Marissa looked up. Her daughter was holding a Mason jar with three big holes in the lid. Inside the jar was a bright glow—a firefly.
“That’s nice, honey,” Marissa said. “You should put a little grass in there. It might make your new friend a little more comfortable. Give him something to munch on.”
Her daughter looked at her doubtfully. “It’s a ‘her,’ Mom. And I don’t think fairies like to eat grass.”
“I’m sure you know best,” Marissa said.
Dusk deepened into night, and before long, Marissa could no longer read her book.
She stood up.
“Ginny!” Marissa called. “Ginny, time to come in!”
Ginny came running toward the porch, clutching her Mason jar. The firefly shone brightly in the dark.
“Honey, you should let the firefly go now,” Marissa said.
Ginny clutched the jar protectively. “She’s a fairy, Mom.”
“Okay. You should let the fairy go, then.”
“She wants to spend the night,” Ginny said. “I promised she could. I said I’d show her my room.”
“All right,” Marissa said, holding out a hand. “You can bring her in tonight. But you have to let her go in the morning. Deal?”
“Deal,” Ginny said.
She took her mother’s hand, and the two of them climbed up the steps to the house.
“Did you get her some grass so she’d have a nice place to sleep?” Marissa said.
“I told you she doesn’t like grass,” Ginny replied.
The two of them went inside, and Marissa locked the door.
In the morning, Marissa went to wake her daughter.
“Come on, sleepyhead,” she said. “I know it’s Sunday, but it’s time to get up.”
She opened the curtains in her daughter’s room, and sunshine poured in.
Marissa turned toward her daughter’s bed.
Ginny wasn’t there. And her bed apparently hadn’t been slept in.
“Ginny?” Marissa called. “Ginny?”
She walked through the house.
Ginny was nowhere to be found.
Marissa did a quick circuit of the neighborhood. No one had seen her daughter.
Marissa called the police.
Several hours later, the police had come and gone, and Marissa sat on Ginny’s bed, clutching her daughter’s favorite stuffed bear. Marissa had also called her own mother and the rest of her family. Her mother and her siblings were coming to stay with her, but they were hours away—all of them would have to fly in and then drive to her house.
Until then, Marissa was alone.
She looked down at the stuffed bear and then at the rest of her daughter’s room. Nothing had been disturbed—not a single toy or trinket was out of place—and there was no sign of forced entry on any of the windows or doors. But Ginny was only six years old. She could hardly have left on her own.
Marissa tried not to think of what could have happened to her daughter.
She continued to sit in Ginny’s room, and the day wore away. Soon dusk was coming on, and Marissa thought of how happy her daughter had been yesterday with her firefly.
It began to rain just a little, and the last rosy rays of the sunset were extinguished.
Marissa saw a tiny glow coming from the Mason jar by her daughter’s bed, and she stood up.
The least she could do was set the firefly free.
Marissa frowned as she picked up the jar.
It was empty.
Ginny had insisted that grass wasn’t necessary, so Marissa could see quite clearly that there was no firefly in the jar.
But nonetheless, something in the jar was glowing.
Marissa peered at it closely. There was a tiny pile of what appeared to be dust in the center of the jar. The dust shone with a soft, golden glow.
As Marissa’s eyes grew accustomed to the light, she saw that there was a little, golden trail that led in a straight line right up to Ginny’s window.
Marissa hurried over to it and threw it open.
Sure enough, a glowing, golden trail led from the window, across the backyard, and on into the neighbor’s yard. The rain seemingly had no effect on it, and it didn’t appear as if it would wash away.
Marissa grabbed an umbrella and her keys and hurried outside.
As she ran across her backyard and then across her neighbor’s yard, Marissa had to wonder what she was doing. The glowing trail appeared to be a clue as to where her daughter had gone, but now that Marissa thought about it, there was no way that could be. No kidnapper would leave a glowing trail…unless her daughter actually had caught a fairy last night.
Marissa swiped her hair out of her eyes and kept running—the trail was leading her to the nearby woods. She plunged into the trees and jumped over a fallen log and wondered if she was going crazy.
