Photo-Prompt Fiction: Clickety-Clack: response to the 'Take me Somewhere' Challenge from Jennifer Arnett (availiasvision
'Take me Somewhere' Challenge
This challenge was put forward by Jennifer Arnett, with the provisos described below. Writing challenges on hubpages are exciting; they hone our skills, they focus our ideas and they stretch our abilities at manipulating language. So my thanks to Jennifer and I offer my contribution below.
Here is the challange:
Write a short story from the picture prompt and the line, "You can never return."
Use the picture above as the cover image, so that we can all identify which short stories are part of the challenge.
Submit your story by Nov. 15th.
write the title of your story in the comments section (HubPages doesn't like links in the comments and I don't want to get any of you in trouble).
Steam bursting out under the bridge, gathering up the sky, as the children stood watching the living engine rumble through, brought exhilaration and coughing as it filled their young lungs.
Many families were out with flags, cheering for the old beast on its final journey, sad to know it would never again carry passengers to the seaside, to the hills, to the smoking cities.
The shining heavy metal monsters of the track had personalities, with names like ‘Black Prince’, ‘King George’, ‘Queen Adelaide’ and even ‘The Great Bear’. Their riveted metal armour shone in reds, blues, greens and blacks. Prettily-painted carriages followed their majestic master.
From now on nothing but nameless diesels and electrics would be humming and snaking through the countryside; the ground-shaking thunder would be replaced by a sedate, refined ‘clickety-clack’.
‘No character in that,’ thought Tom, as he watched until the maroon mammoth diminished to a speck before the bubble of nostalgia popped. He sighed.
What's going on?
Tomorrow he’d be travelling to work in the usual drab, lifeless carriage pulled by an ugly, metal-sheeted engine with no style. These new trains had been around for a while, of course, but the final stab in the back for the steam era had been executed that day.
He knew progress had to be made, change had to come, but often the glamour, the excitement disappeared with it. Why was that? He felt all he held dear was sliding into the pit of the past.
That thought made him feel guilty. His family shone bright in his soul; they were his salvation. Any depressing thoughts could be wiped away with their bright, multi-coloured presence. So what was that black barrenness that bordered his existence, niggling, nagging to be noticed?
Where am I going?
Off to work the next day, a rainy walk to the station to board that uninspiring clickety-clack train to his clickety-clack job, Tom felt a jolt in his brain.
‘What am I doing here? Where am I going?!’
He stopped, turned towards home, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ He took no step though, halted in his hesitation.
Then the decision was made, click-clack, go to work. Back to the grindstone? No fear! His purpose was to resign, follow another path. Anything had to be better than this one. He couldn’t stand another day drenched by the grey of the city, surrounded by faceless people with whom he had nothing in common.
Why did he have to be away from his red-brick, flint-glittered home, his primrosed, rose-bordered countryside, his bubbly, smile-bedecked family. The hours without them stole half his life!
You can never return!
The blur of scenery showering past enveloped him in a dream, a panic of uncertainty, but he reached work, handed in his notice, cleared his desk and walked out. Already he felt taller, unburdened, despite his boss’s voice whipping his ears,
‘You walk out of here and I’ll make sure you never work in this city again. You can never return to this firm. You’re finished!’
One last journey on the train of disdain and he’d be free. That panic, though, wouldn’t go away. His journey home was filled with apprehension. The wheels went clickety-clack in his brain, ticking the seconds to freedom, the seconds to ... what?
The sodden fields flashed past as the grey turned to green and he felt a little more at ease. The train slowed, for signals he supposed, the clickety-clack got tired and slept for a few minutes, then lurched into another steady trundle. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, think of this, think of that.
The station in the tunnel
Within the familiar tunnel, Tom peered into the darkness of brick wall and was surprised to see a floodlit station he didn’t recognise. A steam train stood at the platform blowing smoke rings from its pipe as if in contemplation. The driver guffawed and waved at him in his silly train clickety-clacking past. The excited passengers hung out the windows, waving hats and flags, laughing, ready for the off.
The stoker, covered in coal dust and sweating his soul out was the only one who looked less than happy. Tom had a keen eye for expression, for the inner being. He felt the toil and worry of that stoker, sweating for his bread, wearing out his lungs for his family who’d see him go tumbling early into his boxed grave. His thoughts switched to the cleaner clickety-clack of his present transport.
Now he knew
That was it! The present! He knew what he could do now. He’d go home, surprise his wife, shock her even, with his news. What! No job! How do we live? How do we have bread on the table? What have you done, Tom?! Then she’d shrug, hug and back him up like she always did.
The train emerged from the tunnel, nearing his home station. What had he done? He’d come back to reality. He knew what the future held. Why should he follow family tradition? He could find some kind of job in the village, there were plenty to choose from.
Most of all, he could use that talent of observation that he possessed. That stoker, that engine driver, that sturdy, sighing, shrieking monster of a steam engine, they were all alive in his head. He could write.
Articles, children’s stories, practical advice about engines, were all itching to get to the page. He might even join one of those restoration societies that re-opened old railways. Even his job could provide a few ideas - what not to do with your life!
Tom was alive! He loved the old things, they had their place, but he would create a new life into the future, build something worthwhile, inspire others. He had a jaunty air as he covered the home stretch by the meadow.
His boss’s words were feint in his head,
‘You can never return to this firm.’
‘You bet I wont’!’ Tom startled the cows peering at him over the wall.
As he approached the final yards down the road to his cottage, his feet danced, the metal strips on his heels going ‘clickety-clack, clickety-clack’ with joy.