Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Night Train


Wrote this today in response to some very cool concept art by Ryan Mauskopf, over at io9.com: http://io9.com/5924135/concept-art-writing-prompt-the-monstrous-passengers-of-the-night-train


At precisely 2:15 am, the Night Train pulled into the station, sleekly gray, with a trailing blue fog in an otherwise clear, cool night. The only sound it made was a low, cat-like hiss as the brakes brought it to a full stop at the very top of the mostly empty platform. There were only 4 cars and the single listed destination on the display read: Outer Town. The doors opened silently, spilling dim green pools of light.

From out of those same doors shuffle...The Shapes. Some hulk, some stoop, others undulate or crawl. The glint of a long tooth, the shimmer of scales, the sheen of fur or spike, flash occasionally in the subtle gloom. The trains’ blue fog obscures most other identifiers, and The Shapes file quickly away to their homes, lairs, or lakes.

As the train empties, only two figures patiently wait to enter. They are both dressed as for a day at the office, one in a jolly, dotted tie, the other a long scarf an slim suit. The former has a cheerful, sunny smile upon his fuzzy face, and carries a briefcase in his formidable looking claws. The other, more fussy, wears old fashioned gloves, and his head gives off a warm and glowing flame. They nod to one another, nightly commute companions, but not friends,

The car they choose is mostly empty, but as they glimpse the solitary figure across from them, they choose a seat together and cast wary eyes in the direction of what appears to be...a girl. Possibly human, though neither wants to assume. They sit in amiable silence as the Night Train’s doors close and smoothly resumes its course.

Just as the two travellers begin to relax, the girl suddenly stands up and moves swiftly toward them, moving gracefully in spite of several lurches of the train. She holds a cup of coffee in her hand, and holds on to the overhead pole on tip toes.

"Hi!" she says cheerfully, wide-eyed and bouncy toned. "This is my first time on the Night Train. I’m Emmy!" before the other two can say a word she plops herself down between them and playfully swings her short legs. She does not seem in the least put out by their stares or lack of response. Or the fact that her seatmates are both clearly inhuman.

"I’m going to visit someone in Outer Town. I thought I’d get some coffee to stay awake, though I think it’s made me a little jumpy. I was excited about the trip any way, it must be wonderful! I’ve heard soooo many fantastic things! Do you both live there?" this all came out in a rush, with no real place for either of her seat companions to respond. So the fuzzy creature on her right merely grunted, keeping his smile carefully on his face. The other simply nodded, a bit of ash falling off his head. He flicked it carefully away with one gloved hand.

"Well! I’m very glad to have the company. Long trips go so much better when you have other people to chat with. As I said, I’m Emmy. I’m originally from the city, not this one, but, another. You’d think a city would be full of things to do, but no, it was dreadfully dull. Wrong sort of people, I suppose. This one is better, but, still, not quite to my tastes. That’s why I’m going to Outer Town. It sounds perfect!" She drank some more of her coffee, bopping gently in her seat. Over her head the two monsters glanced at one another, sharing a moment of resigned irritation.

For the next hour or so, Emmy continued to chatter contentedly at her two travelling companions. Occasionally they would offer a nod or a grunt of approval, though it was hard to tell. It all seemed to mean the same to her. Sometimes she would lean closer to one or the other, smiling, with a friendly pat on the shoulder or claw. She remarked several times on how convenient it was to actually be your own source of light, and how she should be very glad of fur like that in winter-time. Her voice was bubbly but not unpleasant, and though both monsters would have preferred a silent ride after their long work nights, it was not altogether a bad ride.

As they drew closer to Outer Town, with its twinkling lights and oddly shaped towers, the two monsters made ready to depart. As the train slowed down Emmy got excitedly to her feet and stood by the door, hopping on one foot, then the other. As it came to a full stop and the brakes hissed in their cat-like way, she turned towards her two companions with a smile that made them both gasp and step back.

The furry one clutched his briefcase to his chest, while the flaming head took his arm and stepped slightly in back of him, like a shield. Emmy continued to grin, though now they both knew that their chatty train companion had most decidedly NOT been "just a girl".

"Thank you both for letting me talk your ears off. It was awfully kind of you. You see…" and here that impossibly wide grin cracked and gaped further, unhinging her jaw and showing off rows upon rows of impressively needle sharp teeth, "I had thought I might have a lite snack on the journey. But, you two were so obliging, I decided to wait til we got to town. "

The two companions nodded, not knowing what else to do. Her long, red, and forked tongue flicked out and licked her lips. The door behind her slid open and, in that dim green light, she winked a pink and hungry eye at them both.

"See you around!" she said with a wave, and stepped out and swiftly away. The two monsters stood still for awhile, until they were mostly sure she was really gone. Then they carefully made their way to the nearest bar and drank to forget the chatty not-just-a- girl on The Night Train, and what she was eating in Outer Town that night.

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