Did she honestly believe her daughter had caught a fairy? Did she truly believe she was following a trail of glowing fairy dust right now? Common sense crowded in and told Marissa that she was hallucinating—she was just seeing what she wanted to see. She should go back home and wait for her family.
But Marissa kept running.
The trail led all the way to a little ring of mushrooms.
Marissa stepped into it, and the forest promptly disappeared.
She found herself standing in an open field. The moon was shining brightly overhead, and the rain appeared to have stopped. Close by was one towering tree, and clustered at the base of it were hundreds of tiny lights. Marissa could hear a murmur of soft voices.
She stepped closer and kneeled down.
“I told you she’d come,” said a tart voice.
A little golden orb of light, a bit bigger than the others, rose up to Marissa’s eye level.
Marissa saw with shock that a tiny woman was standing inside the orb.
“I am Queen Cora,” the little woman said. “Welcome to my realm.”
Though Marissa could scarcely believe she was doing it, she answered.
“It’s nice to meet you, Your Majesty,” she said. “My name is Marissa. Have you seen my daughter? She’s six years old, and she’s missing. Her name is Ginny.”
A look of extreme disapproval crossed the queen’s face, and she turned her head.
“Arina, come here.”
A tinier orb of golden light floated over to hover beside the queen. Marissa could see what appeared to be a little girl standing in the orb.
Queen Cora turned to Marissa.
“This is my daughter, Arina,” she said. She glanced at the fairy girl. “Arina, tell the nice lady what happened to Ginny.”
The fairy girl began to cry. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“Never mind that,” the queen said. “Just tell her what happened.”
Arina looked up at Marissa tearfully. “I met Ginny last night. She said we could have a ‘sleepover.’ I told her I didn’t know what that was. She said I could stay in her room, and we could stay up all night and tell each other stories. Ginny said she’d never had a sleepover before because they were for bigger kids.”
Arina began to cry again and couldn’t go on.
“Arina,” Queen Cora said, “that’s enough of that. This is why we have rules against bringing humans here. Tell Marissa what happened to her daughter.”
The fairy girl sniffled but went on. “So we had the sleepover, and I told Ginny that daytime is like night for us—that’s when we sleep. So I said we could go at dawn to my house and have another sleepover during the day. And then Ginny could go home at night.”
“And then what happened?” Queen Cora said.
“And then the Night Dragon grabbed Ginny!” Arina wailed. “Right after we came through the fairy ring! It wasn’t my fault!”
“That’ll do,” Queen Cora said. “Go to your room.”
Arina flew off sobbing. She disappeared into the giant tree.
The queen turned to Marissa. “The Night Dragon has your daughter. I am deeply, deeply sorry.”
“The Night Dragon?” Marissa said.
“You in the mortal world would not be aware of this,” Queen Cora said, “but night comes because the Night Dragon swallows the sun at dusk. And then every morning she coughs it up again.”
“I see,” Marissa said.
“When Arina brought Ginny through the fairy ring,” Queen Cora said, “the Night Dragon was still roaming the realm, looking for things to eat.”
“To eat?” Marissa said in alarm.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” the queen said quickly. “I am quite sure the Night Dragon hasn’t eaten Ginny. But I am equally sure that she won’t give your daughter up easily. Human children are valuable here—they can be used for all manner of spells and incantations. I’m sure the Night Dragon has some use for the poor child. This world is a dangerous one for humans.”
“Where is the Night Dragon?” Marissa said. “Take me to her! I need to save my daughter!”
Queen Cora sighed. “I knew you’d say that—it’s what I myself would say. I will take you to the Night Dragon. And what’s more, I’ll lend what help I can. The dragon is surrounded by an aura that dulls my magic whenever I am near her—and it’s been getting worse lately. But what little magic I have, I’ll share.”
“Thank you,” Marissa said.
The queen looked at her. “I don’t suppose you brought any weapons?”
“I brought these,” Marissa said.
She held up her keys and her umbrella.
“Not exactly a sword and shield,” the queen said. “But they will have to do.”
