I cannot remember where I am going and I cannot remember why, but my train is here and I must catch it.
It is moving. Does it not know that it leaves me alone, lost and stranded? I have nowhere to go. Just that train. And it is going. It is gone.
It rattles away into the darkness. It leaves me alone on the platform gasping, gulping for breath. A whoosh of air makes the hairs on my legs stand on end. I inspect my outfit: a vertically striped summer dress of faded blue and red that definitely shouldn’t fit me because I threw it out when I was twelve. Why am I wearing this?
My fists are closed around objects I don’t remember picking up. In my left hand is a key with a frayed ribbon that was once white. I have been gripping it so tightly that it has left an imprint on my palm. It glints a dirty bronze and emits a metallic odor. My best guess is that it is the key to my mothers house. I don’t live there anymore. Perhaps that is where I am going.
My right fist clutches my blue Barclays debit card. There is nothing special about it but I find comfort in the fact that although I lack a jumper and a phone, I have money. I can buy a ticket and catch the next train.
The utter stillness of the station is deafening. The yellow lines next to the tracks are a solitary note of colour in the white-lit greyness. A crumpled diet coke can lays abandoned on the gum-spotted platform and a sooty pigeon struts in slow motion towards me. I feel as though I have left the real world behind altogether but it is hard to tell. The real world. What is that? Where is home?
My heart thumps in my chest. The oxygen I inhale is secondhand, like it always is at train stations, though the only person I share it with is a worker with a royal blue plastic cap and high-vis vest. He – for I assume it is a he, it’s hard to tell from such a distance – does not seem to notice me. Head down, arms resting limply at his sides, I wonder at first whether he is a mannequin, like the kind weird people put in their vans overnight to deter thieves. Not that there is anything of value to steal in the desolate railway station.
‘Excuse me,’ I attempt anyway, since if he is a mannequin, there is no one around to see me humiliate myself and if he isn’t, he is my only hope. ‘Excuse me. Excuse me, sir.’ My footsteps are silent. I tiptoe towards him like an anxious child.
‘Yes?’ His voice is rumbling and abrupt and I jump. With his face clearly visible and eyes wide open, he more closely resembles a gargoyle than a mannequin. Hooked nose, unnaturally blue eyes like the blinker of a wifi router, a wider mouth than I have ever seen on a human being – yes, he reminds me of the gargoyles that greeted me every morning at University.
‘I need to get…’ My mouth dries up and I swallow. ‘I need to get the train.’
His blinker eyes bore into my soul. My heartbeat still thuds in constant rhythm. A colourless tongue emerges to lick thin lips. I shudder. I do not want to be near him. I need to get the next train. ‘D’you need a ticket?’
‘Yes,’ I mumble. ‘I need to get the train.’
He reaches into his vest; it has pockets. Every item of clothing a man owns has pockets. My dress is useless in that regard. I grip my two precious items as though my life depends on them. He offers me an orange slip. It is the size and shape of a train ticket but the inky words are smudged and illegible. I accept it from his gloved fingers, lift it up and squint.
‘There’s no more trains tonight. Come back, tomorrow.’
I look up, mouth wide, ready to protest. My expression is met not by the man – he has disappeared – but a grey concrete wall with a distressed poster advertising Slimming World.
There is a click. The white station lights flicker and turn off. I am left shivering on the pitch-black platform in only my summer dress, clutching my key, my debit card and an orange ticket. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do but wait.
Shadows loom all around me. People. Creatures. Ghouls. Foggy masses of darkness holding their breath, waiting for sunrise, waiting for the train. I cannot remember where I am going and I cannot remember why, but my train is coming and I must catch it.
Deborah Rose Green is Contributing Editor for Hey Young Writer! She is also the author of Dragon Pearls (2019) and Crown My Heart (2020). You can follow her on Instagram at @authordeborahrose or visit her website, deborahrosegreen.co.uk!