by Pam Sears
Is it the Fae? Or something… else?
|Rose and Kestle stood on the corner, looking down the dark street and watching the fog slowly roll in. Rose had the sleeve of Kestle’s coat in a grip tight enough to rip the thick fabric. She glanced up at her brother, then back down the street.
“I don’t think I want to do this after all, Kes.” She almost whispered.
“C’mon, Sis.” He cajoled. “You were all for it earlier.”
“Well, yeah, but “earlier” was at a party surrounded by a bunch of people. In bright light, I might add.” Her fingers twisted his sleeve as the fog seemed to swirl and sway with darker shapes although nothing emerged.
Kestle snorted. “It’s not that big a deal. It’s just to see if the Fae Tram is real or not.” Another snort, softer this time. “It’s just a tale told to keep kids off the streets late at night. You know there’s no such thing. We’re in Philadelphia, for heaven’s sake. Not the middle of Ireland. Fae Tram!” He snorted a third time.
Rose eyed him, moss colored gaze gleaming in the dimming light of the street lamps. “Maybe we are, little brother, but Ma always said the Fae followed us across the seas when the Irish immigrated. And things happen all the time that no one can explain.”
“Doesn’t mean fairies. Or ghosties or goblins.” He added. “Ma told those stories to keep us entertained. Or scare us into behaving.”
Rose heard a strange metallic “clunk” and nearly leapt into Kestle’s arms. “M- maybe. Maybe not. A lot of people have claimed to see this tram. Empty. No one on it, not even a driver. Just a lit tram moving along the streets late at night.”
“Yeah, yeah, waiting to pick up the unwary traveler and whisk them away, never to be seen again.” Kestle’s droll tones rolled over his sister, causing her to shake her head. “I so don’t believe it. I’m sure it’s just a matter of lighting and angles.”
“Hester Sinclair saw it.” Rose murmured, still staring into the dark, listening for that metal-on-metal sound to repeat itself.
Kestle gave her a sharp look even as he shook his head. “Hester Sinclair thinks the Harry Potter series is real and Hogwarts is just well-hidden from us Muggles.” That got a faint curve of trembling lips from Rose. “Besides,” He added. “Who ever heard of the Fae using modern vehicles. This is the 1990’s, Rose. Not the 1890’s. No one believes in that clap-trap anymore.”
“Ma always said the Fae adapt.” She reminded him, never taking her restless gaze from the fog. Watching carefully.
“A driverless tram? C’mon, Rose. They don’t operate themselves.” He patted her hands where they were twisted into his coat sleeve. They were icy from the fog and the night. “Here, put these on.” He pulled his gloves out of his pocket and forced them onto her chilled hands.
“Thanks, Kes. It’s getting pretty nasty out. Why don’t we just leave?” She pressed, softly hopeful.
Kestle opened his mouth to reply when there was the distinctive clang of a trolly bell. He saw Rose whip around, hand going to her heart as though to muffle the sound of it. It beat so hard even he could hear it in the muffled stillness surrounding them. The clank-clack of metal wheels on metal rails drifted to them as lights slowly formed out of the fog, heading toward them.
“Let’s leave, Kes.” Rose urged.
“It’s just the city tram, Rose.” He pulled back his sleeve to check his watch. “In fact, it’s a bit early. Nice. We can take it back towards where we left the car and I’ll drop you home.”
“I really have a bad feeling, Kes. I don’t want to ride the tram. Please, can’t we just walk back?” She pled.
“Boy, Hester really has you all het up over this. Seriously, Sis, I doubt she saw this Fae Tram at all. She probably made the claim for attention.” He frowned. “That thing’s moving awfully slow.” He muttered, shoving his hat towards the back of his head.
“Hester wasn’t trying to get attention, Kestle. She was scared when she told me. Really scared. She said there was no driver but there was a door keeper and he was so gaunt he looked skeletal. She felt like she was frozen in place then he reached for her and something in her snapped. She managed to run away but she won’t ride a tram anymore.”
“Skeletal figure? What, like the Grim Reaper? Rose.” He chided, trying not to laugh. His sister had always held more belief in the myths and stories their Ma told than he did.
