Like the sarsen stones and sequoias that lined the frozen rails from City Junction to the rumbling oak mines, Philip emanated heft. To strangers, he appeared to possess a petrifying and feral strength. However, once acquainted, they saw he directed his brawn with dignity and was no more threatening than the quaking dogs the president, it was rumoured, used to warm his bed.

     Forsaken at the station gates and pressed into service still barely able to say his name, Philip had grown – composted in coal dust and fertilised with cruelty – into an impeccable employee of the North-Eastern Train Company. As such, he favoured new overalls over boiled, cultivated no beard or sidebrooms and since keeping secrets was discouraged, kept only one: when doubt and unease called, he would touch the tattoo of Mellusa, eternal pacifist and gentle dissident, that tumbled in pale inks down…

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