The Night Night Express

For Gerard and Elliott: written by Susan Browne, illustrated by Kirsten Todd.

Gerard and Elliott were great friends, and they something quite unusual in common. They were both nine years old and they both loved trains. Gerard had a traditional train set. Steam trains that actually puffed out steam and whistled just like real steam trains. Elliott loved it and spent as much time as he could at Gerard’s house playing with the train set.  

the-night-night-express_clip_image002Elliott told Gerard one day about the Night Night Express. He said that it came by his house every night and took him off to his dreams.

‘Well how come it comes to you and not to me,’ said Gerard, suspiciously.

‘Well, let’s ask it to, tonight.’

Gerard didn’t seem very convinced, but Elliott assured him it would come to collect him at quarter to nine, right after collecting Elliott, and that Gerard should expect to be collected at that time.

Gerard was tired that night and he watched his clock carefully, trying not to fall asleep.  

the-night-night-express_clip_image004The next thing, he heard a peeeeeeeeeep and he found himself at an old fashioned train station as an old steam train pulled in. It was painted black and green, and Elliott was waving at him out the window. He rushed on to greet him. They sat down by the window and chatted happily.

‘Look, the stops are written up here. Where shall we go to?’

‘Let me see: Sweet Dreams Station; Pulliny Proppet Roe; Cookie Lane or all the way to The Enchanted Forest. Let’s go all the way to the Enchanted Forest,’ said Gerard, his eyes shining.

the-night-night-express_clip_image006Just then a refreshments trolley came down the aisle, and a lady saying ‘free snacks and drinks, what would you like?’

The two boys picked out their favourite sweets and a drink each and enjoyed them as they travelled on the comfortable train, with shiny blue seats. After a while they wanted to explore so Elliott showed Gerard around the other carriages, and they peeped in to where the driver was.  

the-night-night-express_clip_image008The first stop was Sweet Dreams Station, and suddenly it was day time. The sun shone bright and children were playing and laughing outside.

‘It looks nice here,’ said Gerard.

‘Still want to wait on for the enchanted forest?’ asked Elliott.

Gerard though for a moment. ‘Yes,’ he said.

When they finally arrived at their stop Gerard felt a little nervous. They got off the train and the station was built within a beautiful forest. They were the only ones getting off at this last stop. ‘Which way?’ asked Gerard, seeing a signpost pointing in three different directions. The train was chuffing backwards out of the station.

‘Let me see, I don’t understand any of the writing, do you?’ said Elliott, puzzled.

the-night-night-express_clip_image010‘That’s because it’s written in Elmen,’ said a little voice. Gerard jumped. A small figure with a big head and big grey ears was looking up at them. ‘What are you?’ asked Gerard.

‘I’m Milfort and I’m a goblin,’ said the goblin, extending out a bony hand with long fingers. Gerard gulped and shook his hand. ‘I am Gerard, and this is Elliott,’ he said. Elliott didn’t seem a bit surprised, like this was totally normal.

‘You are dreamworkers, I see. Welcome aboard, there is much work for you to do tonight, or today as it is in the forest, thank goodness, that we can see,’ he said. ‘But I’m not a dreamworker, what is that anyway?’ said Gerard.

‘Ah, the veils of human amnesia, it’s exhausting explaining it over and over. Can you please remember this one when you wake up,’ he said, pressing a long finger into the centre of Gerard’s forehead, which felt extremely tingly and then like a bolt of electricity, but didn’t hurt.

Elliott laughed, ‘Now Gerard you are going to remember when you wake up that you are a dreamworker, and we will have that to talk about as well as trains,’ he smiled. ‘No time for chit chat,’ said Milfort, ‘we need you two down at the fairy fort, there are humans thinking of building there and we need to stop it. It’s a very important spot to us elementals and you two need to prevent it,’ he said with his hands on his hips.

‘How on earth?…’ began Gerard.

‘You’ll see,’ said Milfort. He led them to the edge of the forest where the land was flattened out by diggers. ‘They are planning to build here, right next to Haylashin, which would be a disaster to all the folks of the enchanted forest.’

‘Is this a real forest?’ asked Gerard.

‘Yes, of course,’ snapped Milfort. ‘It’s as real as you’ll get, only human folk call it The New Forest. We call it the enchanted forest, because, well, it’s enchanted, okay?’ ‘Actually all forests are,’ corrected Elliott.

‘Yes but this one is especially so, or at least, we who live here think so.’

‘So anyway,’ said Gerard, ‘how are we meant to stop it?’

‘Come,’ said Milfort. He touched them each with his fingers and they shrank down so much that blades of grass towered over them.

‘Whoa!’ said Gerard.

‘This way,’ said Milfort, who had also shrunk down to the same size. He led them to a series of toadstools which had red caps with white spots. One had a lovely little porch built outside it and a wooden front door with a brass handle. They were just approaching and a beautiful fairy rushed out to meet them.

‘Ah, dream workers,’ she said, and hugged both of the boys. ‘We are so grateful you have come, there is not a minute to lose. Come, come, come’ she said, and gestured they sit down in a lovely sitting room with seats made of moss which were surprisingly comfortable.

the-night-night-express_clip_image012She had a screen up which showed a middle aged man sleeping in his bed and snoring. ‘This is Mister Mardown,’ she said, tears welling up in her eyes. Milfort patted her arm to comfort her. ‘He is the boss of all of this, who makes the decisions. He plans to dig out the whole of Haylashin,’ she said, crying.

‘There there, Foskin, the dreamworkers are here to help.’ He turned to the boys, ‘here’s what you need to do; I am going to push you into the screen and you need to jump right into Mr Mardown’s dreams. You will know what to do. Explain to him that if he continues with the excavations bad things will happen. Tell him that the first bad thing that will happen is that his roof will start leaking. The second is that many of his best workers will resign.  

The third is that nobody will buy the houses that he builds. And place this on his forehead so that when he wakes up he will remember everything you said. Tell him that there is a fairy fort where he plans to build and he has to build much further away if he doesn’t want these things to happen. Make sure he gets the message,’ he handed Gerard a disk of silver that shimmered and glowed. ‘Now go,’ he said, and pushed the boys through the screen before they had time to ask any questions.

Gerard and Elliott started at the sleeping man, who was huge next to his petite wife who also lay sleeping.

‘Just whisper,’ explained Elliott. So Gerard whispered all that Milfort had said to him into the man’s ears. He suddenly sat up and said ‘rubblish!’ Gerard jumped. ‘It’s okay, this is his dream, he is not really awake,’ said Elliott.

‘It is all true,’ said Gerard, ‘so you will have to build elsewhere if you don’t want these things to happen.

‘Codswallop,’ exclaimed Mr Mardown.

‘It’s no use,’ said Gerard.

‘It will work, don’t worry, place the disk on his forehead.’ And so Gerard placed the disk on the sleeping mans forehead, and he lay back down and began snoring loudly.

the-night-night-express_clip_image014The next thing, all in a flash the boys were back on the train, chatting about what had happened. They were so excited, and hoped that Mr Mardown would change his mind and listen to what they had said. Gerard awoke in the morning and remembered everything, just as Milfort had said. He wondered how he would find out if their dream work had been successful in helping the elementals. A few days later his mother was watching the news and normally he wouldn’t be interested but something caught his attention.   Key Property developer Richard Mardown has pulled out of a major housing project, he says, to build  instead a nature reserve to honour the New Forest, which he says is full of magic and must not be disturbed. Gerard’s Mum said that was ‘most peculiar,’ and Gerard nodded with a little smile.

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