Mind the Trains

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
After losing his life to unfortunate events, Jack, a sixteen year old boy, finds out his luck can't drop lower. Until...

Submitted: October 13, 2015

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Submitted: October 13, 2015

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The church rings for the evening to begin. Six chimes from its grand bells in the tower and silence for another hour. The grey clouds make their journey across the sky while darker clouds slowly make their way to the streets of Sheffield. The chilly air surrounds the bodies of its people as their lives continue as the norm.

In the busy high street below, the cities’ residents are as lively as ever. Whether they are making haste to a destination or taking a leisurely stroll, each person had their own purpose on this day. But this is not the case for the sixteen year old boy in the black leather jacket staring through the window of the bakery. This young man had no destination; nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The only thought on his mind was the bare reflection of staying among the living, along with his sister.

As Jack stares through the window, he spots a loaf of freshly baked bread being placed on a wooden chopping board on the glass counter. The baker ties the bread up in a clear plastic bag to prevent the bread from going stale. The loaf was steaming in the bag as it burned into Jack’s eyes. Blinking, he licks his lips as he watches an elderly woman purchase what looks like a bag of muffins. He tilts his head and body as he searches the right pocket of his ripped navy-blue jeans for the little change he had left. He grabs all he has and withdraws his hand. Separating all the copper and silver pieces individually in each hand, he counts it. Realising the money he owned came to eighty-five pence he debates whether it would be enough. After a short argument within his head, he enters the bakery through the glass paned door as the woman steps out.

“See you tomorrow, Greg, Bobby!” she shouts as the door closes, her furry coat flowing behind her.

The baker behind the till smiles and returns her goodbye with a wave before talking to his associate manning the oven. “You hear ‘bout the new train they built in London?” he asks him. “Heard it was travellin’ through England. They call it the Flying Scotsman.”

Jack stands at the side of the till and scans through the other baked goods in the display cabinet. The sweltering heat from the baking oven immediately pours over his face like a bucket of toasty water, giving him the warm feeling he had once lived in so long ago.

“Yeah,” his co-worker replies, wiping his forehead with his sleeve from the sweat dripping down it, “It’s supposed to be the fastest train in all of Europe.”

Jack closes his eyes for just a moment, reminiscing in his memories of the time before he was separated. The soft feeling of his double-quilted bed sheets; the warming glow of the fireplace; the screaming joy of playing with his sister on the back yard. Yes. All these memories were etched into his mind. The memories of his father and his mother began to flood back like the waves at the beach on a stormy night. Their faces were as clear as crystal, as if they were stood right beside him.

The sack of stories his father used to tell of his adventures on the high seas: the dangers of the sea, the ships he sailed, and the people he met. They all fascinated Jack to no end. He would forever ask for another story of his adventure and his father would always fake a refusal, but he loved to tell these stories whenever and wherever possible. His favourite stories to tell were of the time he came face to face with the fiercest of foes: the Demons of the Ocean – Vampirates. Vampires forever sailing the ocean as her guardians, though no one knows exactly why. Some say they are the gatekeepers between our world – the world of the living – and the world beyond.

Jack’s mother would detest him telling his stories as they were mostly violent, especially for mere kids, but she seemed to be somewhat fascinated nonetheless.

Jack’s mother used to tell stories as well, mostly about her time among the squadron, though they were never as interesting. The places she visited were the most appealing, as she described them with such beauty that an image of “a gleaming castle situated in the side of a mountain” would form in Jack’s head. She did mention in one of her stories about an extremely powerful centaur she had to fend off when her plane crash landed on an uncharted island somewhere in the Arafura Sea. The way his mother described this creature was too beautiful not to imagine. The large, twisted horns atop its head, the masculine upper appearance of man, the elegant hooves of an equine. It all becomes so clear to Jack as if he had seen the terrifying beast himself, with its crimson-red skin and its black-as-night coat, galloping at a thousand miles an hour on its four powerful legs...

 “Tonight?!” Greg shouts in surprise, making Jack jump out of his skin and back into reality. “You mean tonight, tonight?”

“Yeah...” Bobby answers, pretty amazed at the baker’s reaction. “The train’s passing Sheffield tonight.” He repeats.

Greg places his flour-covered hand over his forehead, covering it with the white substance of the bread making ingredient. “But it’s the missus’ anniversary today. I’m supposed to take her somewhere fancy tonight. How can I watch the train pass without being there?”

“Take your wife. You can watch the train pass while the blue moon shines down upon you both. You know what they say about the blue moon, right?”

Greg glances at him. He raises his hand and extends his finger as if he was about to start a friendly argument about his wife, but was interrupted by a cough.

“Excuse me.” Jack says as he steps forward an inch.

Greg turns his head and, realising he had a potential customer, smiles a friendly smile.

“Oh, sorry mate. Didn’t see you standin’ there.” He draws all his attention to Jack. “What can I do for you, young man?”

The ‘young man’ swivels his head towards the freshly baked bread he had seen from outside and asks “How much for the bread?” as he extends his arm to point at it.

