I was thrilled to find out this afternoon that this story was highly commended in Esther Newton’s Flash Fiction Competition.
It was her first time on a steam train. She had listened to her grandfather’s stories and wondered what the fuss was about; they sounded noisy, dirty and slow. But she had a few hours to spare and the station was somewhere to keep dry that damp Thursday afternoon.
The platform was empty. She walked up and down, taking in the old-fashioned posters that advertised local seaside resorts. She tried out a seat in the cream and Bakerloo brown waiting room and even explored the manual signal box, both of which were also empty. A chilly gust of wind lifted her hair; she felt goose bumps on her arms when she retrieved a tissue from her sleeve to remove a speck of dust from her eye.
There it was. From around the bend a column of steam unfurled and the rhythmic puffing of the train announced its arrival. As it slowed to a halt, she craned her neck to see if passengers were ready to alight, but the windows stared back at her, black holes like the orbits in a skull.
As she climbed aboard, she looked around for a station master but there didn’t seem to be one. She hoped there would a ticket collector to stamp a hole in her green Edmondson ticket, which she planned to take home to Grandfather.
As the train pulled away, the station lights came on, throwing long shadows on the platform. She could have sworn they were the shadows of people.
© Kim M. Russell, 2015