Last Train – a short story by Jacey Bedford

Stitched PanoramaIt’s a freezing cold station on Christmas Eve. The platform is deserted, the ticket hall closed, the waiting room padlocked. My breath puffs clouds into the air in the flickering glare from the overhead light.

I glance at the clock. Ten-fifteen. The last train is due at any moment.

Tick. Ten sixteen.

I stamp my feet, but they’re numb. All of me is numb.

Tick. Ten seventeen.

I shove my hands into my pockets. All I want is to get home to you.

Pop. The farthest light dies at the north end of the platform.

Tick. Ten eighteen.

Can I smell cinnamon? My insides ache for a hot drink, but the Costa closed hours ago. Damn.

The cinnamon lingers. I imagine my fingers wrapped around a glass of mulled wine, spicy and warm. In my mind I see you sip yours and smile. Your hair is haloed briefly in candle light.

I miss you so much.

Tick. Ten nineteen.

Pop. Another overhead flickers and dies.

Pop. Another.

Cascade failure. The darkness creeps towards me light by light.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

The overheads on the opposite platform succumb. How long before they all go?

Tick. Ten twenty.

I wish I was home already, my arms round your waist, breathing in the scent of your hair.

Tick. Ten twenty-one.

A boot sole scuffs on concrete. I turn. A stooped figure shuffles on to the platform from the car park gate and stands, leaning on a cane, wheezing.

“Train’s late.” My attempt at conversation falls flat.

Pop. The overhead at the south end of the platform fails.

Pop. The next one.

Pop.

Now I’m standing in the last pool of light.

Tick. Ten twenty-two.

“Do you think we’ve missed it?” I ask.

The stranger laughs. It sounds like a death rattle.

Far along the track I see a pinpoint of light. I grin, flushed with relief. I’ll be home soon.

Soon.

I can’t wait.

The light grows bigger.

And bigger.

In a billow of steam the train pulls into the station. It makes no sound. A single door in front of me opens and a sickly yellow light spills out. I step forward at the same time as the old man.

He turns. I see his face. His skin is parchment over bone, his eyes empty sockets. A single maggot wriggles from the cavity that was his nose.

I gulp and step back. “After you, sir.”

He hobbles aboard and beckons.

I don’t think so.

Another desiccated face stares out from the carriage window. It’s you. A tear rolls down your cheek.

A whistle blows. I hear a faint, “All aboard.”

Heart pounding, I hesitate for too long. The door slams in my face and the silent train pulls away. The overhead lights bloom again, yellow as chrysanthemums.

It’s a freezing cold station on Christmas Eve. The platform is deserted, the ticket hall closed, the waiting room padlocked. My breath puffs clouds into the air in the flickering glare from the overhead light.

Stations are all the same. I feel as though I’ve been here a thousand times before.

I glance at the clock. Ten-fifteen. The last train is due at any moment.

AA Steam train night 2

-o0o-

Copyright: Jacey Bedford
First printed in Grievous Angel, 2015.

jacey-novacon-2012-300pxsquJacey Bedford is a British writer, published by DAW in the USA. She writes science fiction and fantasy. Her Psi-Tech space opera trilogy consists of Empire of Dust, Crossways, and Nimbus. Her historical fantasy trilogy comprises Winterwood and Silverwolf, and Rowankind. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, and have been translated into an odd assortment of languages including Estonian, Galician and Polish. She’s been a folk singer with vocal trio, Artisan, and her claim to fame is singing live on BBC Radio4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.
http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk

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About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / UK Visas and Immigration department licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificates of Sponsorship).
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2 Responses to Last Train – a short story by Jacey Bedford

  1. Ben Jeapes says:

    A classic Christmas story! Inspired by a recent post-con train journey, perhaps?

    Like

    • Jacey Bedford says:

      Actually it was written (and first published) before the recent nightmare journey back from Chester, but I added the padlocked waiting room as a painful tribute to Newton-le-Willows station.

      Like

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