Fiction Fragment Friday
This Week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is from another image writing prompt. This one came out earlier in the week and I knew I had to come back and write to it. I like trains to much to not use it. I also wanted to go a different direction in my story from where everyone else had gone with theirs. Some of the other writers went dystopian and some were reminded of Thomas the Tank engine. For me I went with a type of story that is completely outside my wheel house. I did not grow up reading these types of stories and really have little frame of reference for the tropes.
I wish I could give credit to the artist, but I don’t know where the image itself came from or even if it is a real artist or AI generated. I could not find the image in a reverse google image search. I frequently don’t include the artwork because I don’t like doing so without giving credit. I feel like this time it helps with the context of story inspiration.
I couldn’t wait to see the look on my little sister’s face when she saw the train. This was her first year at Hemindale’s Academy for Exceptional Youth. I had been going to the magical academy for two years, but during orientation they put a binding on you to prevent speaking about it to anyone who has not attended. Since my parents met there when they were younger, I could talk to them about it, but at that age a child can’t really relate to their parents the same way as they can a sibling. More than anything I wanted to see that sense of wonder that I had managed to lose after everything I had seen.
“Jake, I don’t understand. If we are catching a train shouldn’t there be train tracks here?” She sounded worried and I knew she was afraid I was playing a prank on her. In fairness I did play frequent pranks in those days. As tempting as it is for normal kids to prank their siblings imagine what can happen when you add magic and illusion to the mix.
“Relax Katie it’s almost time. You’ll see.” I could feel the ground vibrating under my feet signaling the arrival of our ride.
“Is that an earthquake?” She gripped onto me tightly in fear. Neither of us had ever experienced an earthquake, but they kept saying we were overdue for one. Little did know that our father was a geomancer and had been soothing the ground for years redirecting that pressure to unpopulated areas. Normies, think they know everything, but have no idea how much folks like my family do to keep them safe.
I held my sister tight while our friend Jeff just chuckled at her. “Katie, do you trust me?”
“Ok, maybe I deserve that. Do you trust that I would never let anything hurt you?”
“I guess.” She did not sound as sure as I would have liked her to, but it was the best I was going to get.
“That vibration is just our train coming. I need you to look up. You don’t want to miss this.” I managed to turn her to face forward, but she would not let go of me. She seemed to be holding on awful tight for someone who claimed not to trust me. I really did want her to see what was about to happen though.
The ground in front of us started to flow like water. Its color did not change at all, nor did it become mud. Instead, it just flowed and moved like water when you blow air hard against it. Then it started to rise. Clumps of dirt stuck to the roof of the train car as it emerged from the ground. Underneath the dirt, roots, and pavement formed into a hand holding the train car aloft in front of us. The ground flowed around the hand as it carried our ride forward. Where is passed the ground resettled giving no indication that anything had passed by.
I saw the awe in my sister’s face, but also the fear. I remembered having a similar reaction the first time I had witnessed it. I tried to whisper more reassurances, but her attention was completely focused on the train car. I could tell she wanted to run, but I gently held her in place until it stopped about ten feet in front of us. The front door opened, and the ground molded into a set of stairs leading up to it. Jeff went ahead without hesitation, but I could tell that Katie was still unsure.
“This is our ride, Katie.” I took her hand in mine. “It’s completely safe. I’ve been riding it every school day for two years now. “
She looked up into my eyes. “Is it going to drag us underground?”
“I’m not going to lie to you we are going underground. That’s just how a subway works. We won’t be down there for long though and pretty soon we will be on the other side of the country. That’s just how this magic works.” I could feel her resistance in her hand, but she followed me up the stairs and into the train car. I heard her gasp as we entered.
The outside of the train was dirty, old, and worn. Inside was bright with pixies flying around from seat to seat offering drinks and snacks. Most of the other students had their window visors pulled down. We were the last stop, so the car was almost full. Kids of various ages were laughing and generally having a good time. I looked around for my lifeline and my eyes locked on her.
The most radiant girl in the world to my eyes came over and kneeled in front of my sister. “Hi Katie. Do you remember me?”
Katie nodded and then meekly whispered, “Your name is Marla.”
“That’s right. I’m a friend of your brothers. Why don’t you two come sit with me?” She led us to a row of seats and positioned my sister between us. She held one hand while I had the other. “I know this all seems pretty scary right now, but I promise you will get used to it real quick. There is plenty of non-scary magic in here too.” She held out a hand and one of the pixies landed. It was dressed like a tiny ballerina with wings. The small woman did a dancing spin in her hand and bowed to my sister.
“Hi there Katie. Can I get you anything? Hot coco perhaps?”
“No, no thanks.” My sister was captivated by the site.
“Well if you need anything at all you just have to ask. It’s my job to make sure you have a good trip to school and get there safely.”
“How long until the train starts moving again?” Her voice was so meek.
I looked down at her. “It already has.” I pointed to the window and outside it you could see the subway walls rushing by us. The train’s magic ensured that it’s every movement was smooth and that we couldn’t feel a thing. They had kept her distracted as we sunk back into the ground and slipped through the veils of reality until we were back on tracks running through a magical realm much smaller than our own world. I had timed it just right and we emerged from the tunnel into broad daylight.
Her eyes lit up as she saw the magical creatures in the fields on the edge of the schoolgrounds. The school has a presence in our world for inspections and accreditation, but for most of our magic related classes we were on this side. Not only was magic easier to control here, but stray spells would not draw normie attention. I could see her fear had vanished while she took in the site.
Marla looked down at her. “Katie dear welcome to your first day at Hemindale Academy. Trust me you are going to love it here.”