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  • Alan Ward

Clouds from Nowhere

The yellow glow of streetlight glints on the inside curves of the tracks crisscrossing the approach to the train yard. Brown puddles between the sleepers stare open-mouthed at the now-clear sky.

Click-clacking clatters between the stationary railway carriages and Georgie makes his way towards it. It could be scuttling rats, he thinks, or a pigeon trapped in one of the abandoned wagons. It doesn’t sound very much like either, though, and Georgie knows the sounds of the city well.

Later, there will be the hiss of spray cans, and the rattle of the freight and night mail trains. But now, at twilight, there is only Georgie’s breathing, distant traffic and the intermittent tapping. It’s an in-between time for the city. Most commuters are home, complaining about getting caught in the day’s sporadic downpours: “British summertime indeed.”

When the sound starts again the carriages loom over Georgie. I’m not alone, he thinks, and he grips his rucksack tighter. It could almost be a school bag. Georgie is the right age for secondary school, though he looks older. It’s not a school bag though. The bag’s coming apart at the seams from holding everything Georgie owns.

The sound comes from the most dishevelled of the abandoned train carriages. Georgie spent the night inside a while back. He knows the cloth skins of the seats are torn and spilling their sodden guts. There are holes in the floor and a large part missing from the roof.

It does have a roof, though. He remembers it for that.

Georgie brushes his too-long fringe out his eyes, stepping over a long, white feather. The lip of the carriage’s doorway digs hard into his palms as he pushes his weight inside. Once, suited men and women crossed the threshold of the 07:33 from Stevenage to Moorgate without catching their ribs on the step and puffing out a lungful of air on the roll-in.

Georgie gets his breath back before he looks down the carriage to the source of the sound.

He cannot see the angel’s face because its wings face up the carriage. He’s hunched over, tip-tapping on the keyboard of a grey-brown laptop. The screen is blank. The laptop is thick and old and can’t have any battery.

The angel has heard Georgie lose his puff. If Georgie could see words appear on the screen, he’d witness the angel type: He’s here now, before he hits send and stands and shakes his giant wings. The angel folds the laptop closed, turns and looks down at Georgie. He says: “Do you want to come with me?”

When the angel’s wings fill and he swings Georgie through the hole in the roof, the clouds return. The sky darkens with dense rainfall, hiding Georgie and his angel as they fly.

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