Tag Archives: short story

The Guard – 32 Steps

Knox quietly worked at the rivets on the door lock.  His hands were large enough to wrestle a dragon but skillful like a surgeon.  His nimble fingers fail him this time and he drops the last broken rivet.  It tumbles into the hallway.  He cannot retrieve it or he will be picked up by the security camera.  With the lock disabled, he waits patiently by the door for lunch to arrive.  Finally, the main cell block  door opens with the usual wail of an annoying buzzer.  As the guard approaches, he counts the echoing footsteps.  Knox has memorized it takes thirty-two steps to get to his cell.  Twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six. Knox counts in his head but the echoes stop.  The guard must see the rivet.  Knox turns his head to the right and presses his face against the bars.  The guard is frozen. Terror-frozen.  He is looking straight ahead and not downward as Knox expected. Knox turns his head the other way, once again, face against the bars.  A shadowy figure waivers.

“Ladron de Almas”, Knox whispers.

The Guard – À Votre Santé

Archer tumbled down the steep sandstone tunnel.  Before he came to a complete stop, the creature grabbed him by the forearms and dragged him backward into an open space littered with old, wooden crates.  The crates were topped with candles in sets of three.  Always in threes, Archer thought to himself.  Iron wall torches burned quiet and seemingly smokeless.  As Archer took in the gothic ambiance, the creature poured a drink into a wine glass.

“Come sit,” said the creature. “I am Fofi.”

Archer grabbed for the glass but Fofi stopped him by saying, “Ah, first there are terms.”

“Terms?” Archer slouched back into the chair.

“Yes,” Fofi continues. “Don’t you have enemies up above?  Prisoners that got the better of you.  Convicts you would like to settle a score with, no?”

Archer’s mind spun as Fofi’s voice reminded him of how they spoke on the planet Dagobah.

“Yes, there are many prisoners I think would be better off removed from the penal system.”

“Ah, then drink up,” mumbled Fofi. “Lest I remind you, Archer. There’s no going back,” Fofi chuckles wickedly. “Either way.”

Without hesitation Archer raises the wine glass and asserts, “À votre santé!”

 

C.Gandy

 

Confused? Read the Trapdoor episode previously posted.

 

 

The Guard – Black Cat

Knox had been imprisoned for eleven years.  He sat up in his cot staring through the cell bars.  He became focused on the door lock, imagining he could shrink himself down so small as to stroll right out.  There would be no need to break the lock.  His focus sharpened and he noticed a rivet was slightly protruding from the plate around the lock.  Knox walked up to the door.  As he grabbed the rivet, a black cat bolted through the hall and cried.  The startle caused him to cut his finger on the rivet and blood dripped rapidly to the floor.  He returned to bed.  He thought, if the cat was real, then, there was a way out.  Knox drifted off to sleep.  When he awoke, there was no blood on the floor.  However, within the space between the door and the floor, rest a pair of lineman’s pliers.

C. Gandy

 

The Guard – Trapdoor

Guards come and go. Prisoners stay. Some stay for life.  So when L-wing reopened after thirty years, talk of the prison section being haunted spread faster than chills down a spine.  The administration had only been in charge for two years.  When they inspected the vacant L-wing it appeared rather clean and organized.  The prison was overcrowded and they were pressured to make the move.

Transferring the prisoners was routine and time consuming.  At the end of the day, Archer Wakeman, the chief prison officer, retreated to his new office.  He noticed a small box on the shelf.  As he walked over, he stepped on some loose linoleum tiles that cracked beneath his feet.   He grabbed the box and opened it to find a skeleton key.  He knelt down on the floor to inspect the cracked tiles with the key in his hand.  As he fumbled with the tiles, more came loose.  Archer noticed a seam bordered by gold trim. There was a trapdoor.  Removing another tile revealed a keyhole. His curiosity overcame his reason as he inserted the skeleton key.  The trapdoor dropped about two inches, sending a rush of dust into the air.  He was frightened and wiped the sweat off the back of his neck.  Archer sneezed not once, but twice.  Just as the second sneeze finished he thought he heard, “Blesssss”, hissed by something unknown. Suddenly, the trapdoor slid left.  He met the yellow eyes of a sub human creature with pale white skin and sharp bicuspids barely protruding from its mouth.  The creature grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him down into the void.

