By J.E. Deegan

The day following the astonishing celestial event that had covered half the globe, Jason Mohs swallowed a lump of uneasiness and ventured into the abandoned train terminal. He was seeking shelter from the bone-numbing cold, but, being new to Limboland, was unaware that the derelict building was considered a place to avoid. Every other spot that promised even a modicum of protection had been claimed, and he wasn’t yet desperate enough to check into a mission where he’d have to piously mutter a series of mea culpas before being assigned a flea-infested mattress in a crowded room reeking of urine and coal oil.

Once inside, he was stunned by the remnants of grandeur still apparent within the rubble-strewn building. A huge domed ceiling arched overhead, disfigured only by a long angular crack that was visible because a shard of smoky light had wedged its way through. Shattered columns bore witness to a more splendid time, and the very vastness of the place suggested a lavishness that contradicted the foulness that pervaded Limboland.

But Jason needed shelter, not an imaginative reconstruction of the terminal’s past glory.

He looked around and noticed a small lean-to-like structure in the southwest corner. Approaching it, his eyes widened at the tidy interior, complete with a thick bed of blankets and a table of sorts. A 55-gallon drum sat at the entrance, in front of a long wooden bench of the kind frequently found in early twentieth-century train and bus stations. His eyes widened further when he noticed a thin, unbroken veil of ice upon the wooden bench. It lay draped across the back and seat as neatly as a sheet upon a clothesline. He leaned closer, squinted into the ice, and saw the words LINCOLN AND MOLLY carved into the top slat of wood on the back of the bench. He blinked then, unwilling to believe that he saw a tide of color rippling within the sheath of ice. His attention was then caught by the sound of soft laughter, and a frigid breath stuck in his throat.

That was enough to make Jason Mohs bolt the terminal as fast as he could. The mission didn’t seem so unappealing after all.


On a wickedly cold night in the dead of winter, Lincoln Hanks and Molly Furth huddled together beneath a shroud of blankets on a wooden bench in the long-abandoned train terminal. They faced a large metal drum aglow with a healthy fire, but the vast openness of the cavernous station swallowed much of the fire’s warmth before it reached them.

At one time the terminal had been the showpiece of the city’s south side, a huge cathedral-like edifice that occupied half-a-block. But that was a quarter-century ago, before a relentless invasion of sin and corruption overwhelmed this once-respectable district. Now known as Limboland, the area around the terminal had metastasized into a squalid slum of seedy hotels, strip joints, porn shops and flophouses. Its citizens were the wretched and the weary, who through one sort of life-altering addiction or another had been exiled to this hellish pit of misery and depravity.

But through a misstep or two along life’s path, a few decent people found themselves trapped in Limboland, too.

Lincoln and Molly normally spent most of their waking hours panhandling the streets and rummaging through the alleys and dumpsters of Limboland for enough sustenance to make one day meet another. But they had ventured out much less frequently over the past couple of weeks. Molly at sixty-one and Lincoln at sixty-four could no longer tolerate the bone-numbing chill that had gripped Limboland this unusually harsh winter.


Lincoln tugged Molly’s blanket to her chin and pulled her closer. "Tell me about our house again, Molly."

"You don’t ever grow tired of that, Lincoln?" Molly asked, her voice weak and raspy.

Lincoln shook his head. "Never will. Come on. Describe it for me."

Molly snuggled tighter against his chest and began describing the house, just as she had many times over the years. "It sits on a gently sloped hill that leads down to a beautiful crystal-clear lake. It’s made of logs and was built to be a real home - not one of those tiny, cramped cabins hunters use a few times a year. Yes…ours will be a home, Lincoln, a lovely home with bright airy rooms, big picture windows, knotty-pine walls and a flagstone fireplace in the den."

Lincoln sensed her mood brightening. "And your kitchen, Molly. Tell me about your kitchen. "

Molly’s face lit up. "Yes…my kitchen. It’s spacious and cheery, with a bay widow and a breakfast nook that faces the lake. All the appliances are brand new, and I have a big stove and a wall-mounted oven." She glanced coyly at Lincoln. "I intend to sharpen my cooking skills, you know."

Lincoln smiled warmly. "I’m counting on that, Molly."

Molly coughed hoarsely and Lincoln felt her stiffen with pain.

