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.He felt like jumping up and running to the cab, to warn theengineer.The train kept chugging blithely forward.As its nose touched thecloud of light, it seemed to vanish. I knew it! Chuck said. We re ceasing to exist! What? Persemid demanded, springing up to look.The others crowded over tothe right side of the train, leaning over the other passengers. The train is disappearing? Sean Draper asked.He grasped the edge of a seat,his hand white--knuckled with the pressure.The seat rail reached up to wrap securely aroundhis wrist.Sean glanced down in surprise, but it held him steady.He seemed torelax a little. It s nothing that can hurt you, Keir insisted. I told you we were making uplost time.We re just moving forward.As he said that, the train gave a tremendous jerk, knocking all the standeesbut Sean into the laps of the others.Chuck landed on Morit, who grunted athim. Sorry, Chuck said, scrambling up to see what was happening.About a third ofthe train had been eaten by the cloud.Lists of things to do to help evacuatethe train before their car passed into the shimmering wall scrolled before hiseyes.There was no time to do them all.He was ready to start herdingpassengers out the back of the car, when he realized he could see a blurryPage 97 ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.htmlimage of the train itself on the other side of the portal.The cascade oflight was translucent.Beyond it, the train had speeded up, elongating as itdid so.Every car was at least twice as long as it had been.Gone were thedecorative wheel bosses and the gracious wood paneling.In place of theVictorian steam engine was a horizontally ribbed, streamlined tube of silverwith a chisel nose that hugged the track.It looked like it was in a hurry.Aseach car changed, the train jerked again, trying to maintain two speeds atonce.Chuck crawled back to his seat.He braced himself to help the others intotheir places.The greyhounds and rush-strewn floors were gone, replaced by avery low-pile, nubby carpet woven in five shades of blue.He looked up.Theaisle seemed to stretch out to infinity.The passengers had thinned out.Therewere fewer elderly people dressed for vacationing, and more dark-suitedbusinesspeople with grim, worried expressions on their faces and cellulartelephones pressed to their ears.Chuck grasped the edge of the moldedplastic, ergonomic seat and hauled himself into it.He was glad to see seatbelts.At the clip they were moving, a sudden stop would send everyonehurtling into the front wall.By the timehe was sitting down, the jerking had ceased.The newly refurbished train waszooming forward on the tracks like a rocket.The landscape flattened out into a blur of color, more indistinct than whenthe train had been heading for the abyss.Chuck looked down at his clothing.It had altered to suit the modern surroundings.The hated codpiece and leatherpants were gone.Instead, he was wearing a collarless business suit and uglyergonomic shoes.He d gone from too ancient to too modern in the space of abreath.The conductor, whose sumptuous outfit had been pared down to ajumpsuit with embroidered insigne, handed himself into the car along plasticloops hanging from the ceiling, and announced lunch.Chuck rubbed his hands together in happy anticipation.He d meditated hardthat morning, and he remembered only then that because of the monkey puzzle hehadn t had any breakfast.He sat up avidly as the uniformed attendants, nowmostly female, circulated among them, placing trays before each diner.Withdismay Chuck studied the plastic, sectioned plate and collection of whitemylar bags and packages arrayed before him.They looked sterile anduninteresting.Determined to be nicer and more patient with the foibles of others, he was ina quandary.He didn t want to cause a fuss, but it was hard to equate the goodmeals they had had up until then with this, this laboratory experiment.Pipistrella, whose gift for telling the truth was sometimes so inconvenient,spoke for all of them.She looked down at the sectioned plate and wrinkled hernose. Yuck, she said, feelingly.Chuck asked Keir,  What happened to the fine-food service? Well, we re moving at a greater clip, so the food, too, is getting faster andfaster, Keir said.His everyday costume contrasted sharply with the crispmodernity all around him, but he looked as comfortable as ever. You wait andsee until we re traveling at the speed of light. If this can get any worse, I don t want to see it, Chuck said, picking upthe entree plate.He sniffed the food.It had no aroma.All he could scent wasPipistrella s rose perfume from across the aisle. Oh, come on, Keir said, rapping him in the back with a friendly hand. Consider it part of your -education. Well, if you say so. Chuck said, uneasily.He tore open a packet, butcouldn t bring himself to eat the grainy, mushy contents.It looked like anexample for what not to do to food.The force driving the changes kept altering his meal, though never making itlook good enough to eat.The tray narrowed, widened, rounded off the corners,Page 98 ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.htmlgrew extra ones, flipped up to have a rim, flattened out to lose it.Thecontents shifted from three helpings of dull-colored sludge to a hot dog in abright green bun, something indescribable featuring overcooked noodles andmulticolored sauce, a wedge of unidentifiable meat with limp vegetablessprinkled with fire-engine-red powder that made his eyes water, a giganticchili pepper stuffed with what looked like rice pudding, and finally, wrappedsandwiches with oozing cheese stuck to the paper.Chuck s stomach did anunhappy flip-flop.He looked up at Keir. Eat it anyhow, Keir advised him. Or don t.You don t actually need it tosustain your bodies, but if you want to continue the fiction of being hungry,you ll need to maintain the fiction of eating to get along.Form followsfunction. Indigestion follows ingestion, Persemid grumbled. I notice you re noteating. Don t need it, Keir said. But then, I have risen to a plane where I don trequire the symbols of ordinary existence to get along. Good thing, Persemid said, prying up the top of her sandwich and letting itfall back. Nobody could survive for long on this stuff.Chuck couldn t have agreed more. It s pretty bad, he said. Almost as awful as The now familiar wave of energy hit him square in the back and kept going,rounding off the train walls until he couldn t tell where they ended and theceiling began.Outside the windows, the landscape gradually dropped away untilall he could see was sky and the tops of clouds.  Airline food, Chuck finished. You just had to say it, didn t you? Persemid asked, dropping her fork backinto her dish, which had shrunk a few more inches.The mess in the bowl lookedcompletely unappetizing.A square, rock-hard biscuit sat on the brim.Bergold took a small book out of an almostinvisible pocket and consulted a page.His eyebrows raised high. Goodness me, hardtack and swill! He looked up at the others cheerfully. Yourarely see the genuine article.I suggest that you are attracting the originalsymbols [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]