“When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Notes from the author:

The only problem with the daily writing prompt at Flash Fiction Chronicles is the order the words are in. Any order at all is a problem, or can be. When the string of ten ends in MOON-ISLAND it becomes impossible for me to think of "moon" or "island" as independent concepts. There is now, in my head, indelibly, a distinct location by that name, "Moon Island," and I desperately want to go there. Thanks awfully, Flash Fiction Chronicles!

The combination of "train" and "skeletal" put me in mind of Amtrak's "City of New Orleans" route. Between New Orleans and Hammond, Louisiana, you'll round the western side of Lake Pontchartrain, slowing down to enter "the longest single railroad curve in the United States" high above the water on rickety-seeming wooden trestles. First time passengers tend to get nervous. (Experienced passengers play "spot the alligator.")

The train to Moon Island arrives by means of a rickety wooden bridge. No other road, and no other vehicle, will take you there. Air and sea conspire to hide the land, turning boats and helicopters in futile magnetic circles. And even the train has its limits. Moon Island is aptly named; it's only there when the moon is in the sky. The railway timetables must therefore be carefully planned.

No other vehicle will take you, but it is possible to swim there. Sometimes the sea does take pity on the foolhardy and the brave. Most of the time, though, it doesn't.

The first time you make the journey, it will take your breath away. The curve of the track on land lets you see the bridge clearly, how old it is, how likely to fall apart. The struts look skeletal, as though made by an incompetent basket-weaving God. When the train reaches those ancient ties, you'll swear you can hear the nails rattling in their dangerously loose sockets. You will look up to where the tracks disappear over a watery horizon, and you will think, we'll never make it.

But then the train will come out of the curve and into the long, long straightaway, such that you can no longer see the tracks but only the open sea to either side of your car. This sight, too, is breathtaking.

Mermaids will rise from the deeps and begin to pace the train. You won't hear them sing; the train windows have been soundproofed against this danger. You will watch the sea in perfect safety all day long, until the sun sets and the world outside becomes invisible. You will travel patiently through the dark.

At last, directly behind the train where you can't see it, the full moon will rise. By its light the conductor will announce that Moon Island has been sighted, and you are soon to arrive.

But there I have only described the passage to Moon Island when the moon is full. When it's a newborn sliver, the train must depart in the wee hours of the morning. The crescent moon will rise, and Moon Island come into the conductor's view, more or less at dawn. So if you have some fool notion that Moon Island's peculiarities have consigned it to perpetual night, rid yourself of it now.

But the inhabitants of Moon Island are patient with their visitors' misconceptions. They have grown as accustomed to these as they are to the sight of the ever-changing moon hanging motionless in the sky. They have no fear of the rickety bridge. They carry beeswax and noise-canceling headphones against the mermaid passage. And they always buy a return ticket. No inhabitant of Moon Island ever chooses to leave.

This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for January 2, 2015. The fictionette appears in its entirety (1277 words) at Patreon and is available to all Patrons pledging at least $1/month.

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