Dandelion, is a piece of adventure fantasy fiction that explores a father’s determination to protect and save his daughter, as old world gods and monsters invade his life and attempt to abduct the young girl. The second half takes on a more adventurous theme as Harold attempts to rescue his daughter from the Celtic Otherworld, Annwn.
Night on the Train
The subway car rattled as it raced around the corner, and the people standing swayed with the motion. Harold St. James noted they resembled fabric strips in a carwash as they moved back and forth. He leaned his head against the vibrating window of the car.
“Approaching Clark Street,” said a monotone female voice over the loud speaker. Harold closed his heavy eyes and allowed the movement of the car and the din of the white noise to usher him into sleep. He missed his wife, Candace, and his infant daughter, Kya, with a deep yearning previously unknown to him. He desired to return to his newborn baby, a child he quickly came to cherish the moment she was born.
During her birth, Harold felt helpless and useless, like an outside observer. His wife screamed and wailed as Harold tried to remain calm, even as the excitement threw his heart into panic. When the doctor told them that Kya’s head had been in the birth canal for longer than usual, he felt a prickly fear rise in his stomach, but continued to hold his wife’s delicate hand and whisper assurances to her.
“You’re doing good baby. She’s almost here. Just a couple more pushes.” Harold tried to keep a subdued demeanor, and encourage his wife as best he could.
After another ten minutes of fret and worry passed, and then a purple face popped out, opened her mouth, and she began to cry. Her puffy eyes opened and blinked repeatedly at the bright delivery room lights. The couple cried with excitement, joy and relief at the sight of their tiny child.
Harold awoke with a start, wiped the drool form his mouth and, looking around, noticed the emptiness and stillness of the subway car. He knew instantly that his short nap had been too long and he had missed his stop. He looked out the window of the train and did not recognize the station. He searched for the usually predominant placard, which labeled each stop, but could not see one. Nor could he see any of the usual bustling crowds. He walked over to the door, and wrenching his fingers in between the panels, attempted to pry them open. They did not budge more than a centimeter or so. He pounded a few times against the metal, screaming, “Hello? I think I missed my exit.” The only response was a dark silence. After ten minutes, Harold realized the train was not going to move again.
“Did I sleep so long that the train’s finished running for the day?” Harold muttered to himself. “Don’t these drivers have to check the cars for people?”
He slumped down in a seat and pulled out his cell phone to call Candace, but each time he dialed his home, the phone beeped back at him and the display read “Call Failed.” Minutes passed and he began to think he might be stuck here for a while
“Goddamn it,” he groaned and tossed the phone back into his satchel. Suddenly, the door between his car and the next creaked open. Harold looked up, relieved to see a small, portly man crossing the gap between cars towards him. The man was not dressed how Harold thought a transit employee should dress, but he was happy to see anyone.
The man wore a tweed suit, jacket, pants, and vest, all matching with a mustard shirt peeking out of the top. He walked with a cane, but did not appear to need it. He had a thick moustache and he parted his hair down the center with the assistance of an excess of pomade. He peered at Harold through thick circular spectacles that, although a dark patch hid his right eye. His appearance gave the impression of a man who had just stepped out of the nineteenth century.
“Thank god,” said Harold as he stood once again. “I think I missed my station. I feel like an idiot, but I just fell asleep for a minute.” Harold once again looked outside the train at the darkened station. “Well, at least I thought it was just a minute.”
The man chuckled lightly and held his hand up. “No need to feel stupid, sir. Happens all the time. Really.” The man spoke with the last remaining traces of an Irish accent.
“Thanks,” replied Harold, “but before I get off, could you let me know which stop this is? I can’t see any of the signs from here.”
The man’s smile drooped and his brow furrowed just a bit.
“Oh you don’t want to get off here. This is a rather dangerous area.” The man eyed Harold suspiciously, and then grinned. “And I don’t really think you are the type of character who would really do well here.” The man leaned heavily on the word “here” as he spoke it.
Harold’s premature optimism slumped. “I really need to get back to my hotel. My wife is expecting my call. Or was. She’s probably freaking out by now.”
The man pulled out a bronze pocket watch and stared at its face.
“In fact,” said Harold as he dug through his bag looking for his phone, “What time is it even? My phone has just been blinking ridiculously at me for the last ten minutes.”
“T’is half past a monkey’s ass, quarter past his balls,” smirked the old man and then followed with a thick robust guffaw. Harold smiled a bit, more at the man’s laughter than his joke. “Seriously, though, son, I think it’s time you got an analog watch. Too many problems with electricity to rely on one of those mobile telephones. I don’t trust ‘em. C’mon, follow me.”
They began to walk from car to car, each one as empty as the previous one. The old man seemed to have a spring in his step, even with his cane, and he whistled a tune as they walked that was catchy and up-tempo.
“You know,” the man began, “The few times I was married, I always remember dragging my feet to get back home.” The man smiled and added, whispering even though they were alone, “When I was a bachelor, I just never went home.” He bleated out another exaggerated laugh.
Harold smiled politely. “We, we just had a baby like six months ago, actually. I really just want to get back to the hotel so I can check out and be on my way home.”
“New baby, huh? I was the same with my first-born. Moved heaven and hell to be with him every moment I could.”
Harold smiled again, this time legitimately.
“It must be a little girl,” said the man. “I can tell by the way you talk about her and the wee twinkle in your eye.”
“Yeah. It really is amazing.”
