By Raji Singh
My great grandmother Shelva wrote hundreds of fables. They told of strange happenings among the beasts and creatures living in forests on the outskirts of Lindia City, Lindia, and Cincinnati, U.S.A. Some were for adults, others for children, and many for both. In this accounting, she incorporates whimsical fare into her harrowing girlhood journey across Russia.
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Evidently, Captain Polly and Cecily Cobra were quite busy after the passengers retired to their sleeper berths. The bird and snake must have spent hours jiggling loose the handles and sliding-open the doors to the railway cars. They’ve created a raceway over 100 feet long for themselves in the dimly lit corridors.
I hear Cecily continually thumping the floor and Captain Polly on occasion bumping the walls as they compete in continuous heats. I barely see them as I look through the curtains of our glass wall compartment because they’re a speed blur. They seem to move fast as the train. Any passengers awakened by them surely wouldn’t emerge from their berths and risk getting clawed or bitten. I look out the window as we round a corner. Luny Mum, milky full, appears to be in the running as she maneuvers swiftly through the hillsides alongside us.
What I see next amazes me, cheers me. The scary man who has been following and pestering me on the trip, backs from his compartment not realizing he is right in the flight-crawl path.
I cannot help but think, ‘my dear friends Captain Polly and Cecily Cobra, they planned this to protect me. Some strange creature instinct they utilize, to lure him from his lair of hiding.’
Cecily spools loosely around his legs, so he cannot move. Captain Polly rams into his head and seizes his lifetime’s growth of hair. It looks like a turban, coiled like inch-thick rope, twenty feet long. Off she flies, grasping the end in her beak, unfurling it. This makes him spin like a top; so fast that the metal heel protectors of his shoes spark, sizzle, and squeal. The leather of the footwear smolders, producing a ghastly acrid odor that quickly permeates the whole train.
The Conductor suddenly appears and shouts. “We must douse him so he doesn’t ignite the locomotive.” A half-dozen porters rush from the engine room with a taut fire hose and extinguish him.
A pair of the Czar’s Cossack scruffy bearded commanders has been traveling on the train back to their home base to report on their troop’s activities of rack and ruin. One of them shouts, “We must incarcerate the fiend. Most certainly he is on his way to the Winter Palace to assassinate our beloved Czar by way of some bizarre form of self-combustion.”
Porters step gingerly around Cecily Cobra and seize him.
Snake and Bird assist the porters; Captain Polly by leading the culprit, as if he’s on a pet leash, Cecily by continually swatting his backside with the blunt sides of her sturdy fangs as she crawls half-erect behind him.
“Youch, youch, youch,” are his continual responses each time they yank or swat. Passengers awakened by the commotion cheer as creature duo promenade their prey in Luny Mum’s continuous glow.
‘Whew, Shelva,’ you tell myself. ‘Your troubles are over. No longer can he bother you.’
You look down and realize you are only imagining. Cecily Cobra curls in her basket, dozing. Captain Polly perches on Cecily’s head. Captain Polly sniffs between snores. They’re in front of the compartment’s door, shielding you from anyone who may have been considering snatching you.
The stalking man is still at bay.
The train whistle blares shrilly, startling you. As you look up and out the compartment glass, you see what only a moment before you thought was impossibility. You clench your fists, in fear. You shake. Perspire. You look to Papa. He has turned in his sleeping-sitting position. He leans his head into a pillow. You cannot decide if you should wake him to tell what you see.
It is Blackjack Fiction. He is just down the corridor. He is talking to the rope haired man he swore earlier in the evening he hadn’t seen and didn’t know. You want to cry out,
‘Blackjack, I thought you were my best friend. Why do you betray me? Will next you harm me? What you are seeing, Shelva. It cannot be real. It must be imaginary, like Captain Polly and Cecily’s racing.’ You blink. ‘No! It is real. But Blackjack must have a reason for his actions. Please, he simply must.’
NEXT WEEK: THE ROPE HAIRED MAN, REVEALED.
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2013 Raji Singh
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