The queen floated closer to Marissa.
“Take my hand, and I will guide you to the Night Dragon’s lair.”
Marissa stretched out a finger until it just touched the tiny woman’s hand, and then suddenly she found herself airborne.
Moments later, they began to fly through the air.
With the moon shining at their backs, Marissa and the queen flew over fields, forests, and rivers. Marissa scarcely had time to take it in before the queen brought them down to the ground again.
In front of them yawned a great cave.
“In there we will find the Night Dragon,” Queen Cora said. “Your daughter should be in there with her.”
The queen floated into the cave, and her golden glow gave Marissa just enough light to see by.
Marissa followed the queen and held her umbrella and keys out in front of her.
She found herself hoping that the dragon was just as tiny as the queen.
But she was not to be that lucky. Queen Cora soon guided her to a large, round, stone chamber. The queen blew some golden dust up into the air, and Marissa could see what looked like an enormous reptile sleeping on a pile of gold and jewels—it was most definitely a dragon. The creature was covered from head to toe with black scales, and smoke poured steadily from her two great nostrils. The beast’s eyes were closed, and beside her slept a small child.
Marissa gasped. It was Ginny.
She took a step forward.
“Wait,” Queen Cora hissed. “The Night Dragon has eaten the sun and finished her prowling for the night. She should sleep soundly. If we are very quiet, we should be able to rescue your daughter without waking the dragon up.”
The queen floated over to the pile of gold and jewels, and Marissa followed, taking as much care as she could not to make any noise.
The queen guided her up the slippery pile of treasure, and Marissa reached Ginny without disturbing so much as a single coin.
She scooped her sleeping daughter into her arms and began to climb back down the pile of gold silently.
Ginny stirred and opened her eyes.
She blinked for a moment, and then her eyes seemed to focus.
“Mom!” Ginny cried. “Mom! There’s a dragon! Help!”
The dragon’s eyes opened, and she turned her head toward Marissa and Ginny.
“Mom!” Ginny cried. “Mom!”
The dragon rose up on all four legs.
“The child is mine,” the Night Dragon said in a deep, sepulchral voice.
Marissa could feel the words vibrating in her chest.
The dragon spun around, and the great tail slammed into Marissa and threw her and Ginny through the air.
Marissa crashed to the ground and quickly moved to shield Ginny with her body. Queen Cora flew to Marissa’s side.
“Ready your weapons,” the queen said. “I’ll lend what magic I can.”
The dragon swung her tail again and struck Marissa and the queen a great blow. The two of them flew through the air and came to land heavily on the ground.
Marissa could hear her daughter whimpering on the other side of the cave.
“I told you the child was mine,” the Night Dragon said.
She reared back and took in a deep breath, her vast chest expanding.
“She’s going to breath fire!” the queen cried. “Use your weapons!”
Marissa had just a moment to see an orange spark before she opened the umbrella and held it out in front of her.
She felt something hit the umbrella, but the heat she expected to feel never came. Instead, she could see bright light flowing all around her but not touching her.
“It’s working!” the queen cried. “The shield is working. Let’s get your daughter!”
Holding the umbrella out in front of her, Marissa worked her way around the cave until she reached her daughter.
“Get behind me!” Marissa cried.
Ginny quickly scrambled behind her mother and the umbrella.
“Follow me!” the queen said.
The dragon continued to breathe fire on Marissa, but the umbrella shield held, and Queen Cora led them all out of the cave.
Soon Marissa, Ginny, and the queen were all out in the open air. The Night Dragon followed them and rose up into the sky, her great, black wings unfurling in the light of the moon.
The dragon’s eyes blazed fiercely, and she drew in breath to unleash more fire.
“We’ll never be able to escape her!” Queen Cora cried. “We’ll have to fight back.”
“How?” Marissa said.
“Use your sword,” the queen replied.
“The thing you brought with you,” the queen said. “The little, jangling thing with the ring. I’m not quite sure what you call it.”
“You mean my keys?” Marissa said.
“Yes—your keys,” the queen said. “Just hold them out like a sword.”
