I felt quite as uncomfortable as every day when the alarm went off and pulled me out of a sweet dream, but the fact that there was no utter darkness in the room, but daylight shining through the window, told me there was more going wrong than just me being uncomfortable. I checked my mobile and it turned out that I had forgotten to change the alarm back to ‘work time’ after the weekend. 8.20! ‘Fucking hell’! It was supposed to be 7. A feeling of shock flooded me and wiped away all the remaining memory of my dream in an instant and brought me back to bitter reality in a split second. I ran to the bathroom to brush my teeth and I did not dare to think about a hot shower, which would have cost even more precious time.
When I left the house, I was just pushing my left arm through my shirt sleeve and I was off to the bus-stop. It was bitterly cold and an icy chill was in the Air. I felt like I was exploring a world filled with sparkling ice and snow people, only that there weren’t any and no real people on the street neither and no cars as well. I started to wonder whether I had missed some kind of ‘Bank Holiday’ or so, but I knew that was impossible. After waiting for the Bus for another freezing, painful 20 minutes it finally showed up and slowly came to a halt in front of me. Once inside, I checked the time again. 9.00 o’clock. So work had eventually started, at least for my colleagues, who were probably just discussing whether I would fake sickness after we spent yesterday evening together in the pub. Buses in Galway never go fast and the traffic jam in the morning is notorious, so I expected to arrive at work no earlier than 9.30. But since there were no other cars on the road, we were moving quite swiftly.
I had just stopped to wonder why there weren’t any, when I realised that something else was weird. I was all alone in the bus, except for another guy who was so fat that he had to take one of the seats that are usually reserved for wheelchair users, since they offer double the space. There was an eerie silence in the bus. Like it was not really driving. No engine sounds, no sounds at all to be precise, almost as if you were travelling in one of those flying things in a science fiction film. The only sound came from the fat guy who was fumbling around on his MP3 player, trying to find the right song, which made him oblivious to the fact that the bus was supposed to be full of people at this hour.
I tried to calm down and look at the bright side and welcomed the fact that I’ll probably be on time, despite my late departure. So I started to relax and my thoughts drifted to back to important things, like football and woman. After a few minutes had passed by, we came to a roundabout on which the bus was supposed to turn left and go to direction work from there. But to my great shock it went straight right, in the opposite direction. I thought: ‘Oh shit, what the heck is he doing’. For a few moments I hoped there would just be some kind of mistake and the bus-driver would look out from his booth with an apologetic smile and tell us everything was fine. When this did not happen, I got up from my seat and rushed to the front to find out what was going on.
I immediately realised there was something much more wrong than just a missed exit. The closer I came to the front of the bus, the more I felt a strange fear starting to take hold of me. I suddenly stopped. Something deeply unnatural was in the air. Every step in the direction of the front of the bus seemed like a stairway into hell. There was no darkness, nothing had changed, I was still standing there in this Bus, about 5 steps away from the driver’s cab. Yet there was something cold, hateful and deeply vicious radiating from that direction. It was so intense, that it was almost tangible. I held my breath and tried to force down the panic that was starting to take hold of me. I looked at the fat guy who was still playing with his MP-3 Player. For a moment I considered trying to talk to him and get some support in this, but I was not able to speak. My mouth was dry and I started to feel the hair on my arms standing up. There was no other way, I had to see what was there. Not because I was thinking about being late anymore. I sensed that I need to get out of that Bus or something awful would happen.
I slowly approached the driver’s cab, every step taking me ages. I turned to him to speak, but no word would come from my lips. The driver looked as if someone had drained all life out of him: A misshapen figure with skin as white as snow. His hands clung to the steering wheel as if he would fall over as soon as he lets go. He turned to me in an extremely slow movement. I was too stunned and disturbed to say anything, or to even scream. Eventually his eyes fell on me: They were dark like black holes. He looked like a corpse, sitting in a chair. Only strands of hair were left on his otherwise white skull. Yet there was an awfully aware intelligence inside his eyes, combined with an abstruse animal-like eagerness, like a zombie-wolf that spots a deer. He held my eyes locked. Slowly his mouth turned into a sneer. His lips parted, his voice a mere gurgle: ‘End of the line’. Suddenly I heard a scream of anguished fear from behind. I turned to see the fat guy, suddenly out of his chair and finally realising there’s more pressing matters to attend to than his music. He looked at me with eyes wide open and stumbling: ‘What’s going on??’ I turned back to the driver’s seat, only to find it empty. Where a few moments ago a dead, but not quite dead man had been driving the vehicle, there was only an empty seat. I looked at it and still I was speechless, like I had been for what seemed like a lifetime. Before I was able to grasp a coherent thought and process this madness, the fat guy stood next to me. His skin had become just as white as the drivers’, yet not because he was dead, but out of pure, uncontrolled fear and alarmism. He grabbed my shoulders and started to babble: ‘What’s going on?? Where are we?’ I looked at him, dumbfounded, not knowing what to answer (yet again) and looked out of the window: All I could see was a dense forest in pitch black dark at 9.30 in the morning. I started to realise, that I probably would be late for work, or I would never get there at all. But that seemed to be my smallest problem in this moment.
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