We were in berth 19L and 20U on the Caledonia Sleeper. 20U had shared her fears just before we nestled in at midnight about falling out of the slimmingly-slung upper bunk. Consequently, my mothering instincts bludgeoned any sleeping instincts and my ears were on high alert all night for a body moving towards the 20U precipice. My ears, determined to distinguish every train sound from body rolling sounds, kept my brain engaged all night sorting the two. Around 6AM we must have come across a bevy of sheep for the train engaged its horn and continued on for half hour eventually waking not only 20U, but her sibling in adjoining 18U as well. As the horn continued and we periodically evaluated if we were idiotically sleeping through some sort of last call at our stop, 20U and I decided to relieve our bladders down the end of the claustrophobic hall. As 20U went in the lav, I peered out the window and verified- no stop, just blackness. As we traded posts, with a show of confidence I asked her if she wanted to stay outside the door and wait for me OR make her way back on her own to the well-marked 20U hatchway leading to our temporary nest. She leaped at the chance to show me her mettle and sprung into the hall to begin her short but empowering journey. I pursued the item on my agenda which affirmed my travelers dehydration state and then made my own way back relieved that our remaining journey would be comfortable with no pressing need to fight the row of 12 berths in the hall to the toilet. I entered our burrow and sat on the bunk to hear 18U say...where's 20U....?
(this is a Scottish explitive thought to have come from a shortened version of Christ defend us)
She was not in the berth, I ran up and down the hall. No one in sight. I remembered passing a man upon returning to the berth with the medicinal smell of alcoholism eminating from him. Suspect number 1. I wonder if something like Adams Law exists here and I can get the conductor to shut down the train. Isnt there some movie where Jodie Foster loses a kid on an airplane?
In an unfolding crisis some time after you have pieced together a number of clues but before you have fit them all together you are presented with a judgment call: Put your foot on the gas and accelerate into full action in the interest of quick action where seconds matter, or maintain systematic clue gathering. It is a line you know you are crossing so you take pause before you cross....crossing the line distiguishes you either as a fast acting hero with good instincts or a panicking idiotic menace.
I decided to cross.
The silent 6AM hall rung with the call of a female lioness - 20U-ia!
I screamed with the shrill of panic in that silent hall of 12 berths 3xs with no response.
Inhaling for the 4th scream...a quiet and weak... "Mommy".
I knew it. She must be trapped behind the metal door of the man eminating toxins from his pores and probably slipped out of the grip he had over her mouth to reply. Which berth was it? I scan my memory as traverse down the hall of doors screaming again hoping she will be able to reply at least once more so I could hone in on the sound that would leave me to freeing her.
a mousy "I'm here Mommy"....
We repeated the exercise one more time. WHERE?! I screamed, WHERE?!
I dont know how many iterations of call-response... I found her standing outside the toilet area she was orginally emancipated from.
I hugged her and after assessed there was no foul play I managed my desire to choke her and we returned to 20U and 19L. My mind wandered in gratitude to the men and women who invented flight travel and reduced 8 hour journeys in submarine like accomodations into 1 hour flights with champagne and pretzels.
(found out a day later she had wandered into a different train car and knocked on the door of the 20U berth in that car which was opened by a woman that was not her mom. we had both had quite an experience!)