The Road to Somewhere [Flash Fiction]

Another day, another flash fiction challenge—this one courtesy of the good folks over at Absolute Write. This week’s prompt is THE PARALLEL VIEW, but before I launch into the story, I’m going to take a moment to try to get you to join the fun on the Absolute Write Forums. If you like reading or writing, whether it’s autobiography, high fantasy, free form poetry or anything in between, then you might want to check the place out.

Why?

Because you get to:

  • Talk with like-minded people. Writing can be a lonely activity, and you can’t do it in a vacuum.
  • Get great, honest feedback and critique of your work, and offer feedback and critique to others.
  • Access a wealth of resources put together by people who’ve been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt. Sometimes they’ve worn it so much that they’ve left it baggy and shapeless and kinda grey, and now it’s your turn to put that t-shirt on! Woo!
  • Talk about the aspects of your writing you might be struggling with, whether that’s knowing how to write those opening lines, or stopping your cat from sitting on your keyboard.
  • Most importantly, ENGAGE IN FLASH FICTION CHALLENGES!

I hope I’ve sold it to you (at zero cost, since it’s an entirely free forum). Of course, AW isn’t the only writing-related website out there, and the AW Forums aren’t the only place you can talk with fellow authors. If you are interested in writing, in any form, then I hope you manage to find a place where you feel comfortable and at home on this big ol’ scary interwebs.

Now for some story!


The Road to Somewhere

The chair shook as the train lurched to a slow halt. Tina, who’d been dozing as the scenery blurred by, was jolted rudely awake. Habit prompted her to reach out and steady her half-empty bottle of water balanced precariously on the rickety plastic serving tray attached to the seat in front of her.

What the…?

“Ladies and gentlemen, the train will be stopping shortly to allow another train to pass. Normal service will resume in just a few short moments.”

Tina swallowed a weary sigh. The concept of a long-distance relationship, once so rebellious and exotic, had now become stale. She’d met Ged online two years ago in a singles chatroom. He was a Geordie, his home city as far from Penzance as you could possibly go whilst still being in the same country.

At first it had been exciting. Long train voyages, beautiful countryside to enjoy, being wined and dined on arrival. Ged owned a loyalty card company, something to do with restaurants, and he’d done alright for  himself. He’d already splurged on a holiday to the Maldives—a once in a lifetime trip for a struggling art student from Cornwall.

The years had blurred by like the countryside through which the train travelled. Penzance to Newcastle was not a short trip, and the beautiful landscapes were dull and dreary for at least half of the year. Now, instead of bathing in excitement when stepping onto the train, Tina was mired in ennui, an inescapable feeling of here we go again. Good food and great sex just weren’t the incentives they’d once been.

She looked out through the dust-spattered window to the parallel track, waiting for a glimpse of the other train. Wherever it was heading, it certainly wasn’t Newcastle. Perhaps it was on the return journey to Cornwall. Maybe it would be veering off towards Oxford, or London, or Bath.

When the train appeared, Tina’s mouth fell open. It wasn’t one of the dinky little square-shaped electric trains, like the one she always travelled on. No, this was a hulking steam engine, a soot-spewing behemoth, its body such a shiny black that it looked like it had only just been polished. It didn’t glide past like the electric trains did, but chugged slowly, a deep vibration that reverberated around her chest and kept to the rhythm of her heartbeat.

The locomotive passed and the first carriage came into view. Tina blinked. Rubbed her eyes. Looked again, but… no, she wasn’t imagining it. Through the carriage windows she saw men and women dressed in… well, she had no words for their attire. They looked like they’d stumbled right out of some Victorian-era novel. Dresses and petticoats and bonnets for the women, cravats and walking canes and stovepipe hats for the men. The passengers of the other train laughed and drank and dined as, in the corner of one carriage, a five-piece band played music lost to Tina’s ears.

Words tumbled through her mind. Sophistication. Charm. Elegance. The people in the steam train carriage were so busy enjoying themselves that not one of them looked out and saw Tina watching with unfettered envy. In fact, none of the people in her carriage were paying any notice to the steam engine, either. Eyes down on their mobile phones and laptops, they didn’t even see the train on the parallel track.

The steam engine hissed to a stop. One of the men in the revelrous carriage looked out, caught Tina’s gaze, and smiled at her. Tina’s heart skipped a beat as a warm flush crept across her cheeks. He was a handsome man with a thin moustache, one of those long canes clasped in his left hand. He tipped his hat to her, then reached into his jacket to pull out a pocket watch on a gold chain. With one gloved finger he tapped the watch’s glass face, as if to say, time’s wasting.

Tina didn’t hesitate. Her mum had always accused her of being impulsive—that was how she’d ended up on a train to Newcastle in the first place. She grabbed her overnight bag, plucked her bottle of water from the rickety tray, and dashed towards the nearest exit. She punched the door release, and when the door slid open she found herself with a perfect view into the other carriage. The man with the cane was holding the door open for her in invitation.

“Excuse me, Miss—?” one of the passengers in her own carriage started to say.

Tina didn’t look back. Here, now, the trains were in the same place at the same time. Who knew how long they would stay that way? She couldn’t miss this opportunity.

With a smile on her face, she ran forward, and leapt.

.


Image is © Copyright Duncan Grey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

8 Comments on “The Road to Somewhere [Flash Fiction]

  1. “Good food and great sex just weren’t the incentives they’d once been.” Is she kidding? I’ll take those any day.

    Good story. Grabbed me at the end. 🙂

    Like

  2. Oh wow! I was immediately swept up in the moment, and I found myself urging Tina to JUMP ONTO THE MYSTERY TRAIN moments before she did it herself.

    I absolutely loved these lines: “Here, now, the trains were in the same place at the same time. Who knew how long they would stay that way?” It’s such a poignant way of telling the reader that you only have this moment, this present moment in time, for so long. Are you going to let it go to waste or are you going to jump at an opportunity that will not come again? Definitely one of my favorites of the stories you’ve written, TUS!

    Like

    • Thank you, Jade! 🙂 I was worried the whole part about “trains, here, now” might come on a little too strong (I don’t want to beat readers over the head with messages like that!) but part of the challenge was I only had 90 mins to write the fic, so I thought, better make it clear than risk leaving it vague. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think, when in doubt, clarity is always a better option that vagueness. Yes, it may be annoying as a reader to be beat over the head with the author’s message, but I think it’s even more infuriating when I finish the story and I don’t even know what the whole point of it all was!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Amen! It’s a fine line indeed between a clear message, and letting a reader figure out the message for themselves. Hopefully it’s a line I’ll get to walk a little more if/when I continue the story. Plot bunnies assaulted me on the walk to work this morning. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

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