 

C. Gandy

 

 

 

The Guard – Thief of Souls

The inmate stared down at the pool of blood.  The building shook as if a low-flying airplane passed overhead.  Little white flakes of paint fell into the pool making it appear as some sort of melted strawberry shortcake ice cream.  The inmate pronounced he was El Castigador to the dead cellmate as he retrieved his shank from the victim’s neck.  The wall on the far side of the cell began shaking.  The inmate walked over and traced his fingers over the crude letters etched into the block.  “El vacio,” he whispered.  The concrete blocks were moving in and out until a hole in the wall formed.  As the dust settled, the inmate thought he saw a shadow through the opening.  He turned to run but a steel grappling hook pierced him just below the collarbone and pulled him through the wall.  The shadow announced he was Ladron de Almas.

 

C.Gandy

 

 

The Guard

Intro –

Imprisoned in an old chamber, the convict stares at the puddle.  His footsteps are masked from the dripping water.  He envisions the escape as he crosses streams of doubts dimly lit by the chesire moon.  Alas, freedom as his eyes grow wide from a gruesome cracking of neck bone.

 

A little sample of my flash fiction series in development. I am pushing through my busiest time of year at work. My writing has been sparse but the ideas are now streaming in as more time frees up into the summer. This just stands as micro fiction in itself.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Sundown Hill – Six

After leaving the antique shop, Maya made her way toward the hills.  It was not long before Old Duffy made his appearance.  As usual, he was a stone’s throw away and sitting down indifferent to the world around him.  At least he gave that impression.  Maya’s heart raced.  She could not be silent.  The frozen earth beneath her feet cracked like eggshells.  She could not run.  The field grasses were frozen in bunches and made the footing awkward.  Old Duffy turned his head toward her as he picked up the sound of her footsteps.  He got up and started a slow walk as if waiting for Maya.  Then, Maya started to get the feeling Old Duffy was leading her somewhere.  When Old Duffy got frustrated with her slow and mistrusting pace, he would circle back toward her, enticing her to pick up the pace with a few crouch and sprint movements.  Maya started to enjoy his taunts, especially his double take grins.  As they ventured deeper into the woods, the sunlight grew dim.  Maya lost sight of Old Duffy.  She picked up the sound of something running toward her and she took cover behind a tree.  She peeked around the trunk and saw a scruffy and dirty dog.  She pulled back.  As the dog began to pass she realized it was Cooper. Or, at least it resembled her dog.  She could not help but cry out.

“Cooper, over here!  Is that you?”

Cooper stopped short and turned to look at Maya.  Then, he bolted toward her.  He bounced up on his hind legs to look Maya straight in the eyes and got a good lick on the bottom of her chin while knocking her down to the ground.  The two wrestled around on the cold earth as they enjoyed seeing each other again.  The reunion was short-lived as Cooper let out a few barks.  He wanted Maya to follow him back the way he came.  When the two of them reached the trapped girl, Old Duffy was already there.  Maya calmed Cooper’s mistrust by saying, “It’s all right Cooper.  He was helping me all along.”

Maya saw there was no chance of moving the boulders to free the girl.  She was hunched forward and too weak to keep her head up.  Maya asked, “Are you Emily?”  The girl nodded her head up and down and gave out a few short rasps.  Maya pulled a bottle of water from her pack.

“Now don’t swallow.  Take a few sips and spit it out,” instructed Maya.

