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Trouble On The Tracks

(C)Alison 2011/12

The rain was coming down harder, the wind was howling, and Liam could barely see through the windscreen as he drove along the dark country lanes on his way home from a day out driving in the country.

The day had started out a beautiful one, clear blue skies, pale sunlight in the crisp winter air. Liam had thought what an idyllic day for just driving, as he had nothing else to do, with his girlfriend busy and his mother away.

At first all went well, but as it started to grow dark, a strong breeze picked up and, at first, only light spots of rain fell, pitter pat, on the roof of his car. Still, he thought, it was probably time to start heading home, but not before stopping at the first pub he found, for a hearty meal. By the time he’d finished eating, there was a full downpour outside, and the strong breeze had turned into a fierce wind. Liam shivered and hurried across the car park.

When Liam got back to his car, he discovered his sat nav was on the blink, and he wasn’t too sure which way to go. He drove off, in what he thought was the right direction.

After a while, he came to a level crossing, and just on the other side was a small railway station. Liam parked his car on the gravel by the entrance and walked inside. The station was warm, and inviting. A fire was burning in an old grate. Wooden seats lined two walls and there was faint light coming from one single lamp on a small table.

Liam went straight to the booking window, and looked for signs of life. There was nobody there, but in the distance he could hear the tap tap of what sounded like a typewriter. The sound was coming from behind a shut door with the words Station Master on it. He knocked on the door, and within a minute an old stooping man opened the door and looked enquiringly up at Liam.

“A’right pal” Liam addressed the Station Master “I’m lost and need t’ get back t’ Sheffield. Can yer tell me the way?”

The Station Master, a kindly looking man, with a weather-beaten face and a warm smile looked thoughtful, and beckoned Liam into his office.

“Come inside and warm yourself” he told him, “and I will see if I can get directions for you”.

Liam walked inside the Station Master’s cosy office and seated himself in a large comfortable armchair by the fire.

“Also,” Liam went on, “where’s the nearest garage, I need petrol, I am runnin very low”

“Oh” said the Station Master, “there isn’t a garage around here for miles, we are a bit out of the way here, but I could call someone, who could get you some fuel. Might take about an hour though, it is a long distance away, but you are welcome to stay until they get here.”

“Ta pal” Liam nodded, and the Station Master made a call, then he left his office and came back ten minutes later with two large mugs of steaming hot tea for them both, while they waited.

While they were sitting there, Liam got out his mobile to let his girlfriend know where he was, but he cursed loudly when he found he couldn’t get a signal. He sighed heavily, but the Station Master tried to cheer him up, giving him a brief history of the station, and told Liam how long he had worked there, nearly 30 years he told him, and although the spot was quite isolated, he enjoyed his work, and couldn’t think of doing anything else.

“Oh yes” he went on, “I love the railways, as did my father before me, and his father before him. We are a real family of railwaymen, it’s in our blood”, then he gave a little chuckle.

Liam wasn’t impressed. He nodded a bit, and said the occasional “yeah” and “oh right”, but he shuffled in his seat and seemed lost in his own thoughts.

A short while later the Station Master got to his feet

“I’ll be back directly”, he said, “I just have to close the gate, a train is due shortly”, and off he went. Liam followed him outside and watched while an enormous goods train went hurtling by. The Station Master waved him over.

“Care to help me open the gate again?” he smiled.

Liam nodded and hauled the heavy gate of the level crossing back to where it was when he had crossed over it earlier.

Back in the Station Master’s office help still hadn’t arrived. The fire was going low, so the Station Master went across the waiting room to fetch the coal scuttle. Liam shivered, it was getting very cold, but with more coal on the fire, it started to warm up. The Station Master talked more about his life as a Railwayman, and Liam’s eyes started to grow heavy and his head nodded, and he drifted into a light slumber.

A noise outside brought him round suddenly and Liam jumped to his feet, thinking his fuel must finally have arrived. It was dark in the Station Master’s office, and very cold too. The fire had gone out and the Station Master was nowhere to be seen.

