Just the Ticket
By J A Evans
Jake woke up with a start, as the train rattled noisily across a series of railway points.
Slowly he became aware of someone putting their hand into his jacket pocket.
"What the hell do you think you're doing! he yelled, grabbing hold of the hand and throwing it back to its owner.
Billy Cant's pale face reddened, as he slunk back into his seat opposite. Saying nothing he looked at the man contemptuously and began to bite his thumb nail.
Jakes heart began to race as the familiar feeling of dred filled his chest, but this time he wasn't a small boy in school and he wasn't about to let this little git get away with it this time. All the years of frustration welled up in his chest and standing up he stood over the spotty faced boy.
"What were you doing in my pocket. Jake asked pointedly.
"I wasn't in your pocket; you must have been dreaming mate.
"I saw you with my own eyes; your hand was in my pocket.
"Nah not me, I haven't moved, I've been sitting here all the time.
Jake searched through his jacket pockets. His wallet was there, as were his keys but not his ticket. He was sure he had put it safely away, but it wasn't there now.
"You've got my ticket. I know you have. Give it back to me NOW! yelled Jake holding the youth by the arm.
"Don't you touch me: I'll get you done for child abuse. snapped Billy trying to pull his arm away.
"You're a bit old for that one aren't you, said Jake sarcastically.
"Get off me, don't you touch me, get your hands off me, you pervert, screamed the boy.
Jake had been on this road many times before and his instincts told him that the boy wasn't about to admit to anything.
Jake pulled the boy up out of his seat, but Billy pulled his knee up and kicked Jake squarely in the groin.
Jake fell to the floor like a brick and Billy ran for his life to the toilet down the other end of the isle and locked himself inside.
Jake flew at the door and banged on it hard with his fists.
"Get out here you bloody little thief, you damn liar, you're a shame to your mother, get out here now. I know you've got it and I'm going to stay out here until you give me it back¦do you hear me. Get out here now, you won't get away with it you know. I'll call the guard and he'll call the police. Jake paused and listened with his ear against the door, but heard nothing and after a while, as the anger in his chest died down, he decided to change track and knocked on the door softly. "Listen sonny, wouldn't it be better to give it up now?' he said in his reasoning voice, "come on this is silly. Just give me the ticket and we'll forget all about it, what do you say?
Billy stood with his back against the door bracing himself against it. Sweat poured from his brow and ran down the side of his face, as the shocks from the door still reverberated through his body, but he wasn't about to open the door, even if Jakes tone of voice had changed.
Jake ran out of breath and rubbing his sore fists, he walked back to his seat, grumbling to himself. Sitting back down, he glared at the toilet door, ready to pounce.
An elderly woman with grey curly hair, sunken eye sockets and hollow cheeks was sitting opposite him and knitting a small delicate garment with a ball of pink wool.
When she caught Jakes attention she smiled at him weakly.
"Is that yours dearie? she inquired, as her knitting needles clicked and clacked and stopping momentarily, she gestured with her knitting towards the floor beneath Jake's seat.
Jake looked down between his legs and saw the yellow piece of card on the floor.
"You want to be more careful with that, it's right precious that is, said the old woman solemnly, as she pulled out another line of wool from the ball and continued knitting.
Picking up the ticket Jake scrutinized it carefully.
Sitting on the toilet seat, Billy jumped inwardly as the light above the small hand basin began to flicker and snap, just as the steam train plunged into a dark tunnel.
Holding onto the window sill he tried to steady himself as the carriages hurtled around a sharp bend, but losing the fight he unceremoniously slid off the seat and onto the floor.
Without any warning a gaseous, iridescent red liquid began to ooze slowly out of the toilet and dribble down the basin and onto the floor like a blanket of fog.
Billy shuffled on his bottom away from the oozing gas and into the corner of the small room.
With his mouth wide open in horror he watched, as the gas solidified and formed into a monstrous hand with long thin knurled fingers. The hand opened and one finger beckoned to him and out of nowhere he heard a sinister voice whisper, "Your ticket please.
Billy's eyes darted around the room trying to work out where the voice had come from.
The outstretched hand gestured and the voice asked, "Where is your ticket?
"I¦I don't have one,' said Billy nervously, surprised by his own honesty. He couldn't understand it .What was he doing? He never told the truth. In fact he was so good at lying, that he was known in his area as Billy liar.
"No ticket, no ride, replied the ghostly voice.
"But I'm going to pay at the other end, Billy protested.
A knurled, red finger on the hand wagged at him. "Oh no your not, not on this train you're not. said the voice forcefully.
Billy stared in disbelief, as the hand floated into the air and tried to grab at his jacket, but Billy dodged the grabbing fingers and reaching for the bolt he slid it across and managed to open the door, but the hand was too quick and slithering over Billy's head it slammed the door back shut. Billy pulled hard on the door and tried to put his foot into the crack, but the hand pulled him away and slamming the door, it then snapped the bolt shut.
