The train station was bare and I was groggy. My eyes burned as I blinked and rubbed them, the cold air of the frosty November morning stinging my pupils. I felt the frozen metal through my trousers as I sat, hunched over on a single bench under a dirty plastic shelter, waiting anxiously for my train to arrive.
I checked my watch. 6:04. Should be any minute now. I looked up, squinting.
The wind rushed, blasting tiny dirt particles into the plastic.
Far to my left, something was coming along the tracks. I stood up.
As it approached, I frowned. It was curious, to say the least. Chugging with a profound squeak along the train tracks was a vehicle that looked more like a bus than a train. It was a double-decker with an open top and red paint chipping from its sides; just like the tourist buses in London, only this one was well in need of a tune-up and lick of paint.
Snapping out of my trance, I turned around to grab my leather satchel from the bench. Twisting back to face the rail-bus, I took a few quick footsteps towards the track, then stopped.
The bus was gone.
I frowned. I looked around on high alert.
Left. Right. I spun in a full circle on the spot.
My eyes were wide open now – any sleepiness of the last few minutes had vanished into panic.
There was definitely nothing. But there was a bus here – I know it! I saw it with my own eyes dammit!
I sighed, retreating back to my slumped position on the bench. Several minutes passed. Six, according to my wristwatch. I breathed quickly at first, watching the vapour rise like a smokestack as I exhaled. Somehow, I managed to calm myself. You're just groggy. Probably dozed off for a few seconds, it happens.
Then my actual train did pull up. A small, two carriage Northern Rail passenger train painted purple and royal blue.
I took my seat and plugged my headphones into my ears to make the most of the journey by catching up with the news on Radio 4. Sure, it's a bit dry, but I can't stand listening to patronising DJs for more than five seconds. The train started chugging along and I watched the little bus shelter station move out of sight. All was well.
The train sped up and I watched my reflection in the window boredly, leaning against the glass with my chin propped up on my palm. Trees whizzed past and so did the odd house, but it felt strange. I checked my watch. 3:24? My heart began pounding and a bead of sweat oozed its way out of my forehead. "No," I mouthed, stammering. I checked my wrist again. 10:58?! Okay, something seriously is going terribly wrong here!
I bit my bottom lip nervously and stood up, steadying myself. Shaking arms grasped the back of the seat in front of me and I felt like my jelly legs would give way under my large mass. Slowly, I made my way to the front of the train. Only then did it occur to me that there were no other passengers!
Chest thumping, my sweaty palm gripped the handle of the door leading to the drivers seat. A sinking feeling in my stomach told me that I really didn't want to go in there, but I still felt I had to. Just to be sure.
I pressed down.
The thundering of the train over the rail tracks told me that I was not slowing down.
The handle squeaked. My fingertips slid off the metal and the handle shot back into its initial position, the door unlatched. It jumped around a bit on its hinges and I hastily grabbed it to steady both myself and it.
I knew immediately from the lack of response that what I feared was true, but to confirm it, I pushed open the door with my eyes only daring to peek at the scene.
There was no driver.