The following untitled short story was written by Andrew Davidson in 2000. Although it was not the basis for Autumn Heart, it bears many thematic and visual similarities.
Jack glanced at his watch again. It was 13:47, meaning that it had been almost 45 minutes since the train, slightly delayed, had left the station and it would be another hour until he was home. The train was reasonably empty – or as Jack liked to think of it ‘quiet’ – there only being about fifteen or so other people in his carriage. Most were sitting alone, apart from the people who they sporadically spoke to on their mobile phones. There was a mother and her two monkeylike children swinging from anything they could reach. Jack felt pity for the poor woman, for whenever she successfully managed a tranquil peace from one of the apes, the other would spring into action and so it would go on. Jack considered that this was Darwinism at its purist.
The rhythmic clattering of the tracks relaxed Jack, which is why he chose to travel by train so often. Besides that, in a train he had the opportunity to stand, buy food, read the paper, go to the toilet and do other things freely. Resisting the urge to peek once more at his watch Jack returned to his paper, which was spread out in an unruly fashion on the table in front of him. He glanced through the sheets at a rapid pace, neither reading properly nor caring much about the stories on world problems. He felt sorrow for the death and poverty that there was in the world, but lately he had become quite closed to the world and didn’t believe that he had much power to affect any change.
A faint chime sounded announcing that the guard was about to tell the passengers the train would shortly be arriving at it’s next destination. Jack looked out of the window and watched the fields and meadows disappear into the distance; he preferred to sit with his back to the direction he was traveling, seeing only where he had come from.
Gradually the fields morphed into a small rural area until that was all he could see. There was a noise Jack associated with stations, it was like a routine excitement of people desperately trying to exit the train quickly to allow others on, and conversely people trying to get on before the train left. The newcomers would struggle to find their seats and get comfortable, disrupting the subconsciously agreed peace that the carriage had. The train would soon leave the station and the town, then the peace would return. Jack kept looking out of the window until the tranquil blanket of fields had come back and he felt small again. He could listen to the clattering of the tracks clearly and feel content again. He could think in peace.
When Jack turned his head back to the carriage he found that he was no longer alone. Sitting opposite him was a lady whom, he suspected, was in her forties but didn’t look it. She had shoulder length dirty blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, a faint tan on her face and large hazel coloured eyes framed by beautiful long eyelashes. She had a small nose, and medium sized lips with a natural gloss. Her chin was smooth and her neckline thin. She wore a red top that neither hid nor showed her chest and a white jacket with large lapels over the top. He smiled welcomingly. The woman dropped her head slightly as she returned the smile, but kept her eyes on him, in a shy and coy way. ‘Hi, I’m Jack,’ he said, ‘Where are you going?’
‘Nowhere,’ she said. Her voice had a soft ring to it; it was a pleasant tone that implied a caring nature. Jack had long ago stopped believing in his first impressions of women; he knew that he couldn’t read them. Yet, the warmth that he felt from the woman’s smile, showing two rows of teeth – not in a perfect idealistic way – but in a friendly manner, struck him.
Jack reached out to pick up the can of cola that he had been drinking slowly as to make it last to as near home as possible. As he clasped the can with his hands, the woman cupped her hands over his, making him jump slightly. A first impulse told Jack to pull his hands away, yet her approach was not threatening. Her hands were warm, making Jack’s hands slightly balmy. As the woman held on to Jack’s hands, the warmth began to climb up his forearms slowly, like a wild fire engulfing every muscle and bone it came into contact with, yet it did not hurt Jack. He closed his eyes. It was soothing, almost meditative. ‘Let go,’ he said softly, ‘Let go.’ It was the second time that Jack said it that he realized that he had not said it. He had heard it, it had been in his voice, but he had not said it.
Jack opened his eyes with a start, the woman smiled at him again, ‘This is my stop,’ she said motioning at the window without looking or breaking eye contact with Jack. Without having even noticed the train had pulled into the next station. As the woman was sliding out from behind her seat she put her hand out and left the head of a single rose on the table and without a second glance left the train.
As the train pulled out of the station, Jack picked up the head of the rose. It had obviously been cut a few days ago, as it had started to wilt; yet there was still a faint scent of rose. Holding the rose Jack felt something; it wasn’t sorrow for the passing of the rose, but an urge for a new one.
Looking across at the table on the opposite side of the carriage, Jack caught the eye of a woman. She had very dark brown eyes, almost black looking and matching long dark hair that flowed down her back. He smiled at her and she smiled back. With Jack’s heart racing slightly he gathered up his belongings from his table in one arm and moved across the aisle to sit opposite the woman, this time facing the direction that the train was traveling. Smiling again Jack stretched out his hand as he hadn’t done for so long and waited to clasp the hand of the dark haired woman, ‘I’m Jack,’ he announced.
‘I know,’ replied the woman, ‘You talk in your sleep.’


copyright © 2002 - Last ATAK Pictures