After Her!

Hannah couldn’t breathe. She needed to rest against one of the trees after sprinting wildly out of town toward the train station. She blew past the gasping onlookers and toppled things as she ran into her pursuer’s way, uncaring if she was seen or how much noise she made. Her time here was short.

But this burning in her chest… She didn’t notice until she’d reached the edge of Fable that she was light-headed and dizzy. She slid to her knees in the dirt and lifted one hand up into her middle to feel a sharp pain. Her front was so bruised that she could barely breathe. Her heart was racing with fear.

How did that fox do this?! Her strike lingers… I- *cough!* *cough!* No matter. I am simply panicking. That’s all. But I must collect myself. I am so close.

Hannah took several long breaths to calm herself and stood. She was suddenly conscious of her own weight. It felt like something was broken inside her. Not in the obvious sense of broken bones, but instead a subtle feeling that the pieces of her didn’t make up a connected whole. The deep breaths weren’t working and Hannah began a limping jog to the train station. It was so close… Hannah pulled out the watch to make sure she still had it when crossing the finish line.

Aaah… haaah… Haaaahn… Can’t pass out yet. They are but a few steps behind me. I just need to push further! Wait. I know! I cannot believe I didn’t think of this. I don’t need to reserve the other forms for battle. Transforming into a hare will allow me to win this race for sure!

Hannah tensed her body and closed her eyes. One long cleansing breath would be all it took to gather the mist for such a small form. The mayor’s body was the easiest to copy by far. It was about her height, the same build… If she could only master the tail, the disguise would be perfect! Hannah took a sudden breath of air to draw in the surrounding mist from the air…

And nothing happened.

WHAT?! What is this?! No! Come now! Just one more time!

Hannah’s heart raced in her chest. She began to sweat as she tried to assume her weakest, smallest form and it just wouldn’t come. It wasn’t even close. She just couldn’t summon the ability to change. Amid her panic, she heard the heavy footfalls of Sandy in pursuit. Hannah began to run as well. She couldn’t let it end here. She could tell Sandy’s longer legs were gaining, so she wasted no time. She held the watch aloft as she crossed the station’s threshold from dry grass to unkempt cobblestone. The engine was further ahead on the rails. Kona must have left it parked a distance away so the passenger cars would be in shade. Hannah noticed them when lamps flickered awake inside the cars as she drew near.

At last. Do you hear me now, infernal machine? It took a lot of work to get you to listen. What is it your corpulent conductor would say? That everyone who wants a ticket, gets one? Well where was mine?! Huff… Huff… No matter. Wake up! You now belong to- LOUIS-LISELOTTE HANNA-MARIE VON HAUS GRUBENSTEIN! But you may call me- Hannah!

Hannah turned to look at Sandy over her shoulder. She was caught in the middle of an impish smile while imagining what she’d come here to do. The engine behind her roared to life and smoke began to flutter out the stack. Hannah began to back up towards the engine while Sandy slowly pursued.

What’s the matter? Not going to demand your watch back? … There’s no point. I have to stop you. Very good! A shame the lesson sank in as late as it did. You might have stood a chance.

Hannah leapt to the engine and stood proudly atop it. Gathered steam on the inside blew over the wheels and The Escapade lurched from rest under its newest engineer. Sandy began to run now that she realized she was out of time, but the train was already moving at a good clip. Sandy went for the doors so she could use the footrest, but they began to pull away as she got close.

The watch startled Hannah by vibrating in her hand as the mechanism came to life. Her heart fluttered awake with excitement to watch her dreams finally come true. The watch hands began to spin rapidly as if searching for something, like a shaken compass coming to rest. All of the smaller watch hands raced in circles until they clicked in sync with the larger one and every face showed the same time.

Come back! We’ll be trapped here without the train! Oh boo hoo… It’s disgusting listening to those with excess playing the victim. Trapped in a paradise tailored to your every want, ya? Or was this dream comfortable only as long as you knew you could wake up?

The Escapade’s headlamp sparked to life and the light that it cast upon the coming cave wall. An inky blackness tore open in front of the tracks as Sandy had to stop running. Hannah looked proudly forward at the coming outline of buildings she’d never seen, peppered with faint golden windows.

A last parting lesson, Sandy! The world does not care what you want! It is indifferent! Take what you need! And now, you wretched train! Take me to where my heart desires! DELIVER ME TO MY FAMILY!