• Jabe Stafford

One Page Worlds - Wreck-o-motive

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Please tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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“Oh, my parents were traditional,” the elemental breathed through the boiler wall. “Named me Gres after the man that engineered the LNER train. Loved man. Always helped them.”

Steam and coal smoke swirled inside the locomotive where we stood interrogating the see-through thing. Gears and wheels ground against each other and the tracks, shunting us toward London faster than a horse. I leaned toward the conductor and ignored the sweat rolling down the insides of my lab coat. “It’s got to be so incorporeal that you can only see it on trains. In the boilers with the steam, for example, or near enough where the water that should boil off doesn’t.”

Removing his hat, the conductor scratched his forehead and left soot streaks. “Listen doctor, the thing looks like a ghost to me. Any passengers come by and they’re likely to think the same. I’ve got their safety and sanity and this locomotive’s functionality to occupy me. What’s that squashed wineskin bit floating there?”

My brows slammed downward. “That’s its face, conductor. Notice how it speaks? I’d wager it pulls air up into itself somehow and—”

“It’s so cold out here,” Gres whispered, aurally and visibly shivering. “I’m not losing my head talking to you blokes. Good luck with this wreck-o-motive.”

The elemental whisked back inside the engine’s boiler, leaving a pocket of air that was cooler than the general area. “See that?” I said, pointing at the pocket as it collapsed and the warmer air wavered. “It even smelled cooler for a second. Can you believe we discovered England’s first steam elemental?”

“If the engine’s getting cold, I ought to burn more coal,” the conductor said, oblivious.

He made to call for the firemen but the train lurched and iron screeched and snapped. The elemental swuffed its head back out from the boiler. “I didn’t break the blast pipe. Or the valve gear. Those were broken when I woke up.”

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