The Lucky Train

Copyright © 2021 by Slush Pile Productions

 

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The Lucky Train is a work of fiction.  The people and events in The Lucky Train are entirely fictional.  The story is not a reflection of historical or current fact, nor is the story an accurate representation of past or current events.  Any resemblance between the characters in this novel and any or all persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

The Lucky Train

 

               The train

 

                It was coming.

                The darkness.

                As she ran from train car to train car, Mary knew that it was pursuing her. And she had been such a fool. She hadn’t believed in the silliness of the past, of legends long told, and often long forgotten. But now . . .

                First, the wretched creep, convinced she had robbed him, chasing her with a knife. Then . . .

                The darkness.

                She could hear the train as if it created sound just for her to run, to keep up a pace. The chug, chug, chug, was a rhythm creating a swaying motion of the train, one that seemed to urge her onward. The train thundered forward as if it were indeed a great metal beast that knew something evil was aboard, as if it thought it might outrun the evil as well.

                The darkness.

                Like a fog whirling, crawling, reaching out, each shaft like the stretch of a strange black tentacle, seeking, reaching out . . .

                Mary had gotten Sue off the train. Thank God. She’d literally shoved her off, somewhere in Texas. Were they still traveling west through Texas? She had no idea. Because they didn’t seem to be traveling anywhere real or solid anymore, just into darkness and followed by darkness.

                She was nearing the end of the great train with nowhere to go, and no one left to turn to. And it was sad, so sad . . .

                Because all she had wanted was a little bit of luck.

                Luck.

                It could be good, and it could be bad . . .

                So now a crazed lucky man was still chasing after her heedless of the darkness, his knife dripping blood from the man he had already slashed.

                And she could feel it, feel the darkness as if it were a vast and stygian entity, a force that might swallow her very soul.

                She had always been warned to be careful what she wished for! But now . . . she had to keep running.

                Because . . .

                Because she might die beneath the knife of a human monster, but she would never just give in to the darkness.

And ridiculously, as she ran, all she could do was remember how innocently it had all started . . .

                And how she had come to be desperately seeking to escape a strange, terrible, and stygian darkness.

*

The casino

 

                “Luck, luck, luck!” the roller cried. He was a man of about thirty-five or forty, Mary thought, dressed to the nines.

                He was intent on the craps game, as if he had a great deal riding on it. Well, he did. He had put huge money on the table while Mary was playing the minimum.

                Four and three, big number seven rolled to a stop.

                The table cheered and the man turned to the fellow at his side, a man who seemed to be playing low money like Mary.

                “The luck-o-the-Irish, eh?” the roller cried, addressing the fellow next to him.

                The man at his side looked like an overgrown leprechaun. A modern leprechaun, maybe. He was dressed in green pants and wore a green sweatshirt with a hoodie. His cheeks were chubby and tinted with red and his little hands seemed as squat as his body.

                But Mary had liked him. She and her friend Sue had chatted with him at the casino’s bar before they’d wandered to the craps table. That was before the roller—a good enough looking fellow with dark hair and green eyes—had come and dragged him off declaring he was luck.

                “You have been giving me luck!” the roller said. “Damned well-behaved leprechaun!”

                “Aye, well, you asked for it!” the fellow said. “Luck is a funny thing, huh?”

                He might not have been a leprechaun, but he had come from Ireland. She knew the accent well.

                Mary Kathlyn O’Hara had heard outlandish tales from the time she had been born. Her grandmother, who often watched her as a child when her parents had to work, had come to the United States from Ireland on her twenty-first birthday. She’d been quite the storyteller. She had told fantastic takes about leprechauns and banshees. And one mustn’t fear banshees. They were simply women who wailed for the loss of others, helping them leave one world and enter the next. And as to leprechauns, well one had to be careful. Yes, they were magical beings and longed to be fun and entertaining, but they just weren’t the ones calling the shots in the magical world.

                Well, she had grown up in New Orleans so pixies, banshees, and leprechauns were far away while voodoo gris-gris was sold just about everywhere.  

