Bus 39

It’s time to make the donuts. That’s what Bob thought every time he stood up from his bench to get on bus 16 every morning, Monday through Friday at 5:30am.

The days started to blend together, as every day seemed only a repeat of the day before. Bob felt like he had been reliving the same day over and over again, for twenty-five years.

He woke up at 4:45am, got dressed. He boarded the same bus every morning at 5:30am. He arrived at work at 6:30am. He worked until 4:00pm. He arrived home at 5:30pm, ate dinner, and was in bed by 8:30pm.

He felt the clock ticking away, day after day, week after week, and year after year.

He rarely smiled anymore. Life stopped being funny years ago.

He was turning 45 years old, he had never been married, no kids, and no prospects on the horizon.

As an accountant, he spent each day crunching numbers and paying bills. Once he was home, he spent what little time he had crunching numbers and paying bills.

He wasn’t a man to take risk. He wasn’t a man who sought adventure. He was a man that seemed to be waiting out the clock of life.

“Son of a bitch!” he yelled, waking up and seeing his clock blinking 12:00am.

He ran through the house, quickly stumbling about while he called his work and left a voicemail to tell them he would be in late. At the same time, he was throwing his clothes on, hopping on one leg, then the other as he pulled his pants up.

He was used to being the only one waiting for the bus at 5:30 in the morning, but now that the sun was out, he was sure he was going to have to share the bench with other people.

The thought made him grimace. He didn’t like being around other people. They were only a reminder of how lonely his life truly was.

He lived alone, he sat on the bench alone, he sat in his own cubicle alone, and to avoid having to be around others, at the end of the day, he would wait at his work window until he saw the bus approaching from up the street. Only then would he join the others at the bus stop to board the bus to go home.

The thought of having to wait for the bus with other people almost led him to just call off work, but as he looked around the empty house, he knew he would be miserable having nothing to do.

He took a deep breath, and walked out his front door.

His mouth dropped open, as for the first time in his life, he was surrounded by a fog so dense, he could barely see three feet in front of him.

He lived in a small enough city to not have to deal with smog, and a city too dry to ever have fog, yet there he stood, in a mist that was both beautiful and eerie at the same time.

Fortunately, Bob had walked to the bus hundreds of times, so he had no trouble navigating through the fog, until finally, he arrived at the bus stop.

To his pleasant surprise, he was the only one there.

Chills ran up his back as he looked around and didn’t notice any sign of life. Being this late in the morning, he should be seeing cars driving along the road, and people on the sidewalks. Not only could he see nothing, he heard nothing as well, which made it even more eerie. There was no sound of cars, nor did he hear the sounds of people walking or talking. It was just silence.

He was about to panic, and call the office just to make sure they still existed, when he heard the sound of the bus approaching.

He felt silly for worrying. For the first time in a long time, he couldn’t wait to get to work, and back into his normal routine.

He noticed that the bus he was about to board was Bus 39.

The bus driver didn’t make eye contact with him as he boarded, which wasn’t too unusual, but what was unusual was that he was the only person on the bus.

Another chill went up his spine, but he ignored it and sat in a seat towards the back.

Once he was seated, the bus departed.

The fog was still too dense to see anything, but Bob stared out the window anyways. He thought the fog best represented his life. His entire life had become like a fog itself.

If he looked back at his past. Fog. If he looked at his present. Fog. And if he looked to his future. Fog. It was as if he could feel his life fading away, leaving nothing behind in this world, no sign that he had ever existed.

The bus came to a stop at the bus stop in front of his office. He stepped off, barely giving the driver a passing glance.

He was starting to acclimate to the fog, and easily made his way to the front entrance of the building.

Once inside, he froze.

The fog was inside the building as well, and it felt as empty as it had at the bus stop.

He approached the front receptionist’s desk, but it was empty.

He walked down the hallway, passing empty office after empty office.

Minus the people and the fog, the office looked normal. Everything was still in its place, and even his desk was just as he had left it the day before, though he could barely see it.

He sat at his desk, trying to absorb what was happening, and feeling more alone than he ever had. He felt alone every day, but now that the office was void of life, he realized that though he considered himself alone, he wasn’t really ever alone. He was always surrounded by life. People, cars, and animals existed along with him, if only in his peripheral.

Now he longed to hear his co-worker’s voices, the traffic outside, the telephones ringing, and to feel the energy that flowed around him, though not through him.

He sat, undecided and fearful.

He looked at the clock and realized it wasn’t moving. It stood at 12:00am.

He tried to turn on his computer, but nothing happened when he pressed the button. His desk phone was also dead.

Everything that required power was dead. It was as if time had froze at midnight and left him the only person alive.

It wasn’t long before the loneliness overtook him and he felt a sudden need to get out of that office. He ran outside, looking around for any sign of life.

He was about to start walking towards downtown, when in his peripheral he saw a bus approaching the bus stop across the street.

He ran to it.

