The Kankakee Trail Ghosts | By: Kenneth G Kruschka | | Category: Short Story - Comedy Bookmark and Share

The Kankakee Trail Ghosts

   The Kankakee Trail Ghosts

 There's a small town in Northern Wisconsin, where all the old regulations are still in common use; nothing seems to change, and people there don't question many things. As a community, the local people come together on weekends to play the hand bells, and to reflect over the town's historic Civil War era cannon. This small town has one lingering issue though, which has been wreaking havoc in recent times; leaving the locals feeling helpless.

 Thor and his friend Barney were driving to the town, following specific directions a friend of Barney's had sent; along with a newspaper clipping regarding the Kankakee Nature Trail, and the possibility of its being haunted. When Barney tried to get in touch with his friend though, a mutual acquaintance of theirs told him "I'm sorry Barney! Cowboy hasn't been seen in three years. It was almost as if he'd just disappeared; leaving all his possessions behind."  Barney remembered his missing compadre better once the mutual acquaintance referred to him as Cowboy--the guy had always worn a cowboy hat, no matter the season or time of day.

 As the roads started changing from urban to rural, the farther north (away from the city) Thor and Barney drove, the two started complaining about how poorly the railroad tracks were designed in the country. They'd noticed there were no alarms, bells, lights, or anything like there is in the city; just tracks. Thor commented "Up north, you just gotta know when to stop for 'em!" Barney couldn't stop holding onto their truck's dashboard; as if bracing for impact, should a train hit them--not that it would do any good if that occurred.   They'd gotten quite a scare when, at an intersection, they'd stopped the truck; unable to see clearly around a corner, where a cornfield was blocking the field of vision. With Thor behind the wheel, and an engulfed view all around, neither Thor nor Barney could see a thing in any direction. Thor slowly crept the truck forward, inching it onto a train track; which was in the middle of an unmarked railroad crossing at the intersection.  Once Thor could, finally, get a clear view down the tracks, he and Barney were presented with an oncoming steam engine locomotive; which required the need to floor the truck's accelerator to avoid being hit by the oncoming train. Out of nowhere, cop lights immediately started flashing. The local sheriff put it like this: "I was writing them a warning ticket for speeding, and Mr. Thor said 'I needed to pull over after that race with the rusty iron rail from Petticoat Junction! My buddy, Barney, and I found ourselves jumping out of the truck, soon as we got to the other side of that (points at the intersection) deathtrap, and kissing the ground, clouds in the sky, and who or what ever!' so, being I'd actually seen it all happen, I was just giving them a warning ticket as a way to welcome them to the community."

 Barney took over driving, letting Thor play passenger, after the train and sheriff incident. The truck wasn't anything fancy; just an open bedded pickup, painted black. Barney wanted Thor to get some rest before they arrived to the Kankakee Nature Trail; as to be alert for any ghost activity they might encounter. Thor, watching the outside scenery passing by from the passenger side window, noticed how some things stood out which could only be seen in the country: dilapidated barns; farm after farm after farm; and someone burning garbage with newspapers in a 50 gallon steel barrel, right in their front yard. Thor remarked "We're definitely in Hicksville!" Thor noticed how every wooden telephone pole in the area was bent (warped due to years of service and weather beatings), and most of the transformers, up at the pole tops, were 40 years antiquated. Thor, just about ready to take a nap, saw a  guy sitting in  an outhouse; with his pants around his ankles, no door, and waving hello at them as they passed by. Thor, realizing what he'd just seen said "Ouch, my eyes!" Barney chimed in, saying "We need fuel," so he pulled the truck over into a driveway where there where lots of automobiles scattered about the yard. Some of the vehicles in the yard looked like '30's and '40's gangster cars, judging by appearance (old bullet holes), but most of the cars--if not all--were well beyond any & all restoration effort.

