Fallen from the train, p.1
Fallen From the Train
This story is a work of fiction and is a product of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to actual locations or to persons living or dead
is entirely coincidental.
All content Copyright Chris Ward 2012
Cover image purchased from pond5.com 2012
Cover design Copyright Chris Ward 2012
Table of Contents
Fallen from the Train
The Tube Riders - Chapter One (sample)
Also by Chris Ward
About the Author
Fallen from the Train
A Short Story
I found the boy lying near the train tracks that run through the forest that backs on to our house grounds. The tall mesh fence that enclosed the tracks was a little lower where I found him, and I thought maybe he’d fallen from a high window. He was dressed in shabby clothes, ripped and torn and soiled, though maybe the fall from the train had had something to do with that. There was dried blood splattered across his face, and when I first rolled him over my instinct told me he was dead. Leaning close to his face to check for breathing, though, I heard a groan deep in his throat, and then he murmured and stirred, his upper body twisting slightly before falling still.
I waited a few seconds, wondering if he had the strength to move again. When he didn’t, I turned and ran hard back through the forest along one of the overgrown trails that had probably once been a road. At the house I fetched Father and one of the house servants. I told them I’d found a boy who looked like he’d fallen from the train. Their frowns were disbelieving, after all the trains didn’t stop anymore and the fences meant there was no way for anyone to get off, even by accident. But I was desperate, and they had no choice but to follow me. Together we rushed back to the train tracks, the house servant carrying two pieces of wood and a sheet with which to create a makeshift stretcher if the boy’s back or neck looked broken.
‘Over here,’ I shouted, some way in the lead as they lagged back behind, not as deft as me through the forest where I often played amongst the trees and the ruins of the old houses.
The boy was still there, of course, though he’d shifted again. As I arrived at his side, he lifted his arm, clutching at the air. He was muttering something over and over, and I leaned close, straining to hear. It sounded like, ‘Je… jeh…. jess…’
‘Stay back,’ Father said sharply as he came up behind me. ‘We don’t know who he is. He could be anyone! He might be a spy!’
‘From whom?’ I said, frustrated with my father’s paranoia. After all, no one bothered us out here in the country, far from the cities. That was the whole point. That was why the trains didn’t stop.
Father seemed to relax a little when he accepted that the boy was genuinely hurt. ‘Okay,’ he said to the house servant, make up a stretcher and let’s lift him up slow. ‘If he really did fall from the train, he’s sure to have some injuries.’
Together, they levered the boy on to the stretcher. He had stopped muttering for now, and appeared to have fallen asleep. Faced with this stranger from another place, I found myself willing him to stay alive, if for no other reason than because I wanted to talk to him, to find out where he was from. We didn’t see strangers anymore.
We had several spare bedrooms back at our large Edwardian house. Father insisted on putting him to bed and calling out a doctor instead of ringing for an ambulance. I think he was still worried about the boy being a spy. Either that or he thought the boy’s injuries were superficial.
A doctor arrived within the hour, spent some time examining the boy, and announced that he had concussion, a fractured fibula and a handful of broken ribs. He was also sick from exposure, because, although it was still summer, it seemed he’d fallen from the train some time ago, maybe a couple of days. He had serious dehydration and a high fever, and would take almost as long to recover from them as from his bodily injuries. On my father’s insistence, the doctor set his broken bones and administered some antibiotics which he said would see the boy right within a few days. The doctor thought a hospital was a better option, but I knew my father wanted to keep the boy where he could watch him.
After the doctor had gone, Father pulled me aside in the kitchen.
‘I’ve told you about going near the rail tracks, haven’t I?’ he said, his voice laden with threat. ‘I want you to stay away from them. They are nothing to do with us and something you should forget about.’ Then he struck me round the head with the inside of his fist. It didn’t hurt much, but was enough to make a point. I wanted to tell him that the boy might be dead if not for my finding him, but I knew better than to answer back. I had a small scar beneath my right eye from a time I’d answered back before.
