My old Grandpa lived in Saskateen Falls, just a mile from the chemical plant; the plant was the only reason Saskateen Falls existed. Like all Grandfathers he was full of stories.
‘Where do Clouds come from Grandpa?’ I once asked him.
‘Clouds? We makes them at the cloud factory of course, where else?’ he replied, with a smile.
As he explained he’d point me towards the huge, barrel shaped cooling stacks of the plant. I had no idea what they were, heck I was only five or six: I wasn’t going to argue. In any case he looked right. Throughout the day (and night too I guessed) these stacks belched out huge plumes of white smoke – ‘clouds’ as Grandpa called them.
I’m back again today, and as ever most of the trees are bare of leaves. The air thick with the smell of dust and decay. The street signs are all but rusted away. The paint on Granddad’s old house flaked back to bare stone. Granddad himself had passed years before, a chronic asthmatic.
Saskateen Falls seems to have paid a high price for thirty years of playing host to a cloud factory.
On quaysides around the world they said their goodbyes. Mothers, fathers, husbands and wives once more parted in the line of duty. As tear filled eyes remained watching, the globes most powerful navies rolled out into the oceans. Ships and their heroic crews making for the horizon and the setting sun; into the unknown.
From the north they came: The Marshal Valenko cruised out Severomosrk. In California the USS Franklin steamed west; across the vast expanse of the Pacific the Peoples Liberation Army readied the Lanzhou to depart from Zhanjiang.
Tension was everywhere. The next few days could determinate the future of the planet. A moment many refused to believe was possible was now here. Some said it was a drill, others prepared for the end.
The message received was at first unclear. Linguistic experts worked in shifts until the meaning was revealed: coordinates and a time – it was a call to a meeting.
Geoff Portman had a passion for oriental antiques. At least twice a year he would fly to Hong Kong hunting for pieces to add to his growing collection. He’d been told of a little shop in downtown Kowloon, but in truth he was disappointed. As he took one last look around he noticed it. Covered in sackcloth, gathering dust in a box at the back of the shop – the glinting tip of a handle lured him in.
‘How much for the sword’ he asked the shopkeeper.
‘Not for sale. Cursed!’
Geoff had heard all this before. ‘Two thousand dollars?’ he said.
‘Not for sale. Cursed. You no listen to me. Cursed! Need to stay with me. Only me’
‘Five thousand dollars?’
The shopkeeper signed before saying ‘You have it for Ten thousand dollar!’
Back in his hotel room Geoff went to sleep satisfied with his purchase – he would have paid at least double. The next morning they found Geoff still in bed. One half of him on the left; the other on the right. The police were baffled. No murder weapon and CCTV showed no-one other than Geoff leaving or entering his room since last night.
In downtown Kowloon the sword settled back into its box – the glint of the handle sure to catch someone’s eye soon.
St. Kellan was hard to find on the map – the tiniest of dots hidden amongst the clay mines of Cornwall. It was a place missed by most tourists. Locals though knew where it was, and would come from miles around to buy their bread from the village. The Smitzelhoff Bakery was quite probably the one and only authentic German bakers in the county.
Owner, Karl, would always revel in being asked to tell the tale of how he ended up in St. Kellan. With a glint in his eye he’d say “My plane crashed over ze moors. Ze vunderful Lady Bowmere founds me, took me, fixes me better.”
The German accent had perhaps faded over the years, but he played it up just enough to be both noticeable and intriguing. He claimed the Lady then placed him in her gardening staff until hostilities ended. Nobody would ever dare ask questions of the Lady, even if she had still been alive.
Maybe it was true; maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps Karl was a frustrated chartered accountant who emigrated to England after the war. Perhaps he isn’t even German. Doesn’t really matter. All that does matter is his bread is unsurpassed, and his story makes people smile.
The station appeared deserted. Wind whistled down the track; litter sucked into the darkness. From somewhere in that void came the sound of an ever approaching train. The smell of damp and decay was everywhere. ‘One’ and ‘Six’ said the arrivals board. It seemed a lot longer than that since he’d been staring, waiting for his train to arrive. He could still hear it. He could always hear it.
Something wasn’t right. He walked along and out of the platform. The escalators churned, empty of life. Where was everybody? He began to panic. Had he been locked in by mistake? He couldn’t actually remember getting here. Running up the moving stairway; along more silent tunnels. Posters advertising ‘Summer Fun in London’ beaming out as he ran. Running, he kept running. One last turn and he was sure he’d be at the exit.
Rounding the corner the deserted platform beckoned once more. At the mouth of the tunnel she stood. Waiting to jump. His train finally racing from the dark to the light.
Harry woke with a start. The woman had died instantly that day. She is free. Harry relives it endlessly. He will never drive his train again. He weeps; his wife holding him tightly.
Apologies at blowing the 150 word guideline. I could take 50 words out but I don’t want to as the story would be lost. I hope I’m forgiven and that you enjoy these 200 words which represent my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright ofhttp://kattermonran.com/.
(For info a “One Under” is what London Underground drivers call a situation where someone jumps in front of a moving train)