The train jolted as it hurtled across the vine-ridden viaduct. The wheels rushed as they ran across the rails and left the carriage in a constant state of vibration, the unrelenting rumble invaded the peace many sought on long journeys. Rain lashed violently against the window whilst every so often the compartment was illuminated as lightening struck in the turbulent clouds above. However, as much as the world around seemed to try, nothing broke the tense atmosphere that had enshrouded the couchette in which the small man was sat in.
He may have been small, he may have been tall, but the long, crushed velvet seat rose up behind and engulfed him. His feet sunk into the swirls of paisley that adorned the lush carpet on the floor whilst the wings on either side made it look like he was sitting on the mouth of a formidable viper, who was about to crush him.
Although what snake would have taken a fancy to such a morsel? His once comely face was now akin to Egyptian parchment, which had been stretched across his face, and his once vivid blue eyes were now tinged with grey. His new morning suit had swallowed up his neck whilst the top hat seemed to suffocate him, resting just above his eyes. Whenever he sat down his shoes strove to slither off, as his legs had acquired a nervous shake.
Surveying the curiously cavernous compartment he found himself in, he took notice of the opulent curtains, set in a deep burgundy and lined with gold and purple (not a colour he would have chosen), his case, with ample space for another and possibly a hat box or two, and the casket of dark chocolate creams and Turkish delight he’d always despised. A makeup box peeked out from the under seat storage on the other side. He only noticed it when the door rushed open and a flash of lightening reflected off its many faceted sides, dancing across the room for a second. After being momentarily blinded, the man stared eagerly at the lightening framed silhouette that stood in the door. It stood motionless for a second, obviously stunned by the sudden flash also, before gracing in and slamming a silver tray, adorned with all the particulars of afternoon tea for two, on a small table by the window. The man began to speak, but the attendant had hurried out before he’d finished the first word. Nevertheless he hadn’t been expecting her, so he picked a salmon and cream cheese sandwich from the tray and slumped morosely back into the velvet seat, which instantly set out to swallow him once more
His eyes drooped as he slowly fell into a sweet reverie, serenaded by the chorus of thunder from outside and lulled by the constant swaying motion from below, when suddenly short sharp rap resounded through the compartment and the door was violently slid open once more. The man jumped out of his trance, straightened himself up and removed his hat, which had fallen to one side and had reminded him that it was customary to remove headwear once inside (not to mention it was respectful), before a postman poked his head in, complete with the trademark cap. The new face looked at the bundle of papers he held in his hand and then at the man, apologised for disturbing his peace and set down the papers beside the man. Upon retreating out of the compartment, he took special care to slowly slide the compartment door shut.
For a while, the man reverted to his original stance and took no notice of the documents that lay beside him. The train lurched to and fro as they crossed yet another bridge and he found it difficult to keep his posture until an almighty jerk made him lose composure and he steadied a hand on the wad of paper. They were alarmingly cold to the touch, but the man gave no more than an apathetic glance their way. His sad eyes had been long since drained of any motivation.
The stillness was once again interrupted by another knock on his compartment carriage. For the first time the door was opened slowly and with consideration, which was of much surprise to the man until he recognised the cap of the postman. Once again, the mailman apologised for disturbing the piece and extended a hand, which held a solitary envelope. Upon noticing what it was the man held he felt his insides throw themselves into turmoil. Tentatively he reached out and plucked the letter from the postman’s hand with two spindly fingers. The postman nodded and once again respectfully slid the door shut.
The man eyed the manila envelope that lay ominously in his hands. He slid a hand across the front, tracing the immaculate handwriting in the middle – it bore a carriage number and his name. He stared for far too long looking at the intricate curls in the writing and basked in the familiar smell it brought with it for an age before resolving to open the letter. However, instead of using his letter opener as usual he began to voraciously tear into the envelope, all look of apathy had been washed away from his face and the tinge of grey had been expunged from his piercing eyes.
After shredding the envelope, he held out the beige piece of paper, noticing the indentations of the writing on the other side, and quickly unfolded it. As he set his eyes upon the writing, his predatory glare withered away as his tears began to obscure his vision. As he shrivelled up once more, they fell from his eyes and the sound made as they fell on the paper mingled in with that of the buffeting which could be heard on the window of the compartment.