If I don’t get off of this stupid train in ten minutes I am going to die. My butt was sore from sitting for so long, and my brain was exhausted from thinking so much, but I was too uncomfortable to go to sleep. The clacking of the train became boring after the first hour, and I was almost wishing that baby behind us would start crying again for any kind of noise to distract me from how utterly bored I was.
But, I still had to be grateful for taking this trip anyway. My dad told me we could go to the city Sraff at the last moment just before the start of summer break. At first it seemed strange because when I asked him the first hundred times he told me it would be a waste of money, and time, but then he suddenly agreed to go. Maybe my mom got to him, or maybe it was the death of my grandmother during spring that made him soften up, but whatever it was I was grateful. The birth event is held in Sraff at the beginning of every summer, and I never even dreamed of being in the big city to see the event in person.
I sighed, and looked out the window for the millionth time. The sun was bright, and it shone hot against my cheek through the Plexiglas of the train window. The boring trees stretched their boring limbs towards the dull blue sky. The grass shimmered slightly from a recent rain. I have seen all of this stuff before ten minutes ago. I sighed again.
“Are you alright honey?” My mom asked from the seat next to me. She sounded distant because she was busy on her laptop. Her head had been hunched over the computer since the train ride started. Her black hair acted like a wall, shielding her face from the outside world, covering her in her own little curtain.
“Yeah, I’m fine mom.”
Deep down I was annoying myself with how bratty I felt but I almost couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to stand up, and do things. I hardly had any leg room, and my legs had lost all feeling three times.
“Mom, can I get up?”
“…Sure honey, only go into the back cars, not the front cars. If you need money for snacks just ask. Actually, I’ll give you some coins and you can bring me back a pretzel, make sure it’s fresh.”
She looked away from her computer, and reached into her large, cluttered purse to pull out some coins. She handed me the money with her boney pale hand. Her face was long, and very white. Her dull blue eyes looked at me as if she were seeing me for the first time.
I took the coins, and stood up, scooting past her lap, and moving to the car behind us. It is strange how trains move so quickly that you don’t even feel the movement when you stand up.
In the back car, the floor was carpeted, and there was a polished wooden counter to the right wall. Behind the counter was a large man with large brown eyes, and beefy fingers that didn’t match his kind expression.
On the wall to the left there was one large window, but filling in the empty space were several shrunken heads, and other knickknacks hanging, and rattling as the train chugged along. A group of people were seated at one of the small, circular black tables near the window. They talked in low voices that I could hardly make out.
I walked up to the man, and smiled, relieved to be out of the torture device of a seat. “One pretzel please. Can you make sure it’s fresh?”
I handed the man the coins, and he nodded, sulking off to make a fresh pretzel, rather than grabbing one of the old ones sitting in a glass box. “Ten minutes.” He said.
I nodded, and went to take a seat at one of the tables. Curious, I sat close to the group to hear what they were talking about. I noticed most of them had red bands on their wrists, which meant they were pirates. It’s been a law since before I can remember that all pirates had to wear plastic red colored bands around their wrists so people could spot them. It’s always been unfair to me. They’re normal people, like everyone else.
I kicked my feet as I listened to them talk. “I heard demons are known to attack trains that pass this way.” Said a man with his head ducked low. He was white, and had very neat brown hair.
“Doesn’t matter, the S-MOD are always on public transportation. Besides, after all we’ve seen you’re afraid of a few demons?” said someone I couldn’t see.
“I’m not afraid; I just don’t feel like the train being delayed to fight off some of those bat creatures. We’ve been sitting here long enough.”
A dark skinned man wearing a brown jacket spoke. His back was to me so I couldn’t see his face. “Demons stay near water. We’re coming up near that river just before you get to the city remember?” His voice was light, but stern at the same time.
I wanted to ask what a demon was, but I didn’t want to make them think I was listening to their whole conversation. I watched the window, looking for any sign of the strange creature they talked about. Apparently it was some kind of giant bat?
While I watched for demons in the blurry fields outside I continued to think about why my dad agreed to take the trip to Sraff so suddenly. It was very strange of him. Ever since he retired from his job at the main MOD office in Othal-the kingdom we live in-all he’s done is take long walks in the woods a few hours from our neighborhood.
I remembered wanting to be like my dad so much when I was younger. He seemed so cool to me, protecting the kingdom from the mysterious dangers that I never knew about. It was easy to look up to him when he was hardly home. Whenever he was home back then, he would bring me gifts, and tell me adventure stories while we went on walks through the same forest he likes to go to now. When he retired he’s seemed much more…bland I guess. He’s strict, and cold. It’s been that way for three years now, but I still want to be in the MOD. I heard that every MOD member starts off in the S-MOD which protects the public, and deals with local crime, but I wanted to be in the big leagues, with the spies, and the fighters.
The man walked up to the counter with a large pretzel in a white paper bag. He placed it on the counter, and called me up.
I walked to the counter, and picked up the pretzel when one of the pirates called to me. “Boy, ’ey boy with the blonde hair.”
I turned around, and saw the whole group of pirates looking strangely at the one that stood up, walking towards me. He was the pirate wearing the brown jacket.