Maya examined the situation and came up with an idea.  Cooper could dig a hole big enough between the boulders and Maya could slip through.  If she could remove the girl’s sneaker that may just give Emily enough room to free her foot.

“Cooper, dig!” Maya commanded.

Cooper began digging but his pace was slow and sloppy.  From afar, Old Duffy watched the dilemma and it did not take him long to catch on.  He mustered up his trust and got right beside Cooper.  They both dug with a sense of urgency.  When the hole was wide enough, Maya slipped part of the way in, untied Emily’s sneaker and removed it.  She wiggled back out of the hole, grabbed Emily by placing both arms under her armpits and pulled.  As the girl screamed in pain, she opened her eyes revealing their dark, silver pattern.  Maya looked into those eyes and felt both anxiety and relief.  Emily was now free but not out of danger.

Maya thought aloud, “Now what?  You are too weak and we can’t carry you.”

Maya knew the only help was back at the town and darkness was fast approaching.  She reached into her backpack and pulled out the newspaper.  She tore off the heading about the missing girl, folded it, and placed it snug between Cooper’s leg and the friendship bracelet that remained strong through the entire adventure.

“I hope that holds, Cooper.  Now, follow my trail to the town and get help,” Maya said as she pointed in the direction of the town.

Cooper would make the trip in about an hour.  He picked up Maya’s scent all the way to the antique shop.  Wendell had just stepped outside the shop to end his day.  Cooper ran over.  At first, Wendell was startled and turned to defend himself.  Then, he realized what appeared to be a note on the dog’s leg.  He saw the friendship bracelet holding the note.  Wendell glanced at the bracelet on his wrist and then, back to the dog.  He reached down, removed the note and read it aloud.  “This is from the paper. Maya!” he whispered.

Cooper barked twice.

“You found Emily!” shouted Wendell.

Cooper barked again and as a show of inducement, he started to run back in the direction of the woods.  Wendell went back into the shop to phone the police.

Within five minutes, the police arrived with all-terrain vehicles and a canine crew.  Wendell gave a rapid, yet confusing set of details to the police.  However, the officers were inclined to believe.  They were filled with hope and wanted to act.  Hope was better than not being optimistic.  Wendell jumped on the back of one of the ATVs.  One of the officers placed a dog headlight around Cooper’s neck and Cooper led the charge into the woods.  As they made their way, the headlights picked up the eyes of several coyotes. All the coyotes began a group yip-howl that contained the rise and fall of yips and yaps.  Unknown to the rescue team, the coyotes were actually vocally guiding them toward Maya.  Maya and Emily had crawled back inside the space between the rocks to keep warm and to stay out of the brisk winds.  Old Duffy sat at the newly formed entrance between the boulders to protect the girls and shield them from the cold. When Old Duffy picked up the headlights of the rescue team, he bolted away.  Maya saw the lights and crawled out.  The police scrambled to retrieve Emily and carried her over to the rescue vehicles.  The police were preoccupied with Emily and turned their backs to the scene.  Wendell approached Maya and said, “I believed in you all along. You too, Cooper.  Now the town will believe in me and I will have a home and a permanent job.”

As his eyes turned from silver to a dazzling amber, Wendell said, “You will be unstoppable.”

Seconds after Wendell spoke those words, Maya and Cooper found themselves back on the summit of Sundown Hill.  In the distance, Old Duffy appeared on the hill to the left. He let out a few yips and yaps, then, finished with an approving howl.  A breeze was blowing at their backs and into the high bluestem grass.  The scent of warm, fertile soil filled the air, harmonizing the mood.  Maya could hear the jubilant screams of her parents.  She was not fazed and focused her eyes on the setting sun and its beams that were dancing in the amber sky filled with silky, glittering seeds of aspiration.

 

For now, this concludes the adventures of Maya and Cooper!  All six chapters combined only takes about an hour to read.

Image is not mine and is downloadable, free wallpaper.