He stalked off, leaving me alone in the kitchen.
After the doctor had gone, I sat next to the boy’s bed, watching him sleep. They said all sorts of things about the people in the cities, but he looked a lot like me, and didn’t seem threatening at all. Everyone knew the cities were dangerous places where people were stabbed and murdered and raped, but I couldn’t imagine this boy doing any of these things. I was just mulling over what things I imagined he had done, when I realised his eyes were open and he was watching me.
‘Who . . . are you?’ he said, voice weak.
‘Oh, you’re awake! How are you feeling?’ I felt an overwhelming joy, as though he were my very own Frankenstein’s monster coming to life for the first time. Then, remembering his question, I said, ‘My name’s Carl. Carl Weston. I found you in the forest, near the train tracks. You’re in my house now.’
‘Where are we?’
‘In my – oh, you mean the place? This is Reading Greater Forest Area. We’re just outside London.’
‘Yes, though we can’t go in there. Did you come out of London?’
‘Wow! What’s it like in there?’
‘Like a city.’
‘I’ve never been to a city! We have shops and everything, but – ‘
The word he’d tried to say during his delirium. I was certain it was a name. ‘Who’s Jess?’
‘My girlfriend. Where … is she?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Jess . . .’ Simon started to get up, twisting sideways in the bed, before he grimaced suddenly and slumped back down. He lay still, breathing hard for a few moments, sweat beading on his forehead. As I watched him, his eyes closed and his breathing became shallower. A minute later he was sleeping again.
I thought about the girl he had mentioned. Jess. Could it really be possible that there was another one out there?
I hurried down the stairs towards the back porch. I wanted to get out and scour the forest near the train tracks while there was still some light left. If there was another – well, Simon had been barely alive. Luck would probably not shine twice, and if it did, not for long. Despite Simon’s injuries and the possibility of similar or worse for this Jess, I couldn’t help but smile with excitement. Life in Reading GFA was quiet at best, and sometimes I just longed for adventure.
‘I don’t know what to do with him.’
Halfway down the stairs, I heard my father’s voice, on the telephone. There was a cloakroom beneath the stairs, and I slipped inside and pulled the door almost shut.
I don’t know, but I don’t think he’s from round here. My boy found him by the train tracks, looked like some kind of drunk or drug addict, which means – uh huh, yeah, right - he probably came from in there. How he got off the train I don’t know.’
‘Stowaway? One city’s as bad as another is what I heard, unless you have enemies. Yeah, well, if they did throw him off it’s a bloody miracle he survived at all.’
I wondered who my father was talking to, and whether Simon was safe in our house. My father wouldn’t hurt him, but he knew people that might.
‘He’s hurt at the moment – yeah, bad enough to keep him put – but that won’t be for long, and I don’t want him getting into any mischief. He doesn’t look it but he could be dangerous. Ok, I’ll try and talk with him in the morning. If not, I’ll do that. Cheers, yeah. Bye.’
My father replaced the phone on its cradle. I pulled the cloakroom door in tight, just before he stomped out of the porch and up the stairs above me, his footfalls creaking on the boards just above my head.
I wondered what that was. It hadn’t sounded good for Simon. I gave my father a few minutes to get out of hearing range, and then sneaked out of the cloakroom and through the back door.
It was easy to get down across the garden, over the fence and into the forest without being seen. Our garden covered more than five acres, but the area was made up of a series of lawns and flower gardens all separated from each other by tall hedgerows. It was a garden for imagination, adventure, but I’d outgrown it before I reached middle school. The forest was just the next step.
It sloped gently down into a valley, and along part of the opposite upwards slope the railway line ran, protected by a wire fence easily scaled and covered with warning signs easily ignored. There were no active stations – that I knew of – between London and the Bristol-Swindon Urban Area. There weren’t any, or so Father said, outside of the UAs at all. The trains were purely for transporting people or cargo from one city to another. People from the GFAs didn’t use trains. We were entirely self-sufficient in the GFAs, so I learned at school, and if we went to a city – which was so rare that no one I knew of had gone – we went by road.
