874. The train


Blair had left school and was heading into town in search of a job. He caught the train. The passenger train wound along the coastline. The view was picturesque; the wild sea below the cliff crashed onto piles of jagged rocks. The sheer power of it all! And then…

The cliff face, along which the train snaked, suddenly slipped away. The entire train rolled down a hundred metres onto the rocks. All 113 passengers were killed. Except for Blair.

By some extraordinary sequence of events he was flung from the carriage onto a wave of moving earth. As if a surfer in the sea, but on moving cliff, he leaped off the wave of cliff face at the bottom without a scratch. He stood and stared. It had all happened so fast.

The police and emergency people began to arrive.

“Get out of the way, son,” said a policeman to Blair. “This is no time to be rubber-necking.”

“But I was on the train,” said Blair.

“Yeah, right,” said the policeman.

In the following days, Blair told his story. No one believed him. The press published photos of the disaster of course, and photos of Blair too – the liar who used the occasion of sorrow to get publicity. He couldn’t go anywhere without being recognised. Nor would anyone hire the liar. There was no work for Blair.

It was surreal. After a while Blair began to doubt his own veracity. Perhaps he had made it up. He knew he hadn’t, but somehow he felt he was living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

36 thoughts on “874. The train

        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          Don’t remind me of Aristophanes!! When I taught at a boys only school – the around 17 year olds took “Classical Studies” and had to study a play by Aristophanes. They decided to stage a drama evening in collaboration with the local girls’ school. The boys would do “The Wasps” and the girls would do “The Frogs”. I left them to it. And on the evening the girls performed a very pretty production, followed by the boys complete with wasp stings in inappropriate places, and added lines about “the girls from St Mary’s”. The nun teacher of the girls took off with her girls in outrage. But I suspect the boys interpretation was closer to an authentic performance. Anyway, I can’t think about it without turning red!!

          1. Cynthia Jobin

            That is truly funny! I’ll bet the nun’s face was purple!

            I once read that Aristophanes’ play “The Birds” — had a line in it insinuating to the judges of plays that their heads would be crapped on by the avian denizens of cloudcuckooland if his play did not win in the Athenian competition. He still didn’t win….

            1. Bruce Goodman Post author

              He seems a bit of a character! I once won a play writing competition, and never expected it. I was in the audience wearing an old tee shirt and some torn jeans. They announced the winner and I had to go on stage. The Governor General was handing out the prizes, and as I shook her hand I said “Sorry I’m not dressed for the occasion”. She laughed and said, “Bullshit. You’re only interested in getting the money!” Anyway, I got a thousand dollars!

                1. Bruce Goodman Post author

                  I lived in Christchurch at the time, and the Awards were being held in Wellington, which regarded itself (and still does) as the cultural capital of the country. The Wellington Newspaper reviewer wrote screeds on the Wellington plays, and he reviewed mine with the simple word “Hockum”. It’s quite my favourite review and the shortest!

                  1. Cynthia Jobin

                    I’ll bet it wasn’t your favorite review at the time. Still, when faced with such jerks, one learns to consider the source and therefore not take it so seriously. It is also difficult, if you are not accustomed to feeing envious of anyone, to understand how deep and pervasive that particular vice lurks all around.

  1. thecontentedcrafter

    Damn! I recognise that stretch of coast and train lines ……….. as a young woman I was always a little afraid as I drove along it, just in case the water came up or the hill came down ……… Eventually I learned to let go that fear and just love it 🙂

    Your premise has been made into a movie – I forget the name – where the survivor became convinced he was invincible [which may be the name of the movie].

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I notice neither of us are that game to spell Paekakariki – where the photo is taken! When I was 15 I went for my first driving lesson, and the instructor got in the car and said “Drive over the Paekakariki Hill” – so I did!

  2. simon682

    Guess out of the two freakish things that happened to him that day it was better to have survived than to be believed. I believe him though.

  3. southamptonoldlady

    Agree very Kafaesque! This sort of thing happens to me (metaphorically) the majority have a way of a making a single person feel that they are at fault. But then you find that train ticket and know that you were right all along.


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