Sundown Hill – Five

Maya and Wendell sat down at a booth in the diner.  Maya orders macaroni and cheese with a side of cornbread.  Wendell settles for a cheeseburger and steak fries.  The booth was clean and even Maya squeaked as she moved about on the white and comfortably padded vinyl bench seat.  The place was well maintained and that made her feel safe.

“Now that we are away from the loud noise of the train and in the quiet, you can tell me more about why you are here,” Wendell said while keeping his voice low.

“You would not believe me,” whispered Maya.

“I know you are here to help me but I don’t get how you got all the way here by yourself.  Besides, there was hardly a scratch on you until you ran for the train.”

“I found this object that transports me to the people I am supposed to help.”

“Like a machine?”

“No.  It’s a real simple tablet.”

The waitress comes over and served them their meals.

“However, I have never had such difficulty helping someone.  Usually, my journey is only a few hours and not days.  My parents must be worried about me.”

“They probably have a whole town’s worth of folks looking for you,” Wendell said as he chomped down on his burger, letting the tomato slide out and fall to the plate.

“The coyote that attacked me when I jumped for the train has been following me.”

“Following you?”

“Yes, but this time Old Duffy seemed to help.”

“Hmmm. Maybe the coyote really wants your help.”

“Really?  I never thought of it that way,” Maya said with the thinking gears turning in her head.  “I’ve never noticed if his eyes are silver, too.”

“Why do you call him Old Duffy?”

“A girl I helped previously had named him that.  I am not sure. Maybe because he sat on his duff all the time,” chuckled Maya.

“The only way to find out is to help me first,” said Wendell as he flaunted his still silvery eyes.

“I know exactly what to do!”

“Then, let’s sleep on it.  There’s a motel next door.  We’ll get a fresh start early tomorrow.  They know me.  If they ask, just tell them you’re my second cousin’s daughter and I am escorting you to Edmonton.”

“Got it.”

After the quick meal, they pay up at the register.  There is a stack of local papers on the counter. Maya grabs one as they head out the door and over to the motel.

Inside the motel room, Wendell laid down on his bed and instantly fell asleep. Maya propped up some pillows on her bed, and started to read the paper she grabbed from the diner.  Her heart began to race as she read the front page headline; Local Girl Four Days Missing.  She tried to wake Wendell but it was no use.  She read about all the efforts to find the missing girl, Emily.  She began thinking about the same efforts that her parents must be leading and she drifted away from the story and into a deep sleep.  It was the kind of sleep that would cure all the fatigue and struggle she endured the past few days.  She dreamed of being in a familiar setting where she sat on the floor of her living room, completing her math exercises.  When she was all done and mom gave her the approval, she would have a play break with her dog, Cooper.  She would chase Cooper around the house.  Each room had a different table, creating a unique racetrack to be mastered.  She named each room after a popular speedway.  As Maya was at the end of her dream, she started mumbling, “We used to leave the blue lights on.  It’s all caffeine-free.  None of them want to fight me.  Cooper, none of them want to fight me.”  She awoke.  Eyes staring straight up.  Maya sat up and felt wide awake.  Refreshed and ready to start the day, she looked over to the other bed.  It was empty.  She called out for Wendell but there was no answer.  She noticed a faint, blue light coming from the bathroom.  This triggered the memory of her dream and it frightened her.  She called for Wendell one more time.  Slowly, she walked to the bathroom and peaked around the doorway.  There was a note next to the blue night light between the double sink.  She read aloud, “We used to leave the blue lights on. Meet me at the antique shop around the corner, Combat Baby.”

Wendell stood at the street corner as Maya approached.  She noticed that he looked different in a clean cut kind of way.  He had on a burgundy plaid flannel, dark blue jeans, and a pair of penny loafers.

“Where did you get the clothes?” she asked.  “You shaved, too!”

“Oh, the waitress at the diner keeps a fresh change for me when I stop here,” Wendell said hoping to avoid any further explanation.

