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The Secret Station

As the train passes through a long, green, wooded valley, we will be lying in wait. We are miles from anywhere - the mountains that surround us are the barriers to the rest of the world.

The rails will be blocked further down the straight track - far enough for the driver to see in time, and bring this steel monster to a standstill. It is coming now trailing great reams of smoke behind it.

The train shudders to a stop - grinding and sparks flying. The passengers look out of the windows - and see the fresh green trees and bushes up and down either side of the track. Unless they leave the train and investigate, they won't realise that they are in a station that is so overgrown it almost invisible.

The only signs that this situation is not what it seems are occasional stones seen through the trees or a glimpse of an unnaturally straight line. If anyone ventures too far though the trees, they will find themselves in a forgotten waiting room, with an oak tree growing through the middle - stretching branches like long fingers out through the long-broken windows.

It's hot and dry but the thick green plants shade us. A couple of men have alighted from the train, eager to find out what's happened. They are getting too close to the buildings. The branches and vines are thick and intertwined, but that won't stop them finding a wall if they go much further.

You can see from their faces they have worked out that something isn't right.

Can they hear the collective stiffening of muscles as we tense and stop breathing? Do they sense the chemicals rippling through the air as adrenaline flashes across my skin? All it will take is one sound and they will flee, alerting the others - who are spilling off the train now, moving towards the tree on the line. We all wait.

(c) Kate Rontree 2002