It creeps across her legs, her trim, her ever so smooth and graceful legs just for a moment before coming to a halt on the hem of her faint blue dress that then turns a most incandescent white; no one else sees that but me. It really is something to behold and I just can’t take my eyes off of it, and I hope she doesn’t notice my staring and think me as any weirder than they most probably already do.

It settles briefly there with that pretty reading woman—most definitely the mother—before continuing on, wrapping itself over the worn-out table edge and consuming the magazine and other useless things that are on the table in front of the tiny child. The daughter, or the screen girl I should probably call her, squirms when it touches her screen, lets out a little grunt of annoyance, but she carries on regardless, so wonderfully stubborn and strong even in her young age. I enjoy her pure defiance, I have to admit. It starts to drift again, and I marvel at it as it turns the child’s white skin even whiter than before and the blues of her clothes delicately fade away, just as her innocence will, just as her blameless state will too, with time.

It moves, slower now, towards the sleeping woman. She is much older than the mother and child and yet her hair is thick, flowing, wavy, with perhaps just a touch of grey, although it’s hard for me to tell in this light. I think she must be the grandmother. Her slender, weathered hand hides her face and I guess she is sleeping; it almost looks like she is forlorn, weeping under that hand—the victim of a thousand secret torments and a hundred fascinating regrets that hide under that dark-veined hand. But how could I ever tell? It is impossible to tell; she has never once looked up or said a word. Her legs are thin, and I wince when I notice her leathery bare feet; I’ve never loved feet. The rails continue to screech softly under us, and I let them gently rock us all to where we think we need to be.

As we drift slightly to the left, I watch it once again as it starts to move towards her hand and face and I wonder if it will annoy her, bring her out of her trance, make her suggest to her daughter that the child is too engrossed or then, perhaps, to force the grandmother to turn her head this way, to finally show me her wise old eyes. But it stops just as it touches the tips of her full-bodied wavy hair, and we shift to the right and it then recedes sheepishly back down across the table. I follow it, transfixed and quite incredulous that no one else can see it; or rather, that no one else seems to want to see it.

It settles on the partially carpeted flooring that has blotches of colour woven into it. A walker marches past our seats and he inadvertently releases a hundred thousand sparkling pieces of dust up from that carpet and into the sunlit carriage. They expertly dance and swirl around as if they had done such things before, as if they had their own stories to tell, glittering and slowly returning to their lowly places, seemingly content with their fleeting momentary release. I study them all as they gracefully fall. Questions form in my mind for the tumbling fragments just as we plunge into the total darkness of a short tunnel for a few seconds and then the train violently returns into the embrace of the sunlight once again. No one seems to care; no one seems to have moved.

I continue to watch the sun drift slightly towards me as we veer to the left a little. Will I feel the heat from it on my jeans as I have done before? Will it turn my own book’s green cover white as it does to everything else it touches on the other table there? I pick my book up, flick through until I find my bookmark: an old black and white and slightly crumpled picture of two forgotten girlfriends randomly chosen to keep my page. I place it on my table and I wait for it to come. It doesn’t move for what seems like ages. A bridge flashes darkly over us and I look at the three women. They still haven’t moved; sometimes, it seems that nothing ever does, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. The mother’s orange golden hair touches the child’s shoulder for a moment, and I thought the child would react in some way, but she doesn’t move either.

Nothing changes or moves for a while, although we all know that everything moves and changes forever.

I look around the carriage, but there aren’t any other people I can see. I notice that it is very dark at the far end of the carriage as there are no windows there, although I have no idea why not. I thought I saw someone there, but I can’t make them out now; I’ll just have to wait, wait for the sun to get a bit lower or something, and to let the light penetrate that darkness and reveal whoever is lurking there.

I wonder if I should make polite conversation with the pretty mother. I know they saw me spill my coffee down me earlier, so maybe they think I’m an idiot and are dreading the moment I start talking to them. So, should I even try? Perhaps they have condolences waiting to be given out like small-talk confetti. I could ask about her bright red book, ask about her daughter’s age, but I don’t get the feeling that I can; they seem hostile to me for some unknown reason. I know I don’t like to be interrupted by strangers when I read either, so I leave them be and return to the light, the light that dances for me alone today and I wait eagerly for its next move. I wonder which direction it will go. I sit and wait. Will it ever come? Will it ever appease?

We roar into a tunnel and there is nothing to see but the screaming blackness everywhere. No old woman, no pretty mother, just the eternally illuminated features of the young girl as she stares at her current God, her head suspended in the darkness, just floating there in front of their table. I notice the tunnel lights as they flash past us quickly and the light moves forwards within the carriage up towards the windowless far end and I look for the momentary lighting up of someone down there. Nothing. I don’t see anyone.

