Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 12

Breathless By David Gullen All through the frozen night the snow storm raced Ice Maiden northwards. Chill winds beat against the carriage sides and drifted snow across the tracks. Near dawn the train slowed and Chloe was woken by the soft jolt as the following carriage rolled gently into her own. “We’re stopping,” Poul turned back from the window. “I’ll find out why.” He slid open their compartment and made his way down the corridor to the guard’s van. # Chloe met Poul at the great southern terminus when they first boarded Ice Maiden. Late to join the expedition to follow Northwind up the new line, there were no sleeper berths and only one unoccupied compartment. “I’m sorry, madam, sir.” The young steward gestured helplessly, his eyes fixed on their small collections of luggage. “We’ll share,” Chloe said and turned to the slim man with receding fair hair and pale eyes. “I’m sure we can cope.” provided them with blankets and pillows, and they slept on the long seats. “What made you decide to come?” Poul asked Chloe on the second day. “Dreams, impulses, the far horizon,” Chloe said lightly, but the question disturbed her, unexpectedly close to half acknowledged urges and doubts. “What about you?” The corners of Poul’s mouth turned down, the increasingly wintery landscape flashed by. “I discovered “forever” means different things to different people. I’m not naturally adventurous but it was time for a change. An opportunity arose, I decided to take it.” Poul spread his hands. “Here I am.” Chloe said nothing. Poul became self-consciously attentive: “Would you prefer to sit with your back to the e ngine?” Chloe shook her head. “I like to see where I’m going.” # “I think we’ll be fine.” His voice was surprisingly smooth and deep, he gave a lopsided smile and held out his hand, “Poul.” As soon as Poul had left Chloe threw back her blanket and sat up. Sometimes she woke in the night and, in the low yellow light of the gas mantle, she would watch him while he slept. His expression was wary and guarded and she wondered what her own face was like in sleep, if he too had watched her. “Chloe.” A week later they were familiar strangers. The porter Outside, it was barely light, clouds the colour of pale slate covered the sky. Chloe turned up the compart- PAGE 12