The Night Dragon shot another blast of fire at the little group, and Marissa brought her umbrella up just in time. This time, she also held her keys out as if they were a weapon.
Marissa felt something heavy hit the umbrella, and then she felt a warm tingle in her arm.
The fiery blast from the dragon subsided, and then Marissa’s arm began to tremble. She saw the keys in her hand begin to glow, and she quickly dropped the umbrella.
A stream of fire shot out of her keys and struck the dragon. The fire kept coming and coming, and before long, the Night Dragon turned and flew away into the night. Soon she was nothing but a dark speck against the moon, and after a moment, the speck disappeared.
“Mom! The dragon is gone!” Ginny cried.
Marissa collapsed on the ground.
“I can’t believe we did it,” she said. She turned to the queen. “Thank you for using your magic to help us.”
Queen Cora looked embarrassed. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Of course you did. You turned my umbrella into a shield and my keys into a sword or a laser or whatever it was.”
The queen shook her head. “I didn’t do anything. The Night Dragon’s baleful aura had its usual effect on me. I wasn’t able to lend you any assistance at all.”
“But how can that be?” Marissa said. “These are just ordinary household objects. They don’t have any special power.”
She glanced down at the umbrella and keys. They weren’t even warm—let alone singed.
“I don’t know,” Queen Cora said. She glanced over at Ginny. “I’ve heard love can cast powerful magic. Perhaps a mother’s love is the most powerful magic of all.”
Ginny glanced up into the sky fearfully. “Is the dragon really gone?”
The queen floated close to her. “Yes, dear child, the Night Dragon has been vanquished—for now. But she has been vanquished before, and she always returns. We’d better get the two of you home.”
Queen Cora stretched out both of her hands, and Marissa and Ginny each put out a finger to touch the hands of the tiny queen.
Soon they were flying through the air, and before too long, all three of them floated into Ginny’s bedroom. The queen set them all down gently.
“Night is fading, and I must be off,” Queen Cora said. “It was nice to meet you, Marissa and Ginny, and I hope you won’t be offended if I can’t invite you back to my realm again. Our world is too dangerous for fragile humans such as yourselves.”
The queen floated up into the air.
Before Marissa or Ginny could reply, the queen had disappeared.
Mother and daughter were seated on the bed, and Ginny crawled onto her mother’s lap.
“Mom,” she said. “I really did find a fairy.”
“Yes,” Marissa replied. “You really did find a fairy.”
I’ve got a flash fiction story here for you that I’ve just written. It’s a paranormal romance story about a magical train, and I’m going to try to do one of these flash stories every Friday. I can’t make any promises about the commas.
Train to Somewhere
I’d always wanted to try out the train.
People said it was unpredictable. People said there was no way to know where you would end up.
But it was the only way to get out of town.
The day was hot and dusty, and as I walked down to the train station, I met no one on the way. The station was likewise empty when I reached it, and I bought a ticket from an ancient, weathered vending machine.
I sat down on a bench with my flimsy slip of a ticket and commenced to wait.
The hot, dry wind blew dust in my eyes, and I watched the one set of tracks in both directions. I had no idea which direction the train would come from.
I waited and waited, but the train didn’t come.
After a while, I wanted to sleep, but I was afraid I would miss the train, and the bench really wasn’t that comfortable.
I continued to wait, and as the heat became truly oppressive, I saw something small and dark shimmering out in the haze.
The train was finally coming.
The train pulled to a stop in front of me, and a conductor got out. He took my ticket from me wordlessly, and I boarded the train.
I walked down the aisle and saw that all the seats were full.
No one looked up as I passed by.
I walked on through the cars until I found an empty seat. I sat down without looking at the person who was next to me.
The train pulled out of the station.
We rode on for a while, and eventually, I fell asleep. When I awoke, we were pulling into the next station.
The passenger seated next to me stood up abruptly, and I moved to let him pass. Then I slid over to the seat he’d vacated and looked out the window.
Somehow, we were on a beach, and as I watched, a crowd of passengers stepped out of the train and walked across the sand down toward the sparkling water.
