Staying on Track – MidWeek Flash

Once again, it’s been quite a while since anything was posted here.  Writing Flash Fiction is something that I’ve been missing, and not doing it as much has certainly been a sore spot.  There are distractions and challenges aplenty, but like the character in this piece, it’s hard to know when it is best to stay the course and see things through, or find another path.

Over the last few months, another weekly Flash site has started up.  17 weeks now, I believe, and counting for the Mid-Week Flash Challenge.  Each week there is a picture, and several people find enough inspiration for a very short story.  I was able to play this time, and hope to be able to continue to do so.


As the two men reached the bottom of the steps, dingy bulbs shone through glass above their heads.  A designer must once have thought the effect would be like sunlight streaming in, but the overall effect cast a sad ochre tinge on the industrial space.  The spotless gleam of the steel tracks was the only indication that this hidden spot had ever been used.

“I don’t get it.  What is it you had to show me?”  Mark scowled.  His mind filled with tasks and lists, there was no room in the schedule for any frivolity or make believe his new acquaintance was offering.  “The future, was it?”

The older man with him smiled for a moment.  “That I did, and here we are.”  His dirty clothes showed of disrepair, not the marvels of the next age.  Wire rimmed glasses sat across the bridge of his nose, held in place by habit more than the uneven hooks reaching behind his ears.  “What do you think?”

Mark looked left, down the empty platform to where it bent out of sight, just as another staircase rose up to the street level.  “Well, it’s very symmetrical, have to give the engineers credit for that.”  He checked his watch, certain that if this took much longer, there was something on his list that wasn’t going to get done today.  “I suppose the train brings the future to us?”

The older man smiles knowingly.  “It might, but in the meantime, let’s just walk down this way.  There’s more important things than that schedule of yours, you know.”  He set off toward the right, slow shuffling steps the only sound in the chamber.

Mark stepped defensively alongside.  “Look, it’s not much fun, I know.  If I can just stay the course and get ahead, then in just a few years, I’ll have everything set up and take care of the important stuff.  Take back my health, finally get some peace, maybe even take up a hobby or two that I’ve set aside.  I’ll be able to make it up to the family, then, too.  Which brings up the point, when does this future get here?”

The older man didn’t answer for some time as they walked.  They passed one stairway leading out of the station, and then another.  Eventually, as Mark’s impatience was growing toward anger, the older man looked into Mark’s eyes with a sudden vigor.  “What about the setbacks?  What happens when a few years becomes a few more and then a few more still?  You’re still waiting for that train to come along and bring the future you want right to you!”

Mark stopped and stared back.  Hands clenched, he just shook his head.  Frustration made him ache all over at giving up his only break, some small bit of peace and quiet before facing the rest of the day’s challenges.  Now there wouldn’t even be enough time to get everything done that he had to today!  “There is nothing to see here, just an abandoned platform and an abandoned old man!”

Mark stormed up the nearest stairway, determined to get back to his routine and make up for lost time.  Taking the concrete steps two at a time, he didn’t bother to care about where on the streets above he came out, just that he got away from this unproductive place.

“Welcome to the future, Dad.  I hope you take a good look, and that it’s just not too late to change tracks.” the old man whispered with a tear in his eye, as he shuffled further around the bend toward the staircase leading to his own time.

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