Reply To: Bi-Monthly Comp – May/June 2019

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The Memory Thing

I think it was reproach: that look on his face; or maybe despair. I only had a second to work it out as he fell backwards onto the tracks. That’s an odd way to put it. I mean, I wasn’t actually trying to work anything out, let alone his expression. And I was shocked; I hardly registered what happened. This man, this young man, alive then dead in an instant. At the time I thought he looked surprised, and that’s what I said. But when I’d had longer to think, it might have been reproach and I felt guilty.

I came to this town to assist the Haedus Finance Company in installing and testing a new IT system. That’s what I do. In the morning I left my hotel and walked to the station intending to catch a train three stops to the Haedus Finance Data Centre. Everything was entirely normal: the spring sunshine, the steady stream of people to and fro, the convivial smokers grabbing a last cigarette before heading to the trains. Once I had found my platform, I relaxed and looked around me. Passengers waited in disordered rows or in knots laughing and telling stories about last night in the pub or the day ahead: whatever bound them together. Next to me, a man of about my age in a blue suit rocked from toe to heel. He had a paper tucked under one arm while a case swung gently at the end of the other. He stared implacably across the tracks over the heads of passengers waiting on the opposite platform and I had the notion that if only I could see what he was looking at, I might understand a little more about him. So I stared where he stared.

In the ironwork of the roof I could see movement and a ragged bird’s nest spilling over the edge of a girder. The movement was a cat. It was so unexpected; how did a cat get up there? The cat pounced. Wings beat frantically. Debris fell to the roof of a kiosk below, a splattering that might have been eggs or chicks. I turned. Was my blue-suited neighbour as surprised as I was? I was about to say that it wasn’t something you saw every day, but the words died on my lips. A young man blocked my view and he was looking at me.