William took the same train every day. Before his face had fully woken up, so that his jaw hung slack; before his stomach had steadied enough to eat, he would catch the train. He would gaze bleary eyed, as each day Bromley South, Bickley and St Mary Cray stations whizzed past on his way to Blackfriars. There, he would shuffle out with every other groggy commuter, bad moods huffing about them, mingling with the pollution.
Then one day the train didn’t stop at Bickley. William barely noticed, he had only a vague sensation that he got to Blackfriars too quickly. The next day his eyes were staring thoughtlessly out of the window as Bickley was flung past again, too fast, as if it wasn’t there.
It was three days before he remembered to look properly out of the window. What he saw was a dead town. The train didn’t even slow down, so it was struggle to see, but he saw: windows charred, cars flipped over on their backs like dead beetles. He tried to catch the eye of his fellow passengers, but they were each lost to technology, the real world was of no interest.
Over the days William put the flashed blurred images together in his mind to create a whole of what Bickley had become. There were no people, no movement, no birds. Once a pigeon was flying alongside the train. As they reached Bickley station, it dropped to the ground like a stone.
He tried googling the station, but was asked, ‘Do you mean Buckley’ as if Bickley didn’t exist at all. Without the Internet to help him, he wasn’t sure where to go. He didn’t know anyone in Bickley. He tried asking guards at Blackfriars, but they looked at him blankly,
William wondered if he should go there, get off at Bromley South and walk. Then he remembered the bird. So he stopped wondering. When Bickley station drew close, he would fold his attention to his phone and keep it there.
As months passed, Bickley was slowly erased. The Bickley signs came down. The platforms disappeared. Then the houses. Soon where was once was Bickley, now was a fence and Japanese Knotweed growing. Reclaiming.