                Mary wondered what the roller had on the Irishman. The little fellow didn’t appear to be happy, and she could understand why. She’d heard the fellow boasting he’d made sure his divorce was final before he’d come down south to the casino. When he won big money, neither the “bitch” nor his kids could claim anything.

                “The ass would be winning!” Sue, standing politely just behind her at the table, whispered.

                Mary shrugged.

                “I could use a little luck myself!” she said.

                She was at the other end of the craps table; he couldn’t have heard her. And yet he gave her a grave smile and nodded his head.

                Fancy struck her. What if he was a leprechaun? This fellow had found one of his pots of gold, but what if the legendary gold wasn’t gold as the world knew it, just a way to claim services from a leprechaun? She almost laughed aloud and managed not to.

                But she could use some luck. 

                She closed her eyes briefly. They were on their last little bit of a fling as they headed back to college in California. She and Sue had to catch the train in a few hours; one that would take them across the country to California.

                They were taking the train because the cost of the flight had sky-rocketed right when their tips from the bar they worked at on Bourbon Street had finally reached the amount that once would have allowed them to buy plane tickets. So their mode of transportation had become the train. That was fine. She loved the train. They would see America—and sleep sitting up and be very much so in need of showers before reporting for auditions, but . . .

                They’d make it out there. And it was what it was.

                Mary didn’t have much to bet, and she wouldn’t go over what she had allotted herself. Rent in L.A. was high. Food was high. Her college bill was high. And her luck . . .

                Well, she had dear, great parents. And four little siblings at home. They couldn’t afford the bill; they always wanted to help. But they just couldn’t afford it.

                “Roll with me, baby! Heard you’re catching a train. Well, I’ll be catching that train, too!”

                Mary was startled to realize the roller was talking to her.

                She felt acutely uncomfortable. He was the kind of guy who really saw himself as God’s gift to women—and saw women as something as disposable as toilet paper.

                Still, they were apart the length of the table. She just grimaced. Behind her, she heard Sue whisper, “And yet another admirer! And he’s catching the train. He must have heard us talking to the little fellow at the bar. Aren’t you lucky?”

                “Oh, I’ll just keep my bet!” she said.

                She thought the little leprechaun man whispered to her, “Luck is with you!”

                Of course, it wasn’t. The obnoxious man rolled and won.

                Her little bet on the eight came in, too.

                As money was paid out around the table, she was startled to see one of the most stunning women she’d ever seen up-close-and personal in her life walk up to the table.

                To the little squat man with the Irish accent. Mary tried to remember his name. They had talked, and he’d been nice and not obnoxious in any way. He had just talked about loving train travel.

                The woman was tall and sleek with raven-dark hair that swept down her back. She had a beautiful face and moved with extraordinary grace. “Wow.”

                She thought Sue had spoken. But she’d said the word herself.

                “She's probably going to gutter guy,” Sue said.

                But she wasn’t.

                She slid next to the little leprechaun man. He looked up at her and smiled; and while she couldn’t be sure, Mary thought she told the little man it was time to go.

                 Mickey. He had introduced himself as Mickey.

                 He nodded gravely to the woman and turned to introduce her to the roller.

                 Naturally, the roller was impressed. Any human being with sight would be.

                 Mary was glad at least she’d be forgotten! Of course, the roller bent his head to say something to the newcomer. She just smiled and spoke softly.

                  “All bets down!”

                  Mary held on to her winnings. She backed away from the table.

                “What? Are you out? I’ll front you, baby!” the man called.

                “That’s okay, thanks!” she said. She quickly turned to Sue. “Let’s grab our stuff from the bell hop and grab an Uber.”

                “That’s a plan,” Sue said.

                They left the table and retrieved the luggage and went out front. Mary dialed an Uber.  She was startled to look up and see the little leprechaun man—Mickey, she owed him the courtesy of his name—was standing next to them apparently dialing for a car as well.

                He looked up and smiled at the two of them.

                “I’m sorry! We could have given you a ride.”

                “Not to worry,” Mary assured him. “We have an Uber coming.”

                “Okay, then.” He grinned at Mary. “Well, lass, you’ve got the Irish name and the Irish look with those lovely green eyes and that dark red hair.” He looked around at Sue. “Ah, lass, forgive me, for you’re a lovely one, too.”

