Hypnotic green fields were clicking past, wrestling down my eyelids all the while, when a small boy pushed open the doors of my private compartment and slipped through.
His light brown curls were the first thing I noticed. One of those hairstyles the kids who appear in modelling catalogues have. Shiny, bouncy curls that move to their own rhythm.
He sat down opposite me.
When he smiled his eyes opened fully and his thin lips parted. They revealed bright white teeth with one small gap on the bottom row. I couldn't help but smile back. This little guy had warmed the day up with some simple muscle movements.
I went through the usual. His name? Where he came from? Where his parents were?
Turns out he was lost. His parents had been on their way to the dining car with him, just as they'd reached the last station. There had been quite an influx of passengers both exiting and entering and he'd got separated from them. Now he wasn't sure where they were or where he was, in relation to them. He didn't seem upset though...
I said I'd help.
I was actually quite pleased to have something to do. I'd been on the verge of drifting off into dreamland, but there's always something slightly unnerving about sleeping on a train. The snaking movements of the carriage across the track, the disconcerting motion sickness feeling of watching the overhead lines just as you drop off, and of course, the possibility of oversleeping and missing your station...
I got up and offered a hand to the little guy. He must have been about seven. He slipped his hand into mine and I opened the sliding doors which led us into the long corridor. We wobbled slightly with the movement of the express and I put my hand out against the door frame to steady us.
I saw the sign for the dining car and headed in that direction, pulling my new friend like a rag doll behind me...
When we slid into the tunnel all went dark...
And I was losing my balance. I felt the small hand slip from mine as we both toppled towards the nearest compartment. In we fell, just as sunlight cracked through the window, like a champagne bottle opening.
I held my hand up to my eyes...
The little guy was, first, in front of me, and then, scrambling to his feet, was behind my back, heading into the corridor. I glanced at his troubled angel face.
Then came the voice.
"Come here Isolot". And again, "Isolot, is that you? Come back..."
It was coming from the floor. He had been alone in the small, wooden compartment. A hypodermic needle lay beside him. His bruised veins lay bare against the velvet seating, but he was rousing himself. His rolling eyes, lurching under a mass of curls, suddenly resumed their interest in the present.
I knew the man's face. As sure as day, it was the same one that belonged to the little boy, now heading down the corridor.
I pulled myself to my feet and squeezed through the compartment doors, shutting them in his face as I ran.
He followed. Swearing. Scrambling. Running.
I caught up to Isolot and dragged him on.
We reached the doors that led to the dining car and went inside.
The faces were staring as we rushed through. High teas, top hats, cravats and summer dresses. Startled female cries and "tut tuts" from bearded penguins in tails. There was a second wave of disquiet as the door slammed again. He panted in as we reached the far end of the car. An urn of boiling water sat behind the bar and in its reflection I glanced the frightened faces.
The boy was pulling my arm, trying to say something to me, but I was only interested in leading him away from danger.
It was only when another voice cried "Isolot" that I stopped. We all did.
The little guy shouted "Dad" and ran. He was swept up into safe arms in the middle of the car. Behind them the chasing man had broken his stride but not his stare. His frown lines creased as the train sunk into the darkness of another tunnel.
In the black, the mesmerising clickety clack held us in a trance for what seemed like thirty seconds.
When I looked again, the boy and his father had disappeared from sight. The man-who-was-the-boy, was pulling at his rolled-up sleeves and heading for the same carriage door he had entered by.
Spoons were once more clanking against tea-cups and polite conversations were being struck up throughout the dining car. Eyes were being averted.
I made my way back to the compartment and resumed staring at fields again. Later, as I alighted at Windsmouth, I was still thinking about that little guy, but I never saw him, or the man-who-was-him, again.