WARNING: This includes sexually explicit material.
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There seemed to be any number of parties going on throughout the train,
some more intimate than others. I made several more failed attempts to
communicate with my fellow passengers, but anything more than monosyllabic
produced blank looks on my interlocutor's face. In my present anti-social
mood, it wasn't really surprising I ended up in the more isolated areas of
the train. Eventually I found myself in a dark and deserted of
corridor that terminated in a small room. There were so many dials and
levers and buttons to occupy my attention that at first I didn't notice the
short green perched on bench.
"Oh, you must be the leprechaun," I said, somewhat inanely.
"No shit," he responded grumpily. "Full marks for observation. And
before you start, I've already heard all the Lucky Charms jokes."
"Lucky charms," I asked in puzzlement. "You mean those little ornaments
people hang on bracelets? What's that got to do with anything?"
"No, the breakfast cereal." He stopped and looked at me more carefully.
"You're not American, are you?"
"No shit. Full marks for observation," I echoed sarcastically.
"Well, you must be Vickie Morgan. Sit yourself down," the little guy
said, a smile appearing like magic on his face. "Finally, someone from the
"I'm from Yorkshire, not Ireland," I pointed out. "Sven the Elder is
from there, but I think he's too busy to take time out for this train ride.
In fact, as far as I can tell, I'm the only one from the UK here."
"Really? There's quite a few British ASS writers, I'm pretty sure we
picked some up."
"If they're here, I haven't seen them. I tried to get Nick to come,
even offered him not only a good argument but also to let him beat me at
chess, but I couldn't persuade him. I thought maybe Bronwen or Elena would
be here, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of them. Everyone I've met is
American, and they can't understand a word I say. As soon as I open my
mouth, they look at me like I'm mentally deficient," I groused.
"That's nothing to the way they treat me. If they're not saying how
'cute' I am, they're making jokes at my expense. Just because I'm short
doesn't mean I don't have feelings. And when I tried to express my
admiration for Virago Blue, she got all ratty and half-throttled me with
Pami's nipple chains. If I'd known that this was going to happen, I'd have
let Shon have his first wish and to hell with the consequences. Hey, would
you like a drink?"
He produced a bottle and a couple of glasses from out of nowhere, and
poured me a generous measure. The amber colour and unmistakable smell told
me that it was malt whisky, and I took a generous gulp. It burned down my
throat and a lovely warm feeling spread through my stomach. I was feeling
better already. I settled down on the bench next to him and took another
swig. I began idly inquiring about the functions of the various buttons
and levers in front of us. The little gave me a rundown, all the while
complaining about his fate. He seemed to be mainly reserving his venom for
Shon, who he blamed for his current predicament. I gathered that not only
was the Fantasy Train a severe drain on the leprechaun's magic powers, but
he had also been forced to call in numerous favours to create it.
After a while his grumbling faded into the background and I just sat
there sipping my drink and feeling sorry for myself. By the time I
realised that my glass never seemed to get any emptier, it was too late.
There was a buzzing in my brain and my fingers seemed to have become very
fat and clumsy. When the leprechaun sat forward and peered into my face, I
had difficulty bringing his face into focus. He gave a satisfied grunt,
then blew a handful of powder into my face. When I stopped sneezing,
everything seemed clearer but somehow more distant.
"I think that's a good idea of yours," the little green told me.
"You do?" I asked, trying to gather my wits together. "Which idea was
"To get rid of Americans," he prompted, a strange smile on his face as
he watched me.
"Get rid of Americans?"
"Yeah. No more e-mails telling you that you can't spell because you put
a 'u' in 'colour'. No more having to call football 'soccer' just so they
know what you're talking about, even though real football has been around
for hundreds of years before they invented their strange game. No more
people telling you that you talk funny. No more machines that don't know
how to make a cup of tea. No more Barbie-obsessed tricking me into
this caper." His voice petered out, but for some bizarre reason his tirade
"Um, remind me again, how am I going to do this?"
"This is a time travelling train, remember. You can go back in time and
change things, if you want," he said carefully. I tried to figure out what
he meant, but my brain just wasn't functioning properly. The leprechaun
heaved a sigh. "Who was responsible for the discovery of America?"
"I don't know, I never did American history, just medieval European.
Oh, hang on, wasn't it that Columbus guy?"
"Well done," he said, for some reason heaving a big sigh.
"Mind you, the natives were there before that, and I'm sure plenty of
sailors knew it was there before Columbus showed up," I observed, the
buzzing in my brain quietening for a moment.
"Give me strength," the leprechaun muttered. He dug in a pocket and
flung a handful of powder in my face again. When I finished coughing and
spluttering I felt very strange, but everything he said seemed to make
"Right, so if you wanted to get rid of all Americans, and Columbus was
the discoverer of America, and you had the means to travel through time,
what would you do next?" he asked.