                “And you’re very kind,” Mary said. She grinned. “Though I could have used some of that luck you seemed to be handing out to . . . that man.”

                “Mr. Thornton Chastain,” he said. “Alas, the thing is, a man sometimes doesn’t know he has luck when he does.” Mickey shrugged. “A healthy child is luck; the sick being healed, the young and sweet heading out in life—now there’s luck for you.”

                “I think you’re right,” Mary said lightly. She laughed softly. “But hm . . . oh, well! There’s our Uber. I guess we’ll see you on the train.”

                “Perhaps,” he murmured. “Perhaps you should detrain a bit early.”

                “We have school auditions when we reach L.A.,” Sue told him.

                “Ah, well . . .”

                Their Uber was pulling around in the drive. Mary waved to him as they hurried over to it.

                Looking back, Mary saw the beautiful raven-haired woman was coming out with the roller, Thornton Chastain.

                He’d linked his arm with hers. And yet she seemed cordial but aloof.

                Mickey waved to them. Just before she ducked into the Uber, she saw the vehicle that drove up to take them away.

                It was sleek and black.

                It looked like a hearse.

                “She came up to the Irish guy, and now they’re both hanging with that creep?” Sue murmured.

                “Maybe . . . they’re just nice?” Mary suggested. “He said he would have offered us a ride, too.”

                Sue started to laugh. “What was that Irish saying your granny taught you—‘Don’t be peeing on me head and telling me it’s raining?’”

                Mary laughed. “Granny liked the truth, and she’d call you out in a second flat!”

                “There you go.”

                “I didn’t win enough to get us a sleeper compartment, but I did win enough for a decent dinner. We’ll cruise down to the dining car and pretend like we have money!”

                “Now, there’s a plan!”

                There was hardly any crowd at the train station, but people were still taking their time to travel since the pandemic.

                They saw Mickey had arrived with Thornton and the beautiful dark-haired woman.

                “She just doesn’t look like his type,” Sue said. “But I think Mickey really likes you, too! Then again, I’m not sure he’s your type!”

                Mary shrugged. “I’m not against short or anything else. But I do think he’s a good twenty years older, and we’re going into our second year at a prestigious fine arts school and . . . that’s where my concentration is now.”

                “Yep. But Mickey did seem really nice. And he was surely lucky for the creep!”

                They didn’t board the train from the same area of the station, but they waved to Mickey and his group as they boarded by the sleeper cars.

                They all waved.

                “Hey, cutie, we’ll find you!” Thornton cried.

                “Great,” Mary murmured.

                “Well, he’s lucky and rich!” Sue said, laughing.

                Mary just shook her head. “I’m going to read over my monologues.”

                “And I will do the same. Until dinner,” Sue said cheerfully.

                They both pulled out their chosen scripts for the auditions. They were already in the program, but each year started with new auditions which allowed the instructors to see the talent they’d be working with for their productions in the coming year. Mary never minded. It was fun practice.

                She had a trick she played with herself. Besides just reading lines, she always took the time to write them out as well; something that never failed to help her memorize a part or a monologue.

                But she had done that, and she concentrated on reading her lines over and over again, closing her eyes, seeing where she might need to work harder.

                Something caused her to open her eyes. She saw the woman across from her counting change in her hand. She was older—possibly mid-seventies or even eighty.

                Mary smiled at her.

                The woman smiled sheepishly in return.

                “I’m sorry. Did I bother you?” the woman asked.

                “Not at all,” Mary said. Frankly, she hadn’t even realized there had been someone across from her until she’d heard the clinking sound of the coins.

                “Sorry! Just trying to get it together for a sandwich.”

                There was something about her that reminded Mary of her grandmother, lost five years now.

                “What kind of sandwich?” she asked.

                “Oh, the little club car does a great—” She paused and laughed. “A great club sandwich!”

                Mary felt her heart go out to the woman. Memories of love, she thought. Good memories.

                “Hang tight!” she said.

                The club car was behind them. The dining car was just behind the club car.

                “Where—” Sue began.

