This is part three of The Mission, my five part series based on prompts from the site Describli. I am also posting these on there, so if anyone wants to hop over and take a look at me on there, here’s the link.
At some point, if I can work out how, I plan on making a list of the parts, in a blog post, or somehow else. I’m not that technically minded, so I’m not sure how it’s done. But I will try and work it out. 🙂
Today’s prompt: The tree at the centre of the village
“Get down!” Drawler called.
A rope ladder dropped from the solid cloud, silhouetted in the light.
Hands dragged Lena out of the spotlight. Her legs were paralysed, heavy, barely capable of moving.
She was pulled down the side of the train, somehow clambered back through the open window.
She and Zinna were a collapsed heap on the floor. Drawler ran off down the central aisle, in the direction of the engine.
“Lena,” Zinna said. “Are you alright?”
She rubbed at her head. It felt thick, heavy, like her legs.The buzzing was still above them. The light shone through the windows. The end of the ladder thumped against the glass.
Zinna pulled her into the middle of the aisle, into the narrow strip where the light couldn’t reach. “What in the world’s going on?” she muttered.
Thoughts started to flow again, processing what was happening. The train lurched forward, the steaming, hissing, clanking of it drowning out the ominous buzzing of the searching cloud.
“It stunned me,” Lena said. “I couldn’t move, think.”
“I noticed,” Zinna said. She pulled Lena up into a seat. “Do you trust him?”
“No. But I trust what he wants. He’ll do right until he gets it.”
He re-entered the carriage, his relaxed saunter back.
“And you’re clear on what it is he wants?” she asked, hushed.
Lena couldn’t reply, he was too close.
“What happened?” Zinna snapped at him.
He grimaced, and rubbed at the back of his bare head. His hat had blown away on the roof of the train. “I told you. Trident’s men.”
“And that thing? The thing in the sky that stunned Lena? That was no sp-”
“Ssh,” Lena hissed. They didn’t have space travel here.
Zinna made a frustrated noise.
“An airship,” Drawler said. “It’s an airship.”
Lena had read about them. They were ancient. A bit like steam trains.
The light outside the train faded away. The airship leaving.
“Looks like they’re giving up,” Drawler said, and slid into the seat opposite Lena and Zinna. “Let’s just get on with our journey, huh?” He leaned back and closed his eyes, hands laced over his stomach.
Zinna glared at him, but said no more.
The sky started to lighten, the sun rising faster than it should.
The train juddered to a stop.
Drawler opened his eyes. “Looks like we’re here.”
A village beyond the platform could be seen from the window. Sparse. Barely there.
They got off the train. The tracks ended in front of the steaming engine. How would the train get back?
As if reading her mind, Drawler said, “Don’t ask.”
Down the back of the platform, and into the village. There wasn’t any sense to the houses, it was as if a child had dropped them down, careless of where they fell. In the centre stood a tree. Old. Withered. The reason for the village’s existence.
The earth was worn down near it, many feet having passed over it. Drawler stopped about five paces from where the grey roots began. “Well, we’re here,” he said.
Zinna held out a gloved hand. “I can feel it. The energy,” she said. “What we seek is here.”
“Good,” Drawler said. “I’d hate to have dragged you ladies out here for nothin’.”
Lena narrowed her eyes. “You weren’t sure?”
He lifted one shoulder, a nonchalant gesture. “Ninety per cent, sugar.”
She gritted her teeth. Never mind. It was here. The alternative outcome didn’t matter.
All they had to do was get to it.
This story is connected to my previous short story, which was my first foray into sci-fi, Escape.