Our December Bronze Medal Winner

by - Sunday, February 18, 2018


Sue Ann Ellis and her husband live in Walkerton, Ontario and have two children and five grandchildren. She is a Chiropractic Health Assistant, who likes reading, writing, and amateur photography. Those likes were a great fit when she was a reporter and later editor at the community newspaper for 10 years. Though she enjoyed researching and compiling the news stories that introduced her to the people and places in her community, she's always preferred the creativity, challenge, and versatility of writing fiction.

The photo prompt:

The unedited story:
Time Passages
by Sue Ann Ellis

He wasn’t sure what drew him here. His feet had seemed to move of their own accord, directing him away from the bus stop and the final leg of his trip home. The 20-minute ride, give or take depending on the day, ran exactly eight and a half blocks. He had been taking the same mundane trek for years, and knew every tree along the route; 29 Maples and four Ash, before the wind storm last week had uprooted two. Contradicting the otherwise green landscape were two factories, one now closed, three small apartment buildings, and four convenience stores with barred windows to deter potential vandals. He knew the landmarks by rote, as if they were an extension of him. The sixth window seat back from the automatic door had been the final lap of every endless workday for what seemed like eons.

His mind was too tired to even register the sudden and unexpected change of routine, let alone question his echoing footsteps. The jostling, noisy herd of passengers exiting the mouth of the Line 86 subway station faded, and the domed streetlights seemed to dim as he passed under their eerie, foggy glow…

He had never been the popular kid. He was much too awkward and uncoordinated to be the jock. Sure, his mother had said he’d outgrow the clumsiness “in a year or two”.  That was no consolation for the 10-year-old who once wanted so desperately to not be the last team player picked at recess. And no matter how hard he tried, he was far from Mensa material. He was barely scratching by in math, and had miserably failed his last two spelling tests. There were dozens of odd cliques on and off the schoolyard, ranging from the weird to the downright scary-none of which piqued even the slighted interest. Though she never said, he knew his solitude bothered his mother.  She thought it strange that he was alone so much.

When he first stumbled upon the underpass, a city kid looking for somewhere to call his own, it had intimidated him. The foreboding space looked ancient; grey and dank, reeking of moss and exhaust fumes. He could hear dripping water somewhere, reminding him of the leaky kitchen faucet at home. The steady drone in the tiny, dingy apartment had often quieted his buzzing mind and lulled him to sleep. Time had eroded the concrete columns, creating a mystical, brooding place that he was inexplicably drawn to. The remnants of what must once have been imposing edifices were strewn on the ground, like fallen soldiers around a castle’s walls. He wondered what it might have been before the elements cruelly took their toll. He sat on a cockeyed cinderblock and closed his eyes, which now burned from the overpowering vapor that enveloped the space like a thick fog. The steady rumbling of the subway, fifty feet above him, sounded like angry thunder, surging, trying to break free of its boundaries. The raucous rattling was soothing, like a lullaby settling a restless baby.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, his mind occupied with random thoughts, with a myriad of strange sounds swirling around him. But his stiff legs and tingling buttocks indicated it had been longer than he had intended.

It became a daily calming ritual, visiting this isolated space that he found strangely comforting. Occasionally just walking leisurely through, more often to sit and absorb its mysterious and inexplicable aura. He didn’t know then why he found solace in this strange place. Years later, he was no closer to knowing...

It was not the place he remembered from his boyhood. His place of quiet reflection was blanketed with cigarette butts, broken glass and so much debris it must have been accumulating since he frequented here. The still noxious air now had an eerie blue-green haze, as if emanating from a giant neon light. He didn’t recall the litter, the odd atmosphere, or the sporadic bursts of abstract colours and disjointed words that peppered the walls. Had it always been, or had his child’s mind seen it through different eyes?

He shuffled across the dirt floor to the cinder block, sure it must be the same one that captured his time and imagination all those years ago. Not quite as welcoming as when he was a boy; a little more awkward and less comfortable than decades before. But he still felt that mysterious calm.

The whistle of the overhead train brought him out of his reverie and he got wistfully to his feet. He didn’t know if he’d been on his precarious perch for seconds, minutes or hours. But he felt rejuvenated and…strangely refreshed.

He headed to the street, his feet now bouncing as if on tiny springs. He boarded the bus and, breaking his archaic habit, sat in the third seat behind the driver. He opened up the crumpled newspaper he’d forgotten was tucked under his arm. He had bought it at the subway kiosk before boarding, though his motive hadn’t been to catch up on world and local news. The broadsheet provided a barrier and deterred idle conversation on the train.

In lieu of his usual ritual of counting trees and buildings to pass the time, he lowered the pages to a more comfortable reading level and scanned the headlines.

Subway Commission to redesign train system.

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