"Long, slow breaths," said Lincoln, softly rubbing her back. "That always helps."

Molly’s effort at breathing sounded like water struggling through a clogged pipe, but the pain slowly subsided. She leaned again into Lincoln’s embrace. "Now I’ll tell you about our porch."

Lincoln nodded.

"It will run the full width of the house, with a waist-high railing and steps lined with flowers that lead to the front yard. And we’ll have a swing, hanging from the ceiling just to the left of the front door. We’ll spend our evenings there watching the sun set over the lake."

"Sounds real nice, Molly. You think I might build that swing for us?"

"I’d bet that you could, Lincoln."

"Well, you’d win that bet. I used to be pretty good with these hands, you know. I’ll have a workshop in the backyard stocked with all the tools a man needs…saws and shovels and rakes…hammers and nails…nuts and bolts…all the necessary odds and ends. And that’s where I’ll keep the big riding mower I’ll use on the acre of land we’ll have. Yeah, Molly. I’ll have everything an experienced handyman like myself needs."

Molly sighed. "Only an acre? I was hoping for more than that."

"More than that?" replied Lincoln with a bogus annoyance. "My God, woman, you want to work me to death?" He gave her a firm hug. "This dream house of ours sure is a lot different from what we have now, isn’t it? Remember when we first moved in here?"

"I do, Lincoln, and we’ve made the best we could of it. But I think it’s time that we moved on. How about you?"

Lincoln gently stroked her cheek. "I’m ready when you are. Should I start packing?"

Molly’s soft laugh was cut short by a rumbling cough sawing its way through her throat.


The two had met in the terminal some six years before, bumping into each other while tracking the sounds each heard the other making. They had been together since, sharing whatever they could pry from Limboland each day. It’s been said that two can live as cheaply as one, Lincoln had said upon their agreement to a partnership. Molly’s reply came with a sly smile: Sure…as long as both of them are working the streets, right?

Over the next few days they constructed a small cozy warren from the piles of debris within the derelict terminal. The south and west walls formed two sides of their shelter; a third was fashioned from tattered and stained tarpaulin nailed to a framework of two-by fours. The front of their quarters was open save for the 55-gallon drum Lincoln had converted into a quite functional stove/furnace. The roof, too, was tarpaulin, and stretched but six feet off the floor in order to trap and husband the fire’s heat. We should put the drum here, Lincoln had proposed while he and Molly were designing their refuge. The air moves from the north, and the draft will keep the fire’s heat blowing in on us. How’s that sound to you, Molly?

She had nodded her approval, pleased that Lincoln had asked her opinion.

When completed, the little alcove afforded room for a comfortable bed of blankets and ample space to house their meager belongings. A table - a slab of plywood resting on cinder-block legs – rested against the west wall, and the wooden bench where they often shared ideas of their dream house faced the stove/furnace.

They had the terminal to themselves, as other of Limboland’s citizens staunchly shunned it: some because they considered it too open and exposed; others because they claimed the place was haunted. Their evidence was the eerie sounds that rippled through the building at night. Lincoln and Molly heard these sounds now and again - but only when the wind was up, which, to their satisfaction, solved that mystery.

They became quite close quite quickly, and even engaged in physical intimacy for a while. But over time, their relationship evolved into a more valued closeness - a deep and abiding companionship.

They still slept side by side, but simply for warmth’s sake now.


Molly sighed heavily. "Are we just being foolish, Lincoln, rambling on like we do about our dream home?"

"There’s no harm in dreaming out loud, Molly."

"Even if it can’t come true?"

Lincoln shrugged. "We’ve received a lot of joy from just dreaming. And that’s worth something, isn’t it? Think of all the people who go through life without a dream. But we’ve had ours, and we’ll keep believing in it. If we don’t, then it never had any meaning at all."

"Then you really believe in our dream, Lincoln?"

"That I do. Sometimes believing in something is just as important as having it. That’s what I believe. And so do you, Molly."

Molly nestled closer and put her arm around Lincoln’s neck. "I sure am going to miss you, old man."


Molly was dying, and neither she nor Lincoln needed a doctor to confirm the fact. What had been an annoying cough several weeks ago had progressively worsened to a deep, raking rumble that seemed intent on shredding her lungs. Her skin and bones now met, as the flesh between had steadily eroded away. Even more telling were her eyes. Their once bright twinkle had dimmed to a dull, sickly sheen.

