Chapter Five

Carriage Two.

Left Mr H_ sleeping on his front. Can’t hear his breathing from the corridor. Soundproofed carriage? Doesn’t seem likely as I can see through the edges of the doorframe. The light from the room seeps under the crack at the bottom of the door. Sound must only exist within its own borders. Door of carriage two is red. Paint cracking and peeling. Before I enter I am going to see what is underneath the first few layers.

I picked the flakes for what seemed like hours. Order of layers: red, blue, olive, black, olive, blue, red. Didn’t find any symbol or drawing. No warning or markers. No door number and no key hole. I have no idea what lies behind it. Debating entrance.

Door is opening by itself! Just finished writing the above entry and as soon as I had decided to enter, the door began to open, as if my decision commanded it too. It is dark inside. Pitch dark. I am backed up against the corridor staring into the abyss. I can hear scratching emanating from within the blackness, but I am resolute and I am fearless.

Going in, for Lucy.

Back now in the corridor. Dog at feet. Mangy. Stinking. Half rotted dog. Alive. Wonderful.

Recollection of events:

Stepped into dark room. Door closed behind. I felt around the walls. Wooden as expected. Breath was held. Tried to keep as quiet as possible. Heart was beating hard. Blood felt hot. Hairs on end. Could feel sweat running down arms and legs. Mortal fear. I stayed with my back to the door as I felt around. I didn’t know if there was a drop ahead. Had vision of stepping over edge of cliff and falling into the pitch dark. Bent down and felt floor. There was no drop. The room was solid. Then I heard breathing. Horrible, staggered breathing. A wheeze. A groan. It was a little sad. Then there came a scratch and a drag. Like dragging sack across ground.

I said firmly, “show yourself! I am armed with a dagger!” Groan. Wheeze. Scrape. Scratch. Heart beating too fast. Darkness too oppressive. ‘Going to faint. Going to faint’. These were my last thoughts before I fainted. Sorry Lucy, I thought of my fear and not of you.
I revived face down on the bench, bent over it, like a penitent man. Took a while to regain vision. There was a dim light in the room. Unknown source as there were neither lamp nor fitting. No window. It was just light. The sound in the room was muffled too. I thought at first it was concussion as I know the implications of it better than most, then I realised where it was coming from. The room was laid out the same as Mr H_’s carriage. Two benches opposite each other. In the centre of the cabin sat a large wooden crate. The lid nailed down. Around it there were scratch marks on the floor. Little ones showing the path someone had carved into floorboards whilst dragging crate. It had been dragged around and around. The scratch marks in floor created a huge spiral. Looked dizzying. The muffled wheezing was coming from within the crate. I inspected it for markings. Nothing. No suspect notches or whirls. The nails in the lid were hit evenly and well. None bent, none protruding. The work of a professional, like my father. Tried to prise open the lid. No chance. Then I heard a little oscillating scrape. I looked around keenly, tracking the noise. Didn’t take long to locate. Where the walls were empty before, I saw now a crowbar swinging gently, as if someone had just put it back upon its holding. Took it from the wall and noticed that it hung from no hook. It was just hanging there, attached to the wall, defying gravity, swinging of its own volition. At that moment, I remembered something. I remembered drinking with Brekker in Holstenwall. Years ago when I was a student at the Academy. Drunk. The red sand is now all over the floor of that tavern and the patrons in the back of the room are now people-shaped dunes in my memory. But Brekker still stands out. The colour of the bottle stands out (green) His tie is undone and his crooked top hat is upturned on the bar, spinning around slowly.
He turns to me and says, “You see, my dear Master G_ when you take that train through TheNeverRealm things makes more sense than they do here. Things have purpose. Their own purpose. Nothing is connected because of humans. Here, the arm puts the hat on the head,” he slams his hat on his head to make his point. “On the train, over there, the hat makes its own way to the head if it even wants to. You understand? It does what it wants. Don’t need us to do it. We ain’t the centre of things no more!”
He goes on, but his words are now drifting from my memory. Sand is coming from his mouth. He is turning into a dune. Now the memory is gone forever.
Re-reading above creates a new image in my mind, like seeing a painting for first time. I have no feeling towards it. The bar I wrote about has gone. Brekker doesn’t drink there anymore. Fortunately I can still locate him in other places.

I took the crowbar and prised open the lid. Nothing but soil inside. I inspected it. It was not red, but brown. Real soil. I tasted it hungrily. It was real. I took a handful and put it in my pocket. Mr H_ had done the same no doubt and I figured that this soil would soon turn to sand as it had done in his pocket. We will see. I scooped out more soil from the crate. And there he was. Curled up. Wheezing. Half rotten. Bullet hole in eye-socket. I could see his rib cage. Bones like the rails under the train. I could see his bowels. His fur half gone. Skin putrid. It was a dog. My dog. Died years ago. After my sister had gone and before I left the household. Never got a chance to say goodbye. Dog was ill. Was shot in face. Closed coffin. Buried by the pond. Never thought about him. Not once. Now here he is. I picked up the dog and put him on the ground. He stretched his legs and staggered about. He looked at me. Thankful. I have my dog back. Very happy. Good omen.

Graham Thomas