Author's Note: I began writing this story on a layover one afternoon last month. The idea for a story struck me as I drove my 35, so I just had to start writing it. The majority of it was written on my phone in the Notes app, a paragraph or two at a time just before I nodded into dreamland. Promising myself to finish it for Halloween, I finally did just a few minutes ago. Critics may assail this clumsy offering to the genre of horror, but fuck 'em. I'm happy with it. One idea morphed into a whole story. It was fun writing it! Hopefully, it scares you shitless on this spooky eve. It scared me just editing it, mostly the realization that I could write such grisly shit. Happy Reading, and Happy Halloween.
* * * * *
Empty bus, cool foggy drizzly night in Portland’s Northwest. It’s a week prior to Halloween, a few minutes before midnight. Few venture out this Tuesday, except for the unfortunate who have nowhere warm and dry to be.
Drugged out miscreant Dusty of a sordid history approaches a bus long after its final departure time. Interior lights off. He tries rubbing fog off glass on back door, looks inside. Completely dark. Empty blackness. No seats, nothing but nothing inside, only a translucent blue mist floating within.
Bus fart. Air tanks expelling excess, a completely common occurrence. This time, it sounds hungry.
Dusty the bedraggled jumps and leans backwards to look toward the back end of the bus. Swirling mist coming from there engulfs him, luring him closer with a favorite childhood scent of pumpkin bread. He sways to the rhythm of a mysterious humming. Bus rocks begins gently rocking side-to-side.
A pair of blue lights shine out toward him from the operator’s seat. Just as he realizes these are eyes, hypnotizing him, the door slams open, smacking his head. He’s pulled in by an invisible force and he screams, fighting whatever has grabbed him. The door slams shut, lights come full on. Dusty sees the “operator” and howls in terror.
She’s a full skeleton morphing weirdly human into an even more horrifying human countenance and back to sheer ugliness. She smiles. Eyes hypnotizing her victim, she jerks her head backward and Dusty is pushed into the empty darkness where his fate eagerly awaits.
Bus shakes violently, up and down, sideways. Chewing. Moans, metal grinding within screams ending with a wolves howling, then echoing into sheer silence.
Another bus fart, long and loud, blue mist enveloping the entire bus. Shaking stops, mist disappears. So has the bus, and its victim.
Bus appears out of a fog bank, rolls down the mostly deserted street. Slows to a stop. Beeping as it lowers. Door opens, a bloody bundle of bones and blood catapults from the ramp onto the lawn of an abandoned house beyond the bus stop.
Seconds later, the bus emits what sounds like a belch, then the final body part pops out of the door. Flames rush through the doorway. Doors close, smoldering through the blue mist. Smell of sulfur and incinerated human. Bus disappears as the air clears.
“What the…?” Mark Shifler mumbles, watching from a block away. He’s been summoned by Rocky the mutt for a late night potty call but dog only whines; his master is the only one who has pissed. Knees shaking, Mark shuffles toward the scene, shaking his head to clear his mind in hopes this is a nightmare.
A humerus sticks out from an overgrown rhododendron, various other bones still halfway covered with smoldering burnt flesh litter the pathway to the front door. In his shock he doesn’t sense the stench. A burning hand falls on his head and he screams, frantically swiping it off him and patting out the flames in his hair. Stumbling, he grabs the decorative yard lamppost to catch his balance. Holding on, he slides slowly down to his butt, looking up. His mouth forms a scream but no sound erupts.
Precisely impaled on the bus stop pole, Dusty’s head gapes down at him. Mouth frozen in his final scream, his half-severed tongue protrudes from a dangling jaw, dripping blood onto Mark’s face.
A car approaches, then stops, driver staring open-mouthed. Mark raises his hand, and lady rushes over to him, eyes fixed on his bloody forehead and singed hair. She either ignores or fails to notice the horrific scene beyond and above.
“Help him,” Mark manages to whisper.
“Well I don’t know who `he’ is,” she says, “but what happened to you?”
She wipes blood out of Mark’s eyes and off his forehead and looks for injuries, finding nothing but a scalp cut. He brushes her hands off him and points up at the lamppost above.
“Him, not me!”
