Off the Map

Captain Matthew Flinders crouches on one knee, resting his buttock on the heel of his foot. His beautifully turned calves hold him in perpetual concentration. He looks past the paper coffee cups abandoned at his feet, to the chart he is making of the New World. Commuters look above him to the train departures board, their routes clearly mapped out. A deep rumbling courses through him. Flinders perceives he is not alone. Surrounded. Yet it appears they have not noticed him. Where have they come from? Where are they going to?  Cast adrift, shipwrecked in this un-deserted place.  He contemplates, with tensely carved brow, the discarded newspaper shrouding his newly inscribed southern coast. The strange light that does not warm him. The constant agitation of feet. The ceaseless, disturbing hubbub. One voice raises itself above the rest. A siren’s call echoing in the vast hall tempts people to ‘…platform 15 for the seventeen forty Virgin train service to Manchester Piccadilly’. They hurry by, pulling bags on wheels.

Captain Flinders wonders at their haste. But he does not, will not, look up. He must concentrate, focus. He has the chart to complete, the coastline of the land he will name Australia. Another deep vibration rolls uncontrollably through him. More feet, more bags. The noise intensifies. He feels the wave of people as they rush underground. The noise subsides.

Under the ground, beneath Platform 15, where the church of St James no longer stands, Captain Matthew Flinders’s bones lie, waiting for the next train.


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