                “I’ll be right back.”

                In the club car she purchased the sandwich and a bottle of water and returned quickly.

                The woman looked up at her with gratitude and spoke. “Oh, lass! What a lovely thing you’ve done for me! Thank you.”

                For the first time, Mary heard the slight roll of the woman’s accent. She had probably been in the states for years, but she’d originally come from Ireland.

                Growing up in New Orleans, she heard all kinds of accents. Today just seemed to be Irish day.

                “A very little thing. I hope you enjoy,” Mary told her.

                “Ah, luck be with ye, lass!” the woman said.

                Inwardly, Mary winced trying to keep her smile steady.

                Luck. Again.

                She sat down and Sue whispered, “The luck of the Irish, huh? Bad luck or no luck at all?”

                “Oh, we had some luck.”

                “I’m glad you did what you did. Do we still get dinner?”

                “Just no dessert,” Mary said.

                “I’m too chubby anyway.”

                That caused Mary to laugh. Sue had a perfect, athletic form.

                “Dining car opens in fifteen minutes.”

                She turned back to her monologue, but she didn’t get far before she felt the presence of someone who had walked down the aisle. As she looked up, she heard the man speaking.

                “Ah, Minnie! ‘Tis a pleasure!”

                “Mickey! You’re aboard this train!”

                “Aye, that I am. Will you join us for dinner?”

                “I think not. This lovely lady has just bought me a sandwich.”

                The little Irish man was standing in the aisle. He glanced at Mary.

                “Aye, and I’m not surprised,” he said smiling. “Lucky that you sat by Mistress Mary!”

                “Indeed,” the woman said.

                “Well, then, luck, hm. May be a bit like karma, I think.” He winked at Mary and headed on down the aisle, returning to the back, and the dining car.

                “Time!”

                “Pardon?”

                Mary turned to Sue.

                Sue was glancing at her watch. “Sorry. I’m hungry!”

                “Then we shall go.”

                She turned to the old woman; but since she was alone on her side of the aisle, she had used both seats to stretch out after her lunch and now seemed to be sleeping.

                “Okay!”

                She and Sue rose and headed through the club car. No one was in it, but then the train had seemed to empty out after their first stop in Texas. She didn’t even see the young man who had sold her the sandwich.

                They were greeted by a young man who was apparently the only person working the dining car, and he directed them to a table on the left side of the train. Sue politely took the “backwards” side, knowing Mary didn’t do well with food in a moving vehicle—even a train.

                “We can split the chicken thing and still have strawberry shortcake,” Mary said, perusing the menu.

                “That’s a plan. Water to drink?”

                “Water to drink.”

                They ordered and were idly looking out the window. The rich green landscape of eastern Texas was beautiful.

                “Kind of cool. I like watching the country change,” she said, and grinned. “See, we couldn’t have had this view on a plane!”

                “True,” Sue said, but then she frowned and lowered her head.  “They’re here,” she whispered.

                “Who is here?” Mary asked.

                “Who else? Lucky man, the leprechaun and the femme fatale!”

                “They’re still together. That’s so odd,” Mary said.

                Sue nodded. “I don’t know why that nice little guy puts up with him. And the woman . . . man, she could bag anybody. But he must be carrying thousands on him.”

                Mary shook her head. “They don’t look like . . .”

                “Like they like money?” Sue asked dryly.

                “No, but the little guy . . . he had his own. But anyway, who cares? We’ll get to California we’ll never see them again.”

                “I think they’re going to L.A., too.”

                “Maybe rich guy is going to Palm Springs.”

                Sue shrugged and then groaned. “He’s coming.”

                “The leprechaun?”

                Sue shook her head.

                And he was there—the man, Mr. Adonis. She wished she could tell him that if he wasn’t such a jerk, he’d have something going for him.

                “Ladies! Come join us!” he said.

                And he slid into the seat next to Mary.

                The odor of alcohol on him was almost overwhelming.

                She winced. “I’m sorry; we have work we have to get done.”

                “Work? On the train?”

                He was all but slurring the words.

                “School work,” Mary said simply.

                “You don’t look like schoolgirls,” Thornton said.

