ANOTHER WORLD: FOUR

Barry now notices the two inspectors are identical, flat caps and epaulets. One of them leans forward and takes a ticket out of Barry’s top pocket.

INSPECTOR 1 examines the ticket, checks it against his clipboard, and passes it to INSPECTOR 2, who’s standing in the corridor.

INSPECTOR 1: We’d just like to ask you a few questions, a mere formality.

INSPECTOR 2: [pointing] And what about the bags?”

INSPECTOR 1: We don’t need to go into all that, now. Remember, ours is not to reason why. It’s probably a departmental thing.

INSPECTOR 2: [deflated] Ah!

INSPECTOR 1: If I were to ask you your name, sir?

Barry looks confused by the question. The inspector checks a box on his clipboard.

INSPECTOR 1: Excellent. And where are we going?

Barry has no idea what that question means.

INSPECTOR 1: Perfect! And the seating, how is the seating.

Barry can understand this well, and gives an enthusiastic bounce, but doesn’t actually say anything.

INSPECTOR 1 smiles with satisfaction and turns to the woman.

What do you remember, madam?

The woman thinks hard. She remembers the shower, the bathroom door, the great thud, the hiss of steam, the platform, the massive steam engine, and climbing into the sumptuous carriage. But what else? And then bubbling up from her memory:

WOMAN: [frowning] Now I remember, [gritting her teeth] Nick Flake, the rat! The toad! [now dreamily] Nick and I were destined to be together, forever, and ever.

INSPECTOR 1: Oh dear!

WOMAN: I’d planned the wedding and spent ages deciding on the dress. I’d chosen my bridesmaids. Why did he go off with Brenda Darling?”

INSPECTOR 1: No. How horrible! How long were you together?

WOMAN: [hesitatingly] Well, we never met in person—not yet. But I knew we would meet. I had that feeling, you know.

INSPECTOR 1: May I plump up your cushion, madam?”

WOMAN: That would be lovely.

He plumps her cushion and it comforts her.

INSPECTOR 2: Would you like a blanket, madam, a foot massage, perhaps? I can read some of my poetry to you?

INSPECTOR 1: Not that, oh no. We’ll not have poetry in this compartment.

INSPECTOR 2: My poetry is very calming. Everyone says so.

INSPECTOR 1: I don’t want to hear that Ode to a Pencil, again.

INSPECTOR 2: [rolls his eyes, and then in a fit of professionalism] Are you sure you’re warm enough, madam? Would you care to change out of your bathrobe? I’m sure we can find something more suitable if you come with us.

The two inspectors glide off down the corridor and the woman follows.


When Barry turns around, he sees that he’s not alone. Sitting in the corner, a man, about 50, balding, pencil mustache, in a tweed jacket and knee-breeches.

“Now, there’s a man who appreciates a comfortable railway seat. Don’t deny it, sir. I have a feel for these things. It takes one to know one. And these seats, what upholstery! And the padding! Quite off the comfort scale, wouldn’t you say?”

Barry opens his mouth to speak but the man keeps talking.

“Seat-sinkability, that’s what I look for in a railway seat. Splendid!”

“Did you know, sir, that a pangolin has no teeth?”

“A pangolin? ” mumbles Barry.

“Aha! I didn’t think you looked the sort of fellow who knew that a pangolin has no teeth,” he says with a look of satisfaction which slowly turns to horror as he notices Barry’s luggage.

“This will not do, sir!”

In an instant, he’s standing. He flings open the window, heaves Barry’s luggage out.

The man is yelling now with the window open, “They’re never going to let you in with luggage.” Barry considered this for a moment.

“Get a move on!” he says to Barry. “We are almost at our destination. Yes, yes, all of it. I don’t want them thinking it’s mine.”

The last of the bags fly through the open window. Barry, mouth open, looks like a goldfish.

The man closes the window and sits down just as the train pulls into the Station at the End of the World under a sky of stars.