It was a night train running through the Pyrenees mountains, which stood out like three-masted schooners under a pale moon. Like the train route itself, certain of the passengers would be phased out some years later. But that is getting ahead of things.
One of those doomed passengers, Count Balagia, was this night straining credulity in the smoking car as he snookered the sleepless. First in whist, then pinnochle, and then rook games. No one could understand how he did it. But since the bets were small, those assembled were happy to continue to be fooled. And the incessant hypnotic throb of the rails kept the illusion alive, even after they had fallen asleep in poorly fitting sleeper chairs.
A little after one o’clock, the Count took his leave of the gaming, walking down a dark, soot-veiled train corridor, pulling up a half-smoked cigar from his pocket. He took a deep breath. Ahh, the wonderful tobacco … who could do without it? These journeys were always tedious, but since he wasn’t your everyday tourist, he didn’t mind. Better to be bored well on a short trip than entertained badly on a long one, he ruminated. You learned so much more about yourself and others as the hours hurtled by like snails in a burgher’s garden.
What no one on that train had counted on, however, was that history was on the march. Dark forces of contention were aligning with others to change the face of travel for all time. First it would start with small necessities–neck shaped pillows and seat cushions inflated like balloons; silk travel sheets that kept you from invisible harm and dirt; bedbug pellets; microfleece–the list would go on and on. It would not be the world that Count Balagia or his fellows had grown up in. It was a world coming of age in a distant city in a distant continent called USA.
<to be continued>