Well everyone, I haven’t posted in awhile, and so I figured I’d share this old piece of flash fiction I wrote a long while ago. At one time, I considered writing it into a short story, but as of now, it is just going to remain flash fiction. Let me know in the comments below what you think! Enjoy!
The Mission Ticket
Wilbert Rolyat sighed as he looked at his mittened hands, and then slid off his horse. The snow crunched under his feet as he landed lightly. “I have a decision to make, and by golly I’m going to make it!” He looked up at the old train station before him.
This train station wasn’t just any train station, which took passengers from one town to the next. This train station was forbidden to be used by orders of King Andrew Rolyat, Wilbert’s father, except under extreme circumstances. It was a train station which took people to different worlds.
That was, it took people to different worlds at a price. And it wasn’t a monetary price either. The passenger would take a “ticket”, which had a ‘mission’ written on it, and a small number at the bottom, which was to which world you were to go to fulfill the mission. But there was another catch — a small date written at the bottom of the paper. The person must fulfill their mission before that date expired if they were to ever return to the world they came from. If they didn’t — then they could never go to any other world again, nor return to their old one.
Thus, it was a very dangerous trip, and only used to ship out dangerous, unrepentant criminals, who, the only way they could ever return to Rentonsland, the world where Wilbert lived, was to amend their ways and complete their quests.
Wilbert sighed, and he could see his breath. “Goodbye, Julius. I’m going away for a little while to have some fun.” He patted the regal white steed. “You go on now.” He patted him a bit harder as the horse looked at him in a mournful way. “Go on home, Julius.” He watched as the horse gave a sad neigh, then bounded away.
Then he turned his face towards the dark train station, and started forward. He stepped inside the wooden building, and pulled his cape tighter around him.
A dim candlelight shone by the strange machine which gave the little mission papers away. Another tallow candle shone beside an ancient train, which passenger door was open.
Wilbert took a couple of shaky steps towards the machine, and stretched out his hand. This was it… he was going to have some adventure!
Something smacked his hand away, and he jumped and gave a scream.
A bright candle was lit, and then held to another machine which lit up the whole room. “Well I’ll be. It’s his highness, the crown-prince of Rentonsland, Wilbert Rolyat!”
“M-Martin Ratcliff…” Wilbert heaved a sigh as he saw the old conductor. “It’s only you.”
Martin crossed his arms, and his conductor’s cap drooped over one of his eyes along with a lock of dark brown hair. “So, what are you doing here? Your father has forbidden this place from being visited. Never thought I’d have you in here… and at this time of night too.” He yawned. “Your father didn’t send you here as a punishment, did he?”
“No.” Wilbert crossed his arms. “I came here because I want to go to another world. Father doesn’t want me anymore.”
“Doesn’t want you?” Martin’s brows raised. “Now why’s that, sonny?”
Wilbert looked down. “He said to mother that the crown prince of Rentonsland can’t be a spoiled brat, like I am.”
“He… he called you a spoiled brat?” Martin furrowed his brows.
“Yes,” Wilbert frowned. “He said I needed to learn a lesson in gratefulness too! Like I’m not grateful! I just want a little fun! I’ll get one of these mission tickets, and go away, and then maybe he’ll be sorry. Besides, he has Wilfred. He can be his perfect little prince. He doesn’t need me.”
Martin sighed. “Wilbert, I wish you wouldn’t. I don’t think you know what you’re getting yourself into. You see, the mission could require years to accomplish, if you even accomplish it in time! And I have no idea if there is time differences between the thousands of worlds and this one, depending on which one you get! Now look, even if you do accomplish the mission, who’s to say that thousands of years haven’t already passed here? What if all your family is long gone and passed away by the time you arrive back?”
Wilbert boldly answered back, “That’s just a chance I’ll have to take, Mr. Ratcliff. Now, if you will kindly hand me a ticket!”
Martin sighed. “Wilbert, your highness, maybe this is what your father meant — you don’t look at what you have and give thanks for it, thus you come across as spoiled. Instead of always looking for something else to make you happy and content, maybe start looking around you, for the things you do have. If you always are thinking the grass is greener on the other side, you may go through life completely missing what really matters.”
Wilbert was silent for a moment, then shrugged. “I just want a little adventure, and I am confident that I can accomplish any mission that machine throws at me.”
Martin sighed again and shook his head. “Well… I see your mind is made up, your highness. Just let me make you aware of one more thing.”
“You will not be known as royalty in whatever world you go into. You will have to adapt and change to that world. And that can be hard, especially for a thirteen year old boy who has been raised as nobility his whole life.”
Wilbert gave a smirk. “I assure you, I can handle it. Now please!” He held out his hand for a ticket.
Martin reached over and snagged a ticket from the machine. As he did so, the lights on the old train turned on, and the engine started up. He punched a small hole into it, before handing to to Wilbert.
“Your highness.” He tipped his hat as Wilbert took the ticket, but his face was firm and unemotional.
“Mission 301,” Wilbert read the ticket off aloud. “Find the true meaning of contentment. Well, that should be easy. And what’s this?” He pointed to the bottom of the ticket, where some letters and numbers were written.
“That is the date by which you must complete the mission,” Martin said. “If you complete it in time, you will have the option to remain there, or travel back here, or pick another mission ticket and go to another world. If you do not…” his voice died off for a moment, before he said, “then you can never leave that world again.”
“Well, I won’t have to worry about it. I’ll complete it in time, I assure you,” Wilbert said, a confident smile crossing his face. “I’ll have my fun, then complete the mission, and I’ll be back here before you know it!”
Martin didn’t look convinced, but merely said, “There is one last thing you must do.”
Wilbert furrowed his brows, as Martin held up a quill and a blank book, with yellowed pages. “Your signature, your highness.”
Wilbert took the quill, and then signed his name. As he wrote, the ink turned to a shiny gold color. When he was finished, he turned towards the train.
“Keep your ticket safe, Wilbert, and see that no one sees it, or ruins it. The only way you’ll ever be able to get back here is if you complete your mission, and have the conductor in that world punch your ticket.” Martin held the book slightly tighter. “Farewell, your highness.”
“Don’t worry, Martin,” Wilbert gave a grin, as he stepped into the train. “I’ll be back before you know it! You’ll see!” He sat down in a seat as the rickety door started to close.
Martin held his candle as the door shut, sealing the occupant inside from his view. The train then started to move, slowly at first, but by the time the final boxcar left the station, the wind was so strong it blew out the flame on his candle.
Years past for the people of Rentonsland, but there was still no sign of Wilbert. His signature faded from a brilliant gold to a shiny silver, to a dull bronze, and finally faded away entirely, sealing the fate of Wilbert Rolyat.
Contentment cannot come by gaining more possessions or getting a change of scenery. It can only come by looking at what you have and giving thanks for it.