Greg glances over. He grabs the board and slides it over, the bread crumbling slightly as he stops it in front of him.

“You’ve an eye for these things, I see.” Greg says as he pulls on his apron strings. “’Tis a quid, mate.”

Jack frowns. He opens his palm and looks at the change. Fifteen pence short. He looks up at Greg who is waiting patiently, arms outstretched and palms faced down on the counter.

“Will you accept eighty-five pence?” Jack asks.

Greg raises his right eyebrow and looks down into the palm of his customer. “Sorry, mate.” He says. “It’s one pound for the loaf. If you don’t have the dosh, you can’t have the slosh. That’s my motto.”

“Aw, don’t be like that, Greg.” Bobby butts in.

“Hey, I gotta make a living, y’know.”

“Please, sir. It’s all I’ve got.” Jack begs.

“No means no, kid.”

Jack lowers his head. “I’m not a kid.” He says under his breath.

“What if I pay the rest for him?” Bobby says, feeling a wave of sympathy for Jack.

“You’ll do that for me?” Jack asks, turning towards him.

Bobby, now walking away from the oven towards the employee’s dorm, replies with “What’s a measly fifteen P anyway?” as he shrugs.

“Oh, cheers, mate. You’re a life saver!”

“No problem, my friend.” He says, returning from the back, with a supreme boom to his voice. “Think of this as a good will to those in need.”

He places two coins, a five and ten pence piece, on the counter next to the till. Jack places his share with the rest of it. Greg then swipes up the change in one fell swoop and places the coins within the till as it sounds the success of a business exchange.

“You’re feelin’ generous today.” Greg says. “What’s got you so perky?”

“Oh, you know, just my usual, happy self.” Bobby laughs merrily as he picks up a tray loaded with readymade dough to be placed in the oven.

Greg places the loaf of bread into a red and white-striped plastic bag and ties it in a knot. He carefully hands the bag to Jack and they thank each other in the form of “cheers”. Then Greg turns his attention to his colleague as Jack begins to attend to the exit. “So? Come on! Spit it out! You’ve done nothin’ but smile since you started.”

“Well...” he begins hesitantly, “you know how me and the wife have been trying to conceive? Well, after three months of trying...”

“You haven’t.”

Bobby smiles as he nods back. “We have!”

As Jack exits back into the high street through the door, he hears Greg shout “Oh my god! Congratulations, Bobby!” as the door closes shut.

The cold air smashes against his warm face as he steps onto the unlevelled brick layered path, as if someone had just thrown a damp towel over his head. He looks over his shoulder and through the window to see Greg shaking Bobby’s hand and roughly patting him on the back. Jack smiles for a brief moment before it’s lost and he looks up into the sky.

The dark clouds are beginning to drift in slowly. He speaks silently to himself.

“I know you’re there, mother,” he says, “watching over us.” He frowns to himself. “You know... I wonder if you meant for any of this to happen, what with you leaving us alone in this world.” He shakes his head. “No, what am I saying, of course you didn’t. But a small part of me is telling you wanted this, you wanted to go. It’s just a slight feeling. If so, then why?”

A small droplet of rain falls into Jack’s eye, causing slight agony as he cringes and wipes it away.

“You were my shoulder and my shelter, mother.” He says, looking back into the sky. “Now you’re my satellite. I wish I had your guiding light to show my destination.”

He stands there staring into the sky for any sign that his mother is following them. But nothing made itself clear. There are no answers from voices above.

“I remember what you said right before you passed away. You were laying in the hospital bed, surrounded by those who loved you most. You brought me aside and told me to remember. ‘Remember, my child’ you said. ‘Without innocence, the Cross is only iron. Hope is only an illusion, and Ocean Soul is nothing but a name.’ But I don’t understand what you mean. When will I understand, mother? When?” He looks down to the floor. The rain begins dripping faster. Droplets of water bounce off the ground. He had to get back to his sister. He clasps his hands together, bread dangling loosely in between them, and prays.

“Oh Lord, hear my prayer. Please look after our mother and guide her towards your heavenly light. Keep safe her spiritual being on her journey towards the Land of the Free, forever and for always in your haven. Gratias tibi ago. Nos sumus in perpetuum gratus.”

Saddened by his own prayer, Jack wipes a tear from his eye and walks away from the bakery and across the high street, passing everyone in his way. He makes his way up a narrow, abandoned alleyway. Halfway through sits a girl scrunched up in a ball, holding her head in her knees. Covering her is a black raincoat, the one which Jack’s father had given her. He attempts to lose his sadness and approaches her with a strong smile. If she sees him smiling, she too will act strong. He kneels down in front of her and gently rubs her shoulder. She looks up and imitates his smile, happy at the sight of who she meets.

She frees her arms from under the raincoat and moves them in ways very few can understand. “I’ve missed you, Jack.” She signs. “You were gone too long.”

Jack places the bread on the damp, filthy ground and signs back. “I’m sorry, Amy. It took longer than expected. But I’ve got food. We won’t go hungry again tonight.”

