Part Two: FATE
Chapter 6: Escape
‘Meet us back at the Common Room for dinner, Arnold,’ The Journalist says as they part.
‘Get some rest, Arnold, an adventure’s at hand!’ Sgt. Pepper salutes Arnold and then marches away with Tina smiling and waving goodbye.
On his way to car 2, Arnold realizes he can’t find his room. He paces along the hallway and spots Vernon rolling down towards him.
‘Hey Vernon,’ Arnold says, ‘I forget which room I’m in!’
Vernon gives a smile. ‘Right this way.’ He leads him to room 4 and opens the door. ‘I was actually looking for you, Arnold. Can I come in?’
‘Of course.’ Arnold holds the door open to let him in. ‘What’s going on?’ Arnold notices a worried look on Vernon’s face.
‘May I use your computer?’ Vernon asks.
‘Do I have one?’ Arnold looks around the room.
Vernon rolls over to the window and presses a button on the frame. A fuzzy screen appears over the window. He inserts a disk into a thin slit in the wall and what looks like surveillance footage appears on the screen. Arnold walks closer to the window.
‘Do you remember seeing this woman during lunch in the common room?’ Vernon asks. The screen shows the woman that had her thoughts streaming out of her head in the Common Room.
‘Yeah, I remember seeing her.’ He says.
‘Yes, well, we were paying very close attention to her. This is the footage of when you walked into the Common Room.’ Vernon touches his finger onto the screen and the video starts to play. ‘Watch the middle section of the thought stream. That’s where the most conscious thoughts are.’
Arnold watches the screen. He sees himself walking into the Common Room and the woman watches him closely.
‘There he is!’ The woman’s thoughts say. ‘He has it! Haha! I’ll have to kill him in his sleep and get it …better get things in order…food’s here…ooooh, noodle sandwich!’
Vernon pauses the video and turns to Arnold, who walks back over to the table and slumps down. His face is pale.
‘Do you have any idea what she wants from you?’ Vernon asks.
Arnold feels around in his empty pockets. ‘I still had your pocket watch then,’ Arnold says as he thinks about it. His voice rises. ‘A bearded witch in Circus City said it’s powerful! She was worried about it falling into the wrong hands!’
‘But there are hundreds of these on the train!’ Vernon pulls out the medallion, ‘and this one’s been broken since you gave it back!’
‘What do I do?’ Arnold asks.
‘We’ve scheduled an emergency departure for you on the Gondola. You will get to Tirinodo four hours before the train.’ He hands Arnold two tickets. ‘These are good for trains, boats, hovercrafts, balloons, and busses!’
Arnold takes the tickets and puts them in his pocket. ‘Thanks.’
Vernon hands him a green satchel. ‘There’s some clothing in there, and would you take the watch with you?’
‘Are you serious?’ Arnold begins to leave the room.
‘Well, if it is powerful, it may be better off the train.’ Vernon pulls the medallion out of his pocket and holds it out to Arnold.
When Arnold takes hold of it, it lights up and starts working again. He places it into the green satchel and jogs behind the sound of Vernon wheel screeching down the hallway. ‘It’s meant to be,’ he thinks to himself. He catches up to Vernon as he opens an invisible door. Behind it is a take-off porch constructed on the outside of the train. The porch has what looks like ski-lifts on a wire leaving the train in single-file like a gondola.
‘It only runs for another minute or so and then detaches from the train. You’ll be in Tirinodo in less than twenty minutes! But it’s nearly evening there already, so be careful.’
Arnold steps onto the edge of the deck and is swept away by the next gondola. Wind gusts in his ears and he hardly hears Vernon yell ‘good luck!’ behind him as he drifts away.
Chapter 7: Tirinodo Bound
Arnold soars above a dark body of water on the gondola. Clouds with neon lining rise from the edge of the horizon. Mechanical ragtime music blares out of the distant sky ahead of him. He looks behind him and sees ten gondolas. The rest are behind a thick sheet of fog.
A shadow suddenly appears from behind the fog and lands on the tenth gondola back. Arnold begins to shake and his heart races. He grabs ahold of his satchel, looks ahead, and jumps forward, grabbing ahold of the next gondola and pulling himself on to it. When he looks back, he sees the dark figure leap from the tenth to the ninth gondola.
‘Don’t look back!’ Arnold says aloud. He jumps from one gondola to the next over and over until his limbs become numb. The mechanical ragtime is louder and sounds like sheets of metal being ripped as he moves towards the city.
He finally reaches the end of the gondola and jumps onto a beach that lines an ocean. Ahead to the right, the beach leads to a tall and smoggy city. Buildings tear into the sky. The tops of the buildings are smothered by drooping sap clouds that drip down the top floors. Arnold runs down the beach towards the city. Hover cars appear in his vision. He runs through traffic on the road and turns left onto another street, arriving at a restaurant called ‘Angelos’.
The building is gold and silver chromed and spans high into the sap clouds. With quite some effort, Arnold pulls the door open. He’s welcomed by a man twice his size wearing a black and white tuxedo, grease-slicked hair, and a thin, twirled mustache. He looks Arnold up and down before speaking.
‘Excuse me,’ the man says with a polite tone, ‘but this restaurant is reserved for elites only. If you’re hungry, please make your way to middle or lower town.’ He begins to close the door.
Arnold is about to plead for refuge, but the man interrupts him.
‘Wait! Are you here to apply for the position in the kitchen?’ The man looks down at him.
‘I am!’ Arnold moves away from the front door as he speaks. ‘I don’t have a resume, but I have lots of experience!’
The man closes the door and leads Arnold to the main entrance. ‘I am matre’dee Jozef! Let me show you around.’
He leads Arnold through the entrance way and into the dining room. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, silver-lined mirrors are mounted on the walls, and men in plastic business suits drink liters of red wine like drunken hyenas.
‘The kitchen is right this way.’ Jozef leads Arnold past the dining area, through a set of swinging doors, and into a hallway that has red pasta sauce splattered on the walls. They enter into the kitchen, where two chefs stand in steam above a pot of boiling water and a sizzling wok. Jozef pulls out a leather strap and whips them. Fire erupts under the wok and the chefs perk up like re-charged mechanical puppets.
Jozef laughs out loud like a proud zoo-keeper as they leave the kitchen.
‘Over here is where the shipments come in fresh off the boat.’ He leads Arnold farther down the hallway and opens a door. A long tunnel leads to a dock in the distance.
‘This is our Shipment Tunnel. It is the safest way to ensure that the dirty hands of the poor don’t tamper with our foreign delicacies.’ He laughs again.
‘I see.’ Arnold forces a giggle.
‘And over here is where you would do your prep work.’ Jozef closes the door to the tunnel.
‘Could you show me where the washroom is?’ Arnold asks.
‘The staff washrooms are right over there.’ Jozef points to a door down the hall. ‘I will check on the guests and then we can finish the tour.’
Arnold walks in slow motion towards the staff washroom. He watches as Jozef walks through the set of swinging doors and then runs to the tunnel door and escapes into the Shipment Tunnel. The tunnel is made of limestone and is about fifty yards long. When Arnold arrives at the end of it, he sees that a boat has docked.