Lincoln, too, was acutely ill. The pain was now almost constant as it spread ever further through his chest and back. But he felt confident that he had kept Molly unaware of his failing health. He was also confident that whoever of them went first, the other wouldn’t linger long afterwards. And that, he had concluded, was just as well.


"If only for a little while, Lincoln, it would have been nice to live in our dream house."

Lincoln responded with as much conviction as he could muster. "And who’s to say we won’t, huh? Life might still have a surprise or two in store for us."

Molly put a hand to his cheek and pulled his face to hers. Within her eyes was a truth he didn’t want to admit. "I’m dying…we both know that. And hard as you’ve tried to hide it, I know something bad is chewing at your insides, too. Let’s not pretend about that. Okay?"

Lincoln’s eyes fell away. He breathed deeply and nodded his assent. "Okay, Molly. No more pretending about that."

They fell silent for quite some time.


"Molly?… Ever think there might be some kindhearted spirit or deity living beyond the clouds who knows what we dream about? Ever think he might be listening to us, and that maybe, just maybe, he can make dreams come true?"

"You mean God, Lincoln?"

Lincoln shrugged and looked away. "God to some. Others use other names. Still others believe it’s just a powerful force of some sort that keeps a degree of order in the universe. Whatever it is, some believe it can answer prayers. Maybe even dreams."

"Do you believe in God, Lincoln?"

Lincoln’s brow furrowed. "I think I do. But I don’t think He believes in me. And the way I’ve lived my life sure hasn’t given Him reason to. There are things in my past that just won’t let go of me."

"I can say the same, Lincoln. But we promised never to discuss the mistakes we made."

"I know, Molly. And it’s like you said, the bad decisions we made won’t get better by talking about them."

"But maybe other things could have," Molly all but whispered. "Maybe we should have been praying for our dream house all these years instead of just dreaming about it."

"Maybe we were, Molly. Maybe a prayer is just a dream you think about in a very special way. If so, then you might say we’ve been praying."

"Then let’s pray harder, Lincoln."

Lincoln looked intently at her before planting a soft kiss on her forehead. "Why not, huh? That sure can’t do any harm. Let’s pray harder."

And pray they did, silently and fervently and for a long time, their heads bowed; their eyes closed, their hands clasped together.


As Lincoln Hanks and Molly Furth prayed their impossible prayer, an incredibly intense flash of light ignited in the deep reaches of space and began a rapid journey toward the Earth. It soon became a dim pinpoint of light in the heavens above the Northern Hemisphere. It grew steadily brighter, and anyone looking skyward on the night side of the planet might have noticed it.

The brilliant burst of light that struck the Earth lasted but a second or two…no more than the pulse of a lighthouse beacon, but magnified thousands of times. A shard of that light entered the ruined train terminal in Limboland through a long narrow crack in its huge central dome.


As though compelled to do so, Lincoln and Molly lifted their heads as the shaft of dazzling light struck a huge steel joist directly over their heads. There it congealed into a radiant ball that slowly lengthened then divided into a pair of perfectly formed, sparkling icicles hanging side by side from the girder. For a moment the glare was intense, yet Molly’s and Lincoln’s eyes remained fixed on the icicles. They felt neither pain nor discomfort, only a gentle warmth that soaked into them like bath water.

The icicles briefly shimmered, as diamonds might through a rapidly moving stream, then glowed with a brilliant display of blues, greens and violets. The colors swirled and twisted, glowing then dimming like a miniature aurora borealis.

Mesmerized, Molly and Lincoln stared upward, intently watching as a tiny bubble formed on the tip of the icicle directly over Molly. It glistened there a moment, then drifted down in a spiraling slow-motion descent. Without knowing why, Molly turned her hand over in her lap. Her eyes followed the gleaming bead as it landed in her palm…as softly and gracefully as a feather. The droplet did not break apart nor splatter. Rather it steadied upon her hand then flattened into a shining silver square. The blues and greens and violets within it swirled and twisted, then coalesced to form a picture…a moving picture.

Molly gasped and threw her free hand to her chest. "My Lord!" she exclaimed, staring upward then back to her hand. "Lincoln…look!"

