The Challenge

I hit the emergency open button above the rear doors and they shoot open, the bus still travelling at full speed and the pavement flicking by below us.

“Oi!” shouts the driver from the front. “Don’t mess with the doors!”

The driver pounds his button to close the doors but it’s too late. Ryan looks at me and laughs as he launches himself through the doors which dose behind him, sealing the portal. The still night air catches him and his body twists before it even hits the ground. The bus slows to a stop and we run laughing down the road as Ryan rolls from one side to the other on the pavement, rubbing at his knee and swearing at passers by.

“Nice one lad,” laughs Matt when we reach him.

“You all good?” I ask.

“No, I’m bloody not!” snaps Ryan, now up and hopping on one leg.

“Alright, ” I say as Ryan straightens out. “Enough bitching. Who’s turn is it next?”

“Yours!” say Ryan and Matt in unison.

It’s a short walk to the station and a ten minute wait before our train pulls round the corner and into view.

“Come on,” I say. “I want to sit at the back.”

I stand from the cold metal bench and head back down the platform, Matt and Ryan not far behind. I take a drag on my spliff, hold the smoke in, and inhale the cold winter air behind it. The hot and cold mixes in my chest and as I exhale my mind clears and my muscles loosen. The train is just a hundred metres or so away now. This is going to blow their minds. As the train reaches the station it has already slowed to about thirty miles an hour. I let the first few sets of doors pass, gauging what I’ll need to do. They are all close, of course, but they have a vertical handle on each side of the door frame and small ledge, maybe two or three inches wide at the bottom. All I have to do is up on the ledge and hold onto the handles. Easy. The train will carry me up the station but, when it stops, I can just step off.

How do you beat jumping off a moving bus? By jumping onto a moving train.

I line myself up and raise my hands, ready to jump. I can already feel Ryan and Matt looking at me, trying to work out what I’m going to do. So I do it. I jump up. My left hand catches the handle a split second before my right and I’m already being dragged through the air when my feet land on their ledge. But I’m secure and I’m safe. That’s all that matters.

As I wait for the train to slow and stop I can hear Matt and Ryan roaring behind me.

“You crazy bastard!” shouts Ryan.

I look back towards them and see them running after the train. It’s only then that I realise the train hasn’t slowed yet. And then the end of the station appears. And the lights retreat into the distance, Ryan and Matt jumping up and down at the platform’s end.

It didn’t stop,’ I think. ‘It didn’t stop, and it isn’t going to.’

I look around, like there’s going to be an external button that will stop the train or open the doors. There’s nothing. Then I look back over my shoulder. Houses whizzing by. Houses and gardens and fences and telephone posts and night. Lights in the darkness and nothing more. I have to get off. I have to jump But the train is regaining its speed. It won’t stop until the next town now, and there’s at least two bridges between here and there. I can’t go through a tunnel. I can’t stay here. But I can’t jump either. My hands won’t let me.

I look through the windows in the doors. The train is soft and safe and bright inside I can see the emergency stop chain above the doors on the other side of the carriage. The passengers seem so close but I know I can’t get to them and no one has noticed me. I need to get them to notice me. I need them to stop the train.

“Help!” I shout. “Help!”

But my screams are masked by the sound of the tracks and lost in the wind I have to get their attention. I have to get them to pull the emergency chain. I want to kick but my feet refuse to budge. So I lean away from the train and pull my head right back. I know this is going to hurt but I don’t have a choice. In one movement I pull myself hard back towards the doors and throw my head forward into the window, bouncing my forehead off the glass. I immediately lean back again and head butt the door once more. Three, four, five times I do it, and I carry on until I see a face. It’s a woman. She walks from her seat slowly at first. But when she sees me and her mouth drops open she hurries to the door and presses her hands up against the glass. I can’t hear her but I can see that she’s shouting for help.

“Stop the train!” I shout.

But she can’t hear me either. Then a man appears, and then another. They look just as panicked as me and the woman, but not one of them thinks to pull the chain. Instead the men push hard against the glass windows, sliding the doors open a fraction before grabbing the rubber seal between them and forcing them open. Leaning back once again I pull myself forward as hard and fast as possible and fling myself onto the train, falling through my trio of helpers and landing in a heap on the floor as the doors shoot closed behind me.


2 thoughts on “The Challenge

  1. Pingback: The Challenge | Adam Mac

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