“C’mon, let’s get to the antique shop,” as Maya walked away from him waving her left hand in a moment of hyper positivity.

“Wait, I’ve got to give you the plan.”

“No need, Wendell. I got this,” Maya said placing emphasis on the verb.

The two of them enter the shop and they are greeted by Heather, one of the owners.

“How can I help you,” asked Heather.

With a twinkle in her eye, Maya jumps right into it and says, “We’ve run into a bit of bad luck and we are out of money to get all the way to Edmonton.  My older relative, Wendell, is a great cabinet maker. I was hoping he could help out for a few days and for just enough to be on our way.”

“You can start right away, Heather said with a sense of relief.  “We just got a few pieces in that we could turn around for resale quickly if someone makes some minor repairs.”

Maya’s delighted grin only lasted a brief moment as Wendell’s eyes did not turn back to their normal color. She still saw them as silver.

“Thank you. I’ll get started but excuse us for one minute,” Wendell said as he led Maya outside of the shop.

“You need to head out to those hills. That’s where you’ll find your answer.”

“But you,” Maya started to say.

“No buts, I’ve got a hunch.”

Maya started to turn, took off her backpack and reached in for a friendship bracelet.  She placed it around Wendell’s wrist.

“Here, something for you to remember me.”

Wendell kneeled down for a long hug.  Then, Maya turned and hustled off.


Cooper was transported to the same ridge Maya had found herself earlier in the week.  It was not long before Cooper picked up her scent.  He came across a crude pile of leaves and pine needles and sniffed at it repeatedly.  He rummaged through the pile with his nose, exposing the leftover strawberry yogurt container Maya tried to bury.  Cooper gave a few licks retrieving the slim pickings.  He trotted down toward the tracks, found a small piece of blue jeans, and gave out a low, angry growl.  Someone or something had messed with Maya and Cooper could no longer pick up her scent.  However, he recognized the scent of Old Duffy.  He determined that when he found Old Duffy he would also find Maya.  He followed the trail away from the tracks and into the woods.  Cooper tracked all day and all night.  There were numerous small ponds and larger lakes in the area so Cooper was never short of water.  He decided to bed down for the night in the safety of a rock outcropping near the shoreline of a small lake.

The next morning Cooper awoke to find a light dusting of snow on the ground. Winter was approaching fast in the North and Cooper knew to pick up the pace.  He trotted until he came to the next lake.  He stopped briefly for a drink of water.  Looking all the way to the far end of the lake, he noticed the figure of a girl.  He thought it could be Maya.  He ran quickly.  When he arrived at the girl’s side, he realized it was not Maya.  Cooper could sense the girl was in trouble.  She could not speak and she was trapped.  Her right leg was caught between two boulders, each must have been a thousand pounds.  It would later be known that she was walking across the tops of the boulders when one shifted.  She slipped and the boulder tilted, trapping her but not crushing her leg.  She just did not have enough space to slip her foot back out.  Trapped for days, dehydrated and hypothermic, she did not have much longer.  She pointed in the direction she thought the town would be.  Cooper sensed her feeble command and let out a reassuring bark as he sprinted away for help.

 

The story concludes next week. Don’t miss out!

Maya’s dream references the lyrics of Combat Baby by Metric.

 

Sundown Hill – Four

Sarah did not have much patience for her daughter’s elusiveness.  She promptly marched across the field and up the hill only to find Cooper. Sarah got down on both knees and called out for Maya as she gently dug her fingers into the fur on the back of Cooper’s neck.  Sarah asked Cooper if he knew Maya’s whereabouts.  He wagged his tail and barked while looking down the steep side of the hill.

“Did she fall down the hill, Cooper?” asked Sarah with hope and anxiety in her voice.

She called out a few more times for Maya but to no avail.  She could not attempt to walk down the steep hill and thought it best to call upon the fire rescue squad.  Before she left, she looked outward and saw a black coyote running away.  Cooper saw it too and snarled.