He was looking, his jaw set, his rheumy eyes narrowed with disbelief.

Molly carefully lifted her hand toward her face. "Lincoln, do you know what this is?"

Lincoln moved closer. "It…it’s a house. A pretty one on a lake."

"It’s our house, Lincoln. Our dream house. Just the way I’ve always pictured it."

"Well, I’ll be, Molly. It could be that. Just could be."

Molly’s nod seemed born in a trance. "Right down to the porch and the swing." She gasped and coughed a rough, phlegmy cough. "Lincoln…look…there on the swing. That’s me!"

Lincoln’s face turned to stone as he stared at the image in Molly’s hand and then up to the gleaming icicles. "But how could that…?" He paused as a gleaming bead rounded into being on the icicle directly over him. It broke free, and he opened his hand. He watched as it landed softly in his palm and spread outward into a picture of a sturdy, freshly painted building. Its double doors were opened, exposing the interior of a utility shed. A variety of hand tools hung neatly from the wall above a tidy workbench. The opposite wall held shelves stocked with power tools and an assortment of rakes, spades, hoes and other gardening implements. Neatly arranged cans of paint and varnish lined shelves built into the back wall, and beneath them sat a brightly polished riding lawn mover. The shed was meticulously well organized, obviously the property of a man who took pride in his craftsmanship. That man appeared at the edge of the frame in Lincoln’s hand and walked briskly into the shed. He wore faded blue overalls over a brown and red plaid shirt.

Lincoln’s hand shivered, then steadied as he watched himself stride to the shed’s workbench. "Molly," he whispered. "What does this mean? What is happening?"

Molly’s face beamed with joy. She was staring at the icicles overhead. "I think we’re about to find out, Lincoln."

Lincoln, too, looked up and clutched Molly more securely with his free hand. He also smiled. The icicles were slowly brightening into swirling rainbows of color…the soft blues and greens and violets interweaving like silken veils in a brisk breeze. "I believe you’re right, Molly."

"Are you ready, Lincoln?"

"Been ready a long time, Molly. Just wanted to wait for you."

"Well, the waiting is over, Lincoln."

Somehow, they knew what to do. They snuggled a bit closer, shut their eyes, and closed their hands over the shimmering pictures.

The twin icicles soundlessly dissolved into a fine mist that glistened with scores of blue, green and violet specks of light. The mist drifted slowly down, hovered a moment above Lincoln and Molly, then gently enveloped them in a luminous shroud. For a time the specks of light glimmered and gleamed like all of Heaven’s stars. Then they slowly faded and died.

And so did Lincoln and Molly.

Or so some might say.


Around the globe, scores of astrophysicists, government leaders and military officials scrambled for theories that might explain the extraordinary burst of light. In time, speculation narrowed to two hypotheses: an abnormally large solar flare, or a massively intensified reflection of sunlight from some unseen but unthreatening celestial body. A third possibility - a prelude to an alien invasion - took root with the UFO crowd, but was summarily dismissed by nearly everyone else.


Had Jason Mohs stayed in the terminal a while longer on that bitterly cold day following the astonishing celestial event …had he stared more deeply into the rippling tide of colors…he might have seen a lovely home built of logs on a hill overlooking a crystal-clear lake. Had he looked more closely, he might have seen two cheerful people sitting in a swing on the porch of that home. And had he listened a bit more carefully, he might have realized that it was they who were laughing.

He just might have.


The incredible burst of light caused no damage of any sort: no raging fires, no boiling seas, no roasted plant, animal or human life. And since no cataclysmic consequences resulted from this astounding event, pandemonium was averted.

For everyone everywhere, the world soon returned to its customary state of abnormality.


For almost everyone, that is. And, almost everywhere.


The train terminal still stands in Limboland, and is still a wasted wreck. Upon occasion interlopers who don’t know better still venture in seeking warmth or shelter or escape from the many privations of Limboland. They never stay long, however. They are quickly frightened off by the ghostly glimmer of light and the eerily joyful laughter that echoes through the vast emptiness of the once great building.

The End

Copyright © 2004 by J.E. Deegan

A teacher and writer by trade, Jim enjoys writing about the dark and the bizarre, as there is a reason most of us fear the deep woods late at night.

E-mail: jim_deegan@salcoproducts.com


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