The last train

Because of my recent blogging slump, I have reworked this draft story from a couple of months ago.

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1400 words.

Scott Hamilton was not the sort of man to tolerate fools. He had a lot to do, and little time left to do it. As he drove to his next appointment, he smiled to himself, thinking about that last sale. It had been like taking candy from a baby, almost too easy to feel satisfied about. The old couple had thought that they could get a big discount on the solar panels, but of course they didn’t have a clue how much they cost in the first place. Scott had left them in no doubt, they had to sign there and then, or their big chance would be gone. They worried about using all their savings, but he assured them that they would get an income from the excess electricity that the panels provided. He just didn’t mention that it would only be a pittance. They signed on the line, and handed over the deposit. His job was done; commission earned, on to the next one.

Stuck in traffic on the ring road, he looked across at the car next to his. Screaming children bawling in the back, a baby strapped into a child seat with its mouth open, letting out a yell. The man driving looked as if he wanted to switch off the engine and walk away. His wife’s mouth flapped up and down, nag nag nag. What a mug. He tried to jump the traffic lights at the next junction, but some people walked across, so he had to brake hard. He glared at them, in their turbans and flowing dresses.
“Bloody foreigners, this place is going down the toilet.” He muttered to himself.

At the roundabout, he glanced right, and decided to go for it. He didn’t notice the huge yellow truck on his left, just a flash of bright colour before the impact.

He must have dozed off. A piercing scream jolted him awake, and he looked across from his seat to see a young woman holding a small baby. The baby was bellowing as hard as its little lungs would allow, and the sound went straight through Scott’s head, like a shard of glass. On the other side of the room, some sort of Indian family were grouped together on a row of chairs. The dad had a turban on his head, and the mother had a luminous green dress showing beneath her coat, undoubtedly a sari. A small boy played on the floor, moving a toy truck around, and making engine noises as he did so. An older girl, perhaps his sister, sat reading a book, the lenses in her spectacles enlarging her eyes to an unnatural size. Next to them was an old couple. He could smell them from across the room. Urine, decay, that awful stench of the very old. The man was trembling. Parkinson’s Disease, thought Scott. His wife just stared at her shoes, her face expressionless. In the corner, the young woman rocked the baby, which was screaming even louder now.

Scott stood up and headed for the door. Outside, he was on a station platform. He remembered now. The accident, his car damaged beyond repair. He had to find his way to the local station, to get a train home. That must be it. He shook some sense into his head, and stared along the tracks. There was nobody to be seen on the platform, and no staff around either. Typical railway. Deserted and abandoned. Not a soul to ask about train times, and no information on the blank notice board. He felt cold outside, really cold. So he turned and went back into the featureless waiting room.

Standing with his back to the door, he addressed the room. “Any idea what time the next train is coming, anyone?” There was no reply. The old man continued to shake, his wife continued to stare. The boy rolled the toy around the floor, and the girl read her book. The Indian man and his wife grinned inanely at him, and the baby carried on screaming. Scott walked over to the young woman. “Any chance you could shut that baby up, lady? Its screaming is giving me a headache.” She looked through him, as if she hadn’t heard, and couldn’t see him. Scott clicked his fingers, snapping them together in front of her face. “Hello!” When there was no response, he walked back to the family, and spoke to the boy. “Hey kid, when is the next train due. The one you are waiting for?” The child continued to run the toy in circles around the floor. His only reply was “Vroom, Vroom.” Scott rubbed his head, exasperation turning to temper. “No speaka de English, I suppose?” The boy didn’t even look up.

His last hope rested with the oldies. It wasn’t in his nature to be polite. “Old lady. Yes, you. What time is the train? The one you are obviously waiting for.” She stared at her shoes, not even bothering to look up. There was some white stuff at the corners of her mouth, and it made Scott feel disgusted to look at it. He turned to her husband, but the old guy was shaking so hard now, Scott didn’t even bother to go through the motions of asking him. Instead, he went back out onto the platform, deciding he would try to get a taxi. He checked his watch, 3:25. That can’t be right. It was cold and dark, so must be much later than that. Scott was sure that the watch must have been damaged in the car accident.

He headed off along the platform, determined to find someone to complain to about the lack of trains, on his way to the exit. However, after wandering around the station for some time, he could find no exit, and nobody to vent his rage on. In fact, he was surprised to find himself back at the door of the waiting room once again, though he was sure that he had been walking in the opposite direction. It was so cold, he went back inside and sat down. The others were still in their places, and the baby continued to yell its tiny head off. He sat back in the chair, sure that the noise would drive him insane.

When his eyes opened again, Scott was aware that he might have been asleep, and he had no idea for how long. His watch still read 3:25, the baby was still screaming, and the small boy playing with the truck. The goggle-eyed girl was engrossed in her book, and the old man was trembling faster than before. He stood up, screaming across the room. “For God’s sake, can someone tell me what time the next train is coming?” The old lady stared at her shoes, and the Indian couple smiled benignly. Scott dropped back into the chair. He suddenly had an idea. His mobile! Of course, why hadn’t he thought of that? He scrabbled in his jacket pocket for the phone, laughing out loud as he retrieved it. But the screen was smashed, and covered in something sticky. No way was that ever going to work again.

He rushed out of the room once again, leaving the door open behind him. He would find some way out.
The tracks. He would walk along the tracks to the next station. It couldn’t be that far.
After walking for ten minutes between the tracks, Scott found himself back in front of the still-open door of the waiting room. His mind was all over the place. How could that be? it was like some sort of optical illusion. He felt a bit sick, and just couldn’t get his head around it. He needed to sit down.

Looking around the room from his chair, Scott saw that the old woman was still staring at her shoes, the crusty substance in the corners of her mouth moving slightly as she breathed. The old man was still trembling, and the baby yelling as loud as ever. He heard the annoying kid shouting “Vroom, Vroom” as he wheeled that yellow toy truck around the floor. His stupid-looking parents gazed across at him, equally stupid smiles on their faces. He leaned forward, shouting at nobody in particular. “I don’t believe this. Smelly old codgers, a screaming baby, an annoying kid and his dopey foreign family. I tell you, this is my idea of Hell!”

As the words left his mouth, realisation washed over him, and he screamed.

His scream was even louder than the baby’s.

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35 thoughts on “The last train

  1. It’s a fabulous story that I don’t think I’d caught the first time around. I think my own hell would be getting stuck with that awful guy, although it seems there are more and more of them (or more vocal). It does remind me of a Twilight Zone episode where a guy was stuck at a train station (although the gist of the story was quite different). Great work!

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    1. Thanks, Olga. It was a re-worked draft, and not posted before. I haven’t seen the episode you mention, but I was going for a ‘Twilight Zone’ feel again this time. You got that Scott would be most other people’s idea of Hell too, of course. Glad you liked it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Well, the slump doesn’t seem too bad, then:-) I enjoyed this! And I forgot to say yesterday, perhaps you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to blog on a daily basis. Personally I aim to post about twice a week- if I get an extra brilliant idea(!), I add it on. And if it’s less (I didn’t post much in November, what with one thing or another), who cares? It’s not homework…Just saying…😊

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    1. I had this in draft from September, Marina. I’m still not really posting much, or putting pressure on myself. I genuinely blog most days because I really enjoy it. But your kind thoughts are very much appreciated.
      I am pleased that you enjoyed the story.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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