Non-Transferable

Flash Fiction

I’m standing with my back against the closed doors as a train passes by and turbulence rattles them violently in their housings. The ten or so of us standing in the doorway are doing what we can to retain our balance and some personal space as the movement clatters us into each other.

The only empty seats in the carriage have bags or feet on them.

The man in the fitted suit to my right is openly watching pornography on his phone. The woman stood the other side of him is yapping into hers, punctuating the conversation with hand movements that are far too broad for the confined space. In front of them a huddle of school children have their heads together, they’re peering at each other’s phones as they text one another. Against the opposite door a dark haired man is nodding along to his music, his eyes closed against the carriage. The train jerks as it slows for the next station causing his eyes to flick open and realisation to wash over his face. For a few seconds there he was somewhere else. Next to him are two Japanese students who’re shuffling and jostling as they prepare to leave at the next stop. The short girl to my left has a cold and the red, runny nose that goes with it. After sneezing almost continually between the last two stations (7 sneezes), she coughs violently onto my shoulder and then takes a piece of balled-up wet toilet tissue from her pocket. It crumbles in her hands as she searches for a dry patch. Having found one, she spits the contents of her throat into it.

The train comes to an abrupt stop and we all lurch into each other but make sure we avoid eye contact.

There are three informational stickers above the opposite doors. One points me to the toilet, another signposts the nearest fire extinguisher. A third sticker, obviously added by someone other than the train company, reads: ‘THERE IS NO EXIT’.