The Vagabond

Sandy walked behind the train station toward the mountains. There was a path back here, but the sight of a far-off campfire drew her into what would otherwise be unremarkable woods. Sandy could see a campfire in the distance thanks to the dense canopy which cast a heavy shadow onto the forest floor. Sandy was so fixated on the fire that she didn’t notice a large fire-red caboose, mounted on a small section of forgotten track, appearing alongside her until she was right on top of it. It looked like it had been stuck here for a long while, with moss growing on the wheels and small planters set up around it with neatly arranged herbs.

Sandy! Back here!

Kona called Sandy from the other side of the caboose. She had a small campsite set up. A crackling bright campfire lit the area well but paled against Kona’s hopeful smile. She looked expectantly at Sandy as she approached. The campsite was very simple. There was only one small bench to sit on, which Kona was using, and a small blue striped hammock tied between a tree and one of the caboose’s rails.

It felt strange seeing Kona outside of her red conductor’s uniform. Sandy could see it hanging inside the caboose along with all of Kona’s other belongings. The campsite seemed to be only the things Kona wanted to have outside for the moment. Kona was more ordinary than ever now, clutching a stick and roasting vegetables on a fire rather than piloting a flying train through the sky. Sandy still liked Kona’s fur the most. Every puff was an explosion of cloudy tan smoke, with a tail that was so puffy it looked like a great big chocolate star. Sandy felt that this caboose must have been Kona’s home for a long time. She also felt a small twinge of pity for Kona, living in something smaller than the washrooms of 7th Avenue Diner. But she was quick to banish that thought. Kona looked far too happy to be pitied.

You and your train really are inseparable. Don’t I know it. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be without her. So… How’d your first day go? It went well… Thanks to Maxine. I was very lucky in that she gave me food, a place to sleep… …and a job. Hey alright! That sounds like a win to me. I was real worried she wouldn’t. I mean, I think I have a pretty good grip on how she thinks. But there’s always a chance, you know? Kona. I have to ask you something important. I’m all ears. Did you know I’d be stranded in Fable when you brought me here? No. I didn’t know if you would be stranded or not. Kona… Maxine said a lot of things that don’t make sense to me. Like the tickets aren’t even for sale… Or that people in Fable don’t want to leave. Now I have to wait a week just to talk to the mayor to learn how the tickets even are sold. How could you promise that I’d be able to make it home if you knew that too? Okay… Okay. But let me say something first. I never lied to you. Not even once. You don’t need to wait for anyone to explain how the tickets work. I can tell you. The Escapade’s tickets aren’t sold. Anyone who wants one, gets one. Right away. I don’t understand. I’ve lived with the Escapade a long time. But I’m not important to it. I don’t choose where it goes at all. But you’re the conductor… I mean, the engineer? You’re the only one- The Escapade picks up the people who need it. With or without me. I told you the train has a mind of its own. But I bet it just didn’t sink in. No other train’s like my train. And its tickets come to the people who want a change in their lives. You knew I wanted to go to Low Point. I also knew you didn’t, since you had a ticket to Fable. I… Ah… That’s right. I hated it back there. But how could it know? That I don’t know. And I don’t know if I’ll ever know. And you help the train help other people? That’s right. I’m not so much of the train’s owner as the guide for the people it picks up. It doesn’t make me anything. But I’m happy I’m helping people. One last question… Just one? Well… If you don’t mind me staying and talking your ears off, I do have all day. Heh. Heh. Not at all. Can I ask you something first, though? Sure. How’re you doing, really? I’m excited. I’ve never been in a place like this. We’ll have to see. Why? I believe my train means the best for people. And for me, that’s enough.