“I’m going to get help,” said Sarah.  “Cooper, you stay here.”

Cooper had no intention moving from his spot.  He nosed the go tablet under the dense thatch of bluestem and sat beside the tablet in order to keep it out of sight.  In the distance, he could still see the coyote’s shady form.  It was not Old Duffy. No white patch.  Cooper wondered how many coyotes were out there and waited for the chaos to ensue.


jaspercanada
As the train approached Edmonton, Wendell asked, “You don’t have a Canadian way about you.  Where are you from, Maya?”

“Oklahoma!”

“I hope you brought your passport.”

“What’s that?”

Wendell slaps his left hand onto his right cheek, holding it there and shaking his head.

“You have to have a passport in a foreign country, especially if you intend on getting out!”

“Don’t worry.  I’ve got a way about me.”

“Yes. You sure do.”

The train began to slow unexpectedly as they neared the next stop.  Wendell peaked out the side door and saw what appeared to be two vehicles ahead.  They were gearing up for a train inspection.

“We must have been spotted at a previous stop,” said Wendell.  “You have to make a break for those trees!”

Maya screamed through the wind, “I can’t leave you!  I have to help you!”

“Well, I’m going to have to help you first by distracting them.  Now go!”

Maya jumped off the train while somehow keeping her balance and ran to the trees for cover.  The large conifers with their thick trunks were more than wide enough to hide a young girl.  The situation did not look good for Wendell as there now was a truck on each side of the tracks approaching fast.  The trucks came to a halt, sending so much dust into the air, that for a brief moment Wendell almost had a chance to run away unseen.  It was a trick and Wendell stood motionless in the railcar.  All of the sudden, four black coyotes trot out of the woods howling and calling to each other.

Maya was terrified as goose bumps covered her arms. She thought to herself she was going to be either caught by the yard bulls or the coyotes. Either way, her good deeds seemed to come to close before they even began.  The coyotes broke into pairs and started harassing the yard bulls, trapping them in their vehicles, howling and making threatening moves at the trucks.  The yard bulls threatened back with hitting the gas pedal, trying to hit the coyotes.  As this happened, one coyote jumped into the bed of the truck.  The rear window was open and the coyote forced its head through the small opening. Growling and snapping, it nipped one of the men’s ear and the truck veered over the rail ties and onto the tracks.  Wendell watched intently as the adrenaline of fight or flight grabbed him. Finally, flight won over.  Wendell seized the opportunity and jumped off the train and into the woods well ahead of Maya.  Maya ran across a carpet of dry needles that generated a faint aroma of holiday spirit and caught up with Wendell.

“What a lucky break,” said Wendell clearly out of breath.  “I have not seen black coyotes up this way in years.”

“I don’t think it is luck,” said Maya.  “Let’s make for the town.”

Old Duffy

As they started jogging toward the town, Maya had this strange sense she was being watched. She stopped and looked back at the train and sees a coyote sitting next to the lead engine with its tongue hanging out.  Its mouth was wide open but the coyote appeared to be grinning.  She glanced at the ears and saw the white patch of hairs.  Old Duffy for certain.  He got up on all fours and bobbed his head up motioning at the town as if to say, “Keep going. I got you covered.”  Then, Maya reminded herself how things sometimes are just complicated.

The town of Stony Plain is just thirty minutes outside of Edmonton and is known for its many, old renovated buildings.  Its history is discovered while searching around town for over thirty murals on the sides of buildings.  The depictions tend to be literal, showing prominent residents and their contributions to the town which has grown to a minimal city status of over fifteen thousand residents.  Maya and Wendell stop to marvel at one of the more imposing murals of the town’s first sheriff chaining a locomotive.

“Who was that man?” asked Maya.

“He was Israel, the strong arm of the law. He forced the railways to pay their taxes,” proclaimed Wendell.  “Now that I have my bearings, let’s get to the diner.”


