Ogthrod Ai'f Geb'l 

Ogthrod Ai'f Geb'l

(Dedicated to Rachel Mildeyes who stayed in the ladies only carriage forever.)

Each morning, Michael had to change at Clapham Junction for Victoria.

It was well known that Victoria had been the last station to welcome steam trains into their platforms, when all the other terminals worth their salt had banned them, following the influx of diesel and electric. But Michael knew that there was still a station at least somewhere which allowed in steam trains at the dead of night, so that they could shunt quietly to their heart's content . . . as long as they kept their funnel-smoke to a minimum, gagged their hissing, deepened their whistles and coupled on tiptoes.

Day-dreaming can be a disease. Michael tried to shake it off as he crossed from platform to platform. But, then, the tannoys would take up their cries, in a language far beyond the comprehension of the common-or-garden commuter.

It often sounded like:


Or worse.

Michael seemed to be the only one to understand the messages; the others, clasping their cases and umbrellas for grim life, followed him across the foot-bridge so that they could catch the correct train. And it always came in disguise: bearing the strange Network South logo and, of all things, sliding doors, as if it were an underground train! Where were the leather tongues on the windows? The corridors? The third class carriages? The green sticker denoting the ladies only carriage? And where was the steam billowing into his face like curdling mists of coal-dust becoming forgotten fulsome night?

Day-dreaming again? He shrugged, stepped off the platform and settled into the smoking section. Except the train was only just arriving, and his bones would soon crunch upon the long teeth of the silver runners and upon the brown gums of the sleepers, his flesh to bed red between.

He heard the tannoy:

"This is Clapham Junction, This is Clapham Junction, Gateway to the North, This train is for Victoria own-le..." And so on, interminably, becoming shriller and shriller.

Pity none of the words made sense to him. So, having abandoned day-dreaming for good (or ill), he shrugged with a shudder and travelled on to his office job further north.

Published 'Crypt of Cthulhu' 1992

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