Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
Today marks week 14 of the 52 week writing challenge!
The prompt for 9th April is ‘Trains’:
When I was in London for two weeks doing work experience in editorial, I took the underground train a lot. It was interesting to say the least, and it was also pretty inspirational!
This weeks attempt was going to contain a few stories about my real experiences on the underground. Instead, it became a story about New London on another planet!
The elderly man remained hunched over as he watched the commuters congregate at the edge of the platform from underneath his red hood. He did not dare to get close to the edge himself, not when there were so many people around. He clutched his tall gnarled staff and leaned on it a little to keep up appearances as an announcement blared from the speakers.
“For your safety and security, please stand behind the yellow line at all times.”
The old man rolled his eyes and huffed. No one ever listened to those announcements, especially during rush hour. It had been the same for centuries. From London, to New York, to New Earth in the year 3000. People never learned, and it had gotten so much more dangerous since the city council had moved the underground to sit high above the clouds. The platforms were surrounded by a transparent oxygen filled bubble, but below the tracks the surface was cylinder shaped and slippery. If you fell onto it, there was little chance that you would get up onto the platform again before another train arrived.
Still, the train system was brighter than it used to be. The darkness of the underground had been replaced with the brightness of the sky, and strong clear tubes carried the tracks and the trains to their destinations. The old man looked up as a train rattled overhead, and he winced as he covered his eyes from the glare of the sun. He looked down and away.
A large suitcase shuffled forward to protrude from the platform edge and hang over the train track. Someone was going to get hurt, again. It happened nearly every day. Well not today. Not whilst he was here.
The old man connected his fingers together, palms splayed, and his eyes flashed mysteriously. A sudden wind pushed the suitcase and its owner back a little. The commuters perked up in interest, but when no train appeared, they began to grumble.
“Trains always delayed,” a young man muttered as he looked at his watch.
The old man sighed. What did they expect? They were taking the Circle line. This was no delay: The trains were just not as frequent as the District or Central lines.
“It’s not fair, I have an important meeting to get to,” a woman complained, as she did her make-up on the platform.
“Should have gotten an earlier train,” the old man grumbled, as he shifted and tried to push closer to where he knew the doors would open. People in New London were always like this. Leaving things until last minute. Doing their make up on the go. If they took an earlier train, none of them would have any reason to complain.
The woman doing her make-up was jostled from behind, and her lipstick fell from her hand towards the train track. She reached forward in slow motion to try and grab it. The old man reached forward and pulled her back with surprising strength.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he demanded as a train hurtled into the station.
“This is the District line to New Upminster,” an announcement blared.
There was a collective groan from those assembled on the platform. As the doors opened, and the crowd parted to let passengers off the train, the woman turned to glare at her saviour.
“What the hell was that for? That lipstick cost over one hundred galactic dollars!” the woman screamed at him.
Her long, jet black hair flew out behind her as she turned on him. The old man bit his lip, but he did not flinch. After two thousand five hundred years, he was used to seeing reincarnations of people who he once knew a lifetime ago. They never recognised him, and he never said anything to them either.
He turned on the woman. He had faced down much more powerful foes than an angry commuter, and he glared straight at her as he replied, “Well maybe you shouldn’t have used it so close to the platform.”
She turned to the other passengers with a scowl, no doubt to try and garner sympathy. “Maybe I shouldn’t have… Can you believe this guy? Are you a tourist?”
The old man heaved a sigh, and his back let out a few cracks and pops as he stretched. “I live here. Fortunately for you.”
“I lost a hundred dollar lipstick, how the hell is that fortunate?” the woman yelled in disbelief.
“Err, because if it weren’t for me, you would have been hit by a train?” the old man replied with a roll of his eyes.
“Would not,” the woman grumbled, but her shoulders slumped and she sounded less sure of herself now.
There was silence as commuters from behind them pushed onto the District train. The old man sighed and looked at the display, which hung suspended in the sky as if by magic.
It wasn’t. The old man knew magic when he saw it, and he had not felt its presence in fifteen centuries: Not since the last of his kind were hunted during the Salem witch trials. It was what made today so special, so real. It was why, against his better judgement, he was taking the train at rush hour.
“So, you gonna pay for it, or what?” the woman asked as she prodded him in the arm.
He raised his eyebrows. “Do I look like I have any money to you?”
He gestured at himself, and the woman looked down. Scuffed boots, worn nearly through. Trousers caked with dirt, a shirt that had once been white. The only thing that looked new was his red jacket, which, on closer inspection, had a golden dragon stitched onto the back. Its tail curled down one sleeve, and its fiery breath down the other. A necklace hung around his neck, a second dragon of pure gold. When he saw her greedy eyes on it, he clasped his left hand around it.
“That necklace would be suitable compensation,” the woman insisted.
