The Sofa Club at the End of the World: THREE

Night fog. Barry follows the man up the steps and onto a misty railway platform. A moment later, the man disappears and is replaced by a porter with his luggage. Barry boards the ornate compartment of the waiting train. He sinks into a deep pillowy seat, curtains at the windows, and landscape oil paintings on the wood-paneled walls. The luggage rack above him is stuffed with travel bags. They’re all his, for there is no one else in the compartment.

All Barry can hear is the rhythmic click-clack of the rails. He dozes in his comfortable surroundings.

Later, he gets up and explores the length of the carriage. There are no other passengers. The next carriage is an empty dining car, thick linen tablecloths, and silver dinnerware. He draws back curtains, but he can see nothing out of the window.

When he returns to his compartment, a woman now sits in the opposite seat. She wears a robe, a towel on her head, and slippers on her feet.

She looks up as Barry slides open the polished compartment door.

“Are all those bags, yours?” she says. She doesn’t appear to have any luggage.

“I’m not sure. I suppose they are,” says Barry. He sits and wants to introduce himself, but he can’t seem to recall his own name. But it’s not a problem because his new companion is eager to talk.

Barry finds it difficult to understand what she is saying, so he smiles. Eventually, she stops talking, and they sit in silence. She looks out of the window and he gets up, cracks the window, and smells pine trees and the sea.

The train slows and comes to a stop. He can’t read the sign through the thick fog. And then he sees another train across the platform pointing in the opposite direction. And for an instant, he has the feeling of knowing that person looking back at him.

A jolt. The train starts. A bag falls from the overhead compartment, but Barry catches it before it can do any damage. The young woman gives him an appreciative look.

Soon the fog clears. Fields and trees glide by under a starlit sky. Then the train slows and comes to rest at a signal box. Two uniformed men step into the carriage. They eye his luggage suspiciously.

They ask him for his papers.

The train begins to move again as Barry fumbles in his pockets. But he can find no papers.