Dread

The child’s body dropped like a stone from the platform to the track. One moment a boy stood securely on the platform, the next he was a flash of movement downward, vertically, feet first from the platform. No cry, no sound, just a flash of grey school shorts and white school shirt. Standing on the platform a moment earlier he looked small, perhaps a first grader. I did not know him.Now he was an absence, a silence.

 

I peered downward and could not sight him. I leaned out , far forward, near to my own tipping point. I saw an unsuspected shelf beneath the platform – small enough for a small body, too small for mine. Perhaps the train would miss him, pass him by. Who knew?

 

The moment after he dropped extended horribly forward into Time. I did not know when the train would come. I was the nearest adult. It would have to be me.

 

I awakened with a small cry. I sat up in the dark and shook my head, shaking away the image of a small body in a new uniform, passing from safety into the plain where I must step forward. I and only I. The dread lingered long after the unreality – there is no boy; there is no hazard – settled in my mind.

 

The dread lingered. I think it was not the dread of my dreadful death, but the dread I would delay too long.

 

 

***

 

 

What triggered this unearthly vision before the rapid movement of my eyes? Two days earlier I rode my bike home from work. As I pedalled hard past the boys’ school a small body in a white shirt exited a gate just before my flashing wheels. I jammed on the back brake and the front. The hurtling bike stood on its end and stopped. I did not. I fell at the feet of the boy like a stone. He stood, shocked as he regarded the body of an aged man lying at his feet.