Caitlin gaped. Her rational mind immediately began spinning explanations about what she saw. It burbled on about plastic surgery and gene splicing and nuclear waste. All the kinds of things that could be used to explain away leopard women and the pair of violently green wings that Rosie was flapping in a smug sort of way. Caitlin felt the breeze on her face. Her rational mind acknowledged the fact that the wings looked to be very much real. The small irrational part of her shouted in triumph.
"Gahhhh," she managed.
Rosie, as if sensing Caitlin's conviction that they were all a bunch of loonies was wavering, smiled. "Do you believe us, now?" she asked, with a touch of exasperation.
Fairies, a part of Caitlin's mind whispered. She'd believed in fairies, when she was little, before anyone had told her otherwise. Her mind cleared long enough for her to imagine her triumph at proving everyone wrong. Wait till she told Cherry. Cherry would flip. And Todd! Ha, he'd be speechless.
"But - how?" she managed, before lapsing into another bout of gaping. Her jaw was beginning to hurt from hanging open so long.
"How'd you find us?" Rosie asked, "How did we come to be in the tunnels?"
Caitlin nodded frantically to both questions, and narrowly escaping biting off her own tongue as her jaw snapped shut.
"Well, It's not everyone who can hear our music," Rosie mused, "It's a rare talent, and it means that you could be a valuable friend to us." Before Caitlin could ponder the meaning of her last statement, Rosie continued. "As to why we are in the tunnels, traditionally the realm of the Fairy Folk is below ground. This place does not quite exist in your world, it takes up no space, and it will not appear on any maps. The subway is merely an entranceway."
"And the station?" Caitlin quavered, suddenly unsure of her voice.
Rosie shrugged, unconcerned. "I have no knowledge of this station," she said, "Nor of any train that would pass through it."
"Train!" Caitlin gasped. Not good, really not good.
Rosie became at once the imperious Queen. "See her to her train Samuel," she instructed the guard.
"Of course, your highness," the guard said, bowing deeply, and bending to retrieve Caitlin's backpack at the same time. "Come along child, I'll see that you catch it."
Caitlin had a blurred impression of brightly-lit rooms, interspersed with stretches of dark tunnel. At one point she found that her insides had been misplaced, and was looking round to find them when she discovered they were rising in a richly paneled elevator. The fact that she could not remember how she had gotten there, distracted her for some time, after which she discovered that she was walking down the steps to her station. Looking back, she saw a green-coated figure disappear into the crowd. With her head spinning, she shakily descended the steps to the station, hardly noticing where her feet took her.
Later as she sat on a thinly padded seat, her head against the cold window, she tried to sort out her thoughts. They insisted on remaining decidedly unorganized for the time being however, and she decided to concentrate on the headache they had given her instead.
As the train pulled away from the stop before her own, she bent down to gather her belongings. Wrapping both arms around her backpack she felt something crackle in one of the outside pockets. Heaving against the combined weight of all her textbooks she wrestled her book bag onto the empty seat next to her. She quickly unzipped the pocket and rummaged through a semester's worth of failed math quizzes to retrieve a strange, paper envelope. She ripped it open. Inside was a short letter, a summons it seemed, printed on soft, thick paper that smelled like old leaves.
"Your presence is respectfully requested at the court of Her Majesty, The Rose Queen Glorianna", she read in disbelief, "Tomorrow at the hour of three o'clock. If you will wait outside the public library, transportation will be arranged."
Caitlin shook her head, stuffing the letter into its envelope, and shoving the package back into the dark recesses of her backpack. She knew it was madness to go back, but she couldn't ignore the Fairies existence. Not that she wanted to.