"Well, I could go back and try to persuade Columbus not to find
America," I suggested brightly.
"What a brilliant idea," he enthused. "Well if that's what you wish to
do, I'll take you to him immediately. I'll aim for the point in his
journey when all on board had just about given up any hope of reaching
land. If you show up then, I'm sure it will be easy enough to persuade him
to turn around." He turned and started pulling levers and entering data on
a keyboard, but I'm sure I heard him mutter, 'Even for a clueless gowt like
If I hadn't been looking out of the window, I would hardly have noticed
the train turning and slowing down. Within moments the vehicle was
stationary, and when I stuck my head outside I discovered that we were
hovering just above the waves of an ocean. It was getting on for evening,
and about fifty metres away I could see three weather-battered ships
sailing together in an otherwise empty ocean.
"Won't they think a hovering train a bit strange?" I asked.
"I've made sure they can't see us," he told me impatiently. "Now we
have to get you prepared. Can you think of anything you will need?"
"Food," I said immediately.
"Of course. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I thought
everyone knew that. If I give him a tasty and exotic meal, he'll be much
more willing to listen to my suggestions. Especially if he's been eating
shipboard rations for weeks."
"Hmm, maybe you're right," he admitted grudgingly. He opened a cupboard
and pulled out a collapsible table, which he proceeded to set up and cover
with a white tablecloth. He moved to a keypad, similar to the one I had
struggled with in the kitchen.
"Right, what do you want?"
"Er, let's see. What century are we in? Fifteenth? How about a
stir-fry, he probably won't have had much food. And one of those
Thai curries with all the coconut and lemongrass. And a real Indian curry,
a mild Korma and something hot like a Vindaloo. Then a fresh green salad,
with all those fancy purple leaves in it. And some pilau rice and some egg
fried rice and some naam bread and popadoms and prawn toast and prawn
crackers. Oh, and stick in some chicken drumsticks with that spicy
coating." I paused for thought, and heard the leprechaun muttering
something about feeding a damned army. Ignoring him, I continued with my
"Then we'll need something sweet. So lets have a fresh fruit salad,
with all the exotic fruits in it like mangoes and kiwis, and lashings and
lashing of custard and cream. And a sherry trifle, and queen-of-puddings,
and lemon meringue pie, and chocolate cake, and summer pudding." I stopped,
having run out of both breath and imagination.
"Right, got all that," he sighed, pulling the covered plates out of the
machine and stacking them on the table. He fitted them on somehow, sighing
and grumbling as he rearranged them.
"Now, how about you? You'll be wanting something to wear, I suppose."
I looked down at my jeans and top. "Good point. Can you magic me
"I'm no fairy godmother and you are definitely not Cinderella," he
snapped, yanking open the door of a cupboard. He rummaged around, then
tossed me a long white robe that laced up down the front. "Here, put this
"This?" I asked doubtfully.
"All the saints preserve us," he exclaimed. "Just put it on, trust me.
After all, you're going to have to tell him you're a vision sent by God to
warn him, so this is very appropriate."
"Why am I going to tell him that?"
"Well, how else are you going to explain appearing on his ship out of
nowhere, along with a small banquet?"
"Oh, good point. I'm still not sure about this dress thing though.
It's a bit flimsy, are you sure you don't have anything else?" I peered
over his shoulder into the cupboard.
"No," he snapped, slamming the door shut. However he wasn't quite quick
enough and I had a quick glimpse of the contents.
"Wigs!" I cried in delight. "Can I have a wig? One with long wavy hair. I've always wanted to try a wig."
"That's maybe a good idea," he said, giving my hair a disparaging look.
"It doesn't normally look this bad," I said defensively, automatically
running my hands over my hair to try and make it lay down neatly. "It's
just last time I was at the hairdressers we got talking, and she asked me
if she had been ripped off by a computer shop. I had to tell her she had,
and she got a bit wound up and cut off more than she meant to. Which is
why it looks like this."
"I don't really care," he said brusquely. "You could have chosen the
demented hedgehog look on purpose, it doesn't matter. All I care about is
you getting over there and persuading Columbus to turn around and go home."
"Oh, he couldn't do that," I said.
"What!" he screeched. "Why not?"
"He'd have to go to Spain first, return the ships to Isabella and
Ferdinand, before he could go back to Italy." For some reason, the little
green began banging his head against the wall, muttering what sounded
like curses. Eventually he stopped, grabbed a long wig and jammed
it onto my head.
"Now if you just get changed, we can get started," he said.
"I'm not changing with you watching me," I pointed out indignantly.
"Fine, I'll just look at this wall until you say I can turn back round,"
he suggested, suiting his actions to his words. I fought my way into the
robe, which took a few minutes because I was still feeling very dizzy.