The rumbling of the tunnel is loud, much louder than the screeching and I try to time it right when the next light goes past to look at the three women. Here is the next one—and I watch the mother; she has her eyes closed and her head tilted towards the floating daughter’s head—obviously no longer reading in the darkness. I look roughly towards the direction of the old woman, and I wait for the next passing tunnel light. It comes fast and illuminates her face and hand for a second and I see her looking straight at me wide-eyed. I look away, genuinely startled. So, she’s awake then now, I take it? I wait for some moments and when I see the next light coming, I look at her again. Her hand covers her face like before, sorrowfully, and I wonder if I had perhaps imagined the whole thing.

Then we roar out of the tunnel and I am blinded by the searing sunlight. I shield my eyes and look at the three of them again. No one has moved. I drop my eyes to the sunlight as it rolls over my table towards the photo I had left there. Will it reach it this time? Will it finally burn my two forgotten friends away this time around? I feel the heat on my jeans at last and I know we are almost there. Just a few more inches and those two old acquaintances will be lit up like a firework, like a sun flare, like a supernova and I rejoice in that expectation.

Imperceptively at first, the sunlight starts to fade; to stutter and then it is gone and my splendid light show is over for now—all expectations have left—and I don’t feel as sad as I think I should. I look out of the window at the darkening clouds in front of us; there is a big storm coming. I guess I’ll just have to wait to light them up and I slip the photograph back into my book and start reading.

After ten minutes, the rain hits us. The three women do nothing. They don’t seem to notice the change. It is then, without the sunlight, that I notice the old woman seems to be wearing no clothes. How had I not noticed that before? Her clothes are almost exactly the same colour, hue, as her skin. I look away, embarrassed, ashamed even, by such absurd thoughts as these and I blame the absence of sunlight for my awkward folly.

I watch the rain for a long time as it streaks almost horizontally across my window. It splits and forks and twists over the glass with a mind of its own, as if it were a timelapse of roots growing into transparent earth. There’s a poor trapped fly in here with us; it bounces all over the window probably wanting to get out000not that it would enjoy its temporary freedom or like what’s going on out there at all, and I wish I could tell it that it’s definitely better off in here with us000not that it could ever understand such logic, I guess. I am mesmerised by it all nonetheless, and I watch them with joy as they exist on either side of the same thing: the racing streaks on one side and the interlacing erratic fly on the other, bouncing all over the glass; perhaps it is trying to tell the drips the best way to go, or perhaps it is a successful victim of its own instincts, forever searching for its own quickest of deaths; or perhaps it is deaf to their own warnings that they try to pass through the glass. Who can say? I ignore the fly and secretly cheer those streaks on to see who will reach the left side of the pane first; I watch a hundred races slide past me as I hear a hundred buzzings too—maybe even more, and I wonder about the pointlessness of such apparent victories. As the rain dies down, my mind turns to watching the wet poles and posts; I can almost hear them as they rhythmically zoom past us, although perhaps that might be the fly’s quite furious music again. The wires fascinate me as they gracefully bow down and then swoop up sharply like bold swells in a deceptively calm sea; their risings and fallings are ominous and yet quite beautiful too, soothing, relaxing, and repetitive. Perhaps these are the things – and not sheep at all – that help people sleep on trains. I honestly cannot say; trains are not my thing usually.

It is then that the sun breaks through on the opposite side of the carriage, and I catch the three women reflected in my own window. Even reversed, they don’t seem to have moved an inch. I turn and look at them again. We glide left, and the golden light of the descending sun streaks even further through their window, making it difficult to see and I look away, but not out of shame this time. The glorious golden light is falling all over my table and I quickly take the photo out from my book and place it in that magnificent light at long last. The attractive dark faces there are finally lit up by it, but the cracks and veins in my rumpled and badly0kept photo reflect the light into my eyes, as if protesting. Perhaps it is telling me to stop burning them, to stop trying to forget them even. I shake my head, agree, and reluctantly almost, put the photo away and slide it slowly back into my green book, but not at the right page, although I’m quite confident I’ll be able to find it again.

I look up at the three women; the child is still hooked; the mother still holds her now golden red book but is looking up at the frantic fly on its ridiculous adventures; her golden hair flowing down in an orderly mess all over her elegant shoulders; and then I notice the old woman looking at me once more; she just smiles, nodding ever so slowly, and I don’t know where to look anymore.

It is at that very moment that I see that there is no one down the end of the train at all—in that now quite visible darkness, and I wonder why I even thought there was someone down there in the first place.