Slowly, James Lilley crawled out from the wreck and stood. He grimaced and grabbed at his bleeding side, then looked up to admire the wreck of the derailed steamer. All was silent, except for the occasional breeze that lifted his dark hair and the sound of flames claiming everything in sight. Suddenly, he heard a scream, then forgot his injury to find the source. Inside the wrecked steamer, the young redheaded Irish woman who, only minutes before, had been searching for grazing buffalo, and in her arms was the limp body of her young dark-haired daughter.
"Miss! Miss!" exclaimed James, jumping in through the window and to the distraught woman's side. "Miss, you have to come with me."
"No! No, I can't leave them!" cried the woman, tears pouring out of her poignant eyes.
"Ma'am, please! The car could go at any moment!" James exclaimed, his hand on her shoulder.
"No! No, I won't!" cried the woman. Finally, James had had enough, and took her by the waist and hauled her outside, the woman fighting and screaming the entire time.
"Is something the matter here?" asked a man's voice, and James turned to see a conductor with a limp watching them.
"We're both fine, sir," said James. "No fatal wounds. My name is James Lilley, and this is…" He froze, not knowing her name.
"Please, sir! My name is Kathleen O'Shiloh! I just want to be with my family!" cried the woman, a terribly distraught look in her eyes.
"Ma'am, I'd be grateful to be alive, if I were you. There are people in much wore condition than you, and they're dying as we speak," the conductor told Kathleen, and then turned to James. "You can call me Ezekiel Wilson, for the record."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Wilson," said James. Behind him, another sound was heard, and Charles Avery emerged from the derailed train wreck coughing from the smoke. "Charles Avery!" James ran to Charles's aid and helped him from the train. "Are you all right, Mr. Avery?"
"Yes, Jim. Thank you," said Charles, brushing off his coat. He turned to face the wreck. "God save the Queen! Look at this mess!" He turned to James. "Where is my sister?"
"Miss Avery hasn't emerged yet," James responded, and Charles's face fell.
"She's not…" Charles muttered.
"I don't know, Charles, she hasn't emerged," James repeated.
"Excuse me," said a new woman's voice, and they turned to face her. Before them stood a woman who looked of French descent with dirty blonde hair and bright, frightened blue eyes. She was dressed in a now slightly torn and bloodstained pristine white wedding gown and a torn white veil cascading down her back. "Have any of you seen my husband? His name is William Barker."
"Think I saw the lad a bit down my way," said an elderly man who had approached them with an elderly woman dressed in black.
"You did?" exclaimed the young bride. "Where?" The old man was silent for a moment.
"You'd be better off not runnin' off to find him. He didn' look too good when I saw him," said the man, and the young woman burst into tears.
"Might I ask yer names?" asked Ezekiel.
"I'm Alexander Burbank, and this is my wife, Fanny," said the man.
"Tell me, Alex, what time is it? I'm afraid we've missed the train!" exclaimed the elderly woman.
"She's hopelessly confused," said Alexander, taking Fanny's hands. "Come, Fanny, let's sit you down in the shade." He led his wife to a shady spot, where she sat obediently.
"And yer name, Miss?" Ezekiel asked the young distraught bride.
"L-Lilian Barker…" said the woman, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief that Fanny had just given her.
"There, there, dear…" said Fanny. "Don't ruin your pretty face with those tears. We missed the train together." Alexander rolled his eyes and took his wife's shoulders.
"I apologize, Mrs. Barker. My wife is very confused," he said, and Fanny smacked his shoulder.
"Oh, you're the one whose confused, Alex! Can't you see that we missed the train?" Fanny exclaimed, which caused Lilian to laugh.
"No, no, it's all right," said Lilian to Alexander, who nodded and sat next to his wife.
"We'll wait for the next train together, dear," said Fanny to Lilian, patting her hands.
"Are there any other survivors, Mr. Avery?" asked James, and Charles shook his head.
"Not that I saw. Everyone was dead," he said, not wanting to look at the train. They both turned when they heard a rustling sound from the train, and a young girl with light hair was pulling herself free from debris. James rushed to her aid, and the young girl held onto him for support.
"Thank you…" she said to him in a tired tone. "My name is Rebecca Smith, and I'd like to know what happened."
"The train has derailed, Miss Smith," said James. "So far, everyone who is here survived and we're unsure about the rest."
"Well, I was the only survivor in my car," said Rebecca in a slightly distant tone.
"Well, at least you're alive, then, ay?" said James, and he turned to Charles, who was looking awfully frightened.
