Train in the Clouds
The next morning, the dream was over. All the reveries that that scenery and that warm sensation had brought were now gone, replaced by great anguish and, almost, a certain fear of what would soon happen. In that small, heated room, the sun was obscured by the curtains, which created a certain sparkle in contact with that whiteness. Mivrea was leaning in her armchair, her hair still out of place and the skirt of her dress raised a little. If she had noticed, she would have truly felt embarrassed. I, on the other hand, was awake and was looking at somewhere on the wall, with a troubled expression.
What I had discovered about my grandfather terrified me. All the memories of him were changing shape: from a benevolent man, almost deified by little me, he became a being trapped in the shame of his sins and in his inner anger, unable to escape from his past. A scene from my childhood suddenly came to mind.
~Old Daichi was curled up in his wooden chair, wearing an old cape, patched up years ago by the expert hands of my late grandmother. I had rushed to him, in the company of other children from the neighborhood. I was holding a poorly painted rough wooden model of a train. It had been given to me, a few months earlier, by him, after I had insisted so much on having it.
I hadn't been able to keep the secret and, after discovering it, I had talked a little about it with a great friend of mine, whom the little ones in the neighborhood, including myself, called Jingo. Jingo was a nickname given by the shirt he wore every time we played football: instead of Jingle Bells, the writing said 'Jingo Bells' and everyone decided to call him that suddenly.
Stupid reason, I know.
Without explaining too much, Jingo then told the story to his group, who then spread the word to Midori Asano, a pretty little girl from my neighborhood. Obviously, Midori had dwelt on the story with her friends and now the Train in the Clouds was a legend known to almost all the children of Kiso-Fukushima. I didn't know exactly how my grandfather reacted in his mind, but as soon as I told him about it, he didn't seem extremely happy.
On that day in July, therefore, I had met with my friends and we had gone to torment my grandfather in front of his shop.
"Grandpa, grandpa! Tell Midori-chan the story of the train again!" I had prayed. The little girl behind me had a big, funny smile.
A sad smile had crept into his face and he closed his eyes, as if he were struggling with tears. We, however, were too excited to notice these little things.
"I'm a little tired today and I think I'm going to rest inside. And you don't make Mrs. Momo too angry!"
"Ah what a disappointment!" Midori complained. Then we all ran away, disappointed. I turned around for just a second and saw my grandfather, who had lazily got up from his chair, leaving it to move back and forth for a while.~
My gaze darkened at those memories and Mivrea, as soon as she woke up, noticed it clearly. She stood silently looking at me for a few seconds, then she began to speak.
"Good morning, human." she said and she stretched, trying to do it in a gracious way. "I'm starving."
She stood up and grabbed my wrist, which woke me up and distracted me from my sad thoughts. I then was carried away by the princess, who led me in search of food for breakfast.
"I hope they have some good katyuk. You, naive human, cannot know their greatness!" and she kept carrying me around in an energetic way.
"Leave me, Mivrea-san, I can walk alone." I said and I let go of her easily. My tone of voice was deeper than usual, as I was a little irritated and part of me just wanted me to be alone. Mivrea noticed this detail and felt confused.
"What's with this strange behavior? Ah, it doesn't matter!" snorted Mivrea, walking faster and faster.
We soon found ourselves in the restaurant, where many people were gathered in front of a table covered with a red checked tablecloth. An incredibly short man, standing on a stool, was announcing something about some city in the clouds, but I completely ignored it. When he finished speaking, everyone headed for their laden tables.
The room now assumed an extremely lively and reassuring aspect, unlike the previous evening: it was well lit and colors and flavors reached the senses of those present, who pawed like animals in search of their rations. Sweet music came from an old violin, played by a teenager, wearing a cloth dungaree that was too loose for him.
Mivrea and I sat, one opposite the other, at a table positioned a little more central than the others and we recognized Alder serving an old woman with a big green headdress nearby.
"Alder!" The princess called out to him, with her arms folded under her breast. "Come here now!" Alder hastened to join us, always with an upright and elegant posture.
Meanwhile, I noticed how everyone present, since I had entered the room, had their eyes on me and whispered to each other. They just didn't want to stop staring at me.
