Jim instinctively hunched as the bitingly cold wind sliced through him on the exposed
platform, making him shudder. The drop in temperature had been as drastic as it had been
sudden. He turned his jacket collar up and not for the first time that evening, cursed his
reluctance to ever drive again. Rubbing his gloveless hands together to keep warm, he
glanced around at his surroundings. Although the station appeared deserted, the feeling of
being watched persisted, the eerie silence only punctuated by the monotonous rhythmic
clunking of the platform clock hanging overhead.
He stared longingly down the track even though he knew his train wasn’t yet due
and was just about to relieve the monotony by once again pacing the length of the platform
when a noise to his right startled him. He turned just in time to see an empty tin can
skimming along the platform’s surface towards him. Convinced it was just the wind, he
allowed himself to relax, but immediately tensed again when he saw that none of the other
detritus littering the platform was moving. The wind had momentarily subsided.
Somebody had clearly kicked the can and Jim once again scanned the vicinity,
positive now that he wasn’t alone. Still he couldn’t see anybody. Suddenly aware of just how
vulnerable he was, Jim slowly backed away.
Whilst he’d welcome some company, even if they didn’t feel comfortable talking to
him, an aggressive drunk or a group of boisterous teenagers were the last thing he needed.
He didn’t want to become another filler piece for his local newspaper. Another statistic that
the public had become almost desensitised to. He silently prayed his train would soon
Whoever had kicked the can had chosen not to reveal themselves and that only
served to fuel Jim’s anxiety.
Still backing away, he eventually collided with something hard and unyielding and he
cried out in alarm. Jim spun round, his briefcase raised in front of him as a shield, though
what good it would do he had no idea. He let out a small, nervous laugh of relief when he
realised it was only a lamp post. Glancing round he saw that he was now outside the waiting
room and was shocked to see the silhouette of a woman through the frosted glass to his
right. How she had got past him and into the waiting room he had no idea, but the chance
for some company was something he couldn’t pass up. Sometimes there was safety in
numbers. He just had to be mindful that she was a woman alone and would be
apprehensive of his intentions. It wouldn’t do to scare her.
He tentatively opened the door and stepped in, but the room was empty.
Jim could feel his heart racing but before he could dwell on her impossible
disappearance his attention was drawn to the sound of approaching footsteps outside. Still
confused but eager to see who was out there, he turned and left the waiting room only to
be confronted by an empty platform. The toilets were locked so other than the waiting
room there was nowhere they could have gone.
Despite the cold Jim could feel his cotton shirt clinging to his damp back as he
cautiously made his way along the platform. He was determined to find whoever it was that
was taking great delight in tormenting him.
He stopped abruptly. Although he hadn’t heard footsteps this time, he just knew
that somebody was close behind him. He could sense it. The first thing that struck him was
the terrible smell of decay. Then he could hear laboured breathing and finally he felt
someone’s breath on his neck.
The meagre contents of his stomach felt like they’d turned to liquid as fear
threatened to paralyse him. Convinced he was about to be mugged by some meth drinking
vagrant, Jim mustered the last of his waning courage and spun round with fist raised poised
to strike, but again nobody was there.
A child’s laughter drifted through the still night air and he thought that he caught a
glimpse of a young girl turning a corner further up the platform near the waiting room he
had just left. He hurried back in their direction, desperate to speak to them. More laughter
followed, first from the opposite platform and then from behind him. Still he saw no one.
His mind sought to calm him telling him it was just kids pranking him, but something
didn’t sit right. Visions of that night threatened to overwhelm him, but somehow, he
managed to calm his emotions. He could have just left and tried to find a taxi, but
something compelled him to stay.
He rolled his shoulders trying to ease the tension, but anxiety and fear weren’t about
to release their grip any time soon. The silhouette in the waiting room had been too large
for a child and how would a young child’s breath reach his neck? Was an adult with them,
encouraging them, orchestrating it all? And how could they disappear like that? There were
too many unanswered questions.
If the children were alone, he knew that he’d never be able to board the train and
leave, despite their behaviour towards him. What if something happened to them? If he
read in the news some days later that a child had died after larking around at the station,
he’d never be able to forgive himself.
If something happened to them like… like… He smothered the memory before it
could take root. He couldn’t afford to relive that incident not now, not ever.
Its approach unnoticed, a train suddenly hurtled through the station causing him to
cry out in shock, throwing wrappers and empty polystyrene cups in the air, the draught it
caused making him wobble on his feet. He had been perilously close to the tracks. He turned
to face it, watching as the mostly empty carriages raced past, the few faces he saw within
nothing more than anonymous momentary blurs.
His train would be here soon.
When the last carriage had passed, he found himself looking at a young girl on the
opposite platform. Though he continued to stare, his brain refused to accept the gruesome
image before him. Her dress was torn and splattered with blood and a bone protruded from
her left arm, under which she somehow cradled a cherished dolly. She was staring at him,
her bruised and cut face expressionless.
Jim stepped back trying to put more distance between him and the image he knew
couldn’t be real, but the sound of the waiting room door opening behind him made him
turn. Once again nobody was there. When he looked back the girl had also disappeared.
The sound of running footsteps coming over the footbridge paralysed him with fear,
but as quickly as they had appeared, they vanished again. A few seconds later a football
bounced down the stone steps onto the platform in front of him. Terror constricted Jim’s
throat and his heartbeat at an alarming rate. He stopped the ball with his foot and looked
up just as a young boy in a bloody and shredded football shirt came racing down the steps
towards him at a speed that shouldn’t have been possible.
Fright became panic. Jim screamed and turned to run but blocking his way was a
young woman. She too was covered in blood. Her neck lolled at an incongruous angle to the
rest of her body. Screaming again and desperate to evade the horror show around him, Jim
lost all perception of the platform edge and stumbled backwards onto the tracks.
He landed heavily and cried out with the pain. His left leg was bent under him and he
had no doubt it was broken. Judging by the searing pain his right shoulder was dislocated.
Tears streaming down his face he looked up hoping that someone somewhere had seen him
fall or heard him cry out and would come to his rescue, but no one did. Instead his gaze fell
on the woman and two children. They were standing on the platform edge staring down at
him. No, that was wrong he realised, they weren’t standing, they were hovering, perhaps six
inches off the ground. The boy had the football tucked under his left arm and they were all
smiling. Their clothes were no longer bloodstained, and their bodies were unblemished just
like they’d been before he’d killed them in a hit and run accident several months before. If
he hadn’t reached over for his phone... If he hadn’t tried to text… If he’d just kept his eyes
on the road…
Jim lifted an arm to reach out to them, to plead for help but as one they all slowly
glanced to their left. Hope fluttered in his heart when he thought that perhaps they’d seen
somebody coming to help him and he followed their gaze.
Instead his train was finally here.
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