The heavy doors beat out their irregular, echoing tattoo in her memory as the train came to a stop. Confused layers of recollection and reality shimmered in the curved space; the sulphurous stink of steam, the acrid stench of diesel and dust, the clattering flap of pigeons, incomprehensible tannoy announcements and the sound of hundreds of voices, hundreds of feet.
Hanging back from the crowds, she strolled along the wide platform, trailing slow, twisting whorls of misty chaos. The grey and grimy past spread out, dissolving into the hard light of the present. She pushed through the automatic ticket barrier and looked for somewhere to sit. She told herself she needed a moment to let the memories settle and the layers of time to synchronise. She told herself everything would be all right. It was a mistake she always made.
As soon as she sat, she accepted the journey had been a mistake. Ghosts crowded the concourse. She watched them filling the space, surging back and forth, pushing through one another, fraying the edges of reality.
Accretions of time piled up like dust in the station; the detritus of centuries accummulated from all the moments lost, the anxiety, the attempt to hurry, swirled across the concourse and deposited in corners. They were all the same. From the monorail station at Srinagar that she had never since been able to find to the remote halts in the middle of all those nowheres; small, large, decaying, brand new, open air, enclosed, empty, full, they were polyps strung out on a network of steel connectivity, islands of frutration and dreams, places of greeting and parting, steeped in emotion.
Dangerous places where she had no control.
She pushed herself up from the bench and crossed to the departure board, looking up at the old mahogany structure that had once stood there. An old, cold wind tugged at the long skirts of her coat. Long past light filtered through dust. Silence fell. It would be years before there was another train.
Vague echoes drifted beneath the high glass canopy.
With a shiver, she turned from the board and walked out through the abandoned ticket hall. The station forecourt had that ‘70s Sunday morning feel. The whole length of Queen’s Road stretched before her, empty of ghosts, people, movement. In the chill, hazy distance was the sea.
“Bugger.” She pushed a finger under her glasses and wiped away a tear. The ‘70s really was the last place she wanted to be right now.