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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Station

This was a fun thing suggested by another writer. What, she asked, happens to all those characters that we put in stories that never got finished? Do they all end up in some "Grand Central Station" somewhere, waiting to be written into a story? I knew who I had to write about straight away ....

I first saw Jeff hunched over the bar in The Station. I couldn't see his face, but the woollen jumper he was wearing looked so 1950's with its multi-coloured zig-zag patterns. Intrigued, I sidled up to the bar and sat on a stool beside him.

The barman, a dwarf who's name I can never remember, hopped up onto his box and stuck his chin on the bar.

"Waya want?" he said.

I ordered and he disappeared below the bar, reduced to a disembodied series of shuffling, clinking, and gurgling sounds. My drink appeared on the bar as if by magic.

I looked sideways at Jeff. He was staring into his drink, motionless, as though he were in a totally different world.

"New here?" I asked.

There was no reply.

"Look, were all here for one bum reason or another", I said. "Best to get it off your chest. Folks here are pretty understanding."

Slowly, his head turned and he looked at me; sizing me up. After a few moments his eyes returned to the glass in front of him; he lifted it and took a large swallow.

He put the empty glass down and pushed it to the back of the bar. It disappeared, and he turned to face me.

"Look", he said, "I come here to drink to remember. I don't need any understanding. Just some memories. Ok?"

A drink had reappeared on the bar and he reached for it, without taking his eyes off of mine.

I don't give up too easily. A lot of the characters who come to The Station can be a bit awkward but its my job to see that they all get on while they are here. We don't need trouble - this is the only place some of these guys can call home.

"If its memories you are after, there's a few doctors - well ex-doctors mostly - who might be able to help."

"No one can help", he said, "my memories don't exist. Never had any."

"Everyone has memories. Some got a few more than they're comfortable with. So how come you got no memories?"

"My writer hasn't given me any", he said.

"Oh, that's nothing to worry about", I said trying to cheer him up. "There's plenty of folk here just waiting on their writer to put pen to paper. Just gotta be patient."

At that point he put his drink down, got off his stool and stood facing me, finger poking me in the chest.

"I was going to be an academic", he said. "A computer scientist - brain the size of a planet. But right now I'm thinking Vogon Captain and chucking you into the great void of space!"

I swallowed. He looked like an academic, but I didn't want to take any chances. Anyway, he was still poking words into my chest.

"My writer ain't coming back for me. E-V-E-R."

Now he was poking letters. There would be bruises I was sure.

"My writer killed me before the story started. I arrived on page one dead. Got it; D-E-A-D."

I nearly toppled off the stool.

"Any memories I should have had are all in the book. Me, I got N-O-T-H-I-N-G."

He stopped and climbed back on his stool.

I waited, feeling my heart pounding, as he lifted his glass, emptying it in another big swallow.

"W-would you like another drink?" I asked.

Almost instantly, another glass appeared over the edge of the bar. His hand reached out.

I flinched.

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