Once seated on the train, Janey felt a crescendoing sense of excitement gripping her about the midriff. Opposite but one, a tired looking business man stole a glance and drew his paper up around his face as if to conceal himself. Janey realised this was probably because she was grinning away to herself like an apparent lunatic.
Rather than try to gather decorum, she thought it better to wander up towards the buffet car and treat herself to a frothy chocolate covered cappuccino. She had lately grown rather tired of disgruntled eyes watching her.
“Oi!” shouted a youth, “Whachafuckyadoing?”
turning in surprise Janey saw a red faced boy of around 10 tenderly rubbing his ear and with the other hand, lassoing her with a wire presumably from an ipod.
“If you've broke 'em...” His words diminished into an inaudible mumbling.
Pulling her rucksack from her back, she saw that somehow she'd managed to hook one of the child's earphones onto a zip and with quite a force popped the other from his ear causing it to go an impressive shade of scarlet.
“Have I damaged them?” She inquired, hurriedly scanning the surrounding area for witnesses.
A few newspapers rustled and a gum chewing girl blew a bubble.
“Naw” He mumbled turning back to his seat, apparently embarrassed.
If Janey had been a parent, perhaps she might have wondered why a child was travelling alone on an evening inter city train, but she wasn't and could not bring her mind to such contemplations.
Passing through 2 more carriages, she noticed a sharp decline in seat availability and with the train nearing a stop, she thought better of her cappuccino idea. Settling in a forward facing table seat she began to unzip the pockets in her rucksack and examine the contents.
It was imperative that she was prepared as without entirely knowing what was to come over the next month, a bulging rucksack offered a sort of stability to the unknown. At the age of 10 she had joined the boy scouts much to the disgust of the boys and even though they seldom talked to her or even acknowledged her existence, she did get a lot of enjoyment out of the challenges and activities set by the cub scout leader. There was no doubt that this relatively short childhood experience had left a lasting impression on her, teaching her always to be prepared..
Content that all her necessary accoutrement s were in place, she wriggled lazily in her seat allowing her bag to spill over onto the seat beside her.
The train slowed to a standstill, moving boards shouted about Mars bars and cheap car insurance. Several people walked quickly towards the train, while others stared blindly at the flickering computer screens
“The next train to arrive at platform 2 is the ..8:12 Central Train service to London Paddington calling at....”
Janey turned away from the window to look at the people stepping through the carriages, some flustered, many mechanical, most tired.
A forty something man with a pronounced belly and most commendable mustache glanced at Janey with an inquisitive eye brow to which she nodded with the faintest of smiles. He sat heavily opposite her and withdrew a mobile from his top pocket. On closer inspection, Janey saw that it had a mini keypad and with his great sausage fingers the man tried to tap away at the keys, Janey saw with some amusement that there was a little toothpick sized tool attached to the side of the phone to pick the mini keys effectively, but enjoying her powerful secret, Janey turned her head to one side and felt her eyes shut.
A ghastly face with a huge white teeth grinned. It's skin was absent leaving bone and black sockets where eyes must once have been. A long pink tongue, glistening with the moisture of life snaked its way out between the teeth and flicked back and forth along the top teeth like some grotesque sea creature.
With a jolt Janey awoke, she must have kicked out as the mustached gentleman gave a cry and quickly bent to rub his shin.
“Oh I'm so sorry!” Janey mumbled colouring about the cheeks
“It's okay” He grimaced between rubs “You were dreaming”
“Yes, yes I was”
“And what was it that woke you so suddenly?” He inquired, the corners of his mustache raising slightly as if a smile was hidden deep in the undergrowth..
Feeling slightly put out by such a direct and intrusive question, Janey answered with a rather sharp
“I can't remember”
Only she could remember, how could she forget that socketed face with it's serpent like tongue. A reoccurring nightmare which had a lot to do with why she was on this train.
9 years old, hair in plaits apart from a orange and green braid which flopped across her forehead at every skip. Fresh from the gnarled hand of a peddler and proudly flicked at every opportunity.
“Race me!” She demanded.
Her rather chubby partner looked vexed by this command and stopped with her hands on her hips. “We've raced a hundred times already, how come we have to go so far?”
“You're so lazy,” sneered her braided companion
“No I'm not, we were s'posed to go to another park and that was like ten hours ago”
“Well this place is way more exciting!” She replied with a sniff and an unfeminine sleeve across her nose.
The two walked on for perhaps another 10 minutes, one wheezing uncomfortably, the other bouncing with the strength of youth. Following an exclamation of 'we're here!' the two youngsters ducked into an overgrown tunnel. Water flowed in rivulets missing stepping stones of raised patches, a distinct smell of urine wafted to their innocent noses, and sinister swastikas adorned the damp walls.
“Cool!” whispered the braided “ I'm gonna put that picture on my pencil case, d'you want one?”
“No thankyou” whimpered the companion wide eyed and pale.
