The thundering train had already shunted out of the station. The timetable was set in stone. At the appointed time it would arrive. Everyone knew so well it was coming but for some strange reason the children seemed to have wiped the inevitable from their minds. The tracks were so inviting. There was the thrill of the rebellion, playing where they knew they shouldn't. It was just one or two at first. They imagined themselves so brave as they sat between the glistening rails. Not for a moment did the danger enter their heads. The sun was shining, the birds singing in the trees, all seemed well with the world. As the weeks passed the evening gatherings on the tracks didn't seem as brave any more as more and more slowly joined them. They even spoke openly now about who was going down. The distant memory of being told that it was dangerous was fading fast.
What made it worse was some adults were simply watching. There wasn't a hint of nervousness amongst them, afterall the young ones were just expressing themselves. Any hint of uneasiness about the railway track game had faded from their minds too. Even the old men who tutted, we wouldn't have dreamed of that in our day, no longer stopped to wave their walking sticks.
A few new arrivals in the village were alarmed at the antics of the youngsters. But they didn't want to make a fuss, after all - what right had they, they weren't their children. And any way the least said the better if the locals were going to accept them.
Then it happened. They weren't even looking so engrossed were they in their deadly game. They were laughing, having a good time. The jokes were flying. They didn't even hear it amidst the boisterous banter. It was instant death.
The driver never even saw them as he came full speed round the bend. He was running according to the timetable.
If only they had listened to the oldies. If only they had paid attention to the signs. If only the voice of the few hadn't faded. If only they had stopped listening to each other.
What sorrow. No more laughter. Just tears.
But miraculously some had been saved. John and Samantha who were usually down on the tracks didn't go that last time. On their way there they had been stopped by the village loner, an old man that most thought odd. He had pleaded with them to come to their senses and turn from their foolish ways. Something strange had happened as they listened. Was it the tears in his eyes as he spoke or the tenderness in his pleading?
As they wept for their friends they shook their heads overwhelmed with thankfulness that they for some reason unknown to themselves had listened to the lone voice.