She stares at Mark a moment, his upward stare alarming her. She slowly looks up. Screaming at the sight, she jumps up and backs away, stopped by her still-running car. Leaning against it she continues shrieking, hands cupping her cheeks, unable to stop staring.
Lights come on next door and across the street nearly simultaneously. People in pajamas run up. more screaming.
Mark’s shoulders hunch upward, his face contorted in agony. Nobody sees the only eyewitness die. They’re all transfixed by the grisly scene in the yard beyond.
Griswoldene is ecstatic. Se escaped hell, now she’s creating nightmares in this, her “special” transit vehicle, for those who tormented her in life. Or, like this time, just for the hell of it. She’s eagerly awaiting her next victim, salivating at the prospect of making him suffer even worse than the hapless Dusty just did.
Much happier in death, her mind thinks something evil and this bus acts it out. It’s not a hunger, since she no longer needs calories. It’s rather a quest for bloody mayhem. It’s new and exciting, and each new slayventure strengthens her. The bus and her companions are teaching her how to exact terror. She thrives on it.
Upon her arrival in hell, she attacked Satan’s minions so savagely they begged him not to admit her. So fierce she stole their pokers and smashed their brains, roasting then devouring them.
Satan was so eager to expel her he gave her a bus and threw in a few demons to ride with her. These became her “fellers”, who both loved and feared her.
The Fellers are soon hungry again. Being live creatures on another plane of existence they can eat live flesh only if the spirit stays in the body. Many of Griswoldene’s victims were horrid souls in her opinion, destined for hell anyway. Their harvest helped maintain a steady stream of spirits for the demons to send screaming into the fiery depths.
“Grizzy”, so called by the Fellers, because she lacks the maternal instincts of a grizzly. Her stepfather adopted her but changed her name over his wife’s objection.
“He named me for the son he never deserved,” she explained to a curious cell mate. “He only added the `e-n-e’ because it rhymes with obscene.”
She harbors a list of targets from her tortured life. She killed many in life, including her executioner. Before the lethal injections, she whispered to him in tongues, imploring him closer. As if she desired to ask a last wish.
Half curious but mostly entranced by her beguiling eyes, he leaned too close and she bit into his neck. Severed carotid artery sprayed arcing jets of his blood around the tiny death chamber. A prison guard frantically pushed all the buttons at once and her body shuddered instantly dead.
Enough history. Now, there’s a creepy bus hungry for flesh.
Dell Mayer is drunken on a diseased liver. A decade of “Easy Does It” morphed into “Ah Fuck It” when his death row stepdaughter refused to allow him to apologize and “make amends”.
“I ain’t fit for heaven and I’m too mean for hell,” she hissed at him over the phone the week before she was executed. “So I ain’t care to let you off the hook whispering how sorry you are in one ear while kiddie memories stick your pecker in my other. I’d rather cut your dick and balls off with a dull razor, pour a whole bottle of rotgut down your throat, then stuff the rotten trio in your mouth like a cork. Just to watch you drown.”
Dell’s “recovery” ended there. Proud after completing every step, confident his heartfelt apology would seal the deal. After hearing that harsh condemnation from Grizzy he dove off the wagon into a fresh river of whiskey.
Stumbling down Lombard at 3:12 a.m. he’s startled by the sound of a bus behind him. Harboring a nervous habit of looking behind, he hadn’t noticed any traffic. Only the most dense, bluish fog bank he has ever seen. It wase following him, he knew it. Stopping and turning around, he sees nothing. Spooking him sober.
Dell walks away, the sound of a bus starting making him jump. Landing into a full sprint, no easy task for a boozer in his early 70s. Looking over his left shoulder he sees the bus materialize and lurch forward. He screams.
“Hungry, Fellers?” Grizzy hisses to her eagerly-drooling fire passengers.
The chorus: in a full feeding frenzy. Shiny sharp teeth roll up and down the interior, making a shrieking grinding sound, sparks flying, demons flying into each other, furiously rocking the fiery feeding frenzy.
Grizzy punches the accelerator. “No gov’ner holdin’ THIS bad girl back! Hold on Fellers, FOOD FIGHT!”
