Three Bridges Station shone like a jewel to the south. Amber and white sodium glare pushed back the darkness. Gatwick Airport Station shone to the north.
Hitesh stood between the stations in the glare of two generator fed mobile construction lights. His and the team’s shadows crossed one another as they reached out over the rails.
Marcus, Troy and Hitesh worked on disconnecting a stretch of track, unclasping the steel rails before lifting the beam up and away before laying the new pieces.
They had been at it since ten o’clock despite the winter gale rushing uninterrupted down the tracks and creeping under their collars. Hitesh wore thermals and was still shivering, his fingers numb even inside thick rigger gloves.
‘There she is,’ Troy gasped, pulling the last clasp open. Hitesh and Marcus shuffled over, slung the straps of their harnesses under the metal and got ready to lift.
Troy was staring over Hitesh’s shoulder. Hitesh turned.
‘What the hell?’
Gatwick Airport had gone dark. Where the station and buildings were glimmering moments before, shapes swallowed the light. Hitesh looked in the direction of the runway. The lights were still on, twinkling and ready. But the rest of the airport rested in darkness. Hitesh looked south.
‘Three Bridges is out.’
A rumble shook the air. A clatter and screech of metal. Sounds that the trio knew all too well.
‘There aren’t any trains scheduled,’ Marcus said in his thick Polish accent. ‘Last one went past hour ago. Nothing else until half three.’ He raised his hand and shook it from side to side like a boat swaying on the ocean.
The rumble came through Hitesh’s feet and in a matter of seconds it was in his chest. And then he saw the train. A dark snake protruding from the station. A shadow slipping from shadow like a finger reaching outward.
‘She’s got no running lights,’ Marcus shouted. ‘Can’t even see driver.’ Hitesh strained to see something in the dark but Marus was right. The train was running dark. Hitesh turned and ushered Marcus and Troy out of the contstruction light glare toward the side of the tracks. The chug of the generator was swallowed by the approaching thunder.
They could only just make out the train by the residual glow of the construction lights. Matte black metal. Unmarked. The sides bulged out over the wheels. The thing could have easily been a double decker. It was a behemoth. The air thudded as it went past.
‘You ever seen anything like it?’ Troy bellowed. Hitesh and Marcus, both long-standing employees, shook their heads.
Hitesh counted eight carriages. They watched it as it powered on in the direction of Three Bridges. No tail lights. Just a shrinking shape.
The thunder left Hitesh’s chest. Behind them, Gatwick Airport blinked back to life.