• Nitojec

Grapes

Some say she only appears at the best of times. Others say she only appears on the wings of tragedy. But you know what I say? I say she appears when she damn well pleases. Wherever that happens to be, and more importantly, whenever she wants it to be.

You see, there are legends of a train that will take you anywhere you want to go. Through time and space, and all you’ve gotta do is find yourself a ticket – a ticket to ride – and get it stamped by the conductor. It’s hard to say where the next station is if you don’t have a ticket, and it doesn’t really matter anyway because that damn train goes where it wants, but when you board that train you’re leaving everything you know behind. The legends have it that nearly everybody who boards is never seen again. Whether they disappear into the clouds of steam, falling into some alternate reality, or merely never decide to get off, nobody knows. Hell, they could die the moment they step through the door into the station.


Now this woman, this angel of the train, appears throughout history as a guardian angel or a villain. In some stories she’s a winged, gum chewing, guitar toting badass. In others she’s a gnarled woman with fire in her belly and pits for eyes, but there’s one thing that all the stories agree on: her appearance is heralded by a great rattling, the great chugging of a steam engine on unseen tracks. And when she bursts into view, few wouldn’t be struck down by the majestic confusion that follows in her wake. For who wouldn’t be confused when a goddamn angel kicks down your bathroom door – which somehow decided it’s going to lead to a train station now – and kicks some ass? I’d be surprised, certainly was when it happened to me.


You know the first thing she said after breaking down the door?


“Hey, got any grapes?”


Never mind the fact that she was strangling my dog, which as terrible as it sounds, saved my life. That dog was a demon, a beast lurking in the flesh of the mundane. It had never been a dog, and was biding its time to inject its larvae into me.


But anyway, in the face of a question like that, what was a man to do? She was going to eat my grapes anyway, whether I wanted her to or not. I did get a good look at her while she chowed down though: silver hair, and the purest white feathers. Oddly enough she had an electric guitar slung across her back; looked ancient, and when I looked it up, turned out it was from old Earth, an old Stratocaster. I personally didn’t hear her play it, but the legends speak of times that she does – apparently she’s pretty good. And of course, I would be remiss not to speak of her beauty. It wasn’t even marred by the white eye patch crossing her face; if anything it added to it. A dangerous allure, the sort that apex predators have, is what she boasted.


I made the mistake of telling the story to the boys down in the pub after it was all said and done. They didn’t believe. But even in the onslaught of cynicism for my story, I still believe that I beheld the angel of the train. Gen, Black Tortoise, Guardian, whatever the legends call her: I saw her with my very eyes. She saved my life that day, and I still don’t know why she did. I asked before she left through my bathroom door, and all I got was a wink with simple words:


“Take care, and thanks for the grapes.”


She’d eaten all of them – a cheap price to pay for my life.

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Science Fiction and the pursuit of escapism, 2020.