The Train

 

Deputy grabbed Sarah’s arm, pulling her toward the train station. It was too bad he had lost the boy. That was a mistake, but Danny had disappeared so quickly after the bird had taken off. At least he had one delivery for the Tower. Deputy’s thoughts turned to the reward, imaging the feel of gold coins beneath his fingers. So he was caught off guard when Sarah twisted in his grip.

When Sarah felt Deputy catch her, her heart sank once again, making her limbs awkward and heavy. Fear was another familiar feeling, just like waiting – and fear would lead to more waiting. She would wait to learn her fate, to see the dark woman in the tower, or wait, hoping to be rescued by Danny… But he was gone and she was alone again.

Sarah felt Deputy’s grip loosen, just a little. Suddenly there was a warmth behind her face like sparks crackling off a fire. Time slowed. In the space where time stopped, Sarah realized she had a choice. Wait and stay the same. Or fight back and change forever.

Sarah twisted, wrenching her arm out of his grasp. Surprised, Deputy staggered backward, noticing Sarah’s eyes flash as she flung out the blue fabric. Hours seemed to pass as it flowed through the air, wrapping about Deputy’s face and arms.

Sarah turned and ran, ignoring the man behind her as he struggled in a material that suddenly had no beginning or end, wrapping about him as tightly as a cocoon.

At the edge of the woods, Sarah paused, uncertain once again. Looking back at the bazaar, she saw it was closed. Blinds were pulled down, the children were gone and the rain poured down, obscuring the ramshackle buildings. To her right she heard the train, then suddenly felt it as it rumbled past, pulling into the station.

Sarah had only seen a train once, a year before her mother had vanished. Her mother had taken Amy and Sarah for a trip, as a special treat. They walked three hours to get to the station at the edge of the forest. Sarah gazed in awe at the plains that seemed to stretch out forever, flat and empty. As they ate their picnic lunch, Sarah saw the train approaching in the distance, steam rising behind it. The engine was bright red and blue, with the company name in gold on the side.

This engine, the whole train, was coal-black. It loomed over the buildings of the town, which seemed to cower in its presence. Sarah tingled with fear and excitement, longing to ride on a train once again.

Suddenly, Sarah knew what she would do.

Creeping toward the tracks, Sarah watched as a tall man, wearing a dark coat stepped out of the train and approached Deputy. Deputy had managed to free himself from Sarah’s fabric. Now he talked to the man from the train, gesticulating wildly and looking wet and disheveled. Sarah hurried across the tracks and approached the train from the other side. Quickly she pulled herself onto the train, clinging to the edge of the caboose. She longed for dark clothes, feeling certain her gingham skirt shone like a beacon. For a third time, her face warmed, as her clothes darkened to a sooty black. She stared at her skirt in surprise, wondering about the blue fabric she had thrown as she concentrated on entangling Deputy.

Then two things happened. The train began to rumble, sounding like thunder. At the same time, she saw a man, his face pale and shirt torn. Sarah ducked immediately, remembering the minotaur, then realized it was Danny. Abandoning caution, Sarah stood at the edge of the caboose and shouted.

“Run Danny! Quickly!”

Danny ran as the train began to pull away from the station. His hand met hers and she almost lost hold as their hands slipped, wet from the train. Then Danny jumped on the train, falling beside her. Lying exhausted on the back ledge of the caboose, Danny and Sarah watched Valleyville Bazaar disappear.

“Where’s Scout?” Sarah asked when they could no longer see any sign of the sinister town.

Danny looked away. “Gone.”

Sarah noticed three long gashes running along the back of his cheek and onto his neck. “Where were you? I was so worried. You were gone for hours.”

“Was it only hours?” asked Danny, without interest. “It felt like years. She said I would never leave, that there was no choice. But there was.”

“What choice? What do you mean?”

Danny looked at Sarah for a long time before answering.

“I chose you.”

The End

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