"I told father that I would protect her," he muttered, referring to his sister. "And look what happened! I got her killed in a train wreck!"
"You couldn't stop it, Charles. It couldn't be stopped from happening. The tracks were destroyed and the train derailed. It's not like we could have stopped the train and fixed the tracks!" exclaimed James.
"Indeed! We were on a schedule, Mr. Avery," said Ezekiel, looking at his pocket watch with caution.
"A schedule to our demise!" Charles cried out in anger. "I don't give a damn if we were on a schedule, Mr. Wilson! We are now the survivors of an ill-fated train sent down the wrong set of tracks!" Ezekiel nodded, knowing that Charles was right, and Charles turned back to James. "And I know it couldn't be stopped, but we had all heard of that train in this very same spot in 1869! The tracks were never repaired and the same thing happened again! Let this be a lesson to you, Mr. Lilley…" He straightened out his coat. "Why, when we get out of this mess, I'll be suing the company for all they have and more!"
"Calm yourself, Mr. Avery," said James.
"More survivors!" exclaimed Alexander, standing. James and Charles looked up to see a young couple supporting a young boy that must have been close to Rebecca's age, and then rushed towards them to help.
"I've got him," said James, lifting the young boy, who was miraculously still breathing, and setting him down by the group of survivors. Using a slightly bloodstained handkerchief he happened to have in his pocket, he placed pressure on one of the boy's wounds. "Mr. Avery, could you find the hospital car and get as many supplies as you can?" Charles nodded and left. "Do you know his name?" The couple glanced at each other.
"We're guessing that he is the Patterson boy, but we don't know for sure," said the man. "My name is George Bradley, and this is my fiancée, Miss Elizabeth Foster."
"Pleasure, Mr. Bradley, Miss Foster," said James, not looking at them. "James Lilley is my name."
"You sound foreign," said George. "Are you an English dandy?"
"An English gentleman, yes, but no where near a dandy," replied James, pulling off his coat and using it to put pressure on the boy's wounds.
"Hey, I know 'im," said a young redheaded boy who looked to be about nineteen, referring to the young boy lying on the ground. "'e's ma cousin."
"And you are?" asked James, slightly disgusted at the young man's bad English.
"Will'am Parker," said the boy.
"It's my pleasure, Mr. Parker…" said James, turning back to the young boy on the ground.
"'is name's Michael Patt'son, by the way," said William. "I shore am glad 'e's alive. Ma pa an' ma shore didn' fare too well."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear, Mr. Parker. My companion's sister didn't seem to fare too well, either, for she hasn't emerged from the wreck yet," said James. Suddenly, one of the cars exploded as the fire reached a few barrels of gunpowder, and Fanny let out a scream of terror and pulled the sides of her black bonnet over her ears.
"The Yankees! The Yankees!" she shouted, and Alexander grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back down.
"Fanny, dearest, the Yankees are not after us again. The train just blew up," he told her.
"The train? You mean the one we missed?" asked Fanny, and Alexander closed his eyes and sighed.
"Yes, Fanny, dear… The one that we missed," he said.
"Oh… then it's a good thing we weren't on it!" exclaimed Fanny with a smile, and she turned to Lilian. "You know, when I was a little girl, I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. During that second dreadful war with the British, my father was stationed in Fort McHenry. Weren't we so happy when he came out alive! But he's gone now…"
"Oh, I'm dreadfully sorry to hear…" said Lilian.
"Oh, don't be. He was a horrid man. He drank a rather large quantity of whiskey and beat my brothers. When I was a young belle, I moved to Atlanta to stay with my aunt, and that was where I met Alex. We lived there until we decided to move west to live with our son and daughter-in-law," said Fanny.
"Oh, you lived there during the war, then?" asked Lilian, and Fanny nodded.
"Oh, yes we did! We stayed and saved Atlanta from Sherman's grasp!" exclaimed Fanny.
"Oh, Fanny, darling, you and your stories… Atlanta was seized, don't you remember?" asked Alexander.
"Oh… Oh, yes. That was New Orleans that we kept from Sherman's grasp, wasn't it?" Fanny asked her husband, and Alexander placed his face in his palm with a sigh.
"Oh, my!" shouted George after the smoke cleared. "Why, what's happened?"
"I believe, Mr. Bradley, that the flames had located the gunpowder barrels," said James.
"Well, no one could have survived that…" said George in a rather deflated tone. As if on cue, the final survivor of the train wreck decided to make her appearance as she pulled herself free of the debris, and when the smoke cleared, James's expression went from dull to relieved.
"Why, Miss Avery!"