Liam got up, left the room and looked around for where the noise had come from. He could hear nothing now except for the pouring rain and howling wind, which was a full blown gale by now. Thinking the Station Master must have gone to close the level crossing again, Liam braved the storm to go and look for him. He called out a few times, but even if the other man had been out there, it was doubtful he would have heard anyone calling to him.

Liam saw the gate was still open and still he could see no sign of life. He did see, however, what had caused the noise. A large tree branch had fallen onto his car, and dented the roof. He cursed loudly and removed the branch. With still no sign of the Station Master Liam decided he should get into his car and drive, with the hope of getting to a village, or better still, a small town, before he ran out of petrol. He knew there was no point in going back the way he came, there had been nothing for miles, so he set off away from the station.

In a few minutes he came to a sharp bend in the road. He sped round the bend then over a small bridge which crossed the railway lines, then around another bend, but he hadn’t gone far round the bend when his car spluttered and came to a halt. The fuel gauge was empty. By now Liam was absolutely furious. He grabbed at his mobile, but still he could get no signal. There was nothing for it, Liam thought, he would have to go back to the station and use the phone there, to call for help.

He got out of the car and looked around him. Everywhere was dark, but if he squinted he thought he could just make out the dark outline of the station building in the distance. Just then an idea struck him. If he made a short cut across the line he thought he could make it to the station quicker than if he walked back along the road.

He walked along until he found a gap where he could walk down the steep bank to the track. The bank was very muddy and Liam slipped several times, even by only halfway down, Liam was covered in mud. With the day starting out so nicely, he hadn’t even brought a coat with him, and soon he was soaking wet, and chilled to the bone. He ripped his clothes on bracken, got stung by nettles, and felt sore, tired and very hungry.

When Liam got to the tracks he sat down for a few minutes to get his breath back. He rubbed his eyes, they were very sore from the driving rain. He got his phone from his pocket, still hoping somewhere he would get a signal but even if he had been able to get a signal by the tracks his phone was soaking wet and ruined. Cursing again, he threw his phone on the ground in a furious temper and stood up. He felt dizzy and started swaying. The cold and wet had taken their toll, and all Liam felt like doing was going to sleep. He knew, though, if he could just get to the station he would be able to call for help, then he could rest while he was waiting.

Liam crossed the tracks and started up the bank on the other side. One step, two steps then he slipped right down again. The bank was far too muddy. He walked along the track for a while then gave another try. One step, two steps, three steps this time, but it was no use, he couldn’t get a proper foot hold, and kept slipping back down again, all the while getting muddier and muddier. He looked around him. He could still see the dark outline of the station, and to his stinging eyes it didn’t seem too far.

Only one thing for it, Liam decided, he would walk along the track, and get to the station in no time. On he walked, swaying from side to side with the dizziness. His head was aching badly and all his body was sore from where he had slipped and cut himself on bracken and nettles.

Just then, Liam saw something he hadn’t noticed before. In the distance, in the direction of the station, he saw a light… or was it two lights, his vision was blurred and by now his head was spinning so badly he couldn’t be sure of anything. His heart leapt, could it possibly mean the Station Master had returned and switched a light on in the station. Liam quickened his pace. As he hurried along he couldn’t see where he was going, he tripped and fell face down on the tracks. Liam groaned. He felt so ill and so dizzy he couldn’t move. He lay there for a few moments, trying to breathe slowly and combat the dizziness so he could stand up.

That is when he heard it, and saw it. Hurtling towards him was a huge freight train. He tried furiously to stand, but his legs gave way under him. He waved out, but even if the driver had seen him it would have been too late to stop. He screamed, the train grew nearer and nearer. He dragged himself to his feet, but it was too late…

There was a thud! The driver barely felt it, and he had seen no-one, so he thought nothing of it.  On he drove through the night, oblivious of what he had just hit. The rain stopped, the wind subsided and all was quiet.

The End!!


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