‘Limbo’


 

The train is due to arrive at 10:22 and on the platform an unspoken brevity of anticipation can be felt as the crackled announcement beckons the carriages, which slide in dutifully to greet us.

We all board with quiet efficiency, find our allocated seats and settle in. There’s a murmur of muffled chatter. As the beast crawls away, we ready ourselves to leave our lives behind, if only temporarily.

Out of the station a radiant field of bright yellow passes, nuclear in its glow, and darker patches beyond roll off into the blue horizon, sweeping hills and mounds of contours. The trees, like clusters of brocolli heads, line the farmland, and cows bathe in the sunlight. Sheep chew on grass vacantly. In a clearing, caravans are scattered like dominoes.

Now, more trees gather, and every chattering kind of bird seems to flit between them. The mossy carcass of a fallen soldier, a giant oak, nestles in the midst of its troop, warmed happily by the heat of the morning. A wide, glassy river reflects the branches harmoniously as it snakes alongside the train tracks.

A brief respite as I look around into the faces of my fellow passengers, taking careful note of each one momentarily and wondering about each of their journeys. We are all strangers existing together, between worlds, with only the carriage to unify us. A small boy with podgy cheeks and dirty hands is the only one who returns my gaze.

Outside the landscape has shifted its display to sprawling industrial estates penned in by grey fences, behind which lie sheets of corrugated metal, stacks of pine, and sleeping lorries. Underneath my seat the wiry drone of the engine ushers drowsiness. As my eyelids droop, the sudden sharp flash of a neighbouring train awakens me with a start.

I stare at my half-reflection in the window, which merges in the passage of light with the rolling hills and dotted trees beyond.

Suddenly I begin to cry, silently and uncontrollably. The wall I have built erodes in an instant, like a dam made out of flimsy paper, and everything comes flooding out. It’s slow at first but gradually builds, and I can sense the eyes of the surrounding passengers now burning into me as warm, fat tears swim down my cheeks in an unstoppable torrent.

There’s nothing I can really do other than fumble in my pocket for a tissue to dab at my sodden face, and squeeze shut my eyes in an attempt to force back the tears and quell this embarrassing deluge of emotion.

Removing my glasses and trying to contain myself, I pry my eyes half-open. Through a blurry wet filter I observe a lone sheep in the distance, standing atop a grassy ridge and chewing innocuously. He seems to gaze back at me. I imagine how simple things must be for him, existing in this limbo world.


 

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