                “College,” Sue explained.

                “Well, you can’t be all work, you know?” he said.

                “Thank you for the invitation, but we really do have to work!” Sue said. She drew her folded sheets from her bag to show him. “We have to start up as soon as we get to L.A., and it’s going to be tight for us.”

                “It’s a long time before we’re in L.A.!”

                “And we need all the time we have until then,” Sue said.

                He inched his butt around on the chair, shoving himself closer to Mary.

                “I think your friends are missing you,” she said.

                “To be honest, I just met that fellow. Told him he looked like a squat little leprechaun, but that was cool ’cause he proved to be a lucky penny. Can you just go figure though? His friend. She’s quite the beauty!”

                “She is beautiful,” Mary said.

                “And they’re not together! They’re just friends, so they tell me. She’s smooth as silk, never off-putting, and yet . . . well, getting to know her is a bit tough. With you ladies at the table, too . . . who knows where luck could lead!”

                “We really have to work!” Sue announced firmly. Her voice had grown louder. Thornton scowled, and Mary realized he hadn’t wanted Mickey and the dark-haired beauty to hear him being rejected.

                 “Well, then. I told the little bastard I was just a lucky guy, but I was ready for more luck. He brought me lots of luck. Well . . . guess I’ll join him and Moira.”

                He slid from the table, tipping an imaginary hat to them.

                “Argh!” Sue said when he was gone. “Well, I’m figuring he does get ‘lucky’ often enough—as long as he starts off by not opening his mouth!”

                The train came to a halt. Looking out the window, Mary saw people detraining.

                She wondered if there was anyone left on the train at all besides those here in the dining car.

                “What is it?” Sue asked.

                “I’m hoping we’re on the right train. I know people still aren’t traveling a lot, but this is kind of ridiculous!”

                “I’m surprised Mr. Lucky is on the train. He won enough to buy a plane, I think.”

                “Hey, maybe you should take one for the team,” Sue teased. “We could get him to pay the rent for the next semester!”

                Mary gave her a grimace. “Really?”

                “Of course, not really!”

                “Where the hell!”

                They hadn’t even gotten their food yet when they heard Thornton shouting the words.

                He was standing up by the table, staring at Mickey and the beautiful woman Thornton had called Moira.

                He spun around then. The waiter—the only other person who seemed to be anywhere near them—rushed down the aisle.

                “Sir! Is there a problem?”

                “He thinks we stole his money,” Moira said, and she slid out running her hands down her black dress. “No pockets.”

                “And I’ve emptied my pockets,” Mickey said, standing as well.

                “You!” Thornton roared, staring at the waiter. “You! You’ve taken it; you hid it.”

                “Sir, I did not!” the waiter assured him indignantly.

                Thornton stared at the trio around him and then at the table.

                There was a steak knife there; sharp and serrated.

                He held it up to the waiter. “I want my money back. Now!”

                “I don’t have it—” the waited began.

                Mary was stunned to see Thornton slash the knife against the waiter’s arm.

                Blood immediately seeped through the sleeve of the waiter’s white shirt. 

                “Sir!” Stunned, the waiter backed up, back—past Mary and Sue.

                “Stop!” Mickey shouted. “Stop now!”

                But Thornton slashed at the waiter again and as more blood poured, he suddenly swung around staring at Mary and Sue.

                “You!” he raged. “I finally have real luck, and you—you bitches! You have my money!”

                He was probably drunk, and he was infuriated. He wasn’t going to be reasonable.

                She jumped up and grabbed hold of Sue’s arm, dragging her from the booth and shoving her behind her, crying, “Go! Go, go!”

                They were going the wrong way,  away from their seats, of course.

                They had to pass the beautiful raven-haired Moira and the “leprechaun,” Mickey.

                Both were standing their ground.

                It was Moira who said softly, “Go, go—run! It’s getting dark!”

                Mary gave Sue a shove. She could hear Thornton was almost upon them, staggering down the aisle.

                She hated leaving Mickey and Moira, but they seemed to know what they were doing.

                “Stop!” Moira raged to Thornton.

                But Mary glanced back and saw Thornton had shoved Moira so hard she fell back into the seat of the booth.

