Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thomas the Tank Engine: Death of a Fat Controller

Thomas the Tank Engine: Death of a Fat Controller

As usual, these things start as a single throwaway comment, and before you know it, you're re-writing a much-loved children's classic as a paranoid horror story. Sorry.

It was on the first day that he realised he was the only person on the island.

The automatons that brought him here had housed him, given him clothes and fed him.

All he had to do was run their railway.

And what a railway. A network that run on time to the very second. Express trains, branch lines, freight services, yet not a single human on the platforms.

No commuters. No travellers. No days out to the sea. Not even a driver stoking the boilers, or a guard to blow a whistle.

Just him and his ridiculously oversized uniform and the strange, tall hat the machines had forced him to wear.

And how they fed him. The blue machine - who appeared to be their leader - with the horrible facsimile of a human face, brought him meal after meal after meal, and did not leave until he had forced every last scrap in his mouth.

Apart from the blue automaton, all he had for company was the maddening groans and the screams and the ranting and the despair of the goods trucks in the sidings which invaded his dreams every night.

One afternoon, with the blue machine (whose name he had been told, but he had refused to listen) battering the trucks into cruel submission with an unearthly grin on its dead, dead face, he tried to escape. Running pell mell through pristine, deserted streets, he was unused to his rapidly filling bulk, and the automatons' flying machine herded him tripping, falling, sobbing back to his station house. Where he stayed, eating their meals, running their network like one of the human-faced machines that brought him to this accursed island.

Then, came the day that he put on the ridiculous oversized suit and top hat and found that they fit. He walked out into the yard and saw the automatons waiting for him, side-by-side. The blue one. The green one. The red one. The big express.

"Good morning, Fat Controller."

They fell, roaring, on him. The big express had him by one leg, the green one by the arm. He tried to scream and scream and scream but the small blue one took him by the head and there was nothing but darkness.

Light again. But still he screamed. He cursed and bellowed and swore without end, but had no fists to shake at the sky, no legs to thrash at his foes. Just wheels, and endless rows of truck upon screaming, roaring truck. And he knew, then, where everyone else on the island had gone.

And, before long, a small advertisement appeared in the specialist press on the mainland.

Situation Vacant: Railway company requires an experienced Network Controller. Good pay. Accomodation, uniform, meals provided. Apply: Mr Thomas, No.1 Engine House, Tidmouth, Island of Sodor.

A new arrival. He was the only person on the island.

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