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The Paper Ticket by Michael Raine

I stepped off the train at seven-forty. The summer sun was beginning to dip below the horizon. I stood on a platform, a sparse platform which was barely covered by a corrugated iron roof. I felt hard concrete beneath my feet and noticed a dull ache in my stomach. Perhaps it was my body’s way of warning me of what was to come.

The station was going to ruin. Lack of use had resulted in its excessive neglect. Cobwebs hung in every visible corner and in some the corpses of spiders could be seen, frozen in time. The platform beneath me was cracked and unsafe, a consequence of the site’s mistreatment. The whole place was unsettling to me. The world I had arrived into was cold, emotionless and falling apart at the seams.

Then it happened. The train I had arrived on pulled away from the station and the ticket which I held in my hand flew from my fingers. As I reached out to grasp it, the paper fluttered at my fingertips and landed softly onto the steel train tracks below.

I gasped in horror and almost spoke a dreadful expletive, but stopped myself just in time. I didn’t know what to do. The established procedure at the station was that tickets must be presented upon both entrance and exit. I decided that my best course of action was to talk to somebody at the turnstiles.

I hurried off down the platform and climbed the staircase to the overpass. I crossed it briskly and ventured down towards the exit. I approached the turnstiles and noticed with disappointment that there was not a single human soul standing near them. Not only had I been alone at the platform, but it appeared that I was also the only person in the entire station.

I approached the turnstiles in a melancholy spirit, realising that I would have to buy another ticket. The turnstiles, which were mechanised to save on staffing costs, seemed to mock me as I looked around in search of a machine.

It was then that I found one, on the other side of the turnstiles. I knew that I had to jump them. It was the only way to get out. I grasped the steel sides of the closest turnstile and prepared to leap.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a camera, an old one but one which operated all the same. A blinking red light stared back at me and I knew that someone was watching me, waiting for me to jump. It would be a minor violation, but a violation all the same. I could not afford to have a crime attached to me, even a small one. It would affect my prospects at work, my chances of promotion or even stability in the position I currently occupied. I released my grip on the turnstile and trudged drearily back to the platform from which I had first ventured.

Arriving back at the platform, I discovered a help-station hidden from view behind a rusty metal sign advertising a clothing sale, which had since passed many years ago. As I approached the help-station, I noticed a button which I was to press if I should require any assistance. I pressed it and waited.

Almost fifteen minutes passed and I heard from nobody. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure if my call for help had gone through to anyone. Eventually I gave in and left the machine. I then proceeded to shuffle towards an old bench and slumped into it in dismay. There was nobody to help me.

From my place on the bench, I could see my paper ticket staring at me from atop the train tracks. Despite having been blown out of my hand by a sharp gust of air, the ticket remained unnervingly still on the tracks. I sighed and rubbed my eyes nervously with my knuckles.

As I pulled my fists away, I noticed a wooden broom leaning against an empty litter bin. It was worn and tired looking but appeared long enough to reach a good distance if placed in an outstretched hand. In an instant, I decided my plan.

I grasped a hold of the worn-out broom and made my way towards the edge of the platform. I looked down at the concrete beneath me. Cracks jutted through it at unnervingly irrational angles. I looked further ahead and laid my eyes onto my ticket. It looked to be further away from me than I had previously thought.

I leant forward tentatively, my feet far back from the platform edge, but with no luck. The broom could not get anywhere close to the ticket with me being so far away. I edged closer. One of my feet stood on top of a crack in the concrete. I watched as the broom brushed gently against my paper ticket. I got as close as I could to the very edge of the platform, biting my tongue in concentration as I poked at the ticket with the bristles of my broom.

That was when the ground beneath me gave way.

I fell, slamming my head against the cold metal train track. I heard a ringing in my ears and felt a throbbing in my head. As I struggled to regain my composure, I felt a sharp stabbing pain. I raised my head from the ground and looked to see that my leg was twisted in an unnatural way that could only suggest some kind of break. I vomited onto the tracks and pulled my leg towards me. A tear rolled down my face as I stared once more at my crumpled paper ticket, no longer on the tracks but instead in my hand. I felt a smile appear on my face and the ringing in my ears finally subsided. However, another sound replaced the ringing.

It was the sound of a train approaching.

Credits:

Created with an image by Giuseppe Ruco - "untitled image"