Upon reaching the lead car, the man pulled a large silver key from his vest pocket and unlocked the small, enclosed driver’s cab. He leaned over to an enormous metal lever and inched it forward. The train responded with a jerky lunge, which subsided into steady acceleration.
“What’s your name, son?”
Harold yelled over the growing noise of the train, “Harold, Harold St. James.”
The old man thrust his open hand towards Harold. “Mr. Balor. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Harold.” The two shook hands and the firm intensity of Mr. Balor’s grip shocked Harold.
The train sped up, and blue sparks from the wheel-rail connection lit up the tunnel in front of them in pale blue flashes. The car swayed and shook with each corner so much that it forced Harold to grab a metal bar to keep from falling backwards.
The speed mixed with the flashing pale illumination created bursts of illusions on the walls of the tunnel. Harold saw faces, then they were gone. Harold saw angels and demons, then they were gone. He saw ships and seas, mountains and fire. Indeed for momentary quick bursts, he saw entire scenes, both idyllic and horrible, jump out before him.
“You know, Harold.” Mr. Balor’s voice became low almost inaudibly deep. “She is very special.” Harold turned to see the old man smiling widely.
“Who is? My daughter?” Harold had to shout against the cacophony around them. However, when the old man finally replied, his voice was again both low and deep, yet Harold heard it crisply.
“Kya. She is very special.”
Harold simply stared. A sudden fear seemed to seal his throat.
“You know what her name means, don’t you?” Mr. Balor paused for effect. “It’s African. It means diamond in the sky. Like a star.”
Harold still could not speak, but a growing fear echoed in his visage. I know I haven’t mentioned her name to this man. How does he know it? What’s going on?
“I know it because I brought you here, Harold, to warn you. She is special. They are going to come after her.”
With those words, panic escalated in Harold allowing him to break his silence. “What do you mean? Who’s coming after her?” Harold screamed these words wildly. His voice seemed to shake every cell in his body. In fact, the rail car itself seemed to burst forward with every syllable.
“Evil, Mr. St. James. Pure and basic evil.” Mr. Balor smiled, but this smile did not bear any resemblance to his earlier expression. Menace danced in his eyes and in his grin.
Harold briefly thought about lunging towards the man, but realized he was still a prisoner in this moving steel cage, and instead simply demanded to get off.
“But Harold, we’ve not arrived yet.” The man’s Cheshire grin grew wider. “I want to help you, Harold. You are the only person who can help her. The only one who can stop them.”
Harold was no longer listening to this insanity. “Stop the train now,” he bellowed and the train bounced with his words again.
“Very well,” consigned Mr. Balor and he pulled a large handbrake, which stopped the train dead. Inertia picked Harold up as if he was a feather and then slammed him through the front window of the car as if he were a bowling ball. As he was about to slam into the rails face first, he woke up sharply in his bed and knocked a glass of water from the nightstand to the floor.
The resulting thud awoke Candace, who asked if he was all right.
“How did I get home?” he asked.
“What?” She halfheartedly inquired as she began to fall back asleep.
“Honey, what time did I get home tonight from the trip?”
Irately, she began to awake, wishing that her husband would do the opposite. “I… I don’t know. Maybe around seven. Why? What’s wrong, baby?” She cuddled in close, putting a thin hand on his chest.
“I don’t remember travelling home. All I remember was…” he trailed off. The memory of the subway flitted like a dying flame in his head. “A… a crash, and an old man, warning me about something.” The flame extinguished and what remained was just the wispy smoke of a memory he could not quite grasp.
“Sweetheart,” his wife began. “You just had a bad dream. Just relax and go back to bed please.”
Harold, however could not relax, nor could he go back to sleep. As if answering his need to arise, Kya began to sob softly in the nursery. Harold briefly patted his wife’s back, and said. “I got this one.”
Kya’s whimper grew with intensity as he strode towards the nursery. Inside Harold’s brain, a rush of worry arose. He hastened his gait, approaching the crib with nervous energy. The small rosy face stared up at him, mouth agog, and uttering the shrillest squeal. Harold picked her up holding her snugly against his shoulder.
“Ssh,” he cooed softly. “It’s okay, Kya.” He felt the thickness in her diaper. “Oh my. I guess it’s not okay. Let’s fix you up, little peanut.” He laid her gently on her mattress and changed her spoiled diaper. Once he finished his task, he picked her back up and again rocked her, singing “tu ra lu ra lu ra, tu ra lu ra lie.” His voice was flat and nasally, but the tiny baby stopped her crying and simply listened to her father’s stumbling melody. Within moments, she fell back to sleep and Harold laid her gently into her crib. Unconsciously, her tiny thumb crept up to her mouth and she began to suckle it. Harold stared at her for several more minutes, before he brushed her head and walked back to his bed smiling. He crept leg-by-leg back into the bed, as not to wake Candace. He snuggled up to her and she moaned her dreamy approval. They both drifted into a thick slumber.
Harold spent the next few days on edge. He called Candace several times each workday to inquire about Kya. Candace would give him a lengthy description of all the perceived milestones that Kya had reached since his last phone call. “I think she smiled this morning,” Candace said. “I was repeating her name to her over and over, and then she cooed and briefly flashed me a smile. It was so cute, Harold.”
He knew this was most probably gas, but Harold placated Candace anyway. “She loves her mommy,” he said. He appreciated her newfound diligence at being a mother. While these phone calls eased his mind, he still could not shake a sinking, foreboding feeling in his stomach. Unable to place the exact nature of his guttural fear, he simply pushed the thought out of his mind, assuming they were just natural new parent woes.