I opened the window and leaned out. I could smell the salt air, and a seagull flew overhead in the clear blue sky. It looked like a beautiful place to get out.
I moved to follow the other passengers, but then I heard a voice in my head:
“Find what you have lost.”
I sat back in my seat.
The train rolled on, and eventually I felt the train slowing down again. As we pulled to a stop, I looked out the window. This time we were in a forest, and I could see a clearing that sloped down to a lake. Blue mountains rose off in the distance.
From the window, I could see more people leaving the train. This time there were a lot of families, and most of them had luggage. One family even had a picnic basket.
This, too, looked like a good place to get out. I stood up to go, but once again, I heard a voice in my head:
“Find what you have lost.”
I sat back down again.
The train moved on once more, and this time when we pulled to a stop, I looked out the window and saw a landscape of snow and ice. There were trees that had been silvered by ice, and white powder stretched as far as the eye could see.
I watched as more people disembarked from the train, but despite the beauty of the place, I remained in my seat. I knew what I would hear.
“Find what you have lost.”
The train started up again. I looked around and saw that my car seemed to be empty.
I got up and walked down the aisle. Sure enough, all the seats I passed were unoccupied.
I moved on into the next car, and that one was also empty.
I was just moving into the next one when the train pulled to a stop.
I looked out the window.
In front of me was a strangely featureless landscape—there was neither earth nor sky, just gray above and below. And in the grayness, I could see a figure standing.
The set of his shoulders was familiar, and even though his back was to me, I knew exactly who it was.
It was James.
I ran out of the train, and this time there was no voice.
I had found what I’d lost—I had lost James. And I missed him.
I stepped out into the strange grayness and ran toward him.
But even as I ran toward him, I could feel myself hesitating.
I had loved James very much. And he had left me.
I reached him, and he turned toward me.
My heart still fluttered when he said my name.
“I’ve missed you, Penny,” James said. “It’s good to see you again.”
I looked into his beautiful, brown eyes and felt the same pull toward him that I always did.
“I knew you’d come back to me,” he said.
I felt the spell his eyes created snap.
I took a step back.
“You left me,” I said.
“I know,” James said. “But that’s because you couldn’t be what I wanted. I knew you’d come back and tell me you were sorry.”
“You knew I’d come back?” I said.
“And tell you I was sorry—that I was ready to change for you?”
James smiled. “Yes.”
James’ smile had once made me melt.
This time it made me angry.
I stepped away from him.
“You’re wrong,” I said. “I never needed to change.”
James gave me an indulgent smile. “It’s okay, Penny. I forgive you. You don’t need to be defensive.”
“You forgive me?”
I turned and ran from him.
“Penny!” James called. “Penny, where are you going?”
“You left me!” I shouted back to him. “But I should have left you!”
I ran toward the train, which was miraculously still waiting for me.
I heard the train begin to start up again, and I ran and jumped onto it as it pulled away.
I flung myself into a seat and looked out the window.
James was staring after me.
The train rolled on, and eventually he disappeared.
The train continued to chug along for what felt like half an hour.
Then it pulled to a stop once more.
I looked out the window and saw a bare, dusty train station. A man was dozing on a bench, and he started awake as the train came to its noisy halt.
He was young and wide-eyed, and he looked around as if he didn’t quite know where he was.
I heard the train doors open, and I hurried to the exit.
I stepped down from the train and looked around. Aside from the young man, the station was deserted.
I walked over to the man.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he replied. “Is this the train? I mean the train? The train to Somewhere?”
I glanced back at the train. “I think it is. My name’s Penny, by the way.”
The young man stood up quickly and held out his hand.
“I’m Henry. Nice to meet you.”
I took his hand. It was warm and strong.
I looked up into his eyes—they were brown, like James’, but there was a difference. Henry’s eyes were warm.
“So, Henry, are you getting on the train?” I asked.
“Are you?” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
“Then so am I,” he replied.
The two of us climbed onto the train and sat down next to each other.
As the train pulled out of the station, Henry glanced out the window.