A Bedtime Story : The Wrong Kind of Toilet.

Posted on March 26, 2010


The train slid through the dark evening air as George sat cursing his phone battery. Another hour to go, and no electronic distractions from the boredom. In the darkness the window provided no more entertainment than a reflection of George’s own annoyed face. Looking around the carriage, he became aware of his solitary travelling companion; an extremely pale gentleman in an immaculately tailored three-piece suit sat across the aisle.

‘They should have charger sockets.’ ventured George. He seldom spoke to strangers unless directly challenged, and was proud of this opening gambit. However, it elicited no response. The pale man stared straight ahead.

Perhaps he hadn’t heard.

‘In this day and age…’ George continued, eager not to repeat himself and seem odd. The pale man slowly turned his head toward George. Momentarily fixing him with a dispassionate gaze, he silently rose and walked toward him.

The five or six slow, deliberate steps it took the pale man to reach his seat, never breaking eye contact, unnerved George greatly. Then he simply switched focus down the aisle ahead of him, strode straight past George and disappeared through the carriage door and into the toilet.

‘Bugger’ said George to himself. This was partly in exasperation at his own timidity, and partly at the sudden realisation that he also needed to go.

Twenty leg-crossed minutes passed, and the pale man had still not returned to his seat. Having dwelt on his previous unwarranted fear response for most of the intervening time, and having apportioned an increasing fraction of the blame on the pale man for having deliberately stared like that, George decided that it was time to show some intestinal fortitude. Also, he really needed a wee.

He knew as soon as he’d done it that he’d knocked far too hard on the toilet door. Overcompensation for feeling so cowed earlier. George was only compounding his embarrassment by now waiting far too long without actually saying anything that might justify the urgency of this attention-seeking door-banging. Surely ‘I have to piss’ wouldn’t cut it. He considered tiptoeing off again. No. This had now become a rite of passage. Right of pissage. Buoyed by this internal wordplay, and the fact that no complaints had thus far come from the other side of the door, George knocked again, in a more tempered fashion. With a click, the door swung open.

The feeling of revulsion that arose within George as he stared into the toilet was powerful.

‘What kind of monster…’

He flushed the toilet, and felt somewhat mollified. As he relieved himself, George pondered the disappearance of the pale man. Had he simply gone from the toilet to the other carriage to avoid responding to further interrogation regarding charger points? It was possible. People had walked away from George in mid-sentence before, and he occasionally wished he could walk away from himself. He washed his hands in the tiny sink and returned to his carriage, where the pale man was once again sitting.

‘I thought you’d fallen down the loo.’ said George to his former toilet nemesis, bolstered greatly by the feeling of relief his trip had just brought him. This was surely too forward though, he thought as he took his seat, and hoped that the pale man would once again ignore him. Instead, the impassive countenance was dropped, and the pale man addressed him directly.

‘You know of the portal?’


He sized George up through narrowed eyes.

‘You shouldn’t be here.’

‘I have a return ticket…’

‘Shut up.’

George was sure indignation would well up within him shortly, just as soon as his terror and confusion subsided. The pale man continued, seemingly talking to himself.

‘I told them this would happen. I told them it was possible that the portal would be activated by accident.’

He returned his full attention to George.

‘You flushed twice, didn’t you?’

George nodded.

‘And you washed your hands.’

‘Is this really any of your…’

‘Be quiet.’

George obeyed, as the pale man rose and paced the aisle, deep in thought, and it was at this point he noticed that his lavatorial interrogator was wearing an entirely different suit, a herring-bone lounge affair.

‘I told them some of them washed their hands. Do you even know what’s happened here?’

George remained silent, uncertain whether the speaking ban was still in effect.

‘This is not your train.’

George considered this for a moment and went to retrieve his ticket from his wallet. His tormentor shook his head.

‘Look. We have chargers here.’ offered the pale man as if by way of explanation. George looked to where he was pointing and sure enough there were power points set into the wall of the carriage at table level.

‘I’m in a different carriage.’ suggested George, ‘first class.’

‘You’re certainly in a different carriage, yes.’

He looked at the dark windows.

‘Thank goodness this happened at night. You’ve not seen too much.’

He loomed over George.

‘Listen to me. You need to go to the toilet again.’

‘No, I think I’m alright…’

‘You need to go to the toilet and wash your hands. When you’ve done that, flush twice. I’ll change the protocol when you’ve gone. I’ll clean up their mess.’

George quietly followed these instructions. Clearly he shouldn’t be in first class, and this freak may have been dangerous. Emerging from the toilet and staring through both carriage door windows, he could see that the pale man was not present in either carriage. He proceeded to wander through both carriages to make sure, and also to try and figure out how he’d gotten turned around in the first place. He couldn’t seem to locate the charger sockets in either carriage now. Relaxing somewhat, now that he was no longer in the presence of stranger danger, he decided to find this more annoying than confusing.

Eventually, the train came to a halt at George’s destination. As he passed the toilet door on his way to the platform, he noticed that it now sported an ‘out of order’ sign. Opening the door, he peered in to see that the toilet bowl was completely stuffed with paper. It was a mystery as to how this had occurred. But no more than usual, he supposed, and disembarked.