by Simon Evans
When I became aware of my surroundings I realised that I had been left alone at a small train station. I say ‘left alone’ as there was no one in sight. I say ‘small train station’ as it was a one platform affair with a small station house. I was sat on a smooth wooden bench. I felt cold and overwhelmingly numb. The sky was white and heavy like an oppressive duvet. I stood and walked with difficulty down the platform. My limbs felt stiff. I then realised, as I took in my surroundings, that the station was in the midst of a huge railway intersection. Train tracks crisscrossed as far as the eye could see in an intricate patchwork. In the far distance I could see gigantic trains speeding to their destinations. They were huge – quite mammoth in proportions. The sound of their rumbling ebbed and flowed across the cool, thick, white air. The only other building I could see, aside from the station house, was a white stone church with an emerald window. It sat in a clearing amongst the train tracks. It was really beautiful. It made my heart ache with an unfamiliar yearning. It was a long stone throw away from the platform where I found myself.
I became aware of movement as the door of the station house opened. A man in a railway uniform appeared and began to sweep the platform. I approached him and he looked at me in the eyes. I felt a pang, a shock. He looked deeply familiar and the look he gave me was subtly disconcerting. It was me.
“Where am I?” I asked him/me.
The other me nodded at the station sign. It said my name – ‘Simon Evans’.
“Am I dead?” I asked him/me.
He nodded and looked unbearably unhappy.
“You fell off a ferry in the night time. It was cold and dark and you were so scared.”
“I’m sorry I really don’t remember. I feel strange, this is dream like. What happened?”
“You were playing ‘catch’ with your daughter on the deck of the ferry. She was too excited to sleep. You jumped backwards to catch the tennis ball and the railing hit you in the small of your back and then there was the shock of falling backwards, you hit your head and then the ferry was disappearing and the cold, dark, salty water was inside you.”
“I know now.”
I shuffled back to the wooden bench and sat down. The air was heavy and silent. I felt muffled. I was sick. Lots of salty water came out of me. My internal organs felt heavy and useless. I was full of tears.
I walked back to the station house door. I found myself, my other self, sat on a chair looking deeply unhappy. Our eyes locked again.
“When does the train get here?”
“Your train has been and gone.”
“When is the next train?”
“There will never be another train.”
“What about the other trains?”
“They are not your train.”
“What do I do now?” I glanced at the beautiful church.
“You can’t go there.”
“But I have a yearning.”
“It’s too late.”
“So what do I do?”
But there was no reply. I was stood on my own again. I felt nothing as I stood, not swaying in the midst of the lack of movement.
Distant trains continued to grind, rumble and steam in the distance as they sped forever onwards.
The other me had reappeared and placed a hand on my arm. We stood like this without speaking, both still, avoiding eye contact.
“You know you can’t stay here? Neither of us can.”
I sat, slumped, on the platform while the other me swept around my sodden feet.
“How long has it been?” I asked him/me.
“An age. You have come a long way.”
We were silent for an indeterminate while.
“Do you miss them?”
“Missing them is all I am now.”
“Do you know what you must do?”
I lowered myself down on to the tracks. I was now wearing the uniform. We were now one.
I walked steadily with my head down, following the tracks. I felt the sound of a piano and singing coming from the church. The yearning twisted me off balance. I fell to the tracks. I lay there for some time. I raised my head to look at the church that I could no longer hear. The glinting green window was so beautiful. I rose slowly after listening to many distant trains and resumed my walk.
Soon I saw a dead bird next to the tracks. It lay still and forgotten, brown with a dead yellow eye. Then I saw another, black wings not ruffling in the stillness. Then another, with a red, beady dead eye looking into eternity, unimpressed. It was not long before the little bodies littered my path. From the sky dead birds were flung down with great force, landing all around me. With a powerful suddenness this deluge ceased and my path became clear once more.
I walked onwards, propelled by an uncertain certainty.
The distant rumbling of gargantuan trains continued with the regularity of breathing.
Ahead of me my destination appeared. I sighed one last sigh and continued to walk into the whiteness.
As I entered the blankness the ground beneath me ended and I stopped thinking or being.