There was no mirror to see what it looked like, but by looking down I could
see that my bra was visible through the lacing and looked silly, so I took
it off. I kept my knickers on though, VPL or not. Trainers didn't seem to
be appropriate footwear for a vision, so I went barefoot.
When I was ready, the leprechaun positioned me on a pad, and my table of
food on another. He clipped a band around my wrist, which he explained
would serve as a locator for the transporter, and he attached my
translator-cum-name-tag to it. Apparently the table had a built in locator
"I'm going to watch and listen on this monitor here," he told me,
turning it on. When you want the food, clap your hands and I'll send it
over. If you need to return in a hurry, press the button on that band and
it will bring you straight back here. Ready? Off you go!"
There was a rushing sound, and for a moment everything went black. When
my vision cleared, I found that I was stood in the centre of a small
cramped cabin. I immediately fell over, as the floor was pitching and
rolling under my feet and I was still dizzy from the whisky and whatever it
was the leprechaun had been throwing in my face. I felt a hand on my
elbow, helping me stand back up, but the moment I regained my feet, the
floor lurched again and I tumbled forward. I somehow ended up sprawled on
the lap of a who I devoutly hoped was Columbus. I tried to discreetly
straighten my clothes and push my borrowed hair out of my face. He was a
middle-aged man, with weather beaten skin, bad teeth and a generous growth
of stubble. I wish I could say he was good-looking, but I would have to
lie to do that. He was staring at me as if I was a snowman in June, which
was hardly surprising.
"Who are you?" he demanded roughly.
"I'm a vision," I told him, gratefully remembering the leprechaun's
suggestion. "I've been sent to warn and guide Columbus."
"Warn me about what?" he demanded. "And who sent you? Are you from the
devil, a witch sent to taunt and torment me?"
"No, no," I said quickly, vague memories of the usual fate of witches at
this point in history floating through my befuddled brain. "I work for the
He still looked suspicious. "You speak strangely," he observed, "but
how do I know you speak truthfully."
"I'm your guardian angel," I said, groping for inspiration. "I have
come to feed and sustain you during your long journey, and warn you of
great peril. See, a feast." I clapped my hands, and the table materialised
in front of us. I was hoping the sight and smell of food would side-track
him from asking awkward questions. Sure enough, when I started removing
the covers, he lost no time pushing me out of his way and getting tucked
in. Even allowing for the fact he might have been extremely hungry, his
table manners were disgusting. He crammed food into his mouth with his
fingers, chomping away with his mouth full and morsels escaping as he
masticated. It was a good job I wasn't particularly hungry as the sight
was turning my stomach. I sat in a corner and let him get on with it.
Looking around, I found my surroundings quite spartan considering that
this was the leader of the expedition's cabin. There was a bunk down one
side, with a thin mattress and blanket, and a board that could be raised
during rough seas to stop you falling out. There was a chamber pot in one
corner, which emitted a strong smell even though it was empty. A chest
occupied one corner, with a chart draped over it and a few more stacked
besides it. A smoky oil lamp swung from a hook in the centre of the room,
and there was a door with a simple bolt holding it closed. I don't quite
know what I had been expecting, but definitely something more salubrious
than this. Between my spinning head, the motion of the ship, the sight of
Columbus eating and the mingled smells of stale sheets, and burnt oil
it was a wonder I didn't throw up.
At last, my companion gave a loud burp, and sat back with a satisfied
"Good," he grunted, digging something out of his teeth. His appetite
sated, he turned his attention back to me. "Did you say something about a
warning?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, eager to complete my mission and get out of there. "You
must turn around and return home. A dreadful fate awaits not only you, but
the whole of humanity if you continue." I lowered my voice and attempted to
look suitably portentous.
"What kind of fate?" he asked. "Are we talking sea monsters and demons,
or just storms and high seas? There's nothing marked on the charts."
"Terrors beyond your imagination, leading to awful agonies and a long
drawn out death," I told him, trying to avoid exact details.
"When is this going to happen?" he persisted.
"Right, I'll go topside and see if I can see anything. Maybe get them
to reef in the sail a bit."
"That won't be enough, you must turn back."
"Now look here," he said stubbornly "do you know how hard it was
convince anyone to finance this expedition? If I just turn back now, I'll
never get another chance. Not only that, but I used my last bit of gold to
buy provisions and directions. If I go back, how am I going to live? So
I'm going to go on deck and see if there's anything dangerous around right
now, then when I come back you can tell me a bit more about this terrible
danger and we'll see if we can find a way around it."
"There is no way around, you must turn back," I told him again, but I
was talking to his back as he left the cabin. More than a little
disgruntled, I pressed the return button on my wrist.
Copyright Vickie Morgan, 1999 E-mail email@example.com
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