Bus closing in on him, Dell’s terror interrupts his futile grip on survival. He leaves the tree-lined sidewalk and dashes diagonally across the street, hoping to find safety off road in Columbia Park. Grizzy punches the accelerator through the floor and hits Dell at 45mph. This crushes him, hurtling his body forward, then under the bus.
“PIZZA!!!” they shout as the rear duals crush Dell’s body flat.
“Thin crust, too!” Grizzy shouts.
“Got any hot peppers and parmigiana?” another says with a giggle.
The bus stops over Dell’s mangled body. Swallows him. Demons devour it in seconds, swallowing his soul while slurping up the gore.
Grimly satisfied watching the feast, Grizzy murmurs, “Bet he tastes like shit.” She stops in front of her childhood home and uses the modified ramp to catapult Dell’s steaming heap of bones into the yard.
“Bye bye, Daddy.”
Unsure if my first guess of location is correct, I take a chance and choose the sanctuary where I often hide during the often-horrid self pity well I go to drown in. Right on both counts.
I arrive early, having scanned for any other human presence. Finding none, I sit. Moments later the voice was sitting next to me in the form of this other-worldly beautiful child.
DaeShown is more dazzingly bright than any human I have seen. Shiny eyes of intense cobalt beam from a brilliantly dark face framed by long braids of tawny brown hair. Never have I seen such devastating beauty.
At four years and five months, she’s already devouring Shakespeare and solving calculus problems. But that’s a secret, she tells me. Seems an historic statement, oddly.
“Shhh,” she whispers, “I don’t want anyone else to know. People get hurt by my smarts.” She solemnly taps her forehead in emphasis.
I’m shaken. Talking with a small child, in a deserted city park. I’m hearing two voices, one aloud and another I’m not sure is my imagination gone bonkers. Asking whoever if my sanity is intact, as I have since I was contacted via telephone early this morning. The electronic-sounding voice said “Meet me at the rusty bench in the park. You’ll know which one.”
It is beyond freak out weird, but it’s now. It’s real.
She understands the police will want to question her. This is suddenly understood, unspoken.
“I don’t want to cause trouble,” she explains. “So you cannot reveal your source. And you can only write about it if it is published post mortem.”
After promising to protect her anonymity, I’m about to question the validity of her statement. The absurdity of such a claim by a young child is instantly dashed before my question is finished.
“Why should I…”
She hypnotizes me with her suddenly cold stare. Instead of speaking, I hear her plainly in my mind.
“BECAUSE I SAW IT! I WAS THERE!” she shouts telepathically.
The voice, louder than my son’s stereo, knocks me to the ground. Hands clutching my head, my eyes closed, I felt DaeShown standing above me.
“I’m sorry,” her sweet child voice said, this time aloud. “I will help you up.”
I feel her tiny hands on my cheeks, and a warm feeling enveloping me. Opening my eyes, I’m surprised to see I’m standing. DaeShown is standing a few feet away, gesturing to a man 20 yards away. Not speaking, yet communicating. He nods, smiling at her.
“He looks like Morgan Freeman,” I say, noticing his profile.
She giggles. “He gets that a lot.”
“Daddy gets worried sometimes when I talk to strangers,” she explains, vocally. She seems older. “But he told me about you so no strangeness.”
We sit. I look for the man, but he is not there. Seems to have vanished.
“I know you’re a good person.”
“Thank you,” I mumble, for want of anything more to say. Then suddenly, “Are you an angel of some sort?”
She giggles, back to a four-year-old. “Daddy says I am, he’s so silly.” Another giggle, not so convincing in comparison to the last, punctuated by a dismissive flick of her wrist.
“You will help me fix that bus.” Back to telepathy.
I shudder at the prospect.
“I know,” she whispers in my mind. The voice of an adult now. “It’s strange. But I came to rid this world of a perilous consequence of its apathetic refusal to battle evil. I choose you to help. Don’t ask why. Instead, look at me.”
I turn my head slowly, my gaze downward. Stop at her bare feet, realize they now belong to a woman. Freak out afresh. Not wanting to yet compelled, maybe even forced as my head seems guided by a force not my own, I look up to the face of an even more beautiful woman than the child of a moment before.
