He boarded the train from Brighton Station at two forty-five clutching a black leather briefcase. The car was crowded, but he found a seat in the back and made his way toward it. He sat down beside an elderly woman, who glanced up and smiled. He returned the gesture, and idly wondered if she would be alive tomorrow.
An artificial female voice came over the loudspeaker, notifying the passengers that they were on the Southern service to London Bridge and that their next stop would be Preston Park. It would take an hour for him to reach the last station. He settled back into his seat, gazed outside and watched as the train pulled away from the platform with a dull electric hum.
He could remember when the trains had run on steam rather than electricity. They’d been much louder then, always hissing like angry spirits just before leaving the station. But that had been a long time ago.
He heard the voice of a child and turned. It was a boy of six or seven, telling his mother what he’d done in school. The woman beside him smiled listlessly in most of the right places. He wondered if she would have appreciated the moment more if she knew it could be their last.
Humans were curious creatures. They always took what they had for granted until it was taken away. They were like spoiled children, capricious and short sighted, and every so often they needed a catastrophe to wake them up and remind them of how fragile ordinary life truly was.
He and his companions had been working in the shadows since the Earth was a flaming ball of molten rock. Always they would wait for man to reach a certain level of sophistication, then tear civilization down and watch as they scattered like frightened ants, scrambling to rebuild.
Sometimes they directly intervened, sparking natural disasters like the one that cast Atlantis into the sea. More often they would simply plant seeds of discord during brittle moments in history and let humanity take its course. Such had been the case during the Fall of Rome, the Sacking of Constantinople, The Holocaust, even the rise of ISIS in the Middle East.
He glanced down at the suitcase by his feet. If only the passengers in the car with him could see what it contained. The item inside would raze civilization to the ground, plunging the world into a second Dark Age.
When at last he reached the station, he caught himself humming the tune to London Bridge Is Falling Down. He smiled when he considered just how true that was going to be.