A trolley with one missing wheel looked sad and out of place alongside a unrecognisable magazine with pages fluttering as if by a ghostly reader.
“I don't like it here” said the companion.
“Well stay here if you like, I'm going to have a fag” The last word was pronounced with a strong emphasis on the f to highlight the boldness and badness of this statement.
The child withdrew a little pink box and upon opening revealed a single bashed looking cigarette. Carefully and with expert precision, she took it between her fingers. Looking hard at her companion, she slipped a hand into her jeans and pulled out a lighter. It had a green marijuana leaf emblazoned upon it's black plastic body, though neither girl knew it's meaning.
With an expert flick of the metal cog, Janey had lit her very first cigarette, no one knew the role play that cigarette had participated in prior to this great occasion. In front of the full length mirror inside her wardrobe. Bah bah bah! It's Britney! beautiful blonde, the photographers, flick, scrabble, scuffle, got to get near, deep breath in, cooooooool puff, smoke towards the camera, click! Click! Click!
With an arrogant click of the tongue and a very rehearsed filmstar look towards her companion, the young Janey put the cigarette to her lips and deeply inhaled.
So frightened by the explosive result of this, the terrified friend took off shouting and calling “Help someone help! she's dying! Oh help!”
Footsteps loudly echoing, water splashing and arms flailing, Janey's little accomplice flew straight into the broad frame of a man.
He didn't let her go.
A huge search had grasped the town, bins were rifled, rivers were searched, the tunnel, yes that tunnel was scoured, yet somehow, nothing was found. As far as Mr and Mrs Compton were concerned, Janey Compton had gone to the park on her bike and returned on her bike. They didn't know that Janey had become acquainted with Molly that afternoon, nor in fact did they think Janey had even been aware of the incident. Not a soul saw the two leaving the park, not a soul saw Janey returning home alone.
Janey had in fact rushed back out of the tunnel to be sick in the grassy verge. Shuddering and pale, she had waited quietly for Molly. When she did not appear, Janey decided that it was probably due to her running to her home. With a reproachful look at the tunnel entrance, she walked and then jogged back to the park. Her bike was still propped up against the bars. Swinging her leg over the cross bar she cycled home enjoying the afternoon breeze in her lungs.
That night, the girl dreamt. She dreamt of tunnels and passages that twisted and turned into a labyrinth of rooms, each with doors revealing doors. Huge swastikas and marjwana leaves jumped off the brick walls. She had to crawl amongst the damp stones when the roof became low, she was fearless, she was brave. At last the tunnel widened into an enormous room, It was like nothing the girl had seen before. Great portraits hung from the walls, rich gold frames complimented the red carpets and upholstery. Magnificent chairs aligned with an experts precision to a great banqueting table covered with silver goblets, and glittering cutlery, ornate plates of finest gold, beautiful fruits heaped upon elaborate silver bowls.
Janey, damp and dirty from crawling through the tunnels hugged herself with a little shiver and began to walk mechanically towards the banquet. She did not want to for she was afraid, yet her dream controlled legs took her closer and closer to the table.
Upon each setting between the cutlery and upon the plate stood a box. Plain white and sealed with a simple green ribbon. Janey looked anxiously around, for she did not wish to be seen so blatantly trespassing. Unable to resist temptation, the mini Pandora opened a box. The contents made her grin A foil wrapped Kit Kat along with a plastic yo-yo still wrapped in cellophane. The next box contained a set of plastic soldiers and a Mars Bar.
Enjoying this game, Janey quickened her pace moving from box to box revealing toys and chocolates, sweets and novelty items. It was the tenth box that contained a skull. Not really liking this toy and disappointed by the lack of edible treat, she moved onto the eleventh box without much thought. Only she stopped suddenly.
She could hear a noise.
Suddenly aware of the awful position she was in she began to sweat slightly around the temples. What if the guests to this party arrived and found her surrounded by their opened presents? She guiltily put the opened Kit Kat in her pocket and with some difficulty, swallowed the chocolate already in her mouth. It took a moment or two for Janey to realise that the noise was coming not from outside the room, but in it, in fact it was coming from one of the opened boxes. She moved closer to the tenth box. The skull was still within the box as she had not liked it enough to inspect it closely. Thinking it was some sort of mechanism producing the movement, she carefully pulled the rustling skull from its box, she lifted it to face her, like a reenactment of troubled Hamlet as he contemplated the white skull of Yorick.
A moist forked tongue flicked from between the teeth towards the hand that held it. With a scream of absolute terror Janice woke sweating and shaking in her bed.
“The train is now approaching London Paddington, where the service will be terminating. All change please, all change..”
Surprised at the speed at which the train had arrived, Janey began to feel the excitement building within her again. The moustached man was nowhere to be seen which unnerved her slightly, although she soon felt comforted by the sight of the boy she had unintentionally assaulted.
Waiting for the train to stop entirely, Janice tied her scarf around her neck and pulled her rucksack to her back. She joined the bustle of people by the door and soon stepped off.