 It wasn't a minute after Thor and Barney pulled into the driveway, that a one handed black man came out to greet them. The man was suspicious of Thor and Barney, but politely asked "Can I give you two fellas a hand?" Barney stated their need for fuel for the truck. Suddenly, a Caucasian girl appeared, frolicking around one of the junk cars before coming over by the black man's side. She'd been chasing two $5 dollar bills, which the wind had been blowing around, and she'd finally caught them; so was bringing them over to the one handed guy to split the "findings." The one handed fella told Barney that he'd sell him 10 gallons of fuel, which were being set aside for the upcoming winter. The black man then proceeded to fill the truck from two 5 gallon gas cans; each made of metal with a wooden handle, and each having the word GASOLENE in big, yellow lettering, angled across the front of each can. Thor figured the age of the cans to be 60 years old; judging by comparisons of ones he'd seen in antiques stores. The one handed guy told Thor and Barney "I found a whole lotta money down there (pointing up the road) in a garbage filled storm drain." Barney said "Really?!" He wasn't sure if the guy was pulling his leg, or if he was potentially going to rob him. Barney paid the man for filling up the truck with fuel, to which the man said "Have a nice day fellas!"  Thor and Barney pulled out of the driveway, starting their way up the road, when a car driving like a ballistic missile was coming at them head on. Barney pressed on but in a-blink-of-an-eye decided to continue on using the road's shoulder lane; to be over as far as possible from the crazy oncoming vehicle. As the car passed Barney and Thor, they thought it was a Cadillac Eldorado from the 1970's, with all its windows very darkly tinted. Thor and Barney pressed on, but watching in their rearview mirrors that the Cadillac came to a screeching stop, back at the driveway they'd just left. Barney saw four thugs hopping out of the car and putting a bullet into the head of the one handed guy. Barney stepped on the gas, flooring the truck's accelerator--very reminiscent of the way Thor had done back at the train--and said "Let's get the Hell outta here!"  Thor, taking another look back (but wishing he hadn't) saw the Caucasian girl being choked to death by a guy with a piece of blue fabric, and another one was starting to cut her dress with a knife. Thor wanted to tell Barney, but it came out as "Drive faster!"

 It was turning pitch-black outside before they'd reached the Kankakee City Limits, and Thor and Barney needed to observe the Kankakee Nature Center's trail route before doing anything else. Thor feared the thugs might be trying to follow them, which is why he didn't let Barney stop the truck till getting to the Kankakee Nature Center. Barney turned the truck into a restaurant’s parking lot, which was next to the Kankakee Trail, and divided with a chain link fence.  Thinking the parking spot was ideal (for where they needed to be anyway) Thor and Barney decided to take a break. Thor decided to run into the restaurant, looking to get something to eat, while Barney thought he'd smoke a joint quick outside--calm his nerves--before he'd head in the restaurant too. Inside the small diner, Thor saw an open freezer filled with shrimp flavored Ramen noodles. Thor commented out loud "Yuck! No wonder this town's nuts."  Then, a cute Oriental lady emerged from the back of the kitchen area and greeted Thor. Her English wasn't perfect, so she asked "What you on She fo?" Thor understood that "She" means market in Chinese, so kept the conversation going by answering "I am on the market for *gulp* shrimp Ramen noodles." The oriental woman bagged it up and pointed to the clock, then said "Hei-ban get to safety!" Thor was lucky the lady had pointed to the clock, because he didn't know "Hei-ban" means blackboard in Chinese, so it would have been impossible to deduce what the HELL she'd meant otherwise; being she'd meant clock, but didn't know how to say it herself. Apparently, whatever was coming was coming at a soon time. Barney made his way into the building, saw the Oriental lady with Thor; talking about time being almost midnight, but realized Thor was already ready to leave the restaurant. Barney, not knowing what to do, asked "Should we turn on the Bat-signal?"  Barney could sense things seemed like trouble, so just followed Thor and left the restaurant.

