GENRE: Upper middle grade fantasy
The signpost was cracked and sun-bleached and looked likely to crumble in a stiff breeze, but if you squinted you could still make out the words announcing this was Tallarook Station, for anyone who cared to know. Simon doubted anyone did. He pressed his nose to the back window, peering out as the chauffer parked the car. This place looked like the surface of Mars and signs of civilization were scant. A handful of crispy, miserable weeds had tried and failed to survive. A blistered payphone loomed over the scrap of shade where a wallaby lay, either sleeping or dead. There was no platform. He didn’t even notice the train at first glance, and no wonder. It was so filthy it looked like another part of the endless red grit sea.
It was a passenger train, but if anyone ever travelled here, where did they go? Where could they go? Simon glanced at the horizon, where a few indistinct somethings flickered through the heat haze. When the door opened he almost jumped out of his skin.
The chauffer’s eyes flicked to the nose-print on the inside of the otherwise pristine glass. For a moment he looked like he was wrestling a compulsion to break out his Windex and scrub out the evidence left by his adolescent passenger, then he said, “It seems we’ve arrived," and trotted off without waiting for a response.
Simon shuffled out. The heat sucked all the sweat from his skin, leaving him with the unnerving feeling the air was still thirsty.