Friday Fantasy — Flash Fiction
I finish work early.
Glad to get out of the place.
Busy Baker Street, London. Not the famous 221B, but 107.
I’m still wearing my uniform as I rush to Paddington Station.
As I’m not in man-hunting mode, I unclip my name badge. I should have changed it. Not the badge; my name. Agnetha Popplestone. They had to shrink the font to emboss it onto the brass rectangle. Right next to the golden arches. Bureaucratically changes my name to MAgnetha. I feel like a foreign-spelt magnet.
I walk into the station, slam my Oyster against the terminal (and discretely look to the ground for errant pearls) and then rush to the escalator. I’m immediately reminded of my workplace when I notice a small girl a few steps below, plucking nuggets from a Happy Meal box. I’m confused. Most kids I see, chuck the food and keep the toy. I’m even more confused when I realise that this girl – who I estimate to be about 7-years-old – is unaccompanied. No sign of her mother or responsible adult.
I click down the descending steps, pull out my embarrassing name badge, and crouch next to the girl: ‘Hi. I love Happy Meals too. I make them.’
No reply, but I do get a crease of a smile.
‘What’s your name?’
She looks at me, perhaps wondering why a stranger with a weird name is talking to her.
Before I utter my next sentence, she bounds down the escalator and onto the busy platform. Now, I am even more concerned, because a busy city railway station is not a safe place for a young girl to wander about on her own. I rush after her, jostling past patrons like a tornado through Thailand. We’re nearing the end of the platform when she leaps like an Olympic long jumper from the end of the platform and disappears into the darkness.
I am afraid for her. Did I frighten the poor girl? Is someone else after her? My heart recovers when I see white shoes flash in the distance. Does she even know where she’s going? All I can reason is that she went through the tunnel and arrived in a place she’d never seen before. But has she?
Curiosity wins me over. I risk my own safety and step from the end of the platform. I drop to uneven, greasy ballast and concrete sleepers. I know nothing about electrified rails so I avoid all three. I hug the musty concrete tube as I inch my way toward where I hope Alice will be sitting down sobbing. I slide and slither along the wall, much farther than my heartrate will allow. A breeze slams into my face. Please. No. Not a train. Not now. I shield my eyes, scan the tunnel ahead. I don’t see her.
I turn to go back and spot a trapdoor cut into the wall. Presume it’s a maintenance exit.
Nevertheless, I read its dusty sign: Wonderland.