The Fear – a short story for Valentine’s Day

Every morning, at 7.29 exactly John addresses his greatest fear. As the train eases to a halt and prior to the doors sliding open John smells the acidic tang of his own sweat, feels the cold finger that runs down his spine and focuses his energies on his enfeebled knees, willing them to remain strong.

Every morning at 7.30 the doors open and a wall of faces confronts John – blank, depersonalised faces, expressing both nothing and despair in their blank-eyed stares. Small movements, a twitch here, a shuffle there and a modicum of space appears.

Every morning at 7.31 John presses himself against a phalanx of coats and bags and scarves and flesh. Panic, freshly risen, repeated every day clutches his throat and snares his nostrils. His chest hardens and breathing becomes John’s new sole focus. The sweat beads his forehead and someone – it could be anyone – groans.

Every morning at 7.31 an anonymous groan transports John 167 miles and nearly 30 years back to another day, another unforgiving minute that will always stay with him. A minute when John sits, like an angel looking down on the world, atop a set of shoulders – much like his own shoulders today, strong, steadfast, secure – and watches as faces, expressing both nothing and despair – begin to turn blue. He watches as the crowd sways like a single creature – massive, monstrous and murderous – and begins to crush each cell, squeezes the breath from each component part.

Every morning, when time has ceased to have any meaning, John says goodbye once more to the man on whose shoulders he sits, as he takes his last sliver of a breath. And even in that last moment when his eyes lose their focus and he lets go of life he holds John aloft – safe and secure from the beast below and within.

Every morning, at 7.52 when once again the clocks start on their inexorably journey towards tomorrow, John stands on the platform at is journey’s end and wipes his brow. He dabs away his tears and straightens his tie. He adjusts his jacket and checks his shoes for scuffs. And he smiles. Not for surviving the crush. It is not the crush he fears. He fears the day when he no longer embraces the crush, when he cannot find it within himself to grasp that moment when he is at one, albeit just briefly, with his saviour, his love, his father.

This short story came from Esther Newton’s Monday Motivations. Have a go; you know you want to.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to The Fear – a short story for Valentine’s Day

  1. M. L. Kappa says:

    Powerful stuff – well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who has the same response to Valentine’s Day as Scrooge does to Christmas I thought this was wonderful. It’s such an oddly moving and powerful story Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. blondeusk says:

    Powerful and amazing! Wow you can write!


  4. Charli Mills says:

    I like the style you use in this story, yet it is distinctly your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Charli. Two inspirations – one a commuting moment years ago when a woman was sent flying out of a packed commuter train and the other a story about the Hillsborough disaster here which may not have made it across the pond but has been a thirty year tragedy and cover up.


  5. jan says:

    Well done! I agree with Charli – distinctly your style.


  6. Sacha Black says:

    Really moving geoffle 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Miriam says:

    Powerful and moving, I felt every word. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. BunKaryudo says:

    By chance, I’ve happened a number of times to have been in different countries at the time of fatal crushing incidents — Hillsborough in the UK and Akashi Bridge in Japan are two that spring to mind immediately. When my children were small I always worried about them getting caught up in a crowd. Of course, these days, it’s more likely to be them carrying me on their shoulders.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. esthernewton says:

    Wow! Another atmospheric story, Geoff. Really moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Monday Motivations | esthernewtonblog

  11. willowdot21 says:

    We did like this Geoff but I was not sure what happened to John. I found it compelling xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mick Canning says:

    I see everyone has had the same thought as I have; very powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Echoing other comments, this is a wonderful, powerful story. I love it. The style here adds to its power. Fantastic.


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