An Incident on the Line

When English teacher Richard takes the train to Dover for a Dickensian day out, he gets closer to his hero than is really comfortable.

Or safe.

A creepy ghost story, shown here in performance at the Anglia Ruskin University Drama Studio in April 2016.


RICHARD:                     Oh good heavens. You gave me a shock. I didn’t see you come in.

MERCY:                        I’m going to Dover.

RICHARD:                     Yes. Me too. It’s non-stop.

MERCY:                        Yes. There’s milestones on the Dover Road. Milestones.

RICHARD:                     Ooh, now, that’s a quotation, isn’t it? I know that one. Give me a moment – Old Curiosity Shop? No, I’ve got it – it’s Little Dorrit, isn’t it? Well, fancy that! Are you fond of Dickens, too? You obviously dress the part. Is this cosplay, then, or something?

MERCY:                        Why are you going to Dover?

RICHARD:                     Well, since you ask, I am following Mr Dickens. Or rather Mr Copperfield.

MERCY:                        How do you mean?

RICHARD:                     I’m a bit of a Dickens nut, I suppose. I’m an English teacher. I like to visit places in his books. I’ve been all over London, of course, and I’ve been to the original Bleak House. Now I’m following David Copperfield to Dover. A bit more comfortably, though. He had to walk all the way. But you probably know that.

MERCY:                        Be very wary of Mr Dickens. He does not bring good luck.

RICHARD:                     Right. Are you doing some sort of stunt? Is this one of those student charity things? Are you trying to travel as far as you can with no money, or something?

MERCY:                        What is your name?

RICHARD:                     Richard. Richard Mellinck. And you?

MERCY:                        Why do you want to know?

RICHARD:                     Oh. Well, I thought, as you had asked –

MERCY:                        I am Mercy.

RICHARD:                     Mercy. Right. That’s a very Victorian name, isn’t it? Nice to meet you, Mercy. If you don’t mind my asking – how did you get in here?



DAME HEATHER:        When did you switch your phone on again?

TERRY:                         Not till we got down there.

DAME HEATHER:        And this was at twelve o’clock?

TERRY:                         About then, yes.

DAME HEATHER:        When you switched your mobile on, was there a message?

TERRY:                         The battery was dead.

DAME HEATHER:        So when you were at the track, how could anyone communicate with you?

TERRY:                         They couldn’t.

DAME HEATHER:        What were the normal instructions for if you found yourself with no means of communication?

TERRY:                         There weren’t any. I don’t think anyone thought of it. At any rate, I’d never heard of any.

DAME HEATHER:        What did you decide to do?

TERRY:                         Carry on with the work. It had to be done. It was urgent. The Dover Express had passed a good hour and a half before.

DAME HEATHER:        Or so you thought.

TERRY:                         Or so I thought.

DAME HEATHER:        But in fact it was delayed. By an hour and a half.

TERRY:                         Yes, Madam Chairman. But I didn’t know that.