Peter Steward's Web Site
Chapter Two - The Ghost Train
Rebecca and Michael slept soundly
Downstairs in the hall, the Grandfather clock struck 11 p.m and it was almost Christmas Day. The temperature was dropping rapidly and Jack Frost was beginning to dip his fingers into the chilling, ice cold.
Inside the house by the railway line it was snug and warm. The wind whistled outside the youngsters room but Rebecca and Michael missed its icy blast.
The first indication that something unusual was happening was a pungent smell that wafted through the room. It was sweet and almost sickly, rather like freshly baked doughnuts steeped in golden syrup.
Michael smelled it first. He felt strange ... still asleep but at the same time in some kind of twilight world between real sleep and being awake.
Rebecca soon had the same feeling but, try as they might, they could not force their eyes open.
Then the wind began. At first a low blast of air that increased in speed and ferocity, whipping up paper and boxes in the room.
An observer would have seen the wind swirling and moving above the children as they lay in their beds. Then in an instant it pushed its way underneath them and lifted them both into the air.
There they hung as if suspended by rope from the ceiling. Their blankets were wrapped round them.
The observer would have seen the bedroom windows blow open and the windows rattle.
And then wonder of wonders, the two children were carried high into the air and clean through the windows. The sweet smell accompanied them and as they moved clear of the house, the window rattled back onto its catch.
If the children had been awake they would have gasped at the thin night air. But they were whisked higher and higher until they seemed to be on the same level as the stars in the sky.
They rushed headlong towards the railway line and then began to drift lower and lower. And as they fell towards the earth the sweet smell began to disappear and was replaced by a low droning noise, high pitched but not unpleasant.
Slowly Michael and Rebecca began to wake up and as they looked in front of them they saw a wondrous sight. On the railway track stood the most magnificent steam engine imaginable.
If it was a dream it was one featuring carriages of sparkling gold and silver. The engine was jet black and illuminated by the starry sky and the white snow that was piling up around the wheels.
Michael and Rebecca should have been afraid but they weren't really. They felt warm and safe despite the coldness of the night.
Suddenly the doors to one of the carriages opened and the high pitched noise became stronger. Michael and Rebecca, still somewhere between being awake and asleep, felt themselves drawn towards the train.
They felt a great need to climb aboard, but their feelings seemed not to belong to them. They were on their own alone at the bottom of the garden, clutching each other's hands and moving nearer and nearer to the train.
They had to get on board. There seemed to be no other alternative. So slowly and gradually they stepped towards the golden train. Soon they would be on their journey - bound for a land that few people have ever seen. A land millions of miles from anywhere, a land of the imagination, but a land as real as you or I.
The grand adventure was about to start.