I should have been their future hero, after all.
I tried to concentrate on the silver cutlery, forcing a smile, even though I wasn't in the mood at all.
Honestly, thinking about the responsibilities and trials Duval had talked about gave me some anxiety.
"I would like a katyuk and give the same to him too. It will cheer him up. But it's not that I care about him or anything like that!" She almost shouted, with red cheeks.
'She's cute, but I just can't stand her this morning.' I thought as I showed Alder a consoling look.
"It will only take a moment." the servant announced, then walked to the back, where the kitchen apparently was.
Meanwhile, that violin, with its odd shapes, began to annoy the guests, who began to yell at the boy. A man, who seemed to have the appearance of some businessman, threw a glass at him, which shattered into a thousand pieces in front of the terrified expression of the unfortunate.
"Beggar! That stuff is absolutely unlistenable. Take him away!" A woman screamed. She was sitting next to the male figure I mentioned before; better said, she was attached to his arm. The stranger had her hair tied in an almost infinite braid, which reached the floor, and her face was all powdered.
"Brick, how many times have I told you not to bother the guests! Oh, I am deeply saddened, gentlemen." A plump man, dressed as a cook, came to pick him up and yanked him back into the kitchen. The unfortunate in tears seemed to be about the same age as me.
I felt deeply baffled by those behaviors. For this, I got up and, annoyed, I started to leave.
Alder hastened to bring us the katyuk: it was, in the end, a sweet dough, decorated with almonds and berries not coming from the human world. Next to this dessert, there was also a jar containing a pink liquid. I thought it had to be their milk equivalent, but I didn't pay much attention to it. I grabbed the container and some of the dough and walked with heavy steps towards the exit.
"Human! Where do you think you're going ?!" The princess screamed at me, but I left while eating my food. I glimpsed the nobles around me, who were amazed by that sudden scene and began to complain.
"It's all that damned violin's fault! It made the Human nervous."
"Yes it must be for that. Otherwise nothing would have happened. And to say that .."
"Shut up everyone!" Mivrea shouted, after having finished chewing the delicacy, "And leave him alone!"
I was already out of the room when she worked hard to defend me, though, and I only learned of it later.
Suddenly, the locomotive began to emit a high-pitched, whistling sound, and the little man from before began speaking through, probably, a device placed near his mouth. That gesture made all the shells of the various wagons vibrate for a few seconds.
"Attention, attention! The train has reached its first destination: the great city of Noslepums! Please, kind passengers, get off in single lines! I repeat, in single lines!"
Some people around me started clapping, enchanted by the news, but I kept quiet and started running. I continued for a while without a precise direction, as I intended to stay away from everything and everyone. Finally, I leaned against a wall of the control room and listened to some distant conversations while I ate.
"Finally! I really needed to stretch my legs somehow!"
"I'm thinking more about this new Human. He looks weird! Besides, did you see how fast he was running? It was just a few minutes ago."
"No, I didn't! I would have loved to see it."
I thought, at that moment, that getting off the train would do me good too. But I was interrupted by a voice.
"..Noslepums, huh?" It was a recognizable female voice. In fact, Mivrea, out of breath, had sat on the ground next to me, ignoring the gazes of the few individuals who passed.
"What are you doing here, Mivrea-san?" I lifted my tired face. "I thought you were more interested in eating."
"Y-yes but .. everyone started making a scene about your sudden exit and I got mad. And I decided to look for you." She replied, blushing, "And I think the air of Noslepums can help you. B-but I only say that because you're annoying with that wimpy face."
"Thanks for looking for me." I smiled faintly and saw that her face turned even redder.
'Since when does she care about me? Just yesterday she was going to slap me. ' I sighed, extremely confused by her bizarre behavior. As usual.
"No problem, I guess. Anyway, stupid human, let's hurry up and go to one of the doors." She replied, pointing to the mass of people creating various lines.
We got up off the ground and slipped into the middle of one of these, with the princess holding my arm tightly. She just liked to drag me, apparently.
The train then began to brake, causing a continuous tremor of the wagons. The tremor then disappeared, leaving room for a silence, punctuated every now and then by the voices of the passengers.
The locomotive had reached Noslepums.