 Things started making more sense, about what was going to happen at midnight, when Thor and Barney got back to their truck. It looked like there was a slight glow coming from inside the Kankakee Trail, but there was also a silver convertible parked by their truck now too, and it was honking its horn at them to come over.  There were two guys in the car, one looking like Flavor Flave, and was holding an automatic weapon. Then, the man with the weapon stood up on the cars' seat, as to be sticking out the open convertible roof area, and just stared at Barney and Thor--most likely trying to figure if they're friend or foe. It wasn't long before the guys in the silver convertible decided Thor and Barney weren't up to no good, so they told Thor and Barney about the same thing the Oriental lady had told them, about getting to safety. Then, the man sitting in the driver's seat of the silver convertible took it a step further, saying "There will  be 4 dead suckers coming to the restaurant tonight, and them  trail ghosts are starting to get active."  The two guy told Thor and Barney a few details, which helped sum up that there was a vendetta war going on in the small town; stemming from events of the past few years. The guy that looked like Flavor Flave said "Someone was bombing us, we hadn't a gun around to defend ourselves, and my Dad was hiding between a rock and crevice for safety. Nowhere was safe for long, as far as shelter space was concerned, so a few of the towns people gathered together to form a defensive wall; standing up to the opposing menace; but the Hood Thugs had more than deer hunting shotguns, using a Ghetto Blaster to mow down the wall of town people. Hood Thugs came out here and started taking over, place by place, store by store; killing everyone along the way; acting as if killing was a sport. Anyway, my brother snapped (had had enough) and ran out of a safe place, then a boom and a fireball made him no more. This guy (pointing at the driver of the silver convertible) tried putting on a white flag, as if it were a cape, which the thugs took  as surrender; therefore, they let him live, but they took his sister hostage anyway. He'd been paying them so they wouldn't hurt her, but was unable to pay the last $2,000.00 to get her back. Well, last week her body turned up over there (pointing to the Kankakee Trail), beaten to death and throat slit. We're here for a little retribution . . . just waiting for our targets!"

 Thor and Barney realized it was useless in the situation to be hanging around, so both agreed they would head into the Kankakee Nature Center; driving right in, even though it was after hours, and getting the truck out of sight. Being in the parking lot of the restaurant with the truck, they’d’ve been easily recognized by the thugs; especially after what they'd witnessed them do. Besides, after midnight the trail ghosts--if there were any--would be active and possibly visible, so they'd hoped to catch a glimpse of the paranormal activities.  Barney drove and Thor rode shotgun, entering the Kankakee Nature Trail till they were completely out of sight from the road entrance.

 The Kankakee Trail ghosts didn't show themselves at first, and Barney kept on driving through the Kankakee Nature Preserve till he was actually off the far back end of the property, before turning around. Apparently, the far property end was a jurisdiction agreement point (when exactly isn't clear), which was expired; a new lot line's draft never being reached or enacted. Just then, the spirits appeared and whizzed past the truck, causing it to stop in its tracks and quit running altogether. A cloud of black smoke was all around once the ghosts went past, which, as it cleared, left cylinders of explosives surrounding the truck on all sides; blocking Thor and Barney from exiting except by foot. Next, the ghosts all appeared and were lying on the ground, seemingly in their normal human form; except that they were translucent. They were the ghosts of all the Kankakee people who'd gone missing the past few years and were crying for justice; even to the level of killing an innocent person (like Barney and/or Thor) to get it.

 As it turned out, Barney's friend Cowboy was one of the ghosts. Barney saw Cowboy and a song from a ride at Disney World came to his mind, having a repeating lyric of "It's a small world after all."  Barney then remembered when he'd shot a music video with Cowboy, wearing his silly 10 gallon hat, and how everyone got drunk and sang "It's a small world." Now, here was Cowboy, still wearing the hat, and as a ghost! Cowboy made it clear to Barney that all the ghosts wanted was to be destroyed; hoping to end their suffering, which would also cause the daily haunting of the Kankakee Trail to cease. It was a sad day to know that the beautiful trail pathway, amidst the nature park, had become nothing more than a gang's body dumpsite. What the ghosts were requesting, though, was by and far a hard please.