Billy heart pounded hard in his chest, as he jumped back up onto his feet and tried to open the tiny window next to the basin, but the latch, covered in layers of paint, would not budge. Looking around anxiously, he could see no other way out.
Swiftly the gaseous fingers of the great hand silently snaked around Billy's ankles and pulled him off his feet.
Billy screamed hysterically, as he tried to pull the substance off, but it was useless, there was nothing to hold on to and every time he went to pull or hit the hand, his own hand would pass through the substance, making no impression on it at all.
The hand pulled effortlessly and the boy slid silently across the floor and towards the toilet basin.
Grabbing hold of the copper pipes beneath the wash basin Billy held on tight, but as the creature continued pulling he felt the metal beneath his fingers begin to bend. Still trying to kick out at the monster, he managed to transfer his hands up onto the porcelain bowl and then, with a great deal of effort, he seized hold of the silver taps.
"HELP, HELP, he screamed pitifully, as the monster continued to pull.
His aching hands now dripping with sweat, slipped slowly off the taps and onto the edge of the sink. Sweat poured from every crevice in his body as he heard the sink begin to creak and crack. The hand kept pulling and inch by inch Billy's hands slithered off the bowl and Billy fell flat onto his face with a loud thud. Sliding over the floor, with blood oozing out of his nose and mouth, Billy continued screaming and begging for the hand to let him go. Twisting and turning every limb of his body, like a trapped fish in a net, he tried to escape from the grip, but no matter what he did the hand would not let go of its prey.
Billy had no more fight left in him and lay on the floor panting hard.
Myriads of gaseous hands, of all shapes and sizes, snaked out of the toilet basin and wrapped themselves around the whole length of his limp body, until he looked like a mummified corpse dressed up in red bandages, with only his terrified eyes showing through.
Picking the trapped boy up into the air, the hands held Billy's head down towards the basin and from inside his prison, he looked on horrified as a crowd of angry contorted faces screamed up at him from inside the toilet bowl.
"NO¦, came the terrified muffled scream from inside the bandages as the fingers suddenly dropped the wriggling package down into the swirling mass of faces and as he and the hands disappeared down the hole, the toilet seat slammed shut with a resounding bang.
Jake sat wide eyed as he listened to the screams coming from inside the toilet, but the old lady didn't flinch and continued knitting.
"Do you think he's alright? he asked, as the screams suddenly stopped.
"He is now, she replied winking her eye at him and changing over her knitting needles she began to knit yet another a new line.
"Maybe he ate something, Jake reasoned, as he looked anxiously towards the door.
"I don't think so¦he didn't have a ticket, she said matter of factly.
Jake was perplexed and looking down at his own ticket, he got out his glasses and read the small print on the back.
Mouthing out the words Jake could not understand, maybe the card was from a child's game or a trick and holding it up he asked "Is this a joke or is this a real ticket?
"Yes, it's real, answered the woman grinning knowingly, "that there ticket is priceless, not everyone gets to go there.
"I don't understand,
"You will in time. said the woman staring out of the window.
Rushing out of the tunnel, the train rattled through a vibrant green landscape. Jake, mesmerized by the scenery, stared through the window as the train raced through a great stand of oak trees swaying in a gentle breeze and skirted around a deep sapphire blue lake, sparkling like a mirror in the bright sunshine.
The train's whistle blew and the carriages jerked as the great bellowing engine came to a stop alongside a long narrow platform.
Looking out of the carriage window Jake and the elderly woman stared back at the crowd of smiling faces grinning up at them.
"This is your stop dearie; do you have your ticket? said the old lady, rolling up her knitting, "I think mines in here somewhere, she added, as she searched through her brown and red carpet bag and pulling out her yellow ticket, she held it up in front of Jakes face.
"Here it is, come on, I've been waiting for this all my life, lets go. and with that she rushed down the isle and Jake, like an obedient puppy, followed.
Questions spurted in his brain like an ever growing fountain, as he stared at the crowd which greeted them. How had he got here and where had he come from? Who were these people whose faces seemed somewhat familiar and yet strangers to him.
Everything before he had woken up on the train was a blur. His mind was blank, nothing seemed to be inside his mind except for the poor boy's screams, the winsome grin of the old lady and the ticket and heaven only knows how he'd got that.
A woman with a disarming smile held her hand out to him.
"Yes, that's right, she said gently, answering his silent question and as he stepped down from the train a feeling of inner peace, a peace he never thought he would ever experience in his lifetime washed over him and at that moment he knew.
He knew all the answers, the answers to all the questions he had ever asked, everything. He even understood the ultimate question, the question of life and death, not that he could ever put it into words, but at that moment he was certain that no question or person would ever worry him again. This was where he belonged; this was where he should be. This was what he had been living for this, for him, this was heaven and he sighed with contentment as he walked with the crowd towards the exit.