The start of the story is typical. The middle a little rarer.
  • The middle of the story

  • A clumsy summary for those with less time:
    By the start of the end Frank Tate was at the top of his trade. A thumb with an eye tattooed onto it nestled inside a small plastic bag in his jacket pocket, as proof of the owner's death. He had almost missed his train out of town, but was safely on board now. Not that he was concerned about anyone pursuing him; he would have faded into insignificance days before anyone saw the thumbless body. There were three others in the first class compartment, all busy about their life. Tate caught the eye of the woman opposite, and she smiled at him. The lights rushing past outside the train window trailed off into the distance, the train's mechanistic roaring twisting itself through Tate's mind. He blinked, and looked around. The woman had gone, leaving her laptop and a ringing phone on a table. Nobody else was to be seen, either. They must have gone down to the toilet, or be at the buffet trolley Tate reasoned, mildly perturbed. He stood up and walked down the train to the toilet, wondering if he had missed his stop. A yellow sign above one toilet read 'TOILET ENGAGED'. Tate stood, arms folded, waiting for someone to emerge so he could ask them where everyone had gone, find out what he had slept through. Five minutes of silence and stillness elapsed, then Tate broke, hammering open the door. The cubicle was empty. But what Tate saw froze the breath in his lungs.

Reeling, he staggered back from the door, slamming it shut. He leant against the wall, his heartbeat simmering back to normal.

So he wasn’t the only one on the train. Not that you could recognise them, that was the point. But he’d better be careful. Tate felt the re-assuring weight of the thumb in his pocket, and gazed more carefully at his surroundings.

Ripples shook across the surface of a nearby cup of tea. An abandoned cigarette smouldered, blackening the plastic table-top it lay on. A black object, possibly a coat, lay across a chair in the adjoining carriage, its dimensions distorted by the glass pane separating the two. The ring-tone echoed out again, rupturing the pervading silence.

Tate glanced at his watch again, and made his way back towards the phone. A crumpled sweatshirt with a stain on one sleeve slumped to the floor as he brushed passed it. Tate’s cursory glance at it flickered. He was sure he’d seen that on someone, sometime before. However, the details eluded him, and his mind turned back to the phone. He strode over to it and picked it up, gazing at the keypad for a few seconds before hitting the most likely looking icon.

“Hello?” He rasped into the phone, self consciously reaching for a nearby cup of coffee and raising it to his lips.

Some indistinct noises floated out the earpiece, followed by an infant’s cry.

“Is daddy there? Wh- who are you?” came a quiet child’s voice from the earpiece. It struck a faint chord in the back of Tate’s mind. He stopped, and examined the cup. Whatever was in there, it wasn’t coffee. He blinked back to the conversation and replied.

“I’m afraid there’s been some trouble” Tate intoned, trying to assert where he recognised her voice from.

“He’s g-gone,” came the voice. Tate parted his lips, verging on interruption, but the girl continued talking - “I sawed a man through the front window and he came an”. A bead of sweat formed on Tate’s brow as the awful realisation cascaded through him. He knew her. Once two years past he’d forgotten to pull a curtain before a job, and a girl had seen everything. Simple logic dictated the death of all witnesses, but he couldn’t quite do it. He’d looked at her chiselled grey face, felt a stab rend his insides, and paced away. He didn’t like to think about it.

“What was his name” Tate spat into the phone, desperate. The phone owner’s bag below him now looked damnably familiar. Another muffled crackle, and a middle aged woman’s voice interrupted.

“I’m sorry about this, she still tries to talk to her father on the phone since his murder you know, poor dear.” She stopped, and glared suspiciously at the phone. The interference had been getting worse over the last few days and she’d been thinking of replacing it, but it’d never made a noise that discordant before.

Tate lifted himself off the floor, sharp pains reverberating through his side and scolding drink burning at his arm, his eyes desperately searching for the phone. The train must have glanced a sizeable obstacle to cause a jolt like that. He cursed as he spotted the phone lying in pieces near the door to the next carriage. But where was this damn train? Where was this place with no lights? Where had the train passed so important that everyone had abandoned it? Where did people stone dead leave their possessions?

The thought laid its icy hand on Tate’s shoulder. If everyone had vanished, the train would be driverless, and not headed anywhere pleasant. He spared the decrepit phone a final look, and started to pick his way back, hastily skirting around the forgotten possessions. He nearly tripped, hurriedly averting his eyes as they flew across a fleece he could clearly remember planting a knife through the back of.

He passed the toilet, the door still fastened firmly shut. Tate’s pupils focused as he caught a flicker through the door pane, then dilated as the fluorescent lights gave a defiant ‘ping’ and went out. A moment later, they blinked back into action, but there was no announcement of apology through the speaker system, if it was working at all.

Tate approached the door to the driver’s cabin and tried it, preparing an angry rebuke in his mind and considering switching back to private transport.

It was locked.

He knocked and stood still, slightly to one side of the door, waiting.


Tate glanced back down the corridor, still tomblike it its desertion. He took a step back, drew a breath in, and threw a blow at the door. Nothing. The chill was now seeping through to his limbs, drowning his thoughts. Two more blows and his knuckles began to bleed, but the door lay dismembered on the floor. Cabin doors must have been reinforced since the September hijacking, to prevent a repetition. Not that you could drive a train into a landmark. A fly buzzed past, hurling itself at a window, ignorant of its own futility, and Tate progressed onward.

There was no driver. An array of blinking LED’s flashed angrily at Tate, daring him to press one. Another jolt, a screech, a shudder, and a stream of sparks from a wall. His eye was drawn with an intense horror towards a small object on the seat. A thumb lay there motionless, its tattooed eye staring unflinchingly up at him. And the train hurtled on into oblivion.

For any anti plagiarism people: I wrote this for my english coursework, 07/08

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