Chapter 0:


Train in the Clouds

Chapter 0

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

The sound of the old grandfather clock echoed around the room. Among piles of old junk, a small boy walked slowly, observing all the objects around him. He then fiddled with an old wooden toy car, painted a dark red.

"Heiji! Don't play with the merchandise from the store, come here!"

A man in his sixties emerged from behind a large wooden box a few inches taller than himself. His face was wrinkled and unkempt, but it still gave off a pleasant air. That was why the children of the area loved him and often came by asking him for candy.

"I'm sorry, grandpa." The child sat on a high stool, placed sideways to the shop counter. From there, you could see all the details of that modest antique shop: the little Matryoshka dolls on the top shelves, with their eyes closed and their lips parted as if they were reflecting, then the vases of various shapes and sizes, the toys of porcelain, the figurines of cats, old paintings of demons and much more. Heiji felt like he was on top of the world on that mahogany seat when he watched such a sight.

"Here, what you asked me for." Grandpa gave him an old crumpled ticket. The colors had faded but a few words could still be read. Heiji, however, still couldn't read well so he didn't pay much attention to them.

"But, does that train really exist?" He widened his eyes and squeezed the ticket in his fingers. "How did you get on it?"

"It's better to explain everything from the start, little man." The man, known as Daichi Yamamura, sighed. "But you have to promise me it will remain our little secret."

"I promise, grandpa." Heiji said with great interest.

"Legend has it that the 'Train in the Clouds' appears every 50 years in search of a young man, the bearer of great courage. It is said that it comes from another world, a world developed above the clouds, where the inhabitants live blissfully. But this train connects the two worlds. "

"Grandpa, where does the train go?" Heiji asked as he dangled his legs.

"Nobody knows exactly where it is headed and, for each child, there is a different reserved destination. But I know the things I have seen! Yes, wonderful things!"

Old Daichi grabbed a bizarre object, which didn't seem to have a specific use, and showed it to his nephew. It had a shape similar to a covered amphora but some kind of tag was attached to the edge. The language seemed archaic and complex, and Heiji thought those symbols resembled funny animals.

"This," the elder explained, "is a cloud-catcher. It's the only item I managed to get."

Suddenly, a mechanical bird came out of the pendulum clock and made a strange distorted noise, then other birds following behind it, like many chicks behind their mother. It was noon, Daichi thought. Outside the shop, the hot summer sun confined everyone inside their homes and the streets were deserted.

"I want to see this train too someday." The nephew said, lifting his small body and getting off the stool. "So I can brag to everyone. How long do I have to wait?"

"Another 11 years. But be careful, Heiji, that train may be the miracle of your life or it may be the manifestation of your fears." His grandfather answered him with a dark look.

Heiji thought he was joking and laughed out loud, then left the shop after saying goodbye, still holding the paper in his hands. But he didn't know the importance of the his grandpa's words at the time. 

Kerry Kamiya
Konoko Asada
Cerulean Mars