Imagine you’re on a train. You’re looking out of the windows at sheep and clouds and wondering where sheep would go if they could fly and what clouds would do if they had to wander about in fields when you hear a dog barking.

A dog in the fields? No, this barking is coming from closer than that. It’s coming from this very carriage. From just behind your seat!

Imagine that dogs have been illegal since 2033 when a law was passed forbidding anyone to own a live dog (dead dogs were exempt, which was fortunate because there were many of those following that time) due to the danger posed by canine-flu.

A terrible plague had swept through the dog population in the last month and there were fears of a crossover into the human population. In fact, scientists had proved the risk to be very real. Death was the result of infection. A very quick death. A gruesome death involving a black, icky substance seeping from all orifices.

Imagine the panic in the train after the dog bark was heard. Imagine the rush to the end of the carriage.

Imagine the look on the face of the pensioner as he heard a barking coming from his bag. Imagine his thoughts.

He’s sure there isn’t a dog in his bag. He packed it himself that morning and all it contains are two cheese sandwiches, a biro and a paperback copy of a classic from twenty-fifteen: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Oh, and his mobile phone.

Imagine that he opens his bag, aware vaguely as he does so that the carriage is very quiet. His phone is flashing and the barking sound is coming from it. He looks at the screen and realises that he has a call. He taps Answer and the barking stops.

Imagine that when he listens to the phone he hears his grandson’s voice.

“Hiya, Gramps, you in the train?”

“Yes I am.”

“You got the carriage to yourself?”

The pensioner glances around and, to his vague surprise, finds that this is so.

“Yes I have!”

“Remember how you always complain that the other people in the carriage are always talking so that you can’t concentrate on your book?

“Yes I do.”

“Well, I fixed that for you.”

“Ah, excellent, thank you, Brad, that’s very kind of you!”

“You’re welcome. Have a good one.”

“You too, Brad.”

The line went dead.

Imagine that the pensioner turned off his phone, put it in his bag and, with a smile of satisfaction, took out his book, settled back in his seat and opened it to page 86.

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