His heart skipped a beat as he saw that the bus number was once again 39. He figured the bus would be further on its route, and he would have to board yet a different bus.

Normally, it wouldn’t matter what the bus number was, but because of the strange things that had been happening, he had a feeling this was the only bus in existence.

As the doors opened, he slowly looked in, this time taking the time to see if he recognized the driver.

He couldn’t tell if it was the fog, or if his eyes were playing games with him, but he couldn’t clearly see the driver’s face.

Reluctantly, he stepped onto the bus to get a better look.

Panic set in when the driver turned to look at him, and he realized it was a skeleton wearing the bus driver’s clothes.

Bob turned to exit the bus, but before he could, the doors suddenly closed.

He screamed as he tried with all his might to open the doors.

When he realized that he wasn’t going to be able to leave through those doors, he slowly turned to face the skeleton driver, who was still staring at him.

Bob didn’t know what to say. He was about to ask it question, when instead, the skeleton driver motioned with his head for Bob to take a seat.

Knowing he didn’t have any other options, he edged his way past the driver, sitting in the same seat he had previously.

The bus began to move again, pulling away from his work towards downtown.

After some time, Bob built up the courage to ask the driver a question.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked.

The driver said nothing.

A little louder, he asked again, “Where are you taking me?”

No answer.

The paralyzing fear was beginning to dissipate, and courage was beginning to take its place.

Firmer, Bob asked again, “Where are you taking me?!”

He almost fell out of his seat as the bus suddenly stopped, and the doors opened.

Bob looked out the window, but couldn’t see anything.

Not wanting to stay on the bus any longer, he slowly made his way back up to the front of the bus, and edged pass the driver again, to exit the bus.

No sooner had his last foot stepped off the bus, when the doors slammed closed and the bus leaped forward, disappearing into the fog.

Bob looked around unsure why the driver had kicked him off there.

He found himself standing on a curb, facing a field of freshly mowed grass.

After his eyes had acclimated a little, he looked around again, and could swear that the fog seemed denser behind and around him, but it was lighter directly in front of him.

Feeling that forward was the way to go, he walked, hoping he’d get some answers soon, and that those answers wouldn’t lead to his death.

His heart sank, as the grassy field gave way to a graveyard.

It wasn’t a graveyard he had ever seen, and he couldn’t even be sure that this graveyard existed other than within this fog.

His became nauseous as he came across the first headstone and recognized the name. It was the name of one of his co-workers, but she wasn’t dead.

He moved from grave to grave, reading the names on each. They were of people he knew, though he hadn’t interacted with any of them. At least not outside of when he had to.

As he moved through the graveyard, he began to look for his. He knew he had to be there. All the names he had come across were people that were still alive, so he knew he had to be among them.

Unable to find his tombstone, a great depression fell upon him as he felt that he was alone, even in death.

After he had read the name off the last tombstone, and it wasn’t his name, he dropped to his knees and cried.

It wasn’t that he was afraid he was dead, but he cried because being excluded made him feel even more alone.

He felt like he had entered a purgatory, and he was to forever walk within this fog alone and forgotten.

Wiping tears away, he looked up and saw a lone tombstone sitting lopsided along the tree line.

It was barely visible in the tall grass, and was being over taken with weeds.

He slowly walking towards it, already knowing it would have his name on it.

Knowing was one thing, seeing it still made him gasp.

The tombstone was a representation of his life. It was as lonely and decrypted as he felt every day, and looking at it, he felt like he was looking into a mirror of his soul.

“I deserve to be here, alone in the fog, alone in this world,” he said quietly.

He was about to just lay down and wait for death to take him, when he heard a sound behind him.

He quickly turned and saw that the bus had returned.

Not wanting to be in the cemetery any more, he ran to the bus to ensure he was able to board before it could drive off.

Anywhere is better than here, he thought.

He jumped in the bus, the doors slamming closed behind him. Once on board, he edge passed the same skeleton driver, and took his seat.

The bus lurched forward.

Bob stared out the window as they drove away from the cemetery.

As they went, it seemed like the fog was beginning to become denser. He could no longer see the road.

The fog began to fill the bus, and it wasn’t long before he could no longer see the skeleton driver.

Panic set in when he couldn’t even see his fingers.

This is the end, he thought as he squinted his eyes and waited for death.

****

He woke up sharply to the sound of his alarm clock going off. It said 4:45am.

When he walked out of his house, he was expecting to see the fog, but while it was dark, it was clear.

He still sat alone on the bus bench, but he could see cars driving along the road.

He was surprisingly happy when he boarded the bus and there was no skeleton driver, and he wasn’t alone.

He took a moment to say “Hello” to the driver, and he smiled as he passed each person on the bus.

Never wanting to feel the loneliness he felt in the fog again, he made it a point to smile at every person that made eye contact with him, and to take the time to say a few words to his co-workers whenever he had a chance.

For the first time in his life, he didn’t feel alone.