“More like Charon, the ferryman across the river Styx.” She kept her voice low so that he had to strain to hear.
“Styx? I think you’re crossing up your myths, Sis. Isn’t Charon of Greek origin? That would make this even less likely to be a tram controlled by Irish Fae.” Now he did laugh.
She gave him a quick frown. “Each culture has their version of Charon. I was just using him to identify what Hester…. You know what, brother? Never mind. You never did listen to any of Ma’s tales. But there was truth in them. Each myth has some grain of truth or where did they come from?”
“From drunken or frightened imaginations, Rose. People use what we now call mythology to explain the unexplainable. That’s all.” He assured.
“Oh, then explain that, Mister.” Her voice and hand both trembled as she pointed to the trolly pulling up next to them.
The trolly was well lit on the inside but held no passengers. And there didn’t appear to be a driver, either. Kestle blinked, trying to force his eyes to see what wasn’t there. Then the doors swung open and a figure in some sort of dark cloak stood there, barely visible, back-lit as he was by the trolly’s lights. He tilted his head and seemed to stare at the two of them for a long moment, though Kestle wasn’t too sure, then he gestured to Rose to step inside.
Trembling from head to toe Rose shook her head and tried to step back but ran into her brother. He put his hands on her shoulders and gave a gentle push forward. “Just get on the tram, Rose. I want to get back to the car, now. It’s getting colder and I already gave you my gloves.”
She shook her head again, a few locks of her hair escaping her ‘do and gleaming red in the watery light. To Kestle they almost appeared the color of blood. He blinked again and shook his head, giving his sister a firmer nudge. The doorman reached out a near-skeletal hand and firmly gripped Rose’s arm, tugging her into the tram. When Kestle stepped up to follow he found his way blocked by that same figure who shook his head slowly in the negative.
“What? Wait a minute,” He began heatedly but the doors slowly closed.
Kestle tried to reach for the doors but his arms felt leaden and his feet refused to cooperate. He heard his sister’s wail of terror as the tram slowly began to move forward but he was unable to do more than roar out his fear and anger, seemingly cemented to the sidewalk as the tram clanked down the road and disappeared into the fog with a wink of red lights. As soon as they winked out Kestle was able to move again and immediately gave chase, frantically calling out his sister’s name.
“He’s never going to recover, is he?” The nurse asked the doctor standing next to her, her silvery gaze fastened on the patient behind a one-way glass.
The doctor shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not. The guilt was more than his mind could handle when he found out. He’ll live the rest of his life inside his mind and there’s little we can do other than keep him safe and fed.”
The nurse nodded her head, dark hair gleaming. “Do you think there’s something to what he keeps muttering? About some sort of haunted tram his sister got on?”
Again the doctor shook his head, pity in the gaze he kept on his patient as they continued to watch him through that one-way glass. “No. I believe it’s how he handles the guilt of her death. He couldn’t save her and, in his mind, it was his fault. But his mind couldn’t handle that reality so he created another one. One his mind could handle.”
“But… it’s so far-fetched.” The nurse protested, intently watching the man who sat leaning against the wall, staring blankly into the middle distance, arms tied firmly around him by the heavy white jacket he wore.
“To you and me. To him, it makes perfect sense.” The doctor nodded at him. “The Fae stole his sister away and left an empty husk in her place. It’s the only way he can deal with the fact she was murdered by the city’s serial killer.”
“Do you think they’ll ever catch the killer?” The nurse queried, glancing up at the doctor out of the corner of her eye.
“I’m sure they will. But that’s a job for the police.” He turned away, glancing impatiently at his watch and striding down the hall, expecting her to follow. “Our job is to care for those poor souls unfortunate enough to end up here. Come along, Nurse.”
“Yes, of course doctor.” She murmured. Her strange, silver-grey eyes gleamed as she glanced back at the patient behind the one-way glass only to find him staring straight at her. She smiled a shark’s smile at him, carefully tucked a rose behind her ear, and turned to follow the doctor.
In his room Kestle began to weep silently as he watched the dark figure walk away.