It wasn’t really that far to London, perhaps ten miles, but if you went there all you came to was the tall perimeter wall. It took permits and applications to get into London – I knew because I’d heard my father talking about it – but the trains, they went in a different way. They went in through a tunnel. I knew, because I’d seen it.
A couple of years ago, during summer vacation, I took my mountain bike down into the forest and hauled it up over the fence and on to the train tracks. I’d had the intention of cycling right into London, purely because I’d seen Big Ben on TV and wanted to visit it, and my parents had refused. London was too dangerous, they said. That’s why they put the wall up in the first place and set up all the decent folk in the GFAs.
The sleeper bed between the rails had made a surprisingly easy ride. It was a little bumpy from all the gravel, but flat and straight. I reached the perimeter wall in no time at all.
The tunnel sloped down into the darkness like a pit into Hell itself. Putrid, rank air practically coloured the foliage all around it, and as I took a couple of steps into the darkness the eyes of the Devil himself lit up far down in the dark ahead of me, accompanied by a growing roar that froze me to the spot. Only at the last second had I found the freedom to leap aside as the train rushed out of the tunnel, engulfing me with suffocating fumes from its engines.
It smashed my bike to pieces. Afterwards, I left the remains on the opposite tracks to be dragged on down by the next incoming train.
The walk was long and I got home about nightfall. My parents were angry, and were even angrier a few days later when I made up a story that my bike had been stolen. Just that had caused enough problems, because in the GFAs nothing was stolen. Of course, no one was ever caught and I don’t think they ever really believed me.
Now, with the train tracks coming up ahead of me, I felt that familiar sense of excitement and trepidation. Like many kids out in the GFAs I wondered to the point of obsession what happened in the cities, and with a train line practically in my back garden I wondered more than most.
I reached the spot where I had found Simon. The fence was tight against the rails here; a dangerous place to cycle, but one from where he could have jumped off and cleared the fence quite easily. From Simon’s injuries I could understand Father’s conclusions, but I didn’t think so. I’d watched a hundred trains roll past; they looked sealed tight. There were no doors.
I was pretty sure Simon hadn’t been inside that train at all. He’d been on top of it or something, and he hadn’t fallen. He’d jumped.
I was near the fence when something caught my foot, a root maybe, but it had too much give. I looked down to see a strange piece of wood lying in the grass.
I bent down and picked it up. It was rectangular in length, about fifty centimetres long and twenty wide. On one side there was a long, curved piece of metal, shaped like a claw, imbedded into the wooden board, and on the other, two straps made from leather. Here I had my answer, I knew. I just didn’t know what it was yet.
I barely heard the thud and rustle as someone dropped from the trees to land behind me and with impossible speed push something cold and metallic to my throat. I froze as a girl’s voice hissed, ‘Where is he?’
My fear almost got me killed. I was trembling so much I could barely say the word, but somehow I stuttered it out. ‘J . . . J . . . Jess?’
I felt the grip relax. ‘He’s alive?’
‘S . . . Simon, yes. I helped him.’
The knife dropped and the girl stepped around to face me. ‘Where is he now?
‘In my house. About a mile that way.’ I pointed into the forest.
‘Is he all right?’
‘Maybe, I don’t know. He’s quite seriously hurt.’
The girl stared at me. She was striking, a big mop of curls framing a thin face with deep blue eyes. ‘Take me to him.’
‘I don’t think it’s safe. My father is suspicious of him. We don’t get strangers around here.’
‘Can you get him out?’
‘Not until he can walk.’
Jess stared at me. ‘Well, if you can’t get Simon, can you at least get me some food then? I’m starving.’
Fallen From the Train by Chris Ward / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on16 votes