                Mary saw her face.

                Her expression was terrifying.

                But Thornton was still moving, and so Mary kept pushing Sue.

                “I’m going to kill you bitches!” Thornton raged.

                Where the hell was the conductor? Where were people?

                Mary pushed Sue ahead.

                “Think you’re too good for me? I will slash every inch of flesh off you both!” Thornton raged.

                They’d reached the end of the dining car. Turning back, Mary saw the darkness for the first time. She pushed out to the connector between cars.

                The door for departing passengers was just closing.

                But it was still open a hair.

                “Off!” she cried to Sue, and she nearly pushed her friend down the steps that led to the platform. Sue did trip, but she made it out the door in her tumble.

                Mary didn’t make it out.

                The door closed with finality. She saw Sue looking up at her in horror from the ground

                Then she screamed and ran.

                Thornton was behind her, knife raised.

                And behind him . . .

                There was something worse. A swirl of darkness, like a fog, an evil fog. At first, Mary didn’t know why it was terrifying.

                Darkness was just . . . the night. The night was coming on, except . . .

                This was not like nightfall. This was a darkness that had a life of its own. As if it were nothing but pure evil, heaving and swirling and spouting out, stretching in places, as if had arms like an octopus.

                She couldn’t think about the darkness. The crazy man with his bloody knife was almost upon her.

                She ran and ran, and she was far ahead of him, heading into the sleeper cars and the back of the train.

                She screamed for help.

                 No one heeded her cries.

                Because no one was there.

                She started throwing open the doors to the sleeper compartments.

                The train was empty.

                And it was beginning to look as if the darkness had a life within the train itself, as if it was beginning to arise from the sleeping cars as well.

                She kept running, and then she reached the end of the train. She burst through into the tiny, empty caboose.

                Jump! She would have to get the last door open somehow and jump off the train.

                Suicide! The train seemed to be speeding like a sports car during the Indie.

                She stopped to breathe. She realized she’d relived the morning to the evening as she had run. How? How was the train empty? How was this awful human being after her and . . .

                And how was the darkness rising?

                She was gasping for breath when she heard a soft voice warn, “Don’t stop! Run. You must keep going. It’s taking more time, run, run, run, he’s coming!”

                “Where are you? Who are you?”

                “Run!” was her only answer.

                And Mary could see Thornton was lumbering toward her.

                And the swirling darkness was right behind him.

                She ran, thinking the voice had sounded like that of the woman who had been across from her in the aisle, the old lady who had wanted a sandwich.

                She hoped the woman was okay and her hiding place was safe.

                She managed to burst through to the back of the train.

                The world was dark. They traveled through a no man’s land; she could vaguely see, or think that she saw, the desert barren and bathed in darkness. They were moving so quickly.

                The door burst open behind her.

                Jump—or feel the knife.

                She saw Thornton’s mottled and enraged face. Saw the knife held high in his hand. He reached out for her, catching her arm.

                “Oh no, you don’t! You’re not jumping off this train with my money. My lucky money!”

                “I don’t have your money!” she yelled back, trying to shake his hold, trying not to see the dripping blood that fell from the knife and wonder if the waiter lived or if he had died.

                “I don’t have your money!” she cried again.

                He paused, strangely, as if puzzled.

                And she realized as he did that the darkness had fallowed them.

                “What the hell?” he said, pausing and looking around.

                Mary was acutely aware of the thunderous chug, chug, chug of the train now, speeding through the eerie landscape.

                But there was a noise that seemed to rise above it, to swirl with the darkness that now seemed to be sweeping around, holding them, touching them, as if seeking to know what they were.

                She felt the touch of the darkness. It slipped over her flesh lightly, chilling her blood. It seemed to wrap around her like encompassing arms.

                But it was strangely . . .

                Gentle

                To her.

                And not so to Thornton.

                One minute, he had his hand on her arm and his fingers were locked around it like a vicious vise.

                He was tense with rage.

                He had the knife raised, ready to slash down on her breast. Close, so close . . .

