A short story that relates to the movie Hugo and that covers events from the movie in alternative order.
It was almost evening in Paris, the hustle and bustle of the business day was coming to a close, people were closing their shops for the day, workers were packing up to go home, and the afternoon sun went a cool orange with the clouds surrounded. At the inner central train station, workers were busy boarding their train’s home, and the little shops at the station were at their last stand of business for the day. A young boy by the name of Hugo Cabret sat hidden in the walls of the building, staring out into the abyss of flapping cloaks and glistening briefcases.
Hugo was an Orphan, his mother he did not remember but his father had been a master clock maker and was burned alive whilst working at the Museum. His drunken sod of an Uncle Claude had therefore been his only living relative, and upon bringing him to this train station he had since gone a-wall, leaving the responsibility of fixing the large clocks and keep them running on time to Hugo, a burden he did not want and had taken it on begrudgingly.
The only thing that he has left that connects him to his father is an automaton that doesn't work, and requires a heart-shape key, something he had never even seen before. Even his father had been perplexed upon the keyhole, but had died before he had had the chance of really researching it. Hugo had convinced himself that his purpose in life was to now find that heart-shape key, something he doubted he would be able to do from inside the walls of a train station.
He watched from his hiding spot the thousands of people going past him and envied them, they went on an adventure every day – albeit to and from work, but many times he had envisioned himself boarding one of the many trains to leave the platforms of the large station and not look back. Each time he had tried he had had cold feet, and more or less ended up being chased up and down the many platforms by the man that had made it his job to one day catch Hugo, the station inspector.
Eventually the clutter of people died away, and shop owners in the station began closing for the day, and Hugo switched his attention to the far side of the station, where a young girl about his age sat alone on a bench with a notepad and pen and was scribbling. She wore a light brown trench coat, underneath that she had a striped jumper and knee-high skirt – whilst most distinctively she wore a dark blue beret atop her short curly blonde hair.
Hugo thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and as she scribbled she had a great big smile on her face that made a Hugo smile too. He had felt very lonely since his father’s passing, his only friend had been the automaton to which he had talked too as if it was real and ever since he had spotted this girl for the first time, he wished he was her friend. Though, as he watched her, he felt he knew her, for every day at the same time for the past several weeks he had waited precisely in this position, waiting for the crowd to thin, knowing she would be sitting there waiting for someone, like he was waiting for her.
All he knew of this girl besides her wonderful smile was her name, Isabelle. Her father – at least Hugo presumed it was her father – worked at the train stations toy store, a place where Hugo had spent pinching a lot of the mechanical gears and bolts in an attempt to fix the automaton. This complicated matters, for he knew Isabelle would never be associated with him, she would never talk with him – not with a thief, a reprobate.
Still though he watched her as she screwed her face in concentration, clearly working on something much more complicated than an ordinary scribble. Hugo wished he could see what she was scribbling, or indeed writing – despite his shyness, it would be the perfect way to say hello, simply asking what it was she was doing. Just as that thought occurred to him Isabelle cried out angrily and scrunched up the page she had been writing on and threw it into the rubbish bin nearby.
As she was just about to begin writing again, the old man that worked at the toy store suddenly approached and called her name softly, causing Isabelle to look up.
‘Papa George,’ she said, smiling and closing her book so she could get to her feet, ‘is it time to go?’
‘Yes my dear,’ George said.
They linked arms and turned and headed for the exit, Hugo watched them the whole way, even well after they had gone. His eyes turned to the rubbish bin in which contained the scrunched up page, and instantly Hugo was curious. He waited patiently as the station inspector and his dog did a circle of the area before disappearing to his office the other side of the building. Hugo pounced from his hiding position and quickly found the scrunched up page Isabelle had chucked.
Hugo looked around the deserted building to ensure he was alone before unfolding the crumpled paper and getting the shock of his life.