Picture the Tube train, and the man on the Tube train, with his ghost-swept emptiness and his picture-swept past. He’s our News For The Day.

There’s the usual rattling and rhythmic click-clack of the Tube, the skittering of rain on the windows when over ground perhaps. The train enters the tunnel, the darkness envelops. On the seat, when the man gets off, is a paper – call it what you will, it’s an artefact for this story; it’s a metonymy for the modern.

For thirty years, the man rides the same train, to the same part of town. He’s worked elsewhere – sure, and in those thirty years, he’s moved offices and companies, but in the same vicinity, so he could ride the same train, and ride it at the same time, and leave for work from the same station. Sometimes he’d get a coffee – more often than not, he wouldn’t, and those more often than not occasions spanned decades.

One day, he was run over, and passed away. The train started at the depot, as usual, and, it being winter, started up slowly with the heaters on. The rain splattered down, reducing in heaviness to a skittering again by the time the train got the station where this man would get on, with his paper in his hand. He wasn’t there.

Everyone else got on, and someone left another paper on one of the chairs. News for yesterday that he’d bought into, lived into, made real. The doors close with a whoosh and a sated robot man stylizing a ‘mind the gap’ yodel. As it headed underground, the train chugged to a halt at the signal with no memory, no consciousness, just a presence, just an artefact. It was a link in a chain. The train was no more quivering with sadness than the paper, or the rain, that the man was no more.

The train runs everyday, same as before. The man makes the paper the next day, news for a day, gone tomorrow. In his seat, near the first door on the third carriage, where he always sat, it being so close to the depot that no one got the chance to take his seat, someone leaves a copy of the paper, creased. There’s manilla in your bond paper dreams, a painted sadness on these our Russian dolls.


Gurdeep Mattu