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The prompt for the October challenge was trouble. It was another tricky one. I decided to go ‘steampunk’ and introduce one of my regular characters to the Writers Online event.

I’m pleased to say that I was chosen as the winner, with the prose judge commenting:
Brought back memories of the steam age. Clever use of alliteration to capture the train sounds. Good story with a hint of mystery and the last line comes as a shock. (and who, exactly, was Smythe?)

Of course, regular visitors will know Smythe, and his associate, Fortesque, from their adventures posted here for the Inspiration Monday challenge. But with no more ado, TheTunnel …

***The Tunnel

The train lurched as the brake blocks bound and squealed on the iron wheels. Chains and buffers clanked as the carriages cannoned into each other. The lights went out, then there was quiet. 

Farther along the tunnel Smythe could hear the steaming of the idling engine; waiting to be released.

He poked his head through the open window and peered through the darkness towards the front. There were three carriages between him and the engine, and he could make out the orange glow from the open firebox door. Behind, the only evidence of a way out was the distant, grey daylight reflecting on the damp, brick walls.

As the passengers got used to the dark and the stillness, they started a murmur of questioning conversations. Smythe turned the brass handle, pushed open the carriage door, and dropped on to the ballast.

His shoulder was level with the footplate, so he climbed the ladder and pulled himself into the heat of the driver’s cab. The fireman’s shovel leant against the coal piled in the tender, and an oily rag draped over the regulator. 

The engine hissed; impatient. In the distance another engine whistled as it entered the tunnel.


(c) 2015, K Patrick Moody

*The OWC is a monthly challenge for a piece of flash fiction, 200 words or less, prompted by one word.