Out of sight, out of mind

Through the teeming rain, the ball of light looms larger and brighter as the train bears down on the signal house. Only at the last minute, when all four headlamps are clearly distinct, does the girl bow her head to be sure the driver will not see her face.

Jewels in the flare of the advancing lights, the raindrops bounce off steel rails, cascade over wooden sleepers, and swirl down concrete gutters – rare beauty flushed to the drains and a distant, grey sea.

The signal house rears up in front of the driver like the haunted house on a Ghost Train – expected, but startling just the same. Wheel flanges shriek as the blinded points wrench the train away from the derelict building. Headlights trace a fleeting search across the row of painted-out windows behind which the girl is hiding. Blades of light stab through holes in the glass like swords thrust into a magician’s box. The girl turns to watch the shadows chase the frantic sabres of light around the room and out into the night. The shadows regroup, smothering her in darkness. The clatter of the train fades to a background rattle of rain on the tin roof.

Hands on the wall, her reckless fingers crab their way back to where she sleeps. But the trains have not finished with her yet. She sags to the floor to sit with crossed legs and pulls an old blanket over her head. In the feeble beam of a failing torch, she grips a precious, dog-eared book – her place marked with a tattered train ticket. With solitary pleasure she begins to read, reuniting with her trusted friends.

She has the building all to herself. At night she is part shadow, coming and going in the dark without being seen. Now she can sleep without fear, protected by the signal house – a forgotten island in a sea of shining metal, surging around her in daily, tidal motion. Every day the commuters rush towards her in their thousands, only to veer away at the last minute like flocked starlings in blind pursuit of their slightest whim.

After midnight, in the few hours when the sounds of tortured steel finally flee the yards, she closes her book, curls up in the dark, and sleeps to forget. But in the morning, as the trains thunder passed shaking the building, she wakes to find herself screaming for all she is worth – her wailing drowned out by the infernal din. With this stolen voice she rages against loveless parents and a heartless world distracted by its own incessant motion.

They never searched for her; didn’t notice she had gone. They know she is one of many, but do not believe the numbers. She has become invisible; no one wants to know she is there.

She is just another neglected dog at the end of its chain, howling at the moon.

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Out of sight, out of mind by 

Alone In The City #18: Out of sight, out of mind

This story was inspired by frustration and shame. There are young and old people in our city who have no place of their own to sleep each night. This is a story about one who has found a secret place, out of sight and out of mind.

See the whole Alone in the City Series


homeless, loneliness, alienation, isolated, photofiction

To reveal art and conceal the artist,
is art’s aim.

Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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  • LBrammer
    LBrammerover 3 years ago

    So sad, yet very true…….your heart goes out to those hidden away, without a home…… How Tragic………..Beautifully written, Well Done Rhoufi!

  • Thanks Linda. This is an older piece of writing that I was reminded of when trying to improve that image. It was taken with an old point and shoot camera and I was using Lightroom to resurrect it. I must take that shot again sometime, I like it’s heaviness.

    – Rhoufi

  • Catherine Berger
    Catherine Bergerover 3 years ago

    Fantastic writing! So sad. The lost souls be they truly out on their own with no one to care for them, love then, think of them OR be they amongst others, a crowd perhaps, but all alone as no one knows who they really are. Very well done.

  • Thanks Cathy; for your thoughts about being alone and invisible, or being alone in full view are mine exactly – it motivates my “Alone in the City” series; I imagine all sorts of things when I see the photos and this inspires the stories. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this – writing sometimes does not get much exposure on RB as people rush through the images.

    – Rhoufi

  • Tiznar
    Tiznarover 3 years ago

    Well said; well done! It could be any of us, too…alone in our minds and our warm houses but howling and no one hears. You have a great style.

  • Thank you Tiz (do you mind having your RB name abreviated like that?). I too think of this story when I’m lowering my tired head onto a soft pillow in my warm house – it makes it even harder to accept that in this rich country of Australia there are 40,000 homeless young people who will struggle to make a proper life, and they are nearly invisible. Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it.

