Thomas and the Inevitability of Everything - Mustard comedy magazine
Thomas and the Inevitability of Everything

Writer's Block:
First Chapters From Unwritten Novels

#9: Thomas and the
Inevitability of Everything

Thomas was a tank engine who lived at the Big Station. He had six small wheels, a short stumpy funnel, a short stumpy boiler and a short stumpy dome. He was a cheeky little engine, too.

One day, the Fat Controller came to him and said, "Thomas, we have a problem. I need an engine who is reliable and..."

"Determined?" peeped Thomas, keenly.

"No, determinism is the whole problem," said the Fat Controller. "You see, the other engines have got hold of Pierre-Simon Laplace's Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, which has made things rather difficult. So work hard today, and don't let them distract you!"

"Don't worry, I'll do all my jobs in no time!" Thomas vowed, as he chuffed out of Tidmouth Sheds. "Just you wait and see!"

Soon he saw his friend Percy approaching on the outer line, carrying logs on flat wagons. "Hello, Percy!" said Thomas. "Weren't you pulling logs yesterday too?"

"It's the same logs," said Percy. "I'm just going round and round in circles. What's the point being on this track, chasing my tail until I die?"

"Don't be silly," laughed Thomas. "Of course there's a point! The island of Sodor would grind to a halt without its busy railways."

Percy gave Thomas a dark look. "Yes," he said "Why are there 300 miles of track on one tiny island, 60 years after the Beeching axe? Does that make sense to you?"

Thomas chuffed away, a little downhearted. Soon he met Gordon coming down the line, a lot slower than usual. "Good morning, Gordon!" shouted Thomas. "Normally you thunder through here, shouting 'Out of the way, little engine - I'm an express train!' "

Gordon shook his head, sadly. "I'm sorry. Why did I ever do that? The future is laid out, section by section. Can we put down our own track, to roll over as we please? I think not." And with that he chuffed off.

Thomas was starting to feel very strange now. Further down the line, he saw Emily the Stirling Single. She had run smack into James, and her poor wagons were smashed to pieces! Great mounds of coal and cinder were scattered all over the track.

"Oh no! What happened?" asked Thomas. "Was it a wrong signal? Were the points jammed?"

"It doesn't matter," groaned Emily, dyingly. "Whatever happened was a precise and unalterable consequence of the factors that preceded it, and they themselves were a product of all that has happened, sequence by sequence, clickety-clack, in the great, dreary train of history."

"Oh dear!" said Thomas. "Everybody is acting so strangely today. I must go and tell the Fat Controller!"

"Yes," said James from his ditch. "That's an inescapable consequence of what's happening now."

"No it isn't!" huffed Thomas, getting annoyed now. "It's MY choice!"

"Sure," said Emily. "It's your choice to do whatever you will inevitably do."

Thomas didn't know how to answer this. Strange, big thoughts were forming in his little tank engine funnel. He stared into the landscape. Water mills rotated, windmills turned, the flags on Sodor Castle fluttered. But all moved in situ. Only the trains made progress.

Thomas realised that the trains were not Really Useful at all. Sodor Island was a tangle of points, signals and junctions, giving a delicious but false appearance of choice. He saw himself above the track, controlling it as if it were all just a model. As if he were the Fat Controller of the whole universe, able to see where every little train had gone and where each would end up.

And so he did the only thing that made any sense. He made what felt like a choice, puffed out his cheeks, and chuffed straight into the wreckage.

Note: This story was never published, Rev Awdry soon abandoning it for
the more upbeat tale 'Thomas and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal' (1927).

~ L.M.

Illo: M.D.


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