Purveyor of Tall Tales.

Friday Flash Fiction: Steps

Tried to do something a little different, not sure it works but I hope you enjoy anyway. Feedback welcome.

By Neil Beynon

The carriage is nearly as empty as the city through which it rattles. Jay sprawls across the seats, his thick, dirt-encrusted boots hanging over the edge of the worn fabric, blocking the aisle. The sodium flicker from the passing street lamps strobes across his face as he stares aimlessly out the window, the passing tower-blocks still spilling light though there is no one left inside them. The frequency of skyscrapers drops as the train pulls further out of the city, tracks running down from mid-level to ground level and out through the strata of the city’s history towards the countryside beyond.

Jay flicks at the metal looped around his wrist, the empty chain dangling from it irritates him as he tries to bend a paperclip into the small aperture on his involuntary jewellery. It won’t budge. Jay curses as the tide of city-lights recedes making it harder to see but he does not stop – he is a man with renewed purpose. Besides, there’s nothing to see out the window now the city has been left behind, nothing he hasn’t seen before.

The train leaps on the track and the paperclip is lost under the seats. Jay doesn’t notice because he’s too busy clutching his chest, his heart is an angry fist and his mouth is dry, for a moment he thought the train had left the tracks, his nerves are shot. In an effort to calm down he pulls a small collection of paper from his pocket that he eyeballs with thirst, drinking in each word of the neat copperplate hand. He sniffs the paper for the scent of the author but he has abused the paper too much and he can’t smell anything but the musk of his own sweat.

Jay sighs, folding away the letter carefully and returns his gaze to the window of the train as the first glow of dawn races across the horizon. He is nearly at his destination and he pushes the remaining cuff under his sleeve as the train screeches to a halt. Through the dirt encrusted windows of the station Jay thinks he can see the fractured edges of the gateway.

“Shit,” is all Jay manages to say. Jay strides to the door, his fingers pushing between the rubber to force the doors open. Jay’s good at forcing things. The doors open with a token show of resistance and Jay steps onto the platform. He has not seen a sunrise in some time and so he spends the first few moments letting the sunlight warm his face before turning to look at the sky. It is alive with oranges, pinks and purples that cast strange patterns across the clouds and in the middle of it all sits a stone staircase leading into the sky.

Jay smiles, the gateway is still here and he is not too late. His hand clutches the letter in his pocket as he descends from the station down towards the area at the foot of the steps, there are a few people milling around still and they wave to him. He returns the wave although he is not really paying them that much attention, his eyes are on the steps and the maelstrom of colour circling the top of the steps, it is so bright he cannot look at it for long.

The wind shifts and a gust sends his letter scattering across the grass away from the gateway, he chases after the leaves but only manages to salvage the last page, his tears at this turn of events smudges the signature. Someone places a hand on his heaving shoulders and their movement eases. Jay neither notices nor cares as the metal falls from his wrist to the grass, Jay can smell cinnamon and it isn’t coming from the paper in his hand.

“Hello Jay.” Smiling he turns to face the light.

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