The train, which had exited the station at a crawl, halted halfway across Rochester Bridge. I shifted in my seat, worrying about the British Transport Police who had accompanied the conductor on his ticket check. I’d managed to play it cool that time, but I wasn’t up for another visit.
The sky was glowing a barbeque-coal orange, but my fizzing brain lent my vision a green-purple hue. The second hour of my evening tripping on psilocybin mushrooms was turning out to be a marked improvement from the first; when I’d spotted the cops boarding at Herne Bay, I’d almost voided my bowels. Now I felt as if I was riding the crest of a wave that would never break.
A moored submarine was lounging in the river, a gunmetal beauty-spot interrupting the reflected splendour of the sky. My mobile buzzed in my pocket. A text, a distraction from my whirligig of a brain! But on flipping open my phone case, I gasped: only 3% battery left.
Where are you? Party’s already kicking off.
I thought about powering down my phone to preserve battery, deciding against it for fear of not having enough power to switch it back on. I couldn’t even risk replying, so I busied myself in contemplating the glowing water, the lurking submarine.
My gaze fixed on two silhouettes approaching each other along the towpath, a pair of pitch-black lumps against the tarmac’s grey. The pair stopped as they reached each other; that is to say, one of them stopped the other.
A moment later—less than, really, as if reality had been cut and spliced back together like 35mm film—one figure was bent double over the other’s fist. Panic flooded my brain, and I pressed my phone’s home button. I wasn’t going to waste power replying to Zane’s text, but now I needed to call the police. But my phone’s only reaction was to ask to be plugged in. A chilly glaze of sweat dropped out of my pores.
The victim was on the floor, holding out a hand, a wordless appeal to their attacker. In reply, the mugger reached down and fleeced them for their wallet and phone, then began to lay into them with his boot.
There was nobody else in the carriage, so I peered along the corridor, crouching as I caught a glimpse of neon high-visibility jacket through the gangway. I crept back to the window, considered shouting at the mugger, but settled for knocking on the glass and pretending to film him with my useless phone, nodding smugly as I did so; party’s over, fella, got you bang to rights here. The mugger redoubled his efforts. I’m not sure he had even seen me.
Then the carriage jolted. I was jerked back into my seat as the train slid onwards into the evening. I closed my eyes against the pink and green sun and slipped my phone into my pocket.