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pen Ecanus•net :: Stories

This page was intended as a home for news about ‘the great unfinished novel’ which as the name suggests never quite got finished. Fallen Angel (in part the reason for the naming of this site) was started many years ago, back in my college days (I'm not going to admit to how long ago that was) and over the years has changed a lot. Its orginal inspiration was from a Stephen King short story "Strawberry Spring", but it's nothing at all like that now. Now in its fourth incarnation there's a totally different plot, location, fact it's nothing like the original. And one of these days I will get it finished. One of these days...

I have decided...2008 will be the year of Fallen Angel...I am gonna put some serious work into it, honest...

In the meantime you'll find some of my short stories here. Some have been seen out in public before; others have been hidden away for a long, long time. I figured it was about time to give them an airing. Words are for sharing, after all.

British Rail Apologises for the delay

Christine closed her eyes, allowed herself to relax, and felt herself slipping away into the warm folds of sleep. She didn't fight it. She knew that her body desperately needed the rest which it afforded her. There was only a slight feeling of movement. It belied the speed of in excess of a hundred miles an hour at which the train was travelling. There was the click of the tracks beneath her and a clunk as they passed over a set of points. Other than that, only the gentle swaying and a faraway rush of air was the only disturbance.

Outside the night was impenetrable. Those passengers who looked out found only a reflection of themselves, their world the sealed carriage. It was almost as though the world outside had ceased to exist, leaving only a void.

The last Regional Railways train of the night was only a two carriage locomotive, Christine had noticed as she climbed aboard. At each end of the small train there was a driver’s cab. The two carriages were separated at the concertina coupling of them by a glass door, which automatically controlled, made a small swishing sound whenever a passenger passed through it. A smattering of passengers occupied the carriage, an elderly couple seated on either side of a table a few rows behind her, quietly playing a card game, a student type, all matted hair and pin button adorned, surrounded by a huddle of over–stuffed backpack and odd shaped too full carrier bags, and at the far end of the carriage a trio of hoodies, two boys and a girl. They all had on the de rigeur baseball cap and hooded fleece, and talked too loudly, too brashly, laughed too hysterically. Their voices echoed down the carriage, too loud in the nocturnal hush of the night. Their prescence though was somehow reassuring, a reminder of the outside world, of normal everyday life, alien to the unatural hush.

The carriage was sterile and bland, a tribute to modern design, plastic curves, bright primary signs and fabrics. A characterless chamber swaying gently in the night as it rocketed along steel arteries.

Struggling through the layers of sleep, Christine tried to think. Tried to remember where she was going to. Was she going home? Home. Where was home? For a moment she was fighting for breath, panic rising in her chest, as she struggled to place herself.

Home, 1979 had it been? Home seemed so far away. It had been a hot July afternoon. Christine, six, was dejectedly trailing after her brother, Martin. Three years older at nine, Martin and his friends Darren and Pete had soon tired of having the younger girl following her around and were making their feelings known, grumbling loudly.

Christine had been enjoying herself, revelling in the glory of the rare privilege of being allowed to accompany her elder brother. But now as one of the three boys snapped at her every time she complained that she was thirsty, or her legs ached, she wished she’d stayed at home with her mum. They’d been let out to play with stern warnings about going to places they were forbidden to play. So off they had gone, skirting the edge of the old quarry. They delighted in throwing small lumps of rock down the dangerously steep scree slopes, watching them bounce, sending down small showers of pebbles creating small landslides, hearing the dull splashes as they dropped into the depths of the stagnant water which had collected beneath the artificial slopes, watching the circles of ripples spreading endlessly outwards. From there they had gone on to the brook which trickled sluggishly through the undergrowth of the field. They had pushed their way through the tall grass and overgrown hedgerow, watching in amazement the clouds of insects they disturbed as they splashed their way through the water. Their feet kicked up great fountains of muddy water, marvelling at the strange creatures which seemed almost to float just above the surface of the water. They were small children laughing and shouting at the pleasures of being free on a sunny day, playing in forbidden places, screaming in delight throwing handfuls of oozing glutinous mud at each other.

Dressed only in shorts and plastic sandals Christine lagged behind the boys, her blonde hair trailing behind her in the breeze. The narrow country lane, with its overhanging trees, offered some respite from the mercilessly blazing sun. All four of the children were red beneath their mud-smeared bodies, a testament to the strength of the sun although they hadn’t been out in it that long.

The lane sloped downwards, its tree shaded edges rising upwards, giving way to open fields on one side while on the other beneath the tangle of bushes and nettles, under the bowing trees a high fence barred access. This was where they wanted to be.

At the foot of the hill, the boys knew there were a couple of loose planks in the fencing they could push aside and squeeze through to give them access to the railway.

