The 640 Express

Written by: SameerNagarajan

Art awaited the 6:40 pm train, wearily anticipating the hour-long journey ahead. He was in a bad mood: it had been a difficult day, with a missed deadline resulting in a furious client and an angry boss. He had somehow managed it while his colleague, Paul, had sniggered that Art’s chances of a promotion were adversely affected. Art had a sneaking suspicion he was correct and had a burning desire that Paul should die, painfully. He boarded the silver first class coach as it stopped and was somewhat soothed by the familiar red and white upholstery with the black folding table. He stretched out as he reclined. There was only one other passenger in the coach, a man. As the train started moving, their eyes met briefly as the other moved to the opposite seat and smiled amiably. 'I hope he doesn't talk to me, Art thought and pointedly buried his nose in the newspaper. He didn’t want a conversation but the man held out a hand and introduced himself as Clarke. 

Clarke volunteered a lot of information about his life and work as a shop manager in a retail chain with outlets across the City. Not a very exciting job, but it paid the bills. 

The small talk shifted to more desultory topics and Art’s eyes wandered, taking in Clarke’s dress sense. A black shirt with black trousers? And a silver chain around his neck? The overdose of black, overlaid with the stark contrast of silver, made Art vaguely apprehensive. As the landscape outside the window turned indistinct, he refocused and wasn’t sure who first brought up the topic of workplace politics. As they spoke he realised Clarke was describing someone from his workplace that  sounded like Paul.

“So what's Paul's surname?” asked Clarke.

Art was startled - he had thought of Paul, but was sure he hadn't spoken his name out loud. Am I hallucinating, he wondered, staring at Clarke in confusion. Yet he mechanically said “Watson. Paul Watson”.

Age? 34 years.

Address? (he gave Paul’s address).

“And you'd like to see him lose to you, right? Any which way?” asked Clarke, and Art quietly – albeit reluctantly - agreed. What the hell, he thought, at least talking about it might reduce the bitterness I feel right now. Then he thought, I'm crazy. I'm discussing the office with a complete stranger. This might be Paul's brother for all I know. Not knowing why, he looked at his watch.

7:34 pm.

Close to home. He picked up his briefcase, folded the newspaper and shuffled to indicate he was getting up.

“Don't worry,” said Clarke, his eyes narrowing (reminding Art of a large, unpleasant lizard- the kind you see in the zoo with a prominent board telling you not to feed it or come too close). “Paul will get sorted out soon.”

Art laughed, politely. He still didn't feel good discussing the office with a complete stranger. He got off at his stop and waved goodbye.

Writing order: Leif Rennes (USA), Ray Stone (Cyprus), Linda Alley (Aus), Hemali Ajmera (India), Anna Zhigareva (Scotland), Rosemary Wakelin (Aus), Mat Clarke (Aus), Donna McTavish (NZ), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Sameer Nagarajan (Sri Linka)


This serial takes on an eerie feeling as a seemingly harmless encounter takes place. You have captured that weird feeling people get when they think something isn't quite right but they can't quite put their finger on what it is. The following is a great way of describing someone without actually saying, he wore grey socks, black shiny shoes and so on. 'Art’s eyes wandered, taking in Clarke’s dress sense.' What follows leads the reader into reacting with the same sense of unease that Art does. We are also able to visualize the carriage. Description of these details enable the reader to become part of the story. Great work!
There is something very chilling about Clarke, Art feels it and i certainly feel it. This a great starter, Sameer and so wonderfully described. Congratulations. :)
Sameer, a very interesting starter. We all encounter someone like Clarke once in a while who is intriguing and yet very disturbing. How does Clarke know so much about Paul and was his encounter with Art just a coincidence or a planned one? These are questions that chapter authors will get to address and I am sure it will be really interesting to see what twists and turns will be added. Good job and keep it up!!
A really good starter and one that gives all the writers something to build on. I would watch the paragraphing closely though - starting 'Age? 34 years. to 7.34 pm.' It is a little confused with two characters talking, albeit one of them expressing feelings by thought. Needs separating out. I loved the stranger's passing comment about sorting Paul out. It leaves us wondering and expecting ...what? Loved it Sameer.