Short Stories - The Bus

This short story is not about a bus. It is about The Bus.

It began on a fine autumn evening with the arrival of a text message:

wl b @ bs st 10 mn

Once I had decoded it, and with the clarity provided by hindsight that I was not exactly late but Very Late, I realised that I had only 10 minutes to make a 20 minute journey to the Bus Station. I'd better get on with it then. No hanging about writing notes!

Fortunately a pre-warning meant I actually had the car on the drive, so the extra few minutes required to get it out of the garage would not be needed on this occasion. I got my trainers on, tied the laces, grabbed the house and car keys from the drawer and dashed out the front door. I was grateful that the bus had been delayed by road works and was running a couple of hours late. If it had been on time, I would have had to thread my way through rush hour traffic and, living opposite a school, would have had great difficulty even getting onto the road. The school run was long over but it was darkening, so I put the lights on as I drove down to the junction at the bottom of the road. No queue at the traffic lights. The green lights were waiting for me, so I sailed through. Next up, the busy roundabout, but that was almost empty too. I only had to wait for a few seconds.

Now, I have a satellite navigator, but then, I could only guess how long it was going to take and how late I was going to be to pick up my daughter after her weekend trip to London. She was bound to be tired, especially with the delay caused by the road works, so keeping her waiting was not a good idea.

I was making good progress. It was a bit early for evening traffic, people going out for a meal or to see a film, so I wasn't feeling quite so guilty when the next set of lights turned red. There was no way I could sneak through on yellow, so I had to stop and wait. There was no other traffic going the other way, so they didn't stay red for long. I pulled across the junction and turned right. I looked in my rear-view mirror soon afterwards, and saw a bus in the distance. It would be following me but I was going faster, or at least I had hopes.

The next set of traffic lights were green and there was no queue the other way, so I wasn't delayed there. The lights started changing just as I got to them, but I made it across safely. I rounded the curve under the motorway flyover, which cut off my view to the rear. The next piece of road was straight and clear. When I next looked back, the bus was much closer than I expected, as if it did not stop at the red light.

Now, I'm doing 40 mph, at the speed limit, and the bus is catching me up. Odd, it's almost dark now and the bus hasn't got its lights on. Presumably it's on its way to the garage, but it hasn't even got its side lights on. It hasn't got any lights on. It's so dark inside, I can't see the driver, and it's getting closer. I don't have to look in the mirror to see it. It's a darkness increasingly filling up the rear view. The route sign is not illuminated. It's close enough to read with no lights. It says "Out of Service". Well, that explains why the inside lights aren't on, but what is the driver thinking?

Now he's driving too close. I get the strange feeling that he's after me. Where did that thought come from? I'm not dreaming, or at least I hope not. Anything can happen in a dream, can't it? And I haven't been eating cheese and only a small amount of chocolate, which is good, for a chocaholic, isn't it?

This piece of road is mostly straight so I push the speed up a bit, faster than the speed limit. I open up a gap, but the bus speeds up as well. It's too close and I'm coming to another set of lights. They are green. Thinking "Stay green, stay green" doesn't work and they change to amber as I approach. That makes for a tricky decision. Should I shoot the lights? If I slow down, the bus will hit me. Adrenaline starts to flow and I can feel my heart pumping. I'm going straight across the junction and the other way looks clear, but I can't see. The lights reach red just as I cross the stop line. I've got my fingers locked to the steering wheel and my eyes fixed on the road ahead, hoping that there's nobody jumping across the other way. I make it.

I look back to see if the bus has stopped, but it's not there. Where has it gone? I didn't see it turn off. I was distracted with the traffic lights, but perhaps with no lights on I wouldn't have seen it turn anyway.

My pulse and the car slow down as I realise I'm safe, or at least as safe as anyone can be in a car, in traffic, who's going to be late to pick up a tired daughter from the bus station...