The Dawn Train
The conjurer’s train came at dawn.
She had been watching him since he arrived. A young man in a fleecy-collared aviator’s jacket and skin-tight black jeans, a pair of thick-rimmed sunglasses propped over his unruly dark hair, a red scarf knotted rakishly around his throat; he lounged against the glossy white wall like a highwayman of the skies emerging from the blank pages of a story as yet unwritten. A duffel bag was deposited at his black-booted feet. It wasn’t too great a stretch of the imagination to picture it spilling stolen jewellery onto the concrete platform, bright golden coins bouncing and dancing over the yellow safety line and down, chinking, chiming, onto the tracks to wink roguishly up at the half-awake sun.
The conjurer pulled back one sleeve to check his watch, and frowned.
The trains were all late, of course. They usually were. Even for conjurers.
He bent over his bag and pulled out a well-thumbed paperback copy of Gulliver’s Travels. It flopped open on a cracked spine to an apparently random page, which he began to read. At his feet, the duffel bag slid slowly, so slowly, onto its side. Something inside glittered, sparkled.
A star rolled out like a firework.
The conjurer dropped his book and snatched, but the star bowled away from him astoundingly fast, sending shimmers of red and gold and white flashing over the drab concrete as it passed, crossing that faded yellow line…The train was coming. It roared.
The star tumbled over the platform’s edge, falling towards the weeds and stones and iron railings of the ground below.
The conjurer shouted.
The star’s light went out like a doused candle. From below the platform’s edge a dove soared upwards in an explosion of white feathers, streaked with unexpected shimmers of red and gold as though it had flown from inside a stained glass window. The sun rose over the horizon. The train came in.
The dove fluttered into the conjurer’s waiting hands.
He hauled his bag off the ground, swinging it over one shoulder while the dove took its perch on the other. The train was slowing, stopping, but the conjurer paused for a minute to glance behind him at the empty station where fluorescent tubes were fighting a losing battle against the rising sun. She stood where the shadows fell, watching him, and for the first time he saw her. Awkwardly, a little embarrassed, he shrugged.
Oh well, said the shrug. These things happen.
And he stepped over the yellow line, the boundary between what is safe and what is dangerous, onto the first train of dawn.
© Faith Mudge, 2012