George Tandle stood, patiently waiting for the 7:38 from Bunker Hill to Hardchester. From the lofty vantage point of the station, he could see nearly the entire village spread out below, painfully quaint in appearance. He was so unusually lost in admiring the view that he didnt realise at first that his train was late. 7:42. This was peculiar. He then noticed with disdain that it had started to rain. What began as a light shower quickly became a downpour, and George was, for once, without his umbrella. Where the devil was this blasted locomotive?
He jostled with the other commuters, all attempting to find shelter beneath the inadequate station house awning. Rain poured from the brim of his bowler hat and ran down his shoulders in great streams. His suit would soon be completely ruined.
He glanced around at the others he stood elbow to elbow with. Two near-identical schoolboys playing tug-of-war with a sodden textbook. A vicar regarding them with suspicion. A gaggle of WI members, brown paper parcels half-concealed beneath their flowery frocks. The rest, like George, all suits and ties heading into the big smoke.
By now, the rain had stopped. Everyone slowly drifted out from beneath the awning, stretching arms and legs as though they’d been stuck in a lift. George inhaled deeply as he strode from the shelter, an acrid tang of smoke hitting the back of his throat. Perhaps old Rathbone was having one of his impromptu bonfires. No doubt he hadn’t bothered to get permission.
Next thing he knew, an enormous fireball streaked across the sky, illuminating Bunker Hill in an eerie blood-red glow. Debris from the flaming projectile rained down over the village, smashing through roofs and setting flowerbeds ablaze. Everybody screamed in unison as the meteor struck the hillside above with a calamitous rending of earth and crackle of flame.
A great cacophony from the tunnel then drew Georges attention, as the 7:38 tore out of the darkness, bathed in orange and yellow. Pistons pumping, the blazing engine screamed through the station, the drivers drunkenly lurching from the cab. As it flew past, a blast of intense heat threw Georges head to one side as though hed been punched. His bowler was blown off and landed in a windowbox behind him. He span back around, eyes streaming, just in time to watch the demonic train careen around the bend, carriages beginning to topple as it disappeared from sight.
A few seconds passed, everyone on the platform rooted to the spot, before chaos descended. A tremendous explosion shook the entire village, causing the windows of the station house to shatter outwards and cover the shocked passengers with chunks of broken glass. One or two people dropped to their knees, hands over their heads and remained unnervingly still. Whether they were injured or merely acting on instinct, George couldnt say. All he knew was that he had to get out of there. He scuttled towards the arched gateway of the station entrance, crouching down to avoid any more flying glass. A brief glance to his right and there was the vicar, lying prostrate, arterial blood jetting from a deep gash on his thigh, whilst one of the WI attempted to stem the flow with a torn scrap of her frock. One of the schoolboys looked on, grey-faced, vomit dribbling onto his blazer.
George reached the entrance and vaulted neatly over a dry-stone wall. It was only then that he was able to comprehend the extent of the destruction to the village. Looking down into the belly of Bunker Hill, he first saw the post office ablaze, thick black smoke billowing from the gaping windows. Mr and Mrs Henderson, faces blackened by ash, huddled together out front, weeping uncontrollably as their livelihood was consumed by flames.
A fire engine flew past, sirens screaming, and collided with the butchers van, catapulting Mr. Graves through his windscreen and onto the tarmac, where he lay motionless. Heavy-set and pale-skinned, he resembled one of his own pork chops. Inside the cab of the fire engine, a voice said, “Just leave him.” With a squeal of tyres, it veered off down the lane.
Elsewhere, terrified villagers ran in all directions, each desperate to return home and see their loved ones. A thick coating of ash had begun to settle on the streets and houses, transforming the once pretty hamlet into a modern Pompeii.
George hurried towards his house, hoping that it was still standing. He reached the bottom of the hill and turned the corner to see a bright blue Morris Minor lying on its side, flames gently licking the passenger door. As George cautiously approached, the window on the near side smashed and a fist emerged, clutching crazily at the air.