 Having now pieced the story together fully, Thor got on his soapbox (he felt a speech coming on), introducing himself to the ghosts as "One who's been known to play Sigmund Freud to family and friends." Thor went for the jugular, starting into a speech that put his years of motivational speaking to the test: "Friends (addressing  all the ghosts), utilities advertise along the side of the Interstate with billboards, saying things like 'It's the season again,' but utilities are something everyone uses; so they have no need to advertise. There are not enough new, daily customers, just now deciding to get electricity, all because they drove past a billboard that said to. If the electric company was to stop advertising so ridiculously, consumer costs could be lowered by the amount of all the wasted advertising costs. We, the consumers, have only one choice for sewer provider, normal mail delivery (USPS), Gas Company, and Water Company. It is unimaginable that any other company could run a whole separate set of power lines or sewer tunnels to compete with the city, so why waste advertising costs on a war that's already won? Now, I've seen a Jang reptile; looks allot like a lizard, but all it did was look for its Mother its whole life: Pathetic!  The thing never gets its own life together; just one day the Jang reptile takes the place of its deceased relative and the inhumanity of the cycle continues. The point I'm trying to come to, simply put, is that you're in a town over run by hoodlums, and running them out of town isn't easy; especially when the town can't even take care of itself. You're expecting justice, but your physical community and the Kankakee land itself is crying for justice too! YOU, the Kankakee Trail Ghosts, have another choice; you're not limited to some kind of life pattern following; you can all pull together to save the land itself from the poison that has moved in. On the way here, I witnessed that very poison (Hood Thugs) murder two more of your friends and neighbors . . . nobody’s, just another couple down the road. No! They were a biracial couple and they sold me and my friend some fuel, which without that fuel we would be dead right now too! They, they saved my life (a single tear falls from Thor's eye in memoriam). Don't you think they're crying for justice too? The way I see it, and will proclaim it (being I've driven off the back side of the property), is this trail's jurisdiction line is now completely open to the entire Kankakee Valley--there's no trespass here. GO! Collect up with all the other dearly departed locals, no longer being shackled to this trail, and as a group rid your beautiful land of the beast that's moved upon her. You're GHOSTS for Pete's sake!"

 The ghosts realized they'd been acting like Halloween decorations; not like the brave spirits they really were, so decided immediately to do their part; hearing and heading the call (like they should've). Just as the trail ghosts shook off all the sulking they'd been doing, the Oriental restaurant lady was heard yelling "Help, Hel..." with sounds of shooting piercing the air. The sounds of heavy gunfire came next, ringing from two directions, echoing throughout the darkness in Kankakee Nature Preserve. A clear voice was heard saying "Now for the rest of the money,” along with the sounds POP! POP! It was highly evident to Thor, Barney, and the ghosts that the Oriental lady had bit the dust, and that the guys in the silver convertible had become target practice. The ghosts were beyond pissed at the idea of losing anymore turf and people to the Hood Thugs, so they stormed off in Army like fashion, going to meet the thugs head on. The ghosts left the Kankakee reservation looking like they'd already won the war, and took all the explosives, along with their new prerogative with them.

 Thor and Barney found themselves left alone on the nature trail, in the absolute black of night, and started feeling their way back to the truck. The truck's dome lights came on as soon as they opened the door; indicating that the truck's power was restored too. Thor and Barney heard a whistling sound in the distance, then came a great and ominous HUM*POOM sound. A bright light, looking like a mini version of the August 1945 A-Bomb explosion at Nagasaki, was seen about 40 acres over from where they were in the truck, so Thor told Barney "That's it, were getting out of here NOW! Obviously those ghosts’ explosives worked." Then, everything was just absolute stillness. There were the sounds of only the crickets chirping, frogs croaking, and an occasional owl who; playing the song of night--nothing else or more could be heard. Thor started the truck's motor, which fired right up, and Barney said "Hit it," wanting to get out of town quick as possible himself. As Thor and Barney got to the exit from the trail, heading back out onto the road for home, it became real evident that for the Kankakee Valley "it" was over; peace had been found at last.

  **The End**


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