                Then he suddenly let out a choking sound. He screamed and dropped the knife, clawing at his neck. He clutched his chest, gasping and spewing out incomprehensible words.

                The darkness no longer touched Mary. It had given all its concentration to Thornton, winding around him like a boa constrictor.

                Tighter . . . tighter.

                Mary watched in horror, unable to move. The train was racing; the sound of the darkness was rising, high, lamenting, like the soft cries of a thousand women.

                Suddenly, Thornton fell to the metal at the end of the train car, almost at her feet.

                Terrified, Mary just stood there. And as she did, the saw the darkness swirl tightly into itself. Then instead of a mass of strangely defined darkness, she saw a form take shape.

                The form of a woman.

                And the darkness was the raven-haired beauty, Moira.

                Stunned, Mary was amazed as she held tightly to the rail, staring.

                Stunned and terrified.

                “It’s all right, lass, I didn’t come for you tonight,” the woman said. But she smiled gently and added, “I’ll be telling your Gran you send your love.”

                She stooped then and clutched the body of the fallen Thornton. It was as if she picked him up, a part of him, and yet his body still lay there.

                Dazed and confused, the part of him she held—that without physical substance—looked up at her. “No, no, no . . . where are you taking me? Oh, no, oh . . .”

                “Your journey will be a long one,” she told him.

                She moved into the air. Into the night. Into the sky.

                And she was gone.

                Mary remained too terrified to move.

                The door burst open again. And the little man was there.

                And it couldn’t be sane; she had to be imagining it all.  But the words out of her mouth were, “You are a leprechaun. And Moira—”

                “Banshee, of course. We really did just stumble into each other,” Mickey said.

                The door opened again.

                And the old woman was there.

                “And you—you’re a leprechaun, too?” she asked.

                “Ah, dear lassie! No, not a’tall! I’m a pixie, my sweet. And thank goodness Moira sped it up! I was so afraid that wretched man would reach you . . . but then, I guess Moira would have known. Anyway, dear, not your time—”

                “Of course not,” Mickey interrupted. “She asked so nicely for luck, I cast it upon her freely!”

                It was insane.

                And it was too much.

                Mary passed out cold.

*

                Mary woke up in a hospital bed. She was still so terrified she nearly slugged the nurse trying to take her temperature.

                “Where am I? Where’s Sue? Oh my God, the leprechaun!”

                The nurse ran out of the room. But as she struggled to get out of bed, a young doctor strode in urging her to be calm.

                “Poor child, what a night! You’re incredibly lucky you survived that maniac!”

                “Thornton . . .” she murmured.

                “He came so close to killing you, young lady. He’s killed before. They found his ex-wife’s body after he’d left town, and . . . well, he’s suspected in a few other crimes. But he had you almost falling to your death out the back of the train.”

                “The train! Where was everyone?” she demanded. “I—”

                “I’m sorry, Mary. We’re still not sure how you wound up on that train with that killer. The train was out of service. Of course, we knew you were on because your friend reported it to the authorities when you pushed her off. Anyway, you just don’t know how lucky you are. Your would-be killer dropped dead of a heart attack two seconds before slicing into you.”

                She tried to find out about Mickey and Moira and Minnie.

                People just smiled at her.

                They had all stumbled onto a train that was out of service and heading to the next station for repairs.

                And even when Sue came . . .

                Yes, Thornton had been with people. And yes, someone had been working in the dining car, and they had seen the people with Thornton, but Sue imagined they’d gotten off, too.

                “Maybe the way you got me off!” Sue said. “Oh, Mary. You saved me—and you could have died. Do you know how incredibly lucky you are?”

                Mary weighed those words.

                She hadn’t known before. She did now.

                “I’m the luckiest girl I know!” she said fervently.

                Because somehow they had travelled in the lucky train.

                And luck had been with her. Mickey had promised her luck.

                And he had delivered with the greatest luck of all—life.

The Lucky Train  (A very short story 22 pages)

Luck...

There's good luck, and then there's bad luck, and maybe, something a little bit in between.  For Mary O'Hara, the very concept of luck will twist, and twice in one day it starts with a roll of the dice and ends with a terrifying train ride straight to the very heart of "luck".

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