Train Of Thought

Entry by: Corone

13th July 2015
Train of Thought

The platform was still and silent, the ticket office was closed as it always was, and the attendants nowhere to be seen. Elliot came into the station by the small gate that was never locked and settled down on the peeling bench with his paper. It was dark now, but there was enough light from the station lights to read. Absent-mindedly he checked his watch and then smiled to himself. He knew better than that. The train would come when it came.

Before he had reached the crossword, he felt a new breeze shake at his paper. He closed his eyes and concentrated. It would be here soon, he could feel it rather than see it. The clitter-clatter rumbled towards him and ideas began to form connections shapes and patterns. The breeze became a wind.

When he opened his eyes he was on the train. He’d got a window seat this time, but in the darkness all he could see outside were shadows flitting by. The seats were old and wooden, the dog-tooth brown pattern faded and threadbare. It was a quiet night tonight, the only other passenger he could see was Mrs Ellersby sitting across the aisle. She wept quietly still, her face in her hands. A damp and tattered tissue hung from her fingers, so he slid over to her, holding out a handkerchief of his own. She looked up, her eyes stained with tears, and took the handkerchief from him.

“We are in hell,” she said.

She was probably best left alone. He had tried offering comfort once, but it had granted her no solace. As he stood to return to his seat he caught the eye of a young woman moving down the aisle. She looked confused, and while he would have preferred to return to his seat, when their eyes met it would have been impolite to ignore her.

“Can I? Do you know?” she began, faltering, uncertain what question she really needed answering. He put a finger to his lips and indicated Mrs Ellersby. The woman nodded and they both took a seat a little down the carriage.

“I'm Charlotte,” said the woman, offering her hand.

“Elliot,” he replied. “I assume this is your first time on the train?”

She smiled. “What gave it away?”

“The slippers were a clue,” he said, looking at her tatty pink bunny slippers. They, like the jeans and threadbare floppy jumper she was wearing, indicated someone who was not expecting company that evening.

Charlotte leaned in to ask another question, but a shout from the other end of the carriage stopped her. A man was running wildly down the aisle. He wore a suit, but his tie was half undone and some of the buttons on his shirt were missing. He looked like he was searching for something. He glanced this way and that as he ran, or stared into the darkness outside.

“We’re going the wrong way!” he yelled. He repeated it when everyone ignored him. “Can’t you see? We’re not going to the right place! There is only one way off!”

With this he passed Elliot and Charlotte, throwing open the connecting door at the end of the carriage. With a scream of desperation, he opened the outside door and jumped out into the darkness. The wind burst down the carriage and the door bashed against the side of the train. Elliot shrugged and got up, going over to the door and reaching out to close it. Charlotte looked at him, dumbfounded, as he resumed his seat opposite her.

“That was Henderson,” said Elliot. “I wouldn't worry; he’ll be back tomorrow.”

“What did he mean? Am I on the wrong train?”

“No, we’re all on the right train. Some of us don’t like where it’s going though. There is no station for denial.”

“What about that woman you were talking to,” Charlotte nodded towards Mrs Ellersby.

“She lost her son a few years ago, and I suppose she hasn't found a way to leave that train of thought. I hope she does one day.”

“Why aren't there more people here?”

“I don’t believe people think as much as they used to, I mean really think. But not everyone is on the same branch line.”

Charlotte laughed. “A few of my relatives are certainly on a different branch line that’s for sure. It’s a nightmare; I was trying to think how to seat everyone in the venue for the wedding and... Hey. Hang on, I know. I could...”

The train shuddered, the brakes began to squeal and it slowed to a jerky stop as the lights of a station came into view. Charlotte looked out of the window and seemed to recognise something.

“I think this must be my stop. It was nice to meet you Elliot.”

Elliot waved as she departed and felt the train shudder back into life. Charlotte’s station faded into the distance and he slid against the window and closed his eyes. It was going to be a long journey, but he really did need to figure out the next few chapters. His novel was not going to write itself after all.