly. Or perhaps her story really is true, and having passed from mouth to mouth down the railroad line, has become legend.
All I know is this: on moonless nights, when the train would come through, if you stood close to the tracks you could hear her crying for her lost lover. Her sobbing would mix with the train whistle. And then you’d better hide. You’d better move as far away from those tracks as you could get. Because even though Huggin’ Molly looked like any other woman, she always wore mourning clothes topped with a long black veil — and a sailor hat. And she had arms so long that she would snatch you right up off the side of the road, snatch you into her relentless embrace, snatch you onto the midnight train. And your scream would mingle with the banshee whistle and you’d be taken away down the tracks, never to be seen again.
I never saw Huggin’ Molly. But I cannot hear a train whistle without feeling a shiver race down my spine. Without taking a step backwards. Without imagining those long long arms.
Thank you, Tina for sharing a fantastic story. http://www.tinawhittle.com
BLOOD, ASH AND BONE — Available NOW from Poisoned Pen Press!
DARKER THAN ANY SHADOW — Second in the Tai Randolph series
THE DANGEROUS EDGE OF THINGS — First in the Tai Randolph Series