Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and thirteenth piece in this series. This week’s is a 493-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 35 (with three other stories / with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 29th December.
The Third Rail
It isn’t just cold, it’s damned freezing. I haven’t my coat with me. Why? Because I hadn’t intended on hiding in a draughty, dilapidated tool shed at a deserted train station at 2.30 on this Arctic-like morning. My breath fogs and my teeth chatter. I try to stop but it’s impossible. My feet are numb and I have to be careful not to make a noise whilst trying to rub some heat back into my body. I went for drinks after work. I must have had one too many as I found myself at the end of the line and no return train till the morning. I started walking up the tracks, now sober enough to be extremely careful of that third rail.
I look out the crack in the door. He’s still there, standing, looking up and down the platform, the platform behind which I’m hiding, freezing and praying for the first train. When is the first train? 5am? Is there not a staff train? He’s not breathing fog in the frigid air, which strikes me as strange. Not as strange as the hell-sent train that keeps passing up and down every 5 minutes or so. Sometimes he steps into it and disappears. The train never stops though.
I had walked about two miles up the line to the next station when I felt, rather than heard, a train coming. Luckily I was level with the platform so I jumped up and stood inside the little waiting shelter, to see if it would stop. It didn’t. That wasn’t all though; I could see through it. A sick, jaundiced yellow light lit the interior but I could see the other platform through the train. I thought it was the booze. After it passed, I made my way along the platform when I heard it return. I discovered the shed and hid inside. Lucky really, because the man appeared on the other platform, he just stepped out as the train shot by. He was looking for something. Me?
I’m now crouching, changing position helps. I feel the train coming so I return to the crack in the door. It flies past and is gone. He’s gone too. The man has gone! Maybe in 5 minutes I can get away. My crouched position helps me move and I let myself out the shed. The exit’s on the other platform though so I jump down on the tracks, avoiding the footbridge but as I do I hear brakes; furious, screaming brakes. The light of the train in the distance is now coming back towards me, fast. The train knows I’m here. He knows I’m here. Now I’ve nowhere to hide, it’ll find me. He’ll find me.
The train’s approaching fast now. What can I do? If I stay I’ll die of hypothermia if I’m lucky, I don’t want to think of the endless, terrifying possibilities of death by supernatural causes.
I stare at the third rail.
I asked Christopher what prompted this piece and he said…
Last Thursday night I had an awful night’s sleep. In one of my waking moments I had this vision of a man, a not particularly nice man, standing on a train station platform, looking at me. It remained with me during the day and so I jotted something down around it that evening. Obviously a man, nasty or not, just standing there just wouldn’t do so I added, hopefully satisfactorily in 500 words, a touch of the supernatural.
Thank you, Christopher. I loved it.
Upon moving to London, a bit like Dick Whittington, searching for streets of gold, he happened upon a beautiful Italian lady who later decided to take him to the sunny realm of southern Switzerland, where he can still be found, smiling inanely, continuously in search of Weissbier.
When he is not working or drinking he sits in front of the computer, searching for fictional inspiration. You can find Chris via his blogs http://christopherfarley.wordpress.com and http://talkingtosh.wordpress.com.
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