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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 40 page 21


Gone in a Flash

by Hervé Suys

I returned from giving a lecture at the invitation of Het Genootschap, an association of which I myself had not been a member for several years, but I felt honoured that they hadn’t forgotten about me and could still appreciate my work.

On my way to the lecture I’d had to deal with several traffic diversions, so I asked the pretor if he could recommend an easier and less travelled route to drive back.

At first he suggested that I could spend the night at his house with him and his family, but I didn’t feel like spending the night elsewhere than at home. I made up an excuse that I had a few pets and that they needed to be fed. The pretor gave me a few confusing directions, which I carefully noted, and I wrote down a number of landmarks he mentioned, such as an abandoned farm or the remainders of a chapel.

I was surprised when I arrived at a railway crossing on the way back. I could not imagine that the pretor had forgotten to mention this crossing. The barrier on my side was down and two big red lights were blinking non-stop. But there was no train in sight.

I was standing in front of the closed level crossing for several minutes before seeing two lights approaching in the rear-view mirror: a vehicle pulled to a halt behind mine. The driver, a man who seemed to be a dozen years younger than myself, got out immediately and looked around in amazement. In the interior light that came from the open door, I noticed a woman with medium long dark hair. I don’t know if it was the spectacles she wore or not, but in her eyes I saw a mixture of fear and disbelief.

A second car arrived. Two men got out of this car. One of them got out and strode determinedly past the barrier. He looked right and left several times like a child who does not dare to cross the street, then he climbed onto the train tracks. He turned to us and shrugged his shoulders, indicating that nothing was wrong.

That was the last I saw of him, because the next moment a bright light flashed at shoulder-height without a sound, it seemed to pass from left to right. No locomotives or wagons were to be detected, but the man was gone. His companion walked onto the tracks as well, searching for what was left of the first guy. The name he screamed out escapes me at this moment, but it was the first and also the last thing I heard from this fellow, because a similar light flashed again, this time it seemed to pass in the other direction.

I was stunned. The man from the first car approached me and for a moment we stood peering at the train tracks. He stammered that this railway crossing was totally new, he had never seen it before, and he had taken this road just yesterday. He wanted to take a closer look at the tracks when the woman with the dark hair got out and called to him. He turned in her direction and ordered her to return to her seat in the car.

I don’t exactly recall what happened next. Other cars arrived. We tried to explain what had happened. They stared at us suspiciously at first, but when we drew attention to the railroad which seemed to loom glowingly, their attempts at ridicule disappeared.

Something had to be done. The others dispersed to get help. Since I do not know this region so well, I volunteered to stay here to warn other drivers.

A few moments later, a young man in a glitzy sports car ignored my warning and attempted to cross the railway. When the white light flashed by, the car simply disappeared.

The darkness is growing gradually. There is no living soul to be seen. When I look behind me, it seems as if the horizon is slowly disappearing. I try to make sense of it: the horizon is getting closer. Where there was a windmill a moment ago, I now detect only sky. If I did not know better, I would think that the earth is slowly disappearing.

I will put this sheet of paper in an empty bottle and throw the bottle to the other side of the railway. Dear reader, I hope you take this message seriously and send help. Hurry, before it’s too late!