Sitting in the station, Christopher keeps his eyes closed. He hears the trains like a rhythm, and he imagines that they’re only in his mind even though he doesn’t usually like imagining things. Eventually, fewer trains come, and there are fewer people around. Christopher opens his eyes and realizes he’s been sitting there for five hours.
Christopher has to find entirely new ways to deal with these new situations, and in this case, he discovers that imagining, which usually makes him uncomfortable, actually helps him feel safer. This is an other way in which his world is crumbling and building itself anew.
Christopher notices that Toby is missing and begins to worry he might get run over by a train. Looking around, he sees that there are digital signs showing which trains are coming when. He likes that there’s an order to the trains. He’s not so scared when the next train comes, because the sign warns him that it’s approaching.
Christopher feels responsible for Toby, and caring for another creature helps pull him out of his fear for himself. He discovers that even these terrifying trains have a logic to them, and he can fit them into his world of rules.
Christopher gets up to look for Toby. He sees some mice down by the rails, and then catches sight of Toby there as well. He climbs down to the rails and tries to catch the rat, but Toby runs away. When Christopher goes after him, a man tells him to get off the rails and tries to grab his shoulder. Finally, Christopher catches Toby, but now a train is coming. Toby bites Christopher, and Christopher sees the train coming out of the tunnel. He tries to climb up to the platform, but he’s holding onto Toby. Suddenly the man on the platform pulls him out of danger. The man is angry at Christopher and misses his train. A woman with a guitar case tries to make sure Christopher is all right, and he screams when she touches him. Because she’s a stranger, he refuses her help by telling her he has a knife, so she leaves.
Christopher becomes entirely invested in retrieving Toby, the one creature he feels he must take care of. His parents, who are responsible for his own well-being, have partly neglected their duty, and he has refused to accept the care of his father. Instead of being cared for, he becomes the one doing the caring, which is another step in his journey to adulthood. Christopher puts himself into danger for Toby, acting foolishly because he’s not used to train stations. Ironically, this is probably the only real danger that Christopher is in on his whole trip, and yet he acts rather nonchalantly about it, perhaps because he’s worried about Toby rather than about himself.
Another train comes and the man and the woman both get on. Christopher decides to get on a train, but he doesn’t like being in such a small place with other people, so he reads all of the signs around the train and examines the patterns on the walls and the seats. When they come into another station, he realizes that it says what it’s called on the walls. He times how long it takes to get between all of the stations.
Whereas Christopher has been completely overwhelmed by sensory stimulation before this, he now has adjusted enough to use his attention to detail to distract himself from his fear of the people around him. His timetable maps out how the train works and situates him in time.
Christopher gets off the train at Willesden Junction. Everyone leaves the platform except a drunk man and a man in a small shop. He has to find out how to get to his mother’s address, so he asks the man in the shop. The man offers him a street atlas, but Christopher doesn’t realize at first that he has to buy it. The man is unfriendly and sarcastic, but eventually Christopher buys the atlas.
Christopher is becoming much more comfortable approaching strangers, even when the shopkeeper’s job does not mark him out as someone who should help Christopher. Despite the man’s unwillingness to help, Christopher sticks to his goal and gets what he needs.
Christopher sits against the wall and figures out how the atlas works. He finds his mother’s road and decides on a route to get there. Then he leaves the station and walks to his mother’s flat. On the way, he sees men dressed as Vikings, and he urinates in an alleyway.
Christopher is good at using maps, so the last obstacle on his journey isn’t too hard. Though the men he sees are dressed as Vikings, their costumes are superficial, while he is the true, if unsung, hero of this quest.
No one answers when Christopher rings his mother’s doorbell, so he sit down to wait. It starts to rain. Eventually he hears his mother arguing with a man, and when they appear he realizes it’s Mr. Shears. Christopher greets his mother and in her shocked delight at seeing him, she hugs him. He pushes her because he doesn’t like being touched, and he falls over. Toby escapes again, but Christopher catches him. Mr. Shears and Judy are worried that Ed must be nearby, but Christopher tells them that he came alone on the train because Ed killed Wellington.
Christopher has risen to the challenges that faced him on his journey, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not still fundamentally Christopher—he still won’t let people touch him if he doesn’t have to. In trying to hug him, Judy shows her clumsiness at mothering Christopher. She lives outside his world of personal rules and forgets them easily. Christopher continues to take care of Toby.
The three of them go into the flat. Christopher explores and makes a mental map to help him feel safe. Judy has Christopher take a bath, and they feed Toby. When Toby poops under the sink, Christopher cleans up after him. Judy sits in the bathroom and asks Christopher why he never wrote back to her, so Christopher reveals that Ed told him she was dead and never gave him the letters. She’s very distressed and wants to hold Christopher’s hand, but he won’t let her.
As Judy takes care of Christopher, Christopher takes care of Toby, thinking of the rat’s well-being almost above his own, as a parent would. Judy continues to try to connect with her son in ways that simply don’t work for him, like physical touch. She seeks comfort for herself, but it’s counterproductive for Christopher. It’s certainly traumatic for her, however, to find that her son thought she was dead.
Once Christopher is dressed, he hears a strange voice arguing at the door. It’s a policeman, and Christopher agrees to talk to him only because Judy says she won’t let him take Christopher away. The policeman asks Christopher basic questions about his parents and his intent in coming to London. Christopher tells him that he wants to stay with his mother, and Judy says he can stay, so the police officer leaves.
Throughout his journey Christopher has been pursued by policemen, but now that they have finally found him, his mother protects him from them and the police officer proves to have only Christopher’s well-being in mind. The police officer legitimizes Christopher staying with his mother against Ed’s wishes.
Christopher has dinner and goes to sleep. In the middle of the night, he wakes to hear his father shouting at his mother and Mr. Shears. Judy and Ed argue about Ed lying to Christopher. Ed says that writing letters was nothing compared to everything he did every day for Christopher. Ed and Judy come into Christopher’s room, and Christopher is holding his knife. Ed apologizes for everything he’s done and tries to initiate the handshake that is their way of hugging, but Christopher refuses to touch him. Ed begins to cry. The policeman shows up again because Mr. Shears called him, and he escorts Ed out of the flat.
Ed and Judy pick up right where they left off, arguing about Christopher. Both have made mistakes in their parenting, and they throw these mistakes in each other’s faces to soothe their own guilt. Christopher apparently does not find complete safety in his mother’s presence, since he still feels it necessary to threaten Ed with the knife. Perhaps stepping out from his parents’ care is another sign that he’s growing up. Ed is broken by his son’s complete mistrust and refusal to engage with him.