Back in Oklahoma, Sundown Hill had been overrun with volunteers to search for Maya.  There were several trigger happy huntsmen looking to get their next coyote.  The fire rescue team repelled down the side of the steep end of the hill as several others gathered to watch the spectacle instead of actually lending a hand.  In the town, word had spread that several coyotes had been spotted in residential areas.  Mr. Stubbs claimed that one of his goats had gone missing, although no one could verify its disappearance was due to a coyote and the report amplified the concern to a panic.  There was disorganization on the left side of the hill and excessive shouts on the right side.  Maya could have easily been overlooked.  As evening prevailed, everyone headed back home with reassurance they would return tomorrow morning.

Rick, Sarah, and Cooper were all that remained atop of the hill.  Rick held Sarah close as they watched the sun set.  Sarah could not stop the tears from rolling.  The pain of her lost daughter was so great she could not voice a cry.  Cooper gently licked the tears from her face as the sun’s disc finally sunk out of view.  Rick and Sarah got the strength to head home but Cooper refused to follow.  Instead, he knew the time was right as he pawed at the go tablet, retrieving it from its hiding place.  He flipped the tablet over and placed his nose in the center of the tablet’s nothingness. Cooper vanished and his quest for Maya was under way.

Sundown Hill – Three

Chapter Three

After spending a half day at the veterinary clinic, Cooper was back home with several stitches and a wrapped leg.  The father, Rick, had plenty of time in the clinic’s waiting room to speculate about the black coyote.  He brought home all the ideas the townsfolk had in regards to this aggressive animal.  He gave an open invitation to anyone who may know how to track it.

“Are they going to shoot it?” pouted Maya.

“No. There will be no shooting around this household,” proclaimed Rick.  “I think it is a good idea for us to find the coyote and send it to a safer place.”

“It may have been spooked away from the refuge by a hunter,” said Sarah, Maya’s mom.

The Witchita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is one of the best kept secrets outside of southeastern Oklahoma.  The majestic acreage teeming with animals was just another reason the family moved to the state.  Maya called Cooper over and placed a blue and gold friendship bracelet on Cooper’s right leg as he gently licked the side of her face.

“That will help you heal faster,” said Maya with certainty.

A week had passed and the cold, morning air that crept through Maya’s window awakened her at last.  Autumn was arriving and she couldn’t rely on the sunlight to get her out of bed.  As she pushed the covers off with her feet, Cooper jumped to the floor.  Maya went over to close the window, brushed aside the loose-weave burlap curtain, and looked out to the rolling hills.  Today would be the day, she thought.  She could no longer deny the calling of Sundown Hill.  She went quietly down the stairs, opened one of the cabinets, and grabbed a pair of scissors out of the organizer.  Maya turned an ear to the stairs to make sure she had not stirred her mother to action.  She kneeled down, cut the wrapping off of Cooper’s leg, and tossed it into the trash.  They kept the dog food under the sink.  She poured out a small portion and filled the water bowl.  As Cooper began to eat, Maya grabbed a strawberry yogurt and had a quick breakfast.

“Come on, Cooper. Let’s sneak out before mom gets up.”

At the last second, she grabbed another yogurt and stuffed it into her backpack.  They made their way swiftly up to the hill.  Maya had no trouble locating the go tablet.  She placed her hand on Cooper’s head and touched the center of the nothingness.  However, at the last second, Cooper picked up the sound of mom’s callings and he lost contact with Maya.


canadafall2

Maya found herself on a ridge trail looking outward to the valley below.  The golden yellow hues of the leaves and the lush greens of the grasses and conifers were weaved together in such a graceful way, Maya shivered out a tear.  She could see railroad tracks extending for miles alongside a river as they disappeared between two mountains.  Farther out, the mountains were topped with snow and the view brought her into the reality that it was quite cold.  There was no sight of a town or even a building.  In that moment, she recognized Cooper, her chaperone and her protector, was not there.  She thought it best to make her way down to the tracks.  The trip down the valley would take a few hours.

