This is a modest deviation from games writing, that’s still going on, just nothing I can/will post on the blog at the moment. Keep your eyes peeled though, there’s some exciting things in the works at the moment!
For now take a few moments out and cast your eyes over a passive-aggressive short story about a commuter at odds with the British trains.
Martin’s day sucked. In fairness Martin’s days usually sucked, he hated work. This day – a Friday – in theory should have sucked far less; the prospect of finishing early, returning home and watching bad US comedy in his underwear was something he looked forward to. The obstacle between his leaving off work and his sofa was a formidable one – the British Rail Network. For the casual onlooker, or anyone who’s not actually had the pleasure in catching a train, the rail network has had a hard time in the press. Could it be that perhaps people have been judging the whole thing a little harshly? Short answer, no. Long answer? No, it’s shit.
Martin spent too long reflecting on the sub-standard (ergo, shit) nature of the rail network, and spent particular time dwelling on his reliance on it to get him to work. There were two things Martin had a particular dislike for, trains and work, in that order. However, he needed to work and he needed the train to get to work. A great many philosophers have debated the torturous nature of the human condition, the vexatious elements of life and existence, the burdens of a higher consciousness and the near-constant soul searching it brought. Martin just hated the trains.
It was the thought of bad sitcoms and near-naked state of dress, which propelled him onto the train that evening. It was this promised activity that gave him strength to ignore the overly judgmental – and slightly deaf – old lady, who insisted on providing commentary about the ills of those sharing the over-crowded carriage to her embarrassed daughter. Exclamations like “didn’t she look in the mirror before she left the house?”, “his hands are very hairy – why do you think that is?” and “I don’t like him, he looks like a pervert!” fell on death ears, at least with Martin – the “pervert” did take mild offense.
When the train rolled into the station it was almost exactly five minutes early, this was announced in a overly joyous fashion by the conductor through the tinny speakers. He sounded like someone in the midst of mildly joyous delirium, it wouldn’t have surprised Martin if the conductor added “… and believe me we’re just as surprised as you are!” to the end of the message. There was an almost palpable sense of good-will on the train as the commuters departed; friendly glances, courteous nods and even words were exchanged, almost no-one tutted impatiently at that one person who was struggling with a roller case on the stairs.
There was a modest bottleneck at the ticket gates, two were out of order leaving two good gates and the one for those with large items, such as cases, dogs and elderly relatives. Martin marched forward with his ticked and inserted it into the slot. There was a loud accusatory bleeping sound as the ticket was spat out in disgust. Martin tried again, but the regurgitated ticket meant that the gate simply wasn’t playing ball. A quick glance over his shoulder at the growing mass of commuters told him that if he tried his ticket a third time, the good-will from the train would be short lived.
Martin turned and pushed his way back through the crowd, trying to get to the large gate, manned by one of the station staff. He gave one young gentleman an objectionable glare as he seemed to think it possible to pass through Martin rather than letting him get out of the way before moving. After a brief struggle, bordering on melee, Martin flashed his ticket at the attendant and proceeded to pass on through to the other side and freedom.
“Excuse me sir, can I see your ticket please?”
Martin wordlessly lifted his ticket at the attendant who took it off him. After a moments scrutiny the attendant shook his head.
“I’m sorry, this is your outbound ticket.”
There’s no need to be sorry, just let me through, Martin so nearly said, instead all he managed was a surprised sounding grunt. Without prompt he dove into his bag and began flicking through an embarrassingly large amount tickets, which one might classify as a “collection”. There wasn’t a conscious amassing of used train tickets, it was more that he could never bring himself to throw them away, somehow the “collection” had become almost reassuring in size and that pleased him.
“Ah!” Martin exclaimed, pulling forth a ticket with the day’s date on it. He passed it to the attendant, who was now barley concealing his boredom.
“That’s your card receipt.”
“Oh-” Martin rummaged some more, “Can’t I use that.”
“Why not? I’ve got the outbound journey ticket and a receipt saying I’ve paid for the return, isn’t that enough?”
“You could have given the other ticket to someone else, if you don’t have a valid ticket you’ll have to pay a penalty charge.”
“A penalty…” Martin uttered to himself, “But I’ve paid for the sodding ticket, look!”
“So you claim-”
“So I claim?!” Martin screeched, “You can see I’ve paid for it!”
“But that’s not proof of anything, it’s just a receipt, you could have-.”
“Could have done what? Doctored an old ticket? Edited in on the computer or something? Perhaps I have a ticket printing press at home!” Martin paused for breath and ran his hands through his hair. “Do you think I’m fucking Moriarty or something?”
The attendant, looking predominantly unphased, sighed to himself.
“If I had the means and the inclination to spend my weeknights creating fraudulent tickets or running some sort of laundering service why do you think I’d bother with British Rail? I know ticket prices are expensive but I’d still be better off printing money! Oh look, there’s my accomplice now! Stop him, he’ll have the other half of my ticket!”
“Sir, please keep your voice down.”
Martin turns and sees an increasing amount of people waiting impatiently behind him.
“Any other evil geniuses waiting back there? Planning to seduce your way past or perhaps you’re running an even elaborate way of scamming the gates than I am?!
A couple with two large suitcases stepped forward flashed their tickets at the attendant, he opened the gate, letting them through.
“You didn’t even look at their tickets! Your eyes didn’t move!”
From behind the barriers another member of station staff approached, his arms crossed – a slightly amused expression across his face.
“Excuse me sir, do you have any idea how much money British Rail loses each year from people like yourself?”
“People like myself? You mean evil geniuses? Organised crime rings bringing public transport to it’s knees in a devious ticket laundering scheme? Does this put me in the same league as Pol Pot? Or perhaps Mussolini? Am I the Stalin of the ticket dodgers? Not one step backwards, we must pass through the ticket gates!
“Now sir-!” The second member of staff started, but it was too late, Martin was off on one.
“Drive back the Nazi’s from Stalingrad, we will regain the motherland in the name of dodging ticket fares!”
Martin turns to the crowd and begins to sing the soviet union national anthem at full blast.
“Soyuz nerushimyy, respublik svobodnykh!”
He then turns to the amassed crowd on the other side of the barrier, a beaming gin across his face – he’d began to start enjoying this. By the second verse the attendant had opened the gate and ushered Martin through. He picked up his bag, realised he didn’t know the second verse and started singing from the beginning again. His high spirits took a bit of a dive when he reached the lobby. Two British Transport Police stood between him and the exit, their arms crossed, although they weren’t smiling.
Martin returned home a little later than usual, somehow still with a clean criminal record. At one point they were going to arrest him for a number of different offenses unless he paid the maximum penalty fine and never entered a British Rail station ever again.
“Er, hi James…” Martin began Sheepishly, he knew his boss didn’t like receiving phone calls at 11pm on a Friday night, “I might not be able to come to work on Monday… no, it’s not my health, I’m fine… well, it’s the trains…”
So what ever way you looked at it, at least Martin wouldn’t have to put up with British Rail any more.
Chris Green is a narrative designer/games writer who loves to talk story. Having recently finished working with Bossa Studios on Monstermind, the first PvP Facebook RTS and worked as narrative designer on some indie projects, he’s always looking for that next, great project. Get in contact if you’re the one with that project!