George sprinted towards the capsized vehicle, shrugging off his jacket and tearing loose his tie. Scrambling onto its side, he ripped the sleeve from his shirt and wrapped it around his hand before punching the rest of the glass out from the twisted frame. Whoever was inside yelped as the shards rained down upon them, but a second later a bruised arm re-emerged tentatively through the gap and George grasped it. He reached down into the darkness for the other, and then began to pull with all of his strength.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the flames had now crept around to the rear of the car. Turning his head from the searing heat, he planted his feet against the charred wheel arch and used it as leverage to gradually lift the person free from the wreckage. A head emerged, hanging downwards, the hair matted and tangled. It was followed by a floral print dress, torn down one side. As the girls legs appeared, she was able to use the last of her strength to push herself free and sprawled onto the side of the vehicle, gasping loudly with the exertion. The petrol cap was now on fire.
In one surprisingly easy movement, George threw her unresisting body over one shoulder and clambered down the car before hobbling for cover from the blazing wreck.
The ensuing explosion threw him onto his front and sent the girl tumbling out of his grip like a rag doll in a hurricane. He was unable to hear or see anything. His gasps for air only filled his lungs with dust and smoke. With his last ounce of strength, he rolled over onto his back and looked up into the sky.
George could see only a face, a vast, terrible face looking back down at him with silent amusement. The mouth was twisted into a horrific facsimile of a smils, the slimy lips exposing the yellowed teeth, each one the size of a truck. The eyes shone with primitive hatred, and the pupils burned like the fires that had claimed much of the village.
George fixated on the smile as the mouth opened wider, like a portal into Hell itself, and waited patiently for Death to be upon him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Alan stumbled into the basement, the final step evading him, and groped for the light switch. Bunker Hill appeared dimly under the dusty bulb, and he stood blinking for a moment, struggling to recall its layout. He hadn’t visited in a long time. At the turn of a dial, the village sprung to life. Lights flicked on in the shops and houses, the bandstand erupted into song, and the trains began their circuits around the track.
Alan watched, a nearly empty bottle of whiskey tucked under his arm as he pulled a sheaf of papers from a manila envelope.
Today, there will be a 100% chance of rain, he said through gritted teeth, tipping the remainder of the bottle over the diorama. He then pulled a box of matches from his pocket, spilling half of them onto the ground in the process. Finally striking one after several failed attempts, he watched the white flame for a moment, burning far brighter than the bulb hanging over his head. Then, as it began to consume the matchstick, he touched it to the corner of the papers. Instantly, they shrivelled up like a dying spider.
“What the fuck made you think I was ever going to sign these, Roberta?” he hissed. Just before it claimed his hand, Alan launched the flaming fireball across the room. It sunk into one of the Plaster of Paris hillsides with the sheer force of his throw, before the spilt liquor ignited and blackened shrapnel was flung all over the model village. Alan looked on as one of the projectiles struck a train and set it ablaze. It carried on around Bunker Hill, melting the tracks behind it with the heat.
He grabbed the dial again and turned it as far as it would go. The speed of the trains increased, until they were little more than brightly coloured blurs torpedoing around the track.
Were now making up for earlier delays, he muttered, watching impassively as the flaming locomotive ran out of track and plunged over the edge of the display. It scattered its passengers far and wide over the basement floor before smashing into pieces upon impact.
“Sorry about that folks, leaves on the line”, he whispered.
Alan stood, towering over Bunker Hill, seeing the destruction he had wrought upon the previously tranquil village. It was nothing compared to what they had done to him. His eyes rested on a little businessman, lying near a burning Morris Minor. He began to smile, baring his teeth like a chimpanzee.
I bet you anything Im having a worse day than you, he said to the tiny figure.
Suddenly he heard heavy footsteps above his head. He glanced at his watch. The son of a bitch was early. Very early. He grabbed at the dial and everything went silent.
Still, having a better day than him.
He stooped to snatch the empty bottle off the floor. Creeping up the basement stairs, he switched off the light and held the bottle above his head like a club. Then he waited by the door, half in the light and half in the darkness for Paul to appear around the corner.