The train station was easy enough to get to and I arrived there in twenty minutes. Walking inside, I avoided people coming out and found myself facing a fast moving crowd. People of all ages and races were walking about in their own worlds. I found the noticeboard with the ever changing numbers and letters on it.
I pulled out the envelope from my pocket and checked the tickets. I had to get the half past ten train to Worthing which stopped at Brighton’s almost disused station. I found the platform that train was on and walked over. My suitcase trundled behind me and people stayed out of my way.
I passed by yellow painted walls plastered with posters. They were the typical ones that you see everywhere. They told you, ‘not to talk carelessly,’ ‘to join the army,’ ‘remember that you were being watched,’ ‘recycle metal, wood, plastics and paper,’ ‘ignore enemy war propaganda.’ For some reason, that last poster was my favourite and luckily there was one on the wall of my platform.
Coming up next to it, I looked up and studied it for the millionth time. There was a grey cloudy sky which held shadows of fighter planes. There was a fluttering of white single pages in the middle which also meet the top of a countryside landscape in the background. Enlarged in the bottom corner were a blonde young mother and girl. They looked pretty and eager with their blue eyes looking up at the coming down papers. In red block letters across from them was; IGNORE ENEMY WAR PROPAGANDA. Underneath in smaller writing ran; the enemy is feeding you lies. Don’t believe them, do and it could cost your life, your family’s and this country’s!
An old train pulled up behind me and I turned away. The doors hissed open and the handful of people that had been waiting alongside myself began to board. I pulled my suitcase and clutching my ticket in my other hand got on. There was no seat marked on the ticket, so I took the nearest one. Placing my suitcase and rucksack on the seat next to me, I looked around.
From the grubby window to my left, I could see the station and the poster still. To the right, the seats next to me were empty. I looked down the carpeted aisle and could see the tops of heads in seats further down. The doors shut and the engine grumbled back from its ticking over. I felt the train jostling out of the station then a woman shouting for tickets.
I held up mine as you were meant to and became the first person to be checked. I hadn’t realised I had sat in the first carriage next to the driver’s section. The woman, who was wearing a blue uniform that looked too small for her, took my ticket and looked at it. She clipped it with a hole punch and handed it back to me.
‘You know there’s nothing there, don’t you?’ she whispered at me.
I looked at her and found her wrinkled face full of concern and puzzlement. Wisps of fairy blonde hair poked out from under a flat cap. Quickly, I thought of something to say, but nothing that came to me seemed justified. As she moved off, I knew I had been silent for too long.
I watched her walk to the next person and check their ticket. She didn’t glance back at me. I settled back into the chair and saw some houses and trees going by. I felt something digging into my hip and pulled out the timer. It read; 2: 29: 43. My heart skipped a beat. How had to run down so fast? I looked again and beside from the change in the seconds, the hours and minutes stayed the same.
I leaned out of my seat, looking for the ticket woman. I had no idea how long it would take for this train to reach Brighton and I needed to ask. I couldn’t see her, she had already walked through to the door joining the other carriage. It couldn’t be that long, could it?
I got up, feeling desperation flooding me and the urge to do something. I walked down to the first person I could see. He turned out to be an elderly businessman hiding behind a newspaper.
‘Excuse me? Do you know how long it is to Brighton?’ I asked.
He peered around his paper at me, then scrunched the large sheets together in one hand as he fully looked at me.
‘I forgot to ask and it’s important,’ I pressed.
‘Brighton?’ he asked slowly, ‘twenty minutes I think.’
My fingers locked around the timer and my head pounded with trying to work it out.
‘And the south pier? How far away is that from the station?’ I questioned.
He shook his head, ‘I have no idea.’
My face scrunched up and tears threated my eyes.
‘Why are you going there, girl?’ he asked as he discarded the paper.
Violently, I shook my head and dashed back to my seat. Throwing myself down, I sobbed loudly. What was I doing? I screamed at myself. Was that envelope actually for me? Had I stolen someone else ticket and letter? What if that person was still waiting in the park right now? Tears burst out of me. Hot water rushed down my cheeks and I tasted salt in my mouth.
‘I want to go home,’ I whimpered.
Maybe, my mum had been right and if I’d just stayed in bed none of this would have happened. Perhaps, my life event timer would have hit zero and nothing would have come of it. Fool.
A hand touched my shoulder and I jumped. The old man and the ticket woman were staring at me. Both looked worried and had questions posed on their lips.
I opened my fist and showed them the counting down timer.
Recognition crossed their faces followed by a small tremble of fear.
‘I don’t know what to do,’ I cried.
They looked at each other then back at me.
‘I found this note and ticket in the park,’ I added scrambling for the letter.
I give it to the old man as he was closest.
‘It says to go to Brighton, South Pier,’ I carried on with my voice becoming chocked, ‘I didn’t even think about it. I don’t even know if it was for me. What should I do?’
‘Go there,’ the old man said.
I hushed up and swallowed my tears.
‘I have heard of people receiving letters like this before,’ he explained.
‘And what happened?’ I had to ask.
‘They went. That’s all I know,’ he simply and shrugged.
‘Did anyone come back?’ the ticket woman asked.
The old man’s lips grimaced, ‘not to my knowledge. In my day they use to say when your numbers were up you had to go where they requested you to. My timer has never started,’ he finished and showed us his red timer stripped to his wrist like a watch.
He handed the note back to me and I looked down at it.
‘Brighton is sixteen minutes away. Well, a little less now,’ the ticket woman said, ‘if you don’t want to get off you can stay on till Worthington and then get a ticket back to Lewes.’
I took a deep breath, ‘how far away is the Pier?’
‘I don’t know,’ she replied, sadly.
‘Thank you. I’ll be okay now,’ I responded.
They both shuffled away.
I folded the letter in my lap and held it loosely in both my hands. I felt torn. The tears were drying on my face, leaving it sticky. I put the letter in my pocket and wiped at my cheeks. From my bag, I took out the water bottle from before and some biscuits. Having them made me feel better.
After, my thoughts turned back to making a decision and I pulled out the letter and ticket to help me decided. Something on the ticket caught my eye and I looked closer at it. In the bottom left corner was printed my full name; Cassandra Melvin. My breath caught in my throat and I knew what to do.
The ticket woman called over the intercom, ‘Brighton Station,’ less then twelve minutes later. The doors slide open and I got off. I was the only person to do so and after a few seconds the doors closed. I saw the ticket woman come to my now empty seat then rush to the joint area between the first carriage and the second. She struggled to get the old fashioned window down before leaning out of it.
‘Why did you get off?’ she yelled at me.
I held up my ticket, ‘It has my name on it!’ I screamed back as the train started up.
‘But you don’t have to go!’ she roared, ‘quick get back on!’
‘No! I’ve to go! It’s my time!’ I hollered back.
I saw her hitting the emergency stop button and I fled the train station.
To Be Continued….