One by one the children climbed through and stood in awe at the top of the steep embankment. Below them twin sets of glistening rails stretched away into the distance, the sun reflecting brightly.

The boys started off down the steep slope, kicking their way through the tangle of weeds, scrambling down where it was too steep to risk standing. Christine followed them, trying to follow their route, ducking down to slide over sections where she had seen the boys do the same thing. Weeds wrapped themselves around her ankles and brambles scraped painfully at her arms and legs. She was acutely aware of the unevenness of the ground beneath her, every bump, every jagged stone. Then suddenly she was at the bottom and the sharp gravel needled at her palms, digging painfully into her small legs.

Martin reached out to lay a hand on the rail and pulled it back quickly with a small hiss of pain. "It’s hot!" He grinned, "C'mon, let's go over the other side!"

The three boys started off, lifting their feet high over the rail with exaggerated caution over the rail, leaving Christine sitting forlornly in the gravel. Martin turned, astride the nearest rail.

"Come on Chrissie, don't be a baby! We're going across to muck around in that field on the other side!" Christine frowned, chewing on her lower lip.

"But Mum said we weren't to play near the railway..."

Martin gave a small laugh. "She said we weren't to go near the quarry, the brook, or into the field as well! Now come on before we leave you!"

He turned and sprinted after the others, comically jumping over the rails. It would be okay, she reasoned, Martin had gone. And it had been Martin’s idea, she’d tell Mum that if she found out where they'd been. Wincing as the shards of gravel bit deeper into her palms she started to push herself up. She looked up. The boys were standing on the other side of the rails, watching her and laughing and hot tears suddenly filled her eyes.

Then there was a low pitched humming in the air that hadn’t been there before. Pulling herself up so she was crouched against the rails she looked along the line. In the distance, shimmering and dissolving in the heat haze there was something glinting silver on the tracks. The rails beneath her small fingers were suddenly vibrating, vibrating with such intensity that it was as though her whole body was vibrating. It was as though a small electric current was running through her whole body and her eyes were wide in fright, her mouth hanging open, dry, because instinctively she knew what that feeling meant, the thrumming rails beneath her hands. It meant that the glint of steel she saw in the distance was a train and that the train was coming. Across the other side she saw the smiles drop from the boys' faces as they turned to the source of the sound.

Suddenly the train was upon her, shaking the ground and filling the air with clattering and shrieks of metal, thundering past, filling her vision, obliterating everything.

She threw herself instinctively backwards, the gravel biting into her soft skin feeling her shoulder connect with the hard earth, falling back into a hollow, a warm inrush of air threatening to drag her back, the acrid stench of hot diesel, cloying, filling her mouth and nose, making her retch. She was showered with hot sparks and hurricanes of sharp gravel. And over it all the incessant high pitched screams of a small girl...

Christine cautiously opened her eyes. The world slowly came back into focus. For a few moments she sat blinking in the light. There was the steady click of the tracks beneath her but otherwise silence. She found it unnerving although couldn't really explain why. It was too quiet. There were no sounds of movement. No hushed conversations. No rustling of bags. No shuffling of feet.

She turned her head to slowly look around the carriage. It was empty. For a few minutes she sat there simply wondering how long she’d been asleep and thinking vaguely that it was very quiet, even for the last service of the night.

Without passengers the carriage was sterile and bland, lifeless. Slowly she extricated herself from her seat gingerly placing her right foot, tingling with pins and needles as the circulation returned.

Moving to the sliding dividing door she looked through into the other carriage. It too was deserted. The door to the driver's cab swung slowly open. Deserted. The first small flutterings of fear started in her chest but she forced herself to turn and walk to the rear of the train. As she reached the end of the carriage the lights flickered briefly as the train entered a tunnel.

The door to the driver's cab hung open, slowly swinging back and forth on its hinges. It too was empty. The frantic fluttering in her heart intensified, gripping her in the cold embrace of fear and she stifled an urge to scream, to open her mouth wide and just scream, and scream until no more would come.

The windows reflected back, outside impenetrable darkness and she saw only a girl, white faced and wide eyed, the same girl who had thrown back her head and was screaming, an alien, savage sound in this empty moving tomb.

Struggling to shake the dream she crazily whipped her head from side to side, stray strands of hair whipping across her face. She tried to force her eyes open. To wake up, shake the dream. To wake to find herself in her own room, in bed, surrounded by the familiar trappings of her life. But her eyes were already open.

© Fallen Angel/Bliss Carrington, August 2003

"British Rail Apologises for the delay" was inspired by a train journey I took many years ago as I student. I was travelling late one night from Derbyshire to Hull, and during the journey fell asleep. When I woke, the carriage I was in was empty except for me, and it took all my courage to investigate the next carriage for signs of life. Never was I so pleased to see the bright lights of a city and people wandering around doing everyday things!

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