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Rational Madness

FIRE AND BRIMSTONE

The Near Miss

A supernatural tale by Sylvia Levy

It had been a really fun evening, Vicky’s first Christmas at work, her first Office Party.

She had followed all the warnings given by her mother and her aunts regarding not drinking too much and also all the warnings given by her fellow workers regarding Mr Jennings in the Accounts Office who was well known for taking every opportunity to gain the favours of the new girls at the party. She had in fact only had three Bacardi Breezers, which usually had little effect on her but when she was offered a lift home by Mr Jennings, she felt it would be much safer for her to catch the tube home to Barkingside rather than take her chances being alone with him in his car.

It was about midnight when she got on the tube at Oxford Circus and the carriage was comfortably full, fuller than usual due to the festive season and so she did not feel as worried as she would have been had she been alone in the carriage with one or two youths which had happened in the past.

However, at each stop passengers got out and by the time she got to Stratford she was totally alone in the carriage. This perhaps gave her a feeling of overconfidence because she felt herself dozing off, due to the lateness of the hour, the alcohol and the boredom of just looking out of the window at the blackness of the tunnel.

She was in that state of half-asleep and half-awake when the train stopped with a jolt. She suddenly opened her eyes and saw through the window what looked like Park Gates dimly lit by lanterns. They were open and were leading to a long driveway, at the end of which was a large house with strangely glowing chandeliers showing through the windows.

She assumed the train had stopped between stations and was just settling back into the comfortable sleep from which she had been so suddenly awoken, when she heard a voice next to her saying “Come on Victoria, we must go now or we will be late”. She turned round to see a young man in his twenties sitting beside her and her first thought was one of familiarity – surely she had seen him before. She then remembered that she had been alone in the carriage, but thought that perhaps he had been down the far end and she had not noticed him, although she surely would have done so because he was dressed rather strangely in clothes she had seen recently when she went to see Gosford Park at the Cinema a few weeks before.

His voice was taking on a rather urgent tone now “hurry or we’ll miss all the fun”. As if in a dream she got up and followed him, out of the carriage door, through the gates, up the path and into a large brightly lit hall. “Gas lights” she thought, that is what looked different from the train.

They entered a large, sumptuously furnished room full of people laughing and singing around an enormous Christmas Tree and it was then that she glanced into the mirror on the far wall and saw that she was no longer dressed in the Afghan jacket she had worn for work that day, but in a lovely red velvet Victorian style evening gown!

She suddenly realised she didn't even know the young man’s name and as if he read her mind, when she turned to ask him he said “don't you remember, my name is Charles and I will love and take care of you for eternity?”.

After that it was like a wonderful dream, dancing with Charles, laughing with Charles, singing with Charles, eating with Charles – “please let this evening never end” she said to herself.

Cold, shivering, tired – who were all these people standing round staring at her. “Wake up Miss” said the Policeman.

She slowly came to and realised it was morning and she was on a platform and looked up “Leytonstone” the sign read. “You will catch pneumonia if we don't get you home soon, come on Miss I’ll give you a lift home. Where do you live?”. “Barkingside, I was on the train there last night. A loud gasp went around the small group of onlookers. “Well you had a near miss then. The 12 pm train was derailed at Newbury Park. Fortunately no-one was on the train but it was completely wrecked and the passengers wouldn’t have stood a chance”

Vicky was still stunned when she arrived home to be greeted by her mother who had been out of her mind with worry all night. “Sit down by the fire and I will make you a nice hot drink and some breakfast Victoria” she said.

It was then that Vicky remembered she had been named after her great-grandmother but her mother had only called her by that name once or twice when she had been naughty when she was very small.

“Mum” she said “what was the name of my great grandfather?”

“What a funny question to ask at this time Vicky, why it was Charles. There is a photo of both of them in the family album, would you like to see it?”.

Without waiting for an answer, she eagerly got out the photo album and found the photo.

Now Vicky knew why the young man on the train was so familiar, he was staring back at her from the page in the album, and although the photo was very old and not in colour it was easy to see the young girl next to him was dressed in the same ball gown s
he had been

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