“Uh, hi.” I said. The man stood taller than me, with a muscular figure.
The man guided me back to my seat like a frightened sheep into a pen. We sat down at the black table, and I eyed him with caution.
“Have you heard of the secret war?” he asked.
I shook my head. This was a very strange thing to ask a fourteen year old about. “Why are you asking me?”
“I made a bet with my friends that everyone knew about it by now. Guess not.”
“If everyone knew about it then it wouldn’t be a secret.”
The pirate laughed a cold, hollow laugh that sent a shiver down my spine.
“Do you want to hear about it? The war? I figure everyone’ll know about it soon enough.” He said. His eyes were dark brown, and he had a strong jaw. He looked at me with a slight smirk.
What he said felt like some kind of threat almost. Was he going to start the war, was he going to attack the people on the train? I preferred to think the best of pirates, but maybe they were dangerous people. I heard about them on the news often.
“No thank you.” I said quietly.
“Suit yourself.” He said, disappointment was written on his face. “It’s an interesting story.”
The pirate stood up, and walked to the door of the car that led farther back into the train. “Take my advice kid. No matter what, you’ve got to fight for what you think is right, no matter who’s in your way.”
I watched him, hardly noticing my blank stare as he left the room followed by half of his pirate friends. The rest of the pirates who remained kept their eyes on me for a moment, muttering to one another.
I hopped out of my seat, and hurried back to give my mom the pretzel when the train slowed to a stop. There was a loud screech outside, along with the beating of wings. Maybe it was a demon. I hurried to the window to see, but the pirates blocked my view, and pushed me away when I tried to get a look.
I got back to my seat, squeezed by my mom, and looked out of the window. Up ahead, I could just barely see what I think was a demon. The creature had the body of a human, but it had wings where the arms would be and one eye in the center of its forehead. There were huge pointy ears on the sides of its head, and large claws acted as hands, and feet. Its skin was a terra-cotta shade of red.
I watched carefully, ignoring the fear growing in my mind. A man was in front of the demon, and the demon was walking forward, pushing the S-MOD member who was fighting it backwards so the two came into better view for me.
“Ummm…Angelo honey, you have my pretzel.” My mom said, but I ignored her for now.
The S-MOD member, a man wearing a blue uniform with a golden badge held his hands up. The Demon didn’t stop approaching. Suddenly the man’s hands began to glow with a red light, and vines rose from the ground, kicking up dirt, and grass. The vines wrapped themselves around the demon’s body, constricting its wings, and legs.
The demon opened its wide mouth, revealing its small, pointy teeth. It bit, and clawed at the vines, but the man took out a small silver gun, and shot the demon with a blast of orange light. The demon stood still for a moment before falling to the ground. Some of the passengers who were able to watch what happened cheered, but I hoped I would never have to face a Demon in my life.
I handed the pretzel to my mom, and she thanked me. “I love you.” She said.
“I love you too mom.”
The train slowly began to move again, and I thought about what the pirate told me earlier. It wouldn’t leave my mind. I couldn’t decipher what he meant by a secret war, and now I was scared that something was going to happen. The thought of the demon didn’t help my fear level.
I watched the river that the pirates spoke about come into my view. I kept watching for more demons, but I didn’t see any. I just hoped that we were getting closer to the city so I light be able to put all of this behind me, but now I wasn’t sure if I could enjoy myself because I couldn’t stop wondering about that pirate.
“Mom, what do you think about pirates?”
“They’re decent people, they keep to themselves mostly. Why do you ask?” She said, taking her eyes away from the bright screen to eat her snack.
“I met some in the room I went to earlier.”
“They’re not bad people. I had a friend whose dad knew a man whose grandfather was a pirate. I like they’re ambition.”
“You don’t think they’re dangerous?”
“Anyone could be dangerous honey. You shouldn’t listen to the news so often, they exaggerate everything.”
“Have you heard of a secret war? I heard some pirates talking about it.”
“I’ve heard some rumors, but not much. The war doesn’t have anything to do with the pirates though. Mostly people use it as a joke.” She said.
I rested my head against my seat, and tried to let that sink in. He really got me didn’t he? That was cruel, but I was relieved.
My dad walked up to us from a few seats up. He was like a slightly wrinkled version of who he used to be. He was still strong, and tough looking, but his brown hair was greying, and his eyes had fogginess to them even though he only just turned forty eight.
“We’re almost there; I wanted to see if you’re alright.” He said. His concern sounded emotionless.
I nodded, and so did my mom.
“Alright,” He said before getting back to his seat.
Mom got quiet as she watched the aisle after dad made it back to his seat. I wanted to ask her what she was thinking about, but that might be too personal. I always wondered when they would start acting normal again, but since he retired everything changed. Mom’s always been home working on whatever in her office. I started to be with my friends almost every day, and I missed the way we used to be. I hoped this trip would make things normal again, but it feels more awkward than anything else.
A song started to play over the radio as we came into the city. Excitement turned in my stomach, and spread through my body, making me want to bounce in my seat. I practically pressed my face into the window as we came into the city. Sraff was almost as amazing as I imagined it.