“Ahh. Cold air.” Ambrose took a deep breath and exhaled it in a happy sigh.
As he strolled to the other side of the platform, the conductor pleasantly informed the non-existent crowd, “We’re all ready to travel onwards. All aboard who are coming aboard. Anyone? Oh well. I guess we’ll continue onwards then. Lovely.”
Ambrose stepped off the platform.
The train blared its horn.
The wind picked up and slammed its big bad icy self into Ambrose.
He shivered as he remembered.
He lay on the ground.
Snow fell on him.
Snow piled up on him.
Snow chilled him, but it did not steal his life away.
And he couldn’t escape.
The train chuk-a-lunked forward.
Ambrose’s eyes widened as he remembered something else.
His coat was still on the train.
He spun around and ran back.
It picked up speed as if it were escaping from him.
The train ducked under a bridge and rushed off into the night.
Ambrose scooped up a handful of snow and threw it at the caboose.
He didn’t pack it into a ball. So, it just scattered ineffectually back at him. He let loose a yell of fury and frustration.
The train cried out its victory.
“Come back here and I’ll snap you in half!” He stopped running. At least I know I won’t freeze to death. Still. I hate being cold.
He walked over to the station.
Someone had spray painted a bad rendition of a Japanese good luck cat on the gray grained door. The square window sitting above the cat’s head looked like someone had washed it with dirt and grime.
Ambrose tried to turn the doorknob.
It was rusted shut.
The wind blew through his clothes, chilling his skin.
“Arrrgh!” Ambrose kicked the door and it fell flat off its hinges. He walked inside.
It was dark with old crates standing in uncertain stacks. He held his breath as he maneuvered around them.
One wrong breath, one sneeze, heck one wrong word and they’ll all come falling down on me.
Ugh. There’d be so many splinters.
He imagined digging them out of his hair and shaking them out of his clothes.
Such imaginings almost gave him hives.
Ambrose passed a cluster of crates arranged in a peculiar den-like shape. The powerful scent of fish and seaweed came out of nowhere.
He stopped and glanced around. “Who’s there?”
A soft gasp.
A child’s small voice piped up, “You’re not supposed to be in here.”
He scoffed. “I seriously doubt that you’re supposed to be here.”
“I am. This is my home. This is my turf. Get lost and find your own.”
“Why would I even want to claim a rattleshack like this?”
“Rattleshack?” She crawled out of her den – just a small red-headed girl in a black dress with a white pinafore. She stood and dusted herself off.
Ambrose took a step back. For a minute, he felt like he’d seen a ghost. “Who are you?
The girl raised her head, revealing the ruby-lensed goggles covering her eyes. “I can’t just tell you who I am. It isn’t decent or nice.”
“My name. You’re not supposed to know my name. Criminy! Some people just don’t know stuff about stuff.”
“You smell like fish.”
“Oh, yeah? You smell like…I don’t know. A man.”
He laughed. “So, I do. My name is Ambrose.”
She tilted her head. “Does that mean I have to tell you my name?”
“That’s what normal people do.”
“Well. I’m not normal people. I am a caith. Or, as you greenies call us, a fairy cat. Now. Get lost. This is my turf and if you stay on my turf too long, I’ll scratch out your eyes and bite your face off.”
He bared his fangs. “You’re not the only one with sharp teeth, little cat.”
“Ohhh, so you want to get into a turf war? Is that it? Ohhh, you’re gonna lose and lose bad.”
He laughed again. “I like you. So, I won’t kill you. This time. Maybe you can help me.”
“Maybe. Or maybe I won’t want to. I doubt you can do anything to help me. You don’t even have a coat.”
“That is true. I need to get over to the mansions.”
“The mansions. The residential area.”
“Residential. What’s that?”
“Where the old houses are.”
“What old houses?”
She’s either being very stupid or very contrary.
Or maybe…”Aren’t there any houses around here?”
“Mister. I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t know anything about any old houses.”
Did I come all this way for nothing?
“Unless you mean the ruineds?”
Ambrose felt queasy. “Ruineds.”
“I can take you over to them.”
“No. You don’t have to. I can find my own way back. I don’t need anyone’s help getting there.”
“Then, why are you even here?”
“I was hoping.” He glanced towards the downed door. “It’s cold out. I don’t like the cold. I was hoping for a ride.”
“To the ruineds.”
“Maybe.” He glared at her. “Or maybe I want to go to the mansions.”
“I don’t get this mansion talk. There’s no mansions out there. Just ruineds.”
“I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll find it.” He smirked. “And I’ll take you back there to prove it.”
“No. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. I used to live there.”
“In the ruineds.”
“In the mansion.”
“Darn right I’m right.” He turned around and left.