Sunday, June 19, 2011

Walter Wallace: Chapter 32

Walter jumped out of the Channel 8 van and ran towards the wreckage at Newport Haven Terminal. Angela called out to him but it was lost in the muffled cacophony of panic that sounded as though it were emanating from a seashell held up close to his ear. His vision was blurry as he dashed and ducked between the people but he felt all his senses focussed and tuned in to the exact location he wanted to be. It was similar to the sensation of anger he felt the morning after speaking to William Unston but he had no time to decipher or distinguish meaning from this connection.

Hordes of reporters were standing with their backs to the scene, facing their respective cameras and reporting on the crises. Police were still trying to seal off the area and firemen were gearing up for entry into the large complex. Walter couldn’t see any fire but a large plume of smoke rose from the rooftop. He couldn’t be sure from his vantage point but it appeared as though part of the roof had caved in. Three of train’s carriages poked out of the entry to the station, disfigured into metallic S shapes, the windows blown out.

He tried to grasp why that scene looked so peculiar but before he had a chance to consider it a policeman stopped him in his tracks, almost catching him as he flew down the hill towards the station.

“You can’t go in there!”

“We have to! There are people in there! We have to help!”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“I’m Walter Wallace! Let me past.” He didn’t know why he said it, but it seemed to have the desired effect. The officer stepped back, unsure how to react. Walter took the chance to duck by, but the moment he did an explosion went off inside the building and knocked them both off their feet.

His lungs felt dry and empty and his ears rang as Walter climbed back up to his feet. He staggered unsteadily towards the entrance to the terminal. As his breath returned, so too did his focus. He found the automatic doors which would usually welcome visitors on arrival, but they remained shut. He slipped his fingers in between the double doors and opened them like a prisoner bending the bars of his cell. He squeezed through and was hit by a wave of smoke. He ducked low where he could still breathe, though the smoke stung his eyes. As he gazed across the square terminal he could see the train wreck at the platform.

Immediately he recognised the answer to the peculiarity of the train poking out from the terminal. The old Torquay Z8 was an intercity train: 10 carriages that should normally stretch down the full length of this platform, but instead it only made it halfway. He made his way closer to the wreckage and saw what he feared. The front two carriages of the train were crushed like a can of soft drink into the barriers at the end of the platform. The next two carriages stood up like an upside down V, the peak of their mountain rupturing the roof of the terminal. The last half of the train was twisted and contorted from the extreme force of the impact. How fast was this train going?

Still driven by some unknown instinct, Walter pushed forward until he reached the sixth carriage down. He tried to open the carriage doors, but no strongman prison escape could help this time. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around his elbow and began to bang on the window in an attempt to smash it open. A hand grabbed him in the middle of a swing and pushed him aside. He turned and saw civilian wearing a fireman coat, holding a mallet. The man was about to swing when he did a double take on Walter’s face.

“Walter?!” the man yelled in disbelief.

He still couldn’t hear very well but Walter saw the man mouth his name and saw a look of recognition in his face. That same expression then dawned over Walter as he yelled back in stifling deadness.

“Stevie?!” The shock rendered them both inactive for a moment before Stevie snapped out of it and drew back the mallet. He smashed through the window and cleared away the remaining shards. Walter climbed in before Stevie could stop him and assessed the area. The train had collapsed inward at countless angles; there was a fire at the far end of the carriage and sparks of electricity shot out of exposed wiring. It took him a while to acknowledge the presence of people. Limp on the floor disguised as scattered seat cushions there was around 15-20 bodies. The majority were at the far end of the carriage, as though they had been catapulted forward by the impact, one of them, Walter realised was acting as fuel for the fire.

“What can you see?”Stevie yelled, squeezing through the window and coming up to his side and holding his jacket sleeve over his mouth. Walter realised he was taking in a lot of smoke and that his exposed arms were stinging with the pain of fresh burns. He had suddenly snapped out of his hero state and his eyes widened in panic and his breaths became shorter. Stevie, who was about to run forward to the lifeless bodies, stopped short, apparently seeing Walter losing his grip. He grabbed Walter by the shirt cuffs and pulled him down to a crouching stance. “Walter! Walter! Snap out of it! I don’t know what the fuck you were thinking but you’re in this now so wake the fuck up!”

Stevie released him and dashed towards the nearest body. Walter pushed forward in a daze, as though he were in the eye of his own panic storm. He dare not think about his desire to escape, or his urge to collapse a second longer and focussed on Stevie and his words. Stevie had checked the majority of the bodies and had apparently deemed them all dead. This information surged through Walter like the freezing sensation of entering an ice lake. Taking his mind further from the focussed centre it once was.

Walter shook his head; it felt light and absent. He reached Stevie at the end of the carriage and felt the heat of the fire on his face. He stared at it, mesmerised and terrorised by the flames. He felt like a corn about to be popped in a frying pan when Stevie shouted, “These two are alive!” Walter looked down and saw a lady, heavily bruised, breathing softly and a large fat man who appeared dead. Stevie lifted the woman onto Walter’s shoulders. “Go!” he ordered and then in a feat of super human ability he picked up the fat body and hoisted it onto his shoulders.


As quickly as it had engulfed him, Walter re-emerged from his panicked daze. He realised it wasn’t just his life at stake now, but Stevie’s and the two passengers. He moved down the carriage, trying to ride the wave of his second wind. There was no way he and the lady would squeeze back through the window – let alone Stevie and his charge – but looking through to the next carriage he noticed some firemen had managed to open the doors.

“This way!” he shouted over his shoulder and took two steps towards the small thoroughfare between the cars. He kicked at the door which hung loosely on one hinge and it snapped off and fell to the side. He passed through with the confidence of thoughtless instinct and exited the carriage through the opened door. The terminal was clouding with smoke but the air was a still fresher than inside and he let it caress his lungs a moment before pushing on. As he closed in on the terminal exit he could feel the fatigue settling on his legs. He was coughing soundlessly and his vision was blurry from the toxins floating both within and around his body.

He climbed up the grassy hill to a safe distance with the last of his strength and collapsed on the ground, sprawled out next to the woman. She stirred and opened her eyes to see him. A slight smile broke over her face and she whispered the word, “Walter.” It was still odd to be recognised by strangers but Walter felt too overwhelmed with relief to care.

Stevie, still bearing his impossible load, lowered the fat body down onto the grass and stretched out his back with a look of gratitude to the heavens. He walked over to Walter, “You must be out of your fucking mind,” he said shaking his head and smiling despite himself. Then he paused and a look of recognition came over his face. “How the f...” He was staring at the woman Walter had carried out. “That’s...that’s Lucy Blues.”

The name sounded familiar but Walter must have still appeared puzzled. “She’s the doctor who...” He looked at Walter with an expression of sheer wonderment. Then he looked over Walter’s shoulder and muttered, “They are gonna love this.” Walter turned and saw a few reporters who had picked up his scent, sprinting over with wires and ties and hair flapping in their wake. “Good luck, buddy,” Stevie said, leaning down to pat Walter on the back then he ran back down the hill towards the terminal and disappeared inside.

Notes to the Text

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