It was a cold and rainy night, again. It seemed to Ben that it had been like that since October. As soon as the clocks change , the weather gets grim and the damp, condensation filled bus rides begin. The same, blank, pale faces at the town centre Bus Stop. All lined up ,outside the abandoned Chinese restaurant. It reminded Ben of some kind of post apocalyptic nightmare he’d seen in a computer game. The same people leaving the office block opposite (no doubt earning a hell of a lot more than him). The extended roof of the restaurant kept the rain off him. Ben stared at his watch hoping, for once, the bus would be on time.
No such luck.
About 20 mins late, it turns up, the orange Neon 20 sign like a beacon of hope , promising home, warmth, food and TV. The usual stream of people bustling to get on. All resigned to the familiar process of the Bus journey, hoping to at least get a seat. Ben zapped his bus pass , gave a thank you to the miserable ( as usual) bus driver and climbed the stairs to find a seat. Luckily, his favourite, right at the front was free. Looking out of the windscreen , the journey was always much better in summer. In winter, it was a very different story. The condensation, harsh neon bus lights and generally grubby windows meant all you could see was your own reflection. He looked around to make sure he wasn’t standing on a discarded sandwich or something. He took a quick glance at the attractive girl a couple of seats further down from him and sat down. Taking out his phone, he checked the time, picked a podcast and pressed play. He pulled his hat down and slumped further down his seat and settled in for the 50 minute home.
As the bus crawled through the rush hour traffic, Ben could hardly make out what was going on outside . Apart from a snake of red brake lights flickering on and off into the distance. He could feel his eyelids drooping, tired and exhausted. The vibration of the bus, the blowing heaters , the monotony. These all combined to make Ben nod off to sleep…..
….then wake with a jolt!!! A feeling of horror, not being able to see or recognise where he was. Disoriented, panic rising as it felt like he’d been asleep for hours, unable to see anything out of the windows. Slowly, through squinted eyes and closer inspection, familiar landmarks passed him by. He wiped the heavy condensation off the window and could tell he was halfway home. Thank god, he thought and chuckled to himself. He stretched his arms and legs. He noticed the attractive girl was still on the bus , and smiled to himself. He pushed himself down into his coat again. Rocked by the motion and gentle hum of a diesel engine, succumbed to tiredness again.
Ben woke with a start, again. The awful, momentary feeling of having no idea where he was. Taking a few seconds to adjust, his senses came back online like an old computer. His podcast had finished. He had no idea what time it was. Wracked with a sense of dread that he had missed his bus stop, he tried in vain to wipe the window clean.
That’s when he realised that the bus was silent . The hum of the engine gone. “ Bugger!” he said under his breath, “ I’m at the station!”. He could not see a thing outside as he got up out of his seat, hoping to see the girl , but the bus was empty. “ Fucking Hell!!” he exclaimed as he realised he had missed his stop, and started planning his trip back as he walked down the stairs. He slipped on the last step, landing on the damp floor with a thud. “Bollocks!”, he shouted. He pulled himself up with his now damp and muddy hands.
He looked around and realised the bus was completely empty. He looked in the driver’s compartment, but he had gone as well. Shit!, they’ve locked me in, he thought. He took his phone out of his pocket and tried to ring home. No answer as usual so he tried to call his wife. Still no answer. He wondered why he even bothered paying for phone. He then noticed a leaflet with a number for passenger information. He dialled again, no answer and then the signal cut out. “Fuck, fuck FUCK!!” he shouted out loud.
It was then, as he walked to the front of the bus, he realised that he wasn’t at a station. It was parked up at a bus stop with a shelter and a flickering light. Trees like cut out black paper shapes seemed to surround the bus on the horizon. No other lights on the road, no houses, no cars, endless darkness beyond the neon halo of the bus stop. No sign of life anywhere.
Panic started to set in as Ben tried to figure out what to do next. He tried the door , but it wouldn’t open. He walked up and down the wet sticky floor of the bus,. The bus seemed to fill with condensation. The dull orange interior lights seemed oppressive and hot. Ben became more and more agitated. Right, he thought, I’ll have to break a window. He removed his backpack, noticing how sticky his hands had become after slipping on the floor. Bloody pop or something, he thought. As he fumbled with his backpack, he was startled to see a figure sat at the bus stop. hood up, Head down, hands in pockets, deep in shadow.
Ben banged on the window of the bus to get the figures attention, but no reaction. “ Hey! HEY!” he shouted “ Can you help me? I’ve missed my stop and the bus driver has locked me in!”
Ben thought he recognised the coat. He realised it was the girl he had noticed earlier, but with the fur lined hood up over her head . He banged harder on the window this time and the figure seemed to stir. Ben still could not see a face but was convinced it was the girl. She then stood up, and walked towards the back of the bus. he followed her around to the back window. It was then he noticed something on the seat of the bus stop. At first, he thought it was the girls hand bag. Then a jolt of absolute terror ran through him as he realised it was the bus driver’s head.
“oh god, oh god”, he thought.
He put his hand to his face, realising that the floor of the bus wasn’t covered in mud or pop. It was sticky, slimy sweet smelling blood. He stumbled back onto the rear seat, sweating and muttering with terror. The bus door hissed open and the figure stepped onto the bus. The girl walked towards Ben, who was now frozen with horror. Long, bony fingers now lifted out of the pockets, sharp and blood stained at the tips. She lifted her hooded, fur lined hood up. Ben could see her pale face and the dark empty sockets where her eyes should have been. He could smell coppery tinged breath as she opened her impossibly wide mouth. Full with irregular, bloody sharp teeth.
“You’ve missed your stop,”she hissed as her fingers reached into his eyes and mouth………