- Daily: 4,729
- Overall: 20,448
LATER: Okay I couldn’t sleep. Too much tea. Here, have an excerpt that has nothing to do with anything, only it wants to become a story of its own.
The boy was wearing a top hat with a tuft of pheasant feathers stuck in the hatband, and a vertically striped waistcoat with a thin chain hooked into one of his button holes. “ I’m sure-” He stopped as the door behind him rattled, and turned around on the toe of his scuffed brown leather shoes to hold it up open. “Hey, Melinda.”
The girl who slipped through the door was dressed exactly the same way, only with red gloves and the addition of a small tray and cashbox at her waist. The money-changing setup was held in place with a leather belt and a thin black tie that went around her neck. “Hey, Paul.” She stepped across the aisle and leaned on the side of one of the benches for stability as she pulled a flip notebook out of her pocket. She smiled briskly at the mustached man on the bench. “Good day sir. Name?”
“Uh, Phillip of Wooster.” He was holding a battered metal helmet in his lap and had a bandage tucked neatly around his forehead. Nanami didn’t recognize his uniform, which was immaculate in every crease and mend.
Melinda nodded and made a mark in her notebook. She had leather bands right under her elbows. They closed with snaps and her sleeves where tucked out of them, away from any ink. “And where are you going today, Phillip?”
Phillip cleared his throat. “I’m connecting through Adelhied, heading for New KwaZulu? I’m carrying a letter for my major-” He stopped as Melinda held up a small hand. Her stubby fingers were ink-stained.
“Save it for the customs house, soldier. That’ll be five kroner.” She stowed away the coins that Phillip proffered and flicked the side of a ink stamp. “Right hand.”
Phillip held out his hand while Melinda flicked the stamp again. It was humming, and she scowled at it. “Behave, you second hand piece of third rate no patent ju- there you go!” She bashed the stamp on an red ink pad and marked Phillip’s right hand with a star in a circle. “Have a good trip, sir.” The girl stepped across the aisle and looked at Nanami. “Name?”
Nanami was now suddenly conscious that she didn’t know where she was going. “Um, Nanami Tajimi, miss? I don’t-”
Melinda smiled at her. “No worries, Miss. Your ticket is already paid for for. Left hand, please.” Nanami held out her left hand.
Melinda flicked a dial on the side of her stamp and muttered darkly at it under her breath. “I’m sorry about this, miss, It doesn’t usually take so long.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all.” Nanami smiled sheepishly. “I know what it’s like to have your equipment not co-operate.”
“Of course, miss.” Melinda looked at her out of the corner of her eye, almost too fast to be seen, and bashed the stamp on the back of the bench. “Ah, finally!” She dashed it against another ink pad and marked the back of Nanami’s left hand. This time the imprint was in green, of a sword crossing a pair of scaled. “Enjoy your trip, Miss.” She stepped down the aisle again, swaying her hips to keep her balance in the moving train. “Hands! If you’ve paid for your ticket, keep your hands up! You, madame, what is your name?”