Our first assignment is due this week. I have actually done two pieces for it, for a variety of reasons, and I guess I’m pretty happy with the one I will submit. But I quite liked this one, so thought I would share. Grateful for feedback, both on readability, style, content of this piece, and also thoughts of where it could go. This is after all just a passage, not a complete story.
To an ordinary observer, his routine that day wouldn’t have seemed any different to usual. He left the house at about 7.30, rucksack on his back, headphones on, seemingly deep in thought. An ordinary observer would have missed the subtle signs that somehow, today wasn’t usual: the warm, glistening palms, the invisible moustache of sweat on his upper lip, his hair, slightly ruffled from dragging his hand through it, before catching himself and schooling himself to stop. They had warned him not to display any obvious signs of nervousness or unrest. He walked the 10 minutes to the tube station, which was at the outer reaches of the line. Through the barriers, he stood with the others on the London-bound platform, waiting for the train to arrive. In spite of the early start, there were quite a few people there. This was a city that got going early.
The train arrived. This far out, he usually got a seat. He sat down, shifting the rucksack to his lap and cradling it slightly. He checked his watch. 7.43 am. 17 minutes to go.
He looked opposite him at an older lady, probably in her sixties. She was travelling with a small boy of about five, and carrying what must be the child’s schoolbag. A grandmother helping with getting the boy to school maybe, so the mother could go off to work. He knew how much his sister relied on their mother for that. As he looked at them, the child turned to the woman and grabbed her arm, cuddling it and looking up at her. She tousled his hair and put her arm around him, drawing him to her side. His eyes swivelled away, the touching scene reminding him too sharply of how much he missed his own grandmother.
Further down the carriage sat a couple. Asian, probably in their early 30s. Though they weren’t talking, it was the silence of contentment. Their intertwining fingers highlighted the thin gold band on her fourth finger, topped by a small diamond. They looked like professionals, lawyers maybe. He wondered where they had met. University probably, or maybe they had gone down the traditional route of a family agreement. That was still pretty common.
He had to stop looking. He had to stop seeing them as people. He focused on the bag on his lap, on what it contained, on what he was going to do. He tried to summon up all the justifications that had come so easily when they were planning this. But it was harder now. It was real.
And that was when he heard it. What he had been told he had heard before, telling him to do this. But he knew that what he was hearing now was the real thing. He hadn’t known better before, but he did now. The voice of God. And God was telling him not to do this, telling him to look in his heart, to know that he didn’t really want this. And God was right.
He couldn’t do this.
He looked at his watch. 7.47. He had time to stop it. His mind sped ahead of him. What could he do? He looked at the red handle of the emergency alarm. Close enough. He tensed, ready to jump at it, then screamed inwardly at himself to stop: no use pulling it while they were in a tunnel. It was maybe 2 minutes to the next station, that would give plenty of time. The train rumbled along the tunnel, the people placidly rocking with the motion of the train. His breathing sounded astoundingly loud and he couldn’t imagine why no-one said anything about it. But they didn’t seem to notice. They’d notice in a minute.
As the voice announced the next station, he prepared himself to put his plan into action. They burst from the tunnel, the train slowed, the doors started opening. He threw himself at the alarm, knocking into someone as he did. “Careful, mate” he heard, but his focus was pulling, pulling, pulling the handle. There was a faint squeal from somewhere as he did and he felt all eyes turn on him. Good, he had their attention.
“I’ve got a bomb” he shouted “and it’s going to go off in about 10 minutes. Get out of here, get out, save yourselves. Get out!”