(Sorry this is a little late, guys.)
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2011 Sheila McClune
“Ow!” I yelped. It took me a moment to identify the source—or rather, sources—of the pain: one of the pole-hangers had landed more or less in my lap, and the back of my head had simultaneously cracked into the window behind me. Bits of broken safety glass rained down around me. “Son of a…” I rubbed the incipient bump on the back of my noggin, trying to focus on my surroundings, but everything had gone all green and shimmery, like we were underwater on an alien spaceship. “What the hell…?”
“Oh, God. Sorry,” mumbled a male voice from somewhere around my crotch.
I looked down to see a head of dark, curly hair in my lap. Judging by how things felt, the man must have conked his forehead on my pubic bone. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as the back of my head, but it was still painful, not to mention embarrassing. “Look, do you mind…?” I shifted my hips, trying to give him a hint to move along.
“God. I’m really, really sorry.” I felt him stir, then groan in pain. “Oh, shit. I think my arm’s broken.” He rolled onto his right side, and in the dim light, I could see that he cradled his left arm to his chest. Blood ran from his nose and dripped onto his t-shirt. I guessed he was about my age, but it was hard to tell in the weird green light.
My Girl Scout first aid training leapt to the fore. I disentangled my legs from around him and slid to my knees beside him, fumbling in my bag for something, anything I could use as a sling. “Can you move your fingers at all?”
He shook his head, wincing. “No.”
I finally came up with the plastic rain poncho I’d carried around for years and never used. Ripping it out of its package, I shook it open and tried to find some corners to tie together.
He watched me with a puzzled expression on his face. “What’s that for?”
“I’m making you a sling.”
He laughed, but with an edge of hysteria in his voice. “Oh, come on. The EMTs’ll be here before you get that figured out. Why don’t you go for help instead?”
“Oh.” Embarrassed, I dropped the poncho and tried, shakily, to stand. My head ached, and it didn’t help any that the car was tilted down toward the front end, throwing my balance off. I turned to look and saw, for the first time, the minivan-sized lump of rock that had shattered the train’s front window and halted our progress. “Whoa. Looks like the tunnel collapsed.” Then I turned and looked the other way, and that was even worse, because the far end of the car was obscured by a greenish, rippling curtain of light. “Gah! What the hell is that?”
The guy on the floor turned to see where I was looking. “Holy crap. Either I hit my head harder than I thought, or we’re in an episode of Stargate.”
Cautiously, I stepped closer to the barrier. As far as I could tell, it cut the train car more-or-less in half. I stopped abruptly when I spotted a pair of legs sticking out of it, down at floor-level. The legs were moving, wriggling around. As I watched, they started to disappear into the green curtain.
“Wait, stop!” I threw myself at the legs and grabbed, trying to tug the person back to my side of the curtain. I didn’t know what that thing was, but it only made sense to me that people—even halves of them—shouldn’t ought to pass through it until we knew it was safe.
But the legs had other ideas. They kicked, frantically, and finally broke free. I fell backwards onto my rump. “Oof!”
“What is it? What happened?” The man’s voice from the other end of the car was sharp with worry.
“Someone just got sucked into that thing, whatever it is. I tried to stop them, but…”
“Yeah.” I stood up again and approached the curtain of light. It rippled like water, except that it was poisonous, bug-gut green. This close to it, I could almost see through it, at least enough to make out the outlines of the rest of the train car and some blurry figures moving around in it. I couldn’t quite bring myself to touch it, though.
Looking to either side, I could see that the curtain only seemed to extend a little way beyond the train car. “Hey, I wonder if we can get around that thing if we go through the tunnel? Or if nothing else, we can’t be all that far from Concourse B. I’m just going to check and find out.” I grabbed the nearest door and began to push on it to get it open.
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