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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Travel · #2318444
Tanner inherits a train ticket.
The Last Train Ticket

When Great Uncle Gregory Topolski died, Tanner was invited to the reading of the will. Tanner was a bit surprised at this as he hardly knew the man, having met him only once, dragged along by his father to attend some sort of grand celebration held at the Topolski mansion. He had a vague recollection of the old man shaking his hand but that was all.

And now it seemed that he would be getting a bequest of some sort. Tanner doubted that it would be anything of significance, but he arrived early for the meeting even so. It was not every day that an old forgotten relative died and left him something.

Tanner was let into the house by a man he took to be the butler. It was suggested that he take a look round the house as they were “not quite ready for the ceremony” as yet. Tanner jumped at the chance.

Right at the back of the house, he came across a completely empty room. There was nothing in it apart from, on the opposite wall, a frame around what appeared to be a very small painting. Tanner walked across the room to inspect it. As he approached, it became clear that it was not a painting at all.

It was a small rectangular, paper object, faded orange in colour. There was a message printed on it and Tanner bent forward to read it.

The script was a bit blurred, having bled a little into the poor quality paper but it was quite legible. It read, ‘The Last Train Ticket.’

It was a strangely overstated presentation for so lowly an object.

Tanner stood there for a while, thinking about it, but then turned away and continued his tour of the house. It was not long before the butler found him and advised that they were about to read the will. He led the way to an office near the front of the building. The room was quite crowded with people sitting and standing everywhere in front of a desk, where a man sat looking at a document spread out before him.

“Ah, we’re all here then,” said the man at the desk. “I am Gregory Topolski’s lawyer and I have here his last will and testament. You have all been invited to hear the reading of the will because you are mentioned in it.”

He launched into the reading. Tanner paid attention for a while but his attention began to stray and he looked around at the faces and their reactions to each award. Old Gergory’s family was obviously quite large and Tanner saw a huge variety of character and expression in their faces. He was wondering what he was doing there when he heard the words, “...and to my great nephew, Tanner Topolski, I leave The Last Train Ticket.”

Tanner could hear the capitals pronounced quite clearly in the lawyer’s voice. He was hoping that the lawyer would read out some sort of explanation but he continued to even smaller bequests and, quite soon, came to the end of the will. Conversation broke out in the room and the crowd began to thin out as people slipped out, perhaps disappointed with their haul for the day.

He moved closer to the desk, where the lawyer was packing up his things. Tanner caught his eye.

“What’s this last train ticket thing?” he asked. “Any idea of why it’s framed and all that?”

“Ah, you’ve seen it,” said the lawyer. “Good, saves me having to answer your questions later. The truth is, I don’t know the story behind it. Gregory just told me who he wanted to give stuff to and I wrote it down. But he did make it clear that you must have the ticket - that it was very important. And that’s all I know, I’m afraid.”

“I see. So when can I take it?”

“Take it now if you like. Just sign this receipt…” he hunted through his papers and eventually produced a a slip. Gregory signed and went looking for the butler to help him to collect the ticket. He didn’t want to be accosted for taking things without permission.

Once he had the thing back home, he put it down on the dining room table and examined it. No information there, he thought. He turned it over and looked at the back. It was quite easy to remove the back of the frame and then the canvas backing on which the ticket was mounted. The ticket fluttered down on to the table top as he turned the canvas over. It was only the glass that had held it in place.

He inspected it carefully. There was nothing further to be gained from the front so he turned it over. Nothing on the other side, although it’s colour was a little more intense, presumably because it had been shielded from the light.

In the end, he left the ticket and the frame on the table and went upstairs to bed. For a long time he lay awake but eventually sleep claimed him.

When he awoke, he was sitting in a train carriage being jostled by the train’s movement and the standing people around him. He was wondering how he was going to work his way through the crowd when they parted to allow the conductor through.

“Ticket, please,” he barked at Tanner. Completely at a loss, Tanner looked down to see that he was dressed in the same clothes as he’d worn at the mansion. In his breast pocket one end of an orange ticket stuck out as though trying to catch his attention. He handed it to the conductor, who took it with a bony hand. A very bony hand.

Tanner looked up into the conductor’s face. It was a skull.

The jaw opened and a voice emerged.

“Enjoy the ride. It’s your last train journey.”

Word count: 985
For The Writer’s Cramp, due Sunday April 21
Prompt: Write a story or a poem that has the title, “THe Last Train Ticket.”
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