I’ve never tried this before. What do you think of Aerial Mail?
Lacey leaped from her straw-pile bed so fast she almost planted a boot in the center of her hat. She brushed off the brim and jammed it onto her head on her way out of the stall. She’d assumed that the crash was the barn doors slamming open, a sign of her impending eviction, but the only thing out of place besides her was the wide-eyed terror that had the horses whickering and rearing in their stalls.
Raiding Indians wouldn’t have been so clumsy as to knock something over in the dark. Maybe they were destroying the ranch house. That would be an excellent opportunity for Lacey to make a run to the railway station before the ranchers caught her squatting in their barn. The heavy wooden door on the side opposite the ranch house creaked open as Lacey cracked it just enough to slip through.
Instead of Indians with weapons raised, moonlight fell on a flustered and begoggled pilot with a match in each hand. He muttered under his breath while he examined the splintered intersection of the front of his enormous flying machine’s pointed bow with the wooden fence. Ribbed canvas wings stretched flat from a few steps from the barn to almost the middle of the holding pen out back.
That looked a hell of a lot more fun than hiding in a boxcar. “Where ya off to, mister?” Lacey called.
The Aerial Transit Company pin on the pilot’s jacket caught the light before the matches flickered out. “Damn.” He lit another. “No time. It’s a race, you see? If I can’t get this package to San Francisco before the U.S. Postal Service’s mail carrier relay manages it, I’ll lose more than my job, I’ll tell you that much. Come hold this.” The match went out.
Lacey accepted the matchbox and lit another as the pilot rummaged in the tiny cockpit. “I thought they never got a steam carriage off the ground. The paper said the engine’s too heavy.”
“Ah, well, that’s the thing,” said the pilot. Lacey yelped as he grabbed her wrist with one hand and raised a large knife with the other. “It doesn’t run on steam.”
This from the randomly selected themes of “Wild West,” “Sanctioned Competition!” and “Plane Crash” over at the Terrible Minds flash fiction challenge. I didn’t read the rest of the list, so I didn’t realize there was also a “Weird West” possibility until after I wrote this. I default to weird!