Amy leans forward and wraps her arms around her brother. He copies her. They share this moment as if it were their last, as they do every moment they spend together.

After their long, emotional bonding they release each other and Jack signs to her “Come on. Let’s find somewhere to sleep for the night.”

He stands up, removes the raincoat covering his sister and helps her up. He then drapes the coat around her as they venture off in search of somewhere to house themselves for the night.

 

* * *

 

Jack awakens with the sound of a train whistle. He jolts up as he hears the loud screeching cry of it and covers his ears to numb the sound. Once the sound is silenced, he rubs his eyes and stretches his arms and his torso. He scans to the left and right and remembers he’s sitting in the train station on a steel bench on one of the platforms. Not the most comfortable of beds, but better than the filthy ground.

He leans back against the bench’s backrest and turns his head to the right side. The bread he bought the same day was lying on the bench, tied up within the bag. They had eaten over half of it in less than a day. If they continue like this, they may not last much longer. He then glances at the station’s cubed clock suspended from the ceiling, its hands in constant motion, showing the time at five minutes past eleven. Jack sighs as he looks upwards to the ceiling. He can see the ceiling windows being pelted with rain. They had taken shelter from the evening’s pleasant storm.

“What do we do now?” He whispers to himself. “We have nowhere to go, no food and no money. We can’t catch a train and walking anywhere is tiring, especially for Amy. To leave the only city we know could leave her feeling homesick or she could fall ill, and I’d be helpless to prevent it.”

He glances to his left then back to the front. He quickly looks back to his left and his heart sinks to a new low. The coat covering Amy has vanished, and so has she.

“Amy?” he says, alarmed. “Oh, god!”

He quickly jumps up from the bench and scans the area. He hastily glances under the bench. She’s not there. He runs up the platform, looking through the pillars at the other platforms. Nowhere to be seen. He runs past the ladies’ toilets and a thought enters his mind, stopping him in his tracks. Perhaps she’s in there. He turns back and enters the toilets. The stench from the piss stained bogs chokes him and he coughs. Covering his nose and mouth with his sleeve, he ignores the stench and quickly heads for the cubicles and opens them one by one. She wasn’t in the first one, or the second. The third one was locked. He bangs on the door with his fist. No answer. Of course there’s no answer. Could she be in there?

He takes a step back and, with all his might, kicks the door. The door flies open, banging against the cubicle wall, and inside is a middle-aged woman sitting on the bowl, asleep with her pants around her ankles and a bottle of Jack Daniels hanging loosely in her hand. She was leaning against the opposite wall of the cubicle, mumbling in her sleep. Jack shakes his head. Why? Ignoring her, he looks into the fourth cubicle. Not there either. Where is she? She should know better not to wander off.

Jack runs out of the toilets and back onto the platforms. Upon emerging, he hears a chorus of chants from a nearby platform which echo throughout the entire station. Following the chants, trying to pinpoint its location, he finds a small group of Trainspotters peering over the railways waiting for something, presumably a train. Joining them at the sidelines, he leans over and looks down the tracks. He can see a thick cloud of black smoke emerging from out of the station, just above the tracks. A train is approaching, and fast.

He glances down the tracks and he spots a hooded figure on the tracks. It was Amy. He could tell it was her by the coat she was under and her small stature. She was facing away from the oncoming train. His eyes widened and his heartbeat soared. What is she doing down there? He looks back up the tracks. The train was visible now and heading straight for them. The chant from the group became louder as they too spot it nearing. Jack looks back down to the tracks before jumping onto them and running towards her.

“Hey!” someone from the group shouts. “What are you doing!?”

“You’re gonna be hit!” someone else shouts.

But Jack doesn’t hear them. He was completely focused on reaching Amy before the train does. He runs in the middle of the tracks, almost tripping over all the loose pebbles between them. The sound of the train’s air whistle blew as it nears the platform, but the sound was shunned by Jack. He was almost there. Just a few more feet. The train rushes past the crowd. The screech of its breaks was high in tone and deafening, of which almost pierced the hearing of everyone on the platform.

Everything seemed to go in slow motion for Jack; his feet tripping over the rocks, the crowd running along the platform, the train chasing him from behind. His whole body began to feel heavy, as if made of lead. To place one foot in front of the other seemed an immensely effortful task. He struggles to outstretch his arm as he nears her.

“I’ve got you, Amy.” Jack says out of breath.

The hooded figure slowly turns around. Jack sees the full view of the face as it’s illuminated by the train’s headlight and is horrified at who it is. Who stood under the hood wasn’t Amy, but instead someone who he thought was long gone; someone he watched die in his very own sight, someone he loves more than anything in the world.

“Mother?” he struggles with his final breath.

His mother grins reassuringly and holds out her hand. Jack reaches out his hand, but was unable to reach hers before his surroundings turn dark and he becomes numb. The train’s whistle blows a final farewell as it echoes into infinity.


© Copyright 2019 Arioch Starr. All rights reserved.

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