Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Reunion

The three lads, bounding through the weeds at the trackside stopped for breath.
Johnny, the youngest, legs wobbling with the effort, wanted to sit down but he fought that feeling with all his might. He was out with his dad now.
His brother, Michael, stood up as straight as he could, sucked in a lungful of air and puffed out his chest proudly. His father patted his head rather heavily.
Dad had come to see them today and their mother had rolled her eyes. It was their uncle’s birthday, their dad had said, and so he had thought of something for them all to do. ‘A family outing’, he called it.
They’d crawled under wire fences, scrambled down dirty banks and jumped from heights that Johnny had previously thought impossible to survive. These were all things his mother and his teachers had told him never to do, but here he found himself, on an overgrown railway embankment, with his father, watching the trains go by.
“Not far to go now, guys,” said Peter. He was revelling in his new found role of leader, a figure to be feared and obeyed. “Just round the next bend,” he said, “that’s where it happened.”
They hacked onward with their feet until they came to a brown stone wall. Peter led them slowly down the bank and onto the gravel at the side of the railway track. A curving tunnel opened cavernously before them.
“Right,” he said. “When I say the word we’re going to run for it. There shouldn’t be another train for 10 minutes anyway, but we’re better safe than sorry.”
Michael looked a little incredulous at this, but Johnny pushed in front of him, eager to race away into the darkness at his father’s command.
“Now come on, son. Michael’s first up and then you follow him on. I’ll be close behind you, okay?”
Johnny nodded; Michael said nothing and just stared ahead into the gloom and then at his shoes.
“Alright go,” said Peter, but Michael didn’t move.
“Come on Mike, head up and run for it.” Michael’s body moved, almost imperceptibly, but again he held himself back.
“For God’s sake Mikey, fucking go for it you prick!” His father raised his voice and his hand and Michael was away.
He ran blindly into the darkness, stumbling upon the rail and then vanishing. His father screamed after him to bear left and not to trip on the tracks, his voice echoing about him in madness.
Peter held Johnny by the shoulders as the child strained to follow his brother. As soon as his son stopped struggling, Peter plunged ahead of him onward into the tunnel.
He found it curved round gently and then light flooded back into its far mouth. Out into the daylight, not far up the track, Michael sat on the rail, crying.
Peter ran on, out of the tunnel towards his eldest son but his mind was gripped by responsibilities and he turned around to see what he’d forgotten. Johnny came then, whimpering out of the darkness, rubbing his red eyes and peering at his father with that look of fear and disappointment that can tear at a man’s chest.
Peter strode towards him, picked the boy up with one arm and then stumbled across the thickly piled gravel at the railside until they reached Michael.
He resisted the urge to grab the lad roughly with his spare arm, instead holding out a hand to him. “Come on,” he urged, adding: “I’m sorry.”
Michael looked up graciously and took the hand. Soon they were all sitting on the grass bank looking back at the railway.
“This is it,” said their father. “This is the spot where your uncle Mikey died.”
They all stared at a spot on the track and imagined it happening there. Noticing there were two different sets of tracks before him, Johnny spoke up with a sniff: “Dad, which side was it, that uncle Mikey got hit by the train?”
His father looked long and hard at the two sets of track and didn’t answer for a minute. He realised he couldn’t remember. He had no idea any more.
Peter scratched his beard a little, turned to his boys and pointed at the track nearest them. Three pairs of eyes converged on that point.
A horn sounded in the tunnel and a train rushed by. “It’s early,” said Michael.

4 comments:

Bryan said...

This is the second time you've thought a poem of mine was lyrical, I guess that's a recent trend. I think I've said before, I wish I had a real sense of melody but I just don't. I can probably learn it if I put my mind to it, don't know about making a breakthrough into music though. I should hang out with my musician brother more, maybe.

And I always come over to this page and catch up, if I don't read it regularly, as it's as fascinating as it is noncommittal to read these short form tales.

And as noted, it inspires me to keep up on the prose myself. Another thing I'm trying to get the hang of--longer storytelling. I've just been busy lately with finding a new place to live, and it's finally all come together nicely, so I'm not preoccupied anymore.

Regarding my story: definitely not vampire fiction. It's incorporating a lot of the supernatural in a hopefully-natural way, but at its heart it's more of a ghost story.

Bryan said...

Sometimes I think you're a cruel god in your writing, rather like the will that's pushing these children into the tunnel ;)

This tale almost seems like more of a reenactment attempt than a memorial!

Paul Bernard said...

Haha, I've been told that before, Bryan. But I'm not vindictive, and I don't often kill them off.

Innocence is so easily lost, though.

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