I’ve loved train rides my whole life. My dad would take me to school on the train, and I would miss it come summer. The rides only got better when the Advent trains were introduced. Those were structured closer to the trains others would use for long trips, so much more comfortable. It was always fun to see who was a regular or who had never ridden before, to try to determine what job someone had based solely on what they did on the train, or to see how many runaway kids there were each day.
Ok, that last one wasn’t very common, but it happened to be true on a day back in 2018, just a few weeks before the Collapse. When they got on, I recognized them as new, but nothing more. There was a girl and a boy. The girl I guessed was older by the way she carried herself and because she guided the boy to a seat, but they must have been around twelve years old. The boy seemed to be rather fun loving, and enjoying the new experience. They could have easily been kids that would be meeting their parents at a later train station, so I thought little of them.
The Advent trains were structured more like a diner—booths of seats facing eachother—so they sat the next booth over, in front of me. I thought nothing of them for the next few minutes, but when the girl got up to use the restroom, the boy peaked over the divider between us and said, “We’re running away!”
I had my doubts that anyone, even a kid that old, would just tell a random adult that they were running away except for as a joke. So I indulged him. “Oh? Where to?”
“Land’s End. It’s as far west as you can go in Cornwall,” he replied.
“I know the place. Why run away to a cliff? I hope you don’t plan on jumping.”
“Oh! No, don’t worry. We’re trying to find a wizard—Crap, my sister’s coming back. If she asks, tell her I was asking for the time.”
She didn’t ask me, though. She just talked to the boy for a few seconds, and then sat down. I didn’t like unfinished stories, so after a few minutes of failing self-control, I got up and sat opposite the children in their booth. The girl looked scared, easily on par with some of the people I’ve interrogated. The boy was just nervous, obviously regretting his decision to talk to me.
“Stop looking like you were caught with your hand in the cookie jar,” I said calmly, “What’re your names?”
“Cal,” started Cal before his sister shot him a look.
“We don’t need to tell you,” she said. She’s definitely better at this running away thing than her brother.
“If not your name, will you at least tell me about the wizard?”
“Darn it, Cal! Why’d you tell him?” the girl hissed. I guess that part had some merit.
“I didn’t tell him much. Just a teeny, tiny bit,” he said, putting his fingers close together.
“Well, you obviously told him about the wizard, anything else?”
“No, well, maybe a few things,” he said in an ever decreasing volume, “But only little things!”
“Did you tell him you-know-what?”
The boy looked away.
“Excuse me,” I said, before the girl could yell anything, “Can you please answer the question? Who’s the wizard?”
“Are you going to tell the police?” the girl asked, scared again, not in her scary older sister voice. I guess the runaway part also has merit.
“They already know, but I can help with that if you explain what’s going on.”
“Help?” I nodded. “Ok, fine. My brother and I are following notes left by a wizard. The first one was in our secret fort, and only we could’ve put it there. I know you might think it’s not that secret, but it is. Perfectly secret. Then we found two more. They were in easier to get to places, but no one could have hidden the first clue.”
“What was the clue that led you here?” I almost started taking notes, but I didn’t want to scare them anymore. I would just have to rely on my memory.
“Ride the beginning to the end of the world,” she recited. “The only train that goes far enough West is this Advent train. Advent is similar to beginning.”
“And Land’s End is the end of the world,” piped in Cal, who had quickly regained his confidence.
I put on my best are-you-kidding face and said, “So you’re running away to follow a possible answer to a clue that you shouldn’t have found?”
“Not running away. Just… taking an unscheduled vacation,” said the girl, “Besides, it’s not like our parents would take us.”
“And we know we’re right. We know we have to go to Land’s End,” said Cal.
“Will you return home after you find the clue here?” I asked, “Even if it leads farther away?”
“Maybe. I guess,” said the girl.
I doubted that, but my stop had come. It still wasn’t a finished story, and I hated unfinished stories. I would like to keep up with them, but I didn’t know if I could. They wouldn’t call me if I gave them my number, would they? Well, maybe if I gave them more than just my number.
I got up, “Well, this is my stop.”
The girl looked annoyed, “What about helping with the police?”
“What’s your name?”
“Jess. Now are you going to help?” she said.
I ignored her. “Here is my card,” I said, handing it to Cal, “Call me if you need any help with your adventure. I love an excuse to visit Land’s End.”
As I walked off the train, I heard Cal exclaim, “Sis! He’s MI5!”