who needs anybody?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's on a train. thats it.

Submitted: September 17, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 17, 2012




It was fast approaching 4.00am. Robert stared at his watch through red, bleary eyes.

“Why are train schedules so obscure?” he thought to himself. It was bitterly cold on the deserted platform. The winter wind hit the back of his neck, then ran down his spine like a frozen tarantula.

As he sat impatiently, desperate to sleep, yet unable for fear of missing his train, he pondered his present situation. It wasn’t a pleasant one; he had been kicked out by his wife for “being so pessimistic.” Because of his lack of friends, the only place he could find to stay was his cousin’s flat in Plymouth, which meant he would have to conform to the railway company’s ridiculous stipulations, i.e. sitting on this bitterly cold desolation row at 4:03 am, waiting for a train that’s now ten minutes late! As the big hand crept onto four, all Robert wanted at this point was someone to talk to.

The train seemed to come from nowhere. Scanning the carriages, all Robert could see was a ghost town. Not a single soul in sight. It seemed that his dream of talkative company would go unfounded. Then, an irritating thought passed through his mind: could he ethically use such a goliath of a machine, built to transport hundreds of commuters hundreds of miles, as his own personal taxi?

“Oh bugger it,” he muttered to himself, boarding the massive steel serpent. Whilst it began slithering along the track, Robert searched for a seat. He didn’t have to look very far, as all were vacant, but he did insist on finding one that wasn’t inexplicably damp, or covered in a rash of chewing gum. The practice of finding new and interesting places to dispose of one’s gum was one of many countless things Robert didn’t understand about the world he lived in. Sometimes he felt alone in the pursuit of a civilised society.

 As he flicked through a newspaper someone had abandoned on the table which he had finally selected, he felt more and more solitary. Page after page of idiocy after idiocy. The burglar who fell asleep on his victim’s sofa. The teenager who “accidentally” bought a JCB from eBay. The “miracle” albino lion cub born in Edinburgh zoo, which people from all around the world flocked to gawp at for hours on end, as though it were some sort of messiah.

“Oh, what’s the point?” he thought to himself, close to tears with an unbearable sense of loneliness. What was the point in him being there? If he were to suddenly disappear, kick the bucket, breath his last breath, who would honestly miss him? He certainly wouldn’t miss them. Sometimes, he wished he could just end it all…

His self deprecating inner monologue was broken when he suddenly saw something move. A jerking shadow in the corner of his eye. Robert turned to glance around the room, but could see nothing out of the ordinary. What the hell was that thing? Surely it was nothing. But he couldn’t help but feel that he wasn’t alone. That someone was in the carriage, in the shadows. That someone was watching him.

“Hello?” he gingerly exclaimed. “Is anybody there?” No answer. He breathed a short sigh of relief, before realising that, perhaps, his speculative company didn’t want him to know that they were there. An intense fear came over him, like a child’s grubby hand snatching a wounded fly.

It’s all in your head, it’s all in your head” he chanted to himself. “Tiredness is getting the better of you.” For a short while, he believed himself, before hearing what sounded like a faint whine. Was someone there? Was it just the train squeaking? Do trains squeak?

For the first time in his adult life, he now desperately wanted to be alone. To be the reclusive hermit the he knew he was. Or, perhaps simply to be braver, or less paranoid. Either way, he was sure that loneliness was better than dangerous company.

“I must be going mad,” he whispered to himself. “There’s no-one there”. Even if there was, why would they have any reason to harm him? Robert had never intentionally done anything bad to anybody. Some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable.

As an unexpected wave of adrenaline came over him, he stood up, heart screaming and eyes closed in case he saw something he wished that he hadn’t. Realising the flaw in his logic, he eased his eyes open, and hesitantly headed down the carriage, to confront his fears face to face. Glancing under every table and inside every overhead shelf, all he found was a few muffin wrappers and discarded clothes (seriously, who the hell leaves their socks on a train?) . When he reached the end of the carriage, to his amazement, in the very last row, on a seat which he had first thought completely empty, was...


 Absolutely nothing threatening or scary which could cause him any sort of harm at all. Just a large selection of dried up chewing gum. With his fear now replaced by embarrassment and shame, he walked back to his seat, suddenly realising that his entire exploit had, embarrassingly, been caught on the CCTV camera.

After he’d calmed down, and tried his hand at thinking rationally for once, he came to the conclusion that his foolish, insomnia induced paranoia was simply the push over the cliff he needed to get over his turbulent divorce. It was the necessary trigger required for him to understand that his current solitary situation needn’t be a bad thing. Robert realised that he was finally content with being by himself, and sometimes that is absolutely fine. Who needs anybody?

© Copyright 2018 Struan. All rights reserved.

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