When she finally arrived at the railroad tracks, she remembered an old trick her father taught her to determine if a train was coming.  Looking forward, she placed her right ear on the railroad tie and listened.  There was nothing to hear or vibrations to be felt.  She walked for ten minutes, kneeled down and listened again.  This time, she thought she felt something like the shimmy of car with a rough idle. She turned her head the other way to listen.

“Ahh!” Maya lets out a long shriek.

The train was approaching from behind her.  She scrambled to her feet and began to calm down once she realized how slow the train was going. Still, it only took three or four minutes for the train to reach her and when it did the conductor blew the whistle loudly.  The sound was deafening and Maya covered her ears as she watched the engine pass by.  The brakes squeaked and sparked as the cars slowly moved along.  She noticed some of the railcars were branded with Canadian National.  Now she was certain she was in Canada.  The train was still moving too fast for Maya to try and cling to a ladder or hop into an open side door if she could find one.  She spotted one side door open some twenty cars behind her. Only one.  She started to jog along to time a jump.  Suddenly, the air behind her filled with the sound of a coyote’s cry.  Maya looked back and over her shoulder.  It was Old Duffy and he was closing in on her fast.  She stumbled and fell forward.  Her hands kept her from a complete fall and she started to run.  Looking to the left, she could see that one and only one open rail car.  She had to make a jump for it as the coyote was nearly upon her.  Just as she leaped, a man appeared at the doorway of the open railcar and extended his hand as far as he could.  Maya clenched on as Old Duffy grabbed the bottom hem of the jeans on her left leg.  The jeans tore away and Maya was safe inside the railcar.

“What’s a young girl like you doing out here in the wilderness of Alberta?” asked the stranger.

Looking up at the man, Maya noticed his silver eyes and says, “I’m here to help you.”

“Oh, really!” said the man. “How do you intend to do that?”

“First, tell me your name. I’m Maya.”

“I’m Wendell.”

“Well, my dad always said if you want help, you always have to tell people your story.  So, what’s your story, Wendell?”

“For many years, my brother and I were in business together. He owned most of the business. He was the brains and I was the workhorse.  We made custom cabinets. He passed and I did not have the skills to run the business.  The economy slowed down two years ago and the money stopped coming in. I’ve been riding trains ever since.”

“But why? Why not get another job,” Maya said confusingly.

“I wanted to see the beauty of nature before my time came instead of wasting my life in a small workshop,” Wendell’s voice grumbled to a close.  “Besides, jobs are scarce now.”

“I’ll find you a job when we get to the next town,” Maya defiantly exclaimed.

“First, we’ve got to bandage up that left hand of yours,” said Wendell.

Maya looked down at her hand to see the skin all scrambled up and bloodied from her fall while running to catch the train. She faints from the sight and Wendell sets her down gently on the wooden floor of the railcar.  Wendell wraps her hand with gauze and applies a safety pin to keep it on tight.

“You are very lucky to even be on the train,” said Wendell.

“How’s that?” said Maya.

“These days it’s hard to find a freight car with its doors open,” said Wendell. “The yard bulls do a good job of train inspection and keeping riders off of them.”

An outcrop of rocks dotted with scrub trees and bushes came into view.  As the train passed, Maya thought she saw Old Duffy sitting atop one of the boulders.  A minute or two later, Old Duffy darts from the edge of the woods and starts running toward the train.  He is now sprinting alongside the freight car.  Maya freezes in panic as she fears Old Duffy is going to make a jump for it. He does.  Now inside the freight car he heads straight for Wendell.  The coyote bites him on his left bicep.  Wendell lets out an angry yell and Maya shrieks as she awakens rattled.

“Whew! It was just a dream.”

“You keep resting, Maya. We are still hours away from Edmonton.

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