by Robert Gene Gilland
part 1 of 2
My forehead rests firmly against the window. The glass feels colder than death against my skin. I watch the trees glide gracefully past. They seem lonely, spread far apart as they are. Able to see each other as they grow, stretch, reach, but never able to touch what’s standing next to them. Seen from this nearly deserted train, those trees are my kin. Forever alone like me, but always searching, hoping.
Something pink glides past me reflected in the window. I turn to look, but it’s not her; just another figment of my imagination. I press my forehead to the glass, once more watching the trees glide by. For me, this train’s eternal ride is bound in the land of nostalgia, my prison. I am not here for the next station, or even the final destination. I am here because I am waiting for her, a woman I have never met, but my heart yearns to know.
The week before, I had been dismissed from my thirteenth foster home. Thirteen was quite a number in my orphanage; I was nicknamed ‘monthy’ because that was generally the length of my stays in a foster home. The first week everything would be great and perfect; week two would be neither great nor perfect; and by week three I would be introduced to my bully within the foster family.
My bully was always older than me, but not always the same gender; sometimes it was a boy, like me, and sometimes a girl. For fun they made my life a living hell. Then near the end of week four a tragic event would occur in the family, a blessing to me, as my bully would endure some non-fatal freak accident.
My thirteenth accident was by far the most bizarre. The bully of that family was an older brother who chucked insults and fists in a flurry of rage I had never seen before. The day of my departure, he had battered and bruised me to the point of bleeding when his dark brown hair spontaneously combusted. I was more horrified than he was as he ran around the house screaming in agony.
Luckily, he survived with minor second-degree burns. However, his parents accused me of using a lighter, which they found in one of my pockets, to set their son’s hair on fire. They sent me back to the orphanage telling the administrators that I was dangerous and in need of counseling. The counseling lasted four days before I was unexpectedly placed on a train bound for my fourteenth foster home.
I was on this train heading west. It was mostly empty then too, except for a beautiful little girl sitting alone across the aisle from me. The first thing about her that caught my eye was her radiant red hair that shone in the setting sun. My adolescent heart was enraptured by the beautiful fair light skin covering her puffy cheeks and tiny hands. She was in a light pink dress, reminiscent of a clean, dust-free Wild West showgirl with at least two skirts, and a tight waistline forming the infamous hourglass.
But what had my adolescent heart beating madly was that I could see the deep line of cleavage formed by her well-developed breasts squeezing their way out of her blouse. I didn’t want to stare, but with such exposure the temptation was far too great. The train entered a tunnel coating the lovely sight in impenetrable darkness.
When we emerged from the tunnel, she was sitting beside me. My heart began skipping beats as drops of sweat started beating down my brow. My throat was so dry I kept swallowing. I was sure I looked like a fool.
I gathered my courage and said, “Lovely ride, wouldn’t you agree?” She didn’t respond. Her dark blue eyes were fixated on the back of the seat before her. The churning tracks and gears beneath our feet probably drowned out my voice, so I loudly reiterated, “Lovely ride, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” she responded without giving me a look. Her voice was more mature than I expected. Then she turned to me and my heart stopped. Her radiant red hair framed her lovely round face in a way I never imagined possible. Her eyes held mine. I could’ve spent eternity looking into those eyes and never want to blink. Caressingly she took my hand from the armrest separating us. Her touch was soft but colder than ice, sending shivers up and down my spine, chilling my blood.
“Everyone on this train is going to die,” she said bluntly, setting my hand on her lap. The dress was very soft and thin to the touch. My heart nearly leapt from my chest in anxiety. My face turned a bright crimson. Just as my mind turned flighty with anxiety, what she had said finally clicked. I instinctively tried to recoil from her, but she held my hand tightly on her lap.
She must have read my thoughts, for she took my hand and placed it over her heart. The skin there was the same as her hands. If her eyes weren’t holding mine I know I would’ve stared at her breasts.
“I’m being honest. Everyone on this train is going to die,” she said not as bluntly but still in a matter-of-fact tone that held no room for contradiction.