“I’m sure that it would be,” the old man agreed, “But it’s a family heirloom, and you can’t have it.”
“I could just take it from you,” the woman smirked with a raised eyebrow.
“You could try,” he muttered without a second thought.
A few of the other passengers began to look away, at their watches, at the display, which announced that the next train would be by in just two minutes now, anywhere but towards the conflict that began to play out in front of them. The crowd became unsettled, and a few commuters moved along the already crowded platform and away from the scene.
The woman’s face crinkled into a familiar frown at his confidence. She turned away and pursed her lips.
Further up the platform, a man and woman with large suitcases began to argue as another packed District Train arrived. The old man could not make out much of their conversation, and he watched as the man moved towards the train, intent on boarding, baggage and all. The woman gestured to the suitcases and then to the crowds. She stayed put.
The old man scoffed and glanced at his watch. If she wanted to wait for a quieter train, they would be here a good hour before things calmed down again. He watched as the man stormed off the platform and left the confused woman behind with their baggage. After a moment, she dragged the suitcases after him.
A disgruntled yell drew the old man’s attention to the teleporter room. A man dashed onto the platform. He shoved through the crowds and tried to cram his way into the already full carriage. The passengers did not give. The doors began to shut, and the old man winced as the man’s back was crushed between the doors.
He was not trapped for long. The doors sprang open again, but the man did not get off. He bent his head, and shifted and shuffled further onto the train. This time, the doors shut behind him.
The old man shook his head and watched as the train departed. Why the man had crammed on was anyone’s guess. The next train would be along in just two minutes.
He clasped his necklace tight and looked around for the woman that he had saved. She stood further along the platform now, and she stared resolutely ahead of her. He turned with a relieved sigh as the Circle train finally pulled up in front of him.
“This is the Circle line train to New Edgeware, via New Tower Hill,” the announcement blared.
It still baffled him that every place was still called ‘New.’ This ‘new’ version of London had existed for over five hundred years now, although in recent years it had become less of a capital and more of a state in its own right. The new United Kingdom was hardly united any more. It was in tatters. New cities had sprung up all over the country, and conflicts had arisen between them over territory and policy. Some mayors were even calling themselves kings.
The old man huffed as the doors opened, and he made his way onto the train. There was only one true king in his mind, but he had been dead for centuries.
He did not miss the discreet glance that the lipstick lady sent his way as she boarded a few carriages down. Should he keep an eye on her? Was she a threat? Or was her outward appearance, and who she had once been to him, merely making him paranoid?
He shook his head and dismissed her from his thoughts. Her reincarnated form had never been an issue before. It was unlikely that she would cause more trouble than she already had now.
A quick glance down the carriage confirmed that all the seats were taken. He shuffled over to the wall and leaned on his staff, not a hint of surprise on his face. Finding a seat on any train was luck. Finding a seat at rush hour? Impossible.
A young girl pushed her glasses up to look at him from where she sat, and she prepared to stand.
“No, no, don’t worry about it,” the old man grinned. “I’m not going far, and I’m younger than I look.”
The girl raised a sceptical eyebrow, and he began to laugh. He had turned 2500 years old just yesterday, although there had been no one around that he could celebrate with. The girl shrugged and placed her VR glasses back over her eyes, lost to the world once again.
More people piled onto the train, and the old man winced as he was shoved further into the corner. He turned away, and his eyes glowed a light purple as he clasped his hands around his staff and cast a spell to cool himself down.
A glance around him confirmed how hot it was. Perspiration dripped down the side of one man’s face. Others fanned themselves uncomfortably in the little space that they had available.
High in the sky, the train system was unbearably hot sometimes: Just like its underground predecessor. Short journey times made it more practical to leave a coat on though. When you got back to the ground, especially this time of year, you would be cold again in no time.
A man with a dog crammed onto the train just as the doors shut. The dog whimpered and pressed itself flat to the floor. The old man winced as its claws dug into his thin boots, but he kept his lips closed tight. The dog was terrified, and it seemed to hate the experience of rush hour more than he did.
He took a deep breath as the train departed. There would only be a few more trains to take. The magic got closer with every stop as he followed it closer to its source, and it would be so, so worth it when he arrived. His own magic thrummed in anticipation as the train carried him closer to his destination. Towards the first magic that he had felt in centuries.
Thanks for reading! I consider this the potential beginning of a work in progress that won’t leave me alone when I should be working on Dragonspire. It mixes magic, fantasy, and outer space. The old man will even have a name eventually, I just didn’t want to commit to one yet!
As someone from a tiny town, the London tubes at rush hour were overwhelming and overcrowded. The system itself is fantastic though, and a cheap way to travel.
Next Sunday’s prompt:
The prompt for Sunday 16th April is ‘Rescue’:
If you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 16th of April, and leave a link in the comments below this post so that I can read it 🙂
If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I am super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