    – Rhoufi

  • Tiznar
    Tiznarover 3 years ago

    No, “Tiz” is nice! Was chosen on the spur of the moment, anyway …my 19th century Spanish dictionary says it means “to smudge” and I laughed.
    We are going to have entire homeless families in the U.S. With foreclosures and few job openings, where are these people to go. sigh

  • Then Tiz it is :—) I understand that there are whole suburbs in Florida with empty houses and empty swimming pools that the banks want to get rid of – wouldn’t that be ironic: bus all the homeless to Florida, where everyone retires to. Our world is indeed a lopsided reality.

    – Rhoufi

  • Victoria McGuire
    Victoria McGuireover 3 years ago

    Your story has wonderful pace, descriptive beauty, and such heart, Rhoufi, I enjoyed reading it very much. The image works beautifully too!

  • Thank you V, always love to hear from you. But why do I write about such grim things? It’s a mystery to me, I’m normally such a happy chappy – maybe that’s why. The idea came from that old railway building on the Craigieburn Line with the “Franklin Street” sign. I haven’t been able to photograph that one yet. Have a good weekend.

    – Rhoufi

  • Victoria McGuire
    Victoria McGuireover 3 years ago

    Perhaps it’s our shadow side? Maybe anything that’s not given an airing on a daily basis needs to emerge when we write. A tiny voice crying in the wilderness! I’m usually a positive and upbeat person yet my writing often betrays wistfulness, or irony – go figure! Not that I do much writing these days. I used to belong to a writers’ group, but moved away from the area and…well…you know how it goes :^))

  • Do I ever know how it goes ;-(

    It’s good to reinvent, rediscover, try something new. Writing is a very strange thing, I’ve learned. It always surprises.

    – Rhoufi

  • robpixaday
    robpixadayover 3 years ago

    Oh, my gosh. Powerful. Wrenching…there are so many people who live in such stunning pain and fear. And loneliness.
    Beautifully written! The image is perfection.

  • Thanks Robin. Putting things like this into words helps to ease the frustration, but does not solve the problem. I wish I knew how to change society so that all its citizens have the same value and that wealth was not the measure of worth that so many aspire to. Thank you for adding your thoughts to the story.

    – Rhoufi

  • Clo Sed
    Clo Sedover 3 years ago

    I can feel the pain in this story,
    Like a knife,
    I can feel the cold, darkness, and resignation,
    It’s chlostrophobic,
    Like a violent silence,
    So visual once again….
    Last sentence is the final cut….
    Powerfull text Rhoufi.
    I wished I could say more….

  • J’ai essayé d’utiliser toutes des sens mettre le lecteur dans le même endroit terrifiant, les faire imaginer comment mal ce pourrait être. Je suis désolé, mais souvent je ne suis pas doux avec mes lecteurs. J’ai un fort sens de culpabilité pour les sans-abri, mais je ne sais pas comment aider. “Like a violent silence” oh, oui, expression parfaite. Merci spécial, Magali.

    – Rhoufi

  • Sassafras
    Sassafrasover 3 years ago

    My heart goes out to this woman and the others like her who have no safe, warm place to call ‘home’.
    Hands on the wall, her reckless fingers crab their way back to where she sleeps.—-forces me to feel that brick.
    This is a good, compassion filled story. Well done.

  • Thank you Sass, sorry for the late reply. I read a biography by Lee Stringer who lived in the crawl space beneath Grand Central Station in NYC and the whole idea of a disused railway building came from their. Extraordinary man Lee Stringer, have you heard of him?

    – Rhoufi

  • Sassafras
    Sassafrasover 3 years ago

    No, but I have his named and will read up. Thank you for the heads up on this.
    Peaceful week ahead,

  • Lee Stringer ha 3 books I know of:

    Grand Central Winter: Stories from the street
    Like Shaking Hands with God
    Sleepaway School: Stories from a Boy’s Life

    All autobiographical I think.

    – Rhoufi

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