She released my hand. I retracted it quickly to my lap as I scooted away from her. She stood up, gazing down upon me. Her height made me aware that she was wearing high heels, probably stilettos. However, I’m not entirely certain, because she kept me enthralled with her eyes.
“I can save you,” she said, “but you have to come with me.” She drew my hand to her, affectionately. I felt something deep inside my soul stir when my hand touched her flesh. I’m not entirely sure what it was, hormones or something unworldly. Whatever it was my heart guaranteed that I could trust her, so I did. She had also been the first girl to let me touch her. I rose eagerly to go with her.
She led me down the aisles, through car after car. Men, women, and children of various ages steadily blurred as we passed them. Their chatter steadily become incomprehensible until it was nothing more than noise.
And then we stepped through the train’s final door into a land devoid of noise and life. We were walking on what appeared to be thin air, or to be more precise, clouds. Apprehension immediately took hold of me when I beheld the infinite white beneath us. My hand turned white as I clung tightly to her lest I fall.
As we walked she changed before my hazel-green eyes. The pink dress turned blacker than night could ever be. A thin, whip-like tail slithered out from under the dress, swaying in tune with her hips. Tiny bat wings burst from her visible shoulder blades. Her sudden transformation frightened me so much that I stopped suddenly. I had not let go of her hand, and she was jerked to a halt. Her skin paled. She turned her head toward me. My eyes beheld tiny black horns emerging from where her hairline began.
“There is no reason to fear,” she said in her mature voice, which now took on a dark resonance. I paid little attention to her words; my eyes were focused on her sharp canines. I gulped once or twice. My mind reeled. She’s going to eat me! Oh God, what do I do? I looked around to run, but where would I go? Around us was nothing, the vast blue sky and white clouds. If I released her hand, I was certain I’d plummet.
“I won’t let any harm come to you nor do I intend to harm you.” Something about her voice settled all my fears immediately. Along with her words, I noticed that her hand touching mine had grown warm.
“Where are we?” I asked, regaining my voice and curious about my surroundings. “And more importantly, where are we going?”
“We are where the cloudy sky, the blazing fires, and the solid ground meet: a point of travel,” she responded, turning her attention back to the unseen path and resuming her steady pace. I was puzzled by the places she mentioned. “As for where we are going, I am unsure. Wherever the next door takes us.”
Before I could ask what door, a simple train door appeared before her. She opened it, and we entered what appeared to be a different train. As we ascended the aisle, she changed again.
The tail and wings vanished the second her feet touched the aisle floor. Her dress returned to the light pink. And her skin darkened to the light tan that had enraptured me. The only thing that didn’t change was the warmth of her hand.
Incomprehensible noise surfaced and steadily turned to reckless chatter. Blurred images flanking us took shape and form, becoming men, women, even children. She led me from car to car. By the time we reached the dining car, something was eating at my thoughts, but I couldn’t think what it was. In the dining car she released my hand to take a seat at one of the booths. I took the seat across from her, worried that if I let her out of my sight she’d leave me.
“How are you children doing today?” asked a plump waitress in a thick Irish accent as she handed us each a menu. She startled me with her sudden approach, but not my companion, who took her menu quietly. I really wasn’t hungry, but I opened the menu anyway. I tried to glance over my menu at my companion, but she was hidden from view by her menu. “What would you like to drink?” I skimmed the drinks quickly then looked at the waitress.
“I’ll just take a hot chocolate,” I ordered having spotted it as the first drink listed. The waitress took my order down hastily on a tiny notepad.
“And for you?” she asked, turning slightly to my companion.
“Nothing to drink, but I’d like a slice of chocolate cake, a slice of apple pie, and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.” Her sweet, childish tone took me by surprise. The waitress noted her order and left us alone in the car. She left the menus in case we wanted something else on her return.
We set the menus on the table’s edge. My companion kicked her legs making her whole body sway on the bench. Her antics began to lull my senses into believing she really was a child. I was just about to agree when I recalled her transformation, especially her canines.
“What are you?” I demanded, leaning on the table that separated us.
Copyright © 2012 by Robert Gene Gilland