The woman stood at the platform, staring down the track eagerly.
"Charlotte, what are you looking at?"
"See that light?"
"There's no light."
"Just look for a second, Amber. I can see lamps glowing down that way."
"There's no towns in this area. Why did you make me get off the train at this station?" Amber, Charlotte's apprentice, threw her hands down to her sides in frustration.
The expression on Charlotte's face did not change. "We're waiting for someone."
Amber's look of confusion deepened. "Who? There's NO ONE here."
"They're not here yet." Charlotte's look of determination solidified.
Amber gave up questioning her and resorted to sitting on the ground, staring down the track, trying to see what Charlotte saw.
They waited for 5 minutes before Amber spoke again. "What do they look like?"
"It's just one person, and he looks like a man."
"That's helpful. Elaborate?"
"He has a thick beard, and short, black hair. He usually wears a blue shirt, and you'll probably hear him before you see him."
They sat for another 15 minutes, Amber waiting for whatever Charlotte was waiting for... so they could leave.
Then, a dim light appeared on the horizon. "Charlotte, you see that?"
"That's the train."
"Are we leaving on it?"
"No, he's on the train."
"The beard guy?"
The light grew brighter. Amber could begin to see the outline of the train a bit more clearly. It was sleek and modern looking. And... clean.
Thirty seconds later, the train arrived at the station and slowed to a stop. The door to the engine room opened and a very familiar-looking man stepped off of it.
amber's jaw dropped. "Oh dear mother of god... i-it's... it's..."
The man spoke. "Billy Mays here with another fantastic product! Are you tired of inhaling smoke when you're in the engine room of your train?"
Amber felt so compelled and inspired by him that she heard herself saying "Yes!"
"Then have I got the product for you. Introducing: mighty coal!"
Amber was helpless before this man's charisma. "Mighty coal?" Amber heard not only her voice, but the voices of what sounded like a live theater audience. She looked around and saw that the pitch was so perfect that it was drawing a crowd from, seemingly, thin air.
"Mighty coal is the deliverance of the promise of clean coal. It burns with the same intensity as normal coal, but with only 10% the smoke, and it cuts weight by 50%!"
"No way!" The crowd said, completely captivated.
"To prove just how incredble mighty coal is, I am going to lick the inside of the smokestack." He licked it. "Now, while it certainly doesn't taste good, doing this with a smokestack that burns normal coal could kill you. I trust Mighty Coal with my life!"
The audience went wild with applause.
"Now, you must be asking yourself, mighty coal must be expensive, far out of my price range." As he said this, a man in a suit stepped out of one of the passenger cars, and began to walk towards Billy Mays.
"I'm happy to tell you that today only, a 40-pound bag of Mighty Coal can be yours for just two low payments of 14.99! And if you act now, I'll throw in a second bag for free!"
The lawyer-man stepped forward and muttered, VERY quickly, "Donotusemightycoalforcookinghomeheatingasasubstituteforcharcoalorannyotherfuelsourcesideeffectsofmisuseincludefoodpoisoningskinburnsandcancerofthemouthandlungsmightybrandsinccannotbeheldresponsibleforinjuryduetomisuseoftheproduct." (said in roughly 8 seconds.) He then took a very deep breath and concluded with, "restrictionsapplytowarrantyresultsmayvary."
The crowd flocked around him, shoving money in his general direction. At this point, Amber came to her senses.
"Charlotte, what's going on? Billy Mays is dead. These people... they don't have faces. And clean coal doesn't exist!"
"We're in purgatory."
"Pu-pu-purgatory!? We're dead!?"
"No, we're just visiting."
"Visiting? How did we get here?"
"We took the train, of course."
"Why are we watching a dead Billy Mays?"
"We need some of that coal."
"What, are you going to start grilling now?"
"No. Mighty Coal is train fuel, not cooking fuel. I hired a train while we were waiting. The only catch is that we have to supply fuel for the train."
"How are we going to pay?"
"I've got this."
They waited for the crowd to disperse, and Charlotte then walked up to Billy Mays. "Hello, my good man."
"Oh, if it isn't Charlotte! And you seem to have someone with you. Have we been introduced?"
"This is my apprentice, Amber."
Amber spoke up, nervously. "Uh... Hi!"
"Nice to meet you. Billy Mays!"
"Um... Amber Freud." They shook hands. Amber was reluctant to let go.
Charlotte stepped forward after Billy freed his hand. "We need some coal."
"I can cut you a fantastic deal, since we're old friends."
"What can you sell it for?"
"I'll give you three bags for the low, low price of 30.00. But if you act now, I'll throw in a fourth bag for free!"
"Deal." Charlotte handed Billy 30 dollars, and he gave her four of the bags.
"Billy Mays OUT!" Billy climbed back into the engine cab of his train, restarted the boiler, and as the train accelerated down the track, Amber heard him