There is a place. You might have noticed it, or maybe you haven’t, but if you take the train from south London, up towards the North, the station is there.
It’s in between Thameslink and St. Pancras and no one gets off – at least, not unless they are meant to - and it’s here that it happens. This is the entrance to Wonderland, and there is no great hole, nor a large white rabbit, but you’ll get to where you are meant to be going, all the same.
That day, the day when my life changed, had been due to a power-outage, I mean one of the really big ones. Someone on the train said it was to do with a sunspot flaring up – whatever that meant.
One minute we were rolling along and then the train shuddered to a halt, and everything went black. It was an early dark winter’s day when I had got on the train, and the day had just got darker.
Someone shouted that we were all to stay where we were, as help would arrive soon. Some woman shouted that she thought she had heard gunfire and that it was probably a terrorist attack – that was when people started to panic in the darkness.
I have no idea how I managed to prise the door open – it was one of the older stock of train carriages and the door didn’t put up much resistance.
I fell out onto a dusty concrete platform. I expected someone to follow on behind me, but within a few seconds of my alighting, the train had lit up again and was on its way.
The station was dark, but I still had a small light in my phone. All I could see was the big red sign stating ‘Do Not Alight Here’. Seemed a bit late for that now.
What was I supposed to do? Walk down the track to Farringdon or up to St. Pancras? I decided to stay put for the time being, maybe someone saw me leaving the train and called the authorities. Or maybe I was just stuck.
I heard a scurrying, which I assumed was a rat or mouse – although it sounded a little big for those two options. Then a hand grabbed mine – I have to admit, I did jump. The hand, which felt like a child’s, tugged as if beckoning me to go with it.
Then I stupidly asked, ‘Are you a ghost?’. The hand just tugged again as if to say ‘shut up and follow me’ – and this child or ghost or whatever probably was my big white rabbit – so I followed.
I couldn’t see anything at all – the only thing I could do was trip over stones, and bricks and notice the change of smells, from oil, to gas, to a putrid stench, and finally to a sort of perfume (like flowers in Spring).
When I did get to see the light again, it was under an unbelievably blue sky – which in itself, didn’t make sense – unless I had been asleep for most of the night. Sitting on a rock, below this Summer sky were two children and an old man.
“Welcome,” said the old man. “You were expected”.
“You! Now sit”. I sat, and the old man put an arm around my shoulder.
“This is where you come to breathe.”
“Am I dead?” I asked him. He shook his head. “Look on it as a rest stop. You were going to see your dying father in hospital, were you not?”
“How did you know that?” The old man ignored my question and moved on. “It doesn’t matter how long you spend down here, it will be only the blink of an eye up there. So relax, unwind for you are amongst friends”.
“Is this Heaven?” I asked. One of the little boys smiled. Maybe I was still on the train and dreaming, perhaps I had ingested fumes in the station, or I had finally gone mad; maybe visiting my father in hospital everyday might have taken its toll.
And as if he read my thoughts, the old man said, “you are not mad. Go on take a walk. Please”.
The old man walked slightly behind me and continued to talk:
“When a soul is lost or tired, there are two ways the universe looks after its own. One is to dream. By dreaming you fix the connections in your head which lets a soul continue for another day. If that proves inadequate, then you are invited here – for an extended stay. It is for as little, or as long, as you feel you need.
“Is this where the lost people also come – you know, those who disappear?”
The old man shook his head. “That is another station – one that is seen only when it is requested.” He said.
“How will I know when it’s time to go back?” I asked him.
“You’ll know. Continue – please, continue to walk and talk with the others, they would be most grateful to hear from you”.
So that is what I did and not being sure if I had spent an hour, or a day or even a year. It is a strange sensation when time does not exist.
Some of the parents had lost children, or were nursing them. Some of the children had dying family members and they too had been called upon to give support. But while they were down here, this was their time – this was a little vacation away from the pain.
Then my father came into my thoughts, and I saw him in my mind’s eye lying on his sickbed and I knew instinctively that it was time to leave. I was ready to go.
I woke with a shudder, as the train was pulling out of the tunnel and finally into St. Pancras. I was back in my seat. Maybe I had been dreaming, or maybe there is a Wonderland between two stations in London.
I would like to think that there was.
bobby stevenson 2017