“Close your mouth, lad,” she says, placing her hand over it. “Good. Now listen.”
Evidently, there’s a ghost bus full of evil running around Portland, and it’s leaving ghastly piles of bloody bones behind. The cops have yet to reveal the deaths. The bus “operator” is an executed murderer who, according to DaeShown, is coming for me next.
My mind’s eye is assaulted with the memory of me closing windows on a bus one snowy night. The bus driver screaming in an other-worldly shriek. “Did I appoint you window monitor, punk?”
“Fuck yourself, bitch,” I say. “It’s colder than my first wife out there!”
I’m the sole passenger just after midnight, having finished my shift as a late-night reporter for the local daily. Writing about the storm I was hoping to beat home, now worried about freezing to death on the bus after waiting an hour for it.
“Not as cold as you’ll be if I beat your ass out the door, asshole,” she screams. The tone of her voice prompts me to reopen the two windows.
“I’ll report you…” I remember saying before I’m suddenly back in the present.
DaeShown is hugging me when I return.
“She took offense, lad. Now she’s after anyone, but especially those who ignited her wrath as a mortal.”
I’m confused. The memory is from a decade ago, one I have shuffled into nowheresville. Doubtful I would recognize the driver again.
“Yes,” DaeShown tells me, “you are next. My bait, I’m sorry to say, but it’s absolutely vital to do exactly as I tell you, when you hear my voice. Anything else you’re doing will have to wait. If you survive.” Each word italicized is louder by far than the rest.
“What if I refuse?” I say, feeling defensive.
“YOU MAY NOT!” Morgan Freeman’s voice commands in my mind. He’s standing three feet away, facing me with arms folded, stern faced, his eyes piercing through the back of my skull. My pain is for emphasis, and disappears immediately. As if He doesn’t want me to feel it afterward.
“Whoa, dude,” I manage to say. “Okay.”
He vanishes, replaced by DaeShown.
“Are we understanding each other now?” she asks, cupping my cheeks in her incredibly soft, gentle hands.
“Yes, ma’am,” I say, complacent now.
My life changes drastically from this moment.
* * * * *
Flash forward 37 years. It’s October 15, 2035. I’m dying of a failing heart and kidneys, glad I beat thyroid cancer in my 30s. I’m 77, and until today I forgot that day at the park and everything afterward. Just writing this makes me shudder, extremely grateful for these amazing decades.
Ever since that horrifying day, my life has been blessed more than I had ever dreamed possible. My books sold millions, became famous and well-renowned, found love and fathered three extremely gifted kids. My life has been exemplary since then, and I enjoy every day as a grandfather and husband of the most wonderful woman. Until the first heart attack, I was extremely vibrant.
I woke up today knowing my time is freaky short. Days, maybe? Hours? Whatever dude, I dreamed this vision from long ago that was lost until now. The past three months however, I have known my death will occur at 12:34 a.m. on October 17. Day Something nags at me, but I don’t remember anyone of that name. What I do know is that date is just two days nigh, and it’s my final goal to write this story. Here it is. If you don’t believe it, I don’t give a fuck. It happened, and this is my testimony of the event as was dictated to me. By Her.
For six days after meeting DaeShown and her “daddy”, I wandered about in a daze. It’s funny that as soon as I felt the keys at my fingertips, the story just came to me. I didn’t know what I was supposed to write. It was forgotten, intentionally by my psyche or forbidden by now by DaeShown. I get her name now… it means The Day Shone. I can remember her face and intense lovely beauty now after all these 13,245 days. Her fuzzy memory led me to my Beloved Stacey, with whom I have shared such an incredible life I doubted could ever happen. Now, this heaven here must end, so here goes something.
* * * * *
I quit taking the drugs Doc prescribed. She wasn’t even born when this story happened. Instead, I’ve indulged myself in a few joints of my home-grown green magic with a bottle of my fave Scotch bedside. A just-lit stogie in my mouth, I’m eager to write the final story of this weird life.
A few drinks in, I’m giddy thinking it would be fun to plagiarize Charles Shultz but that would be dishonorable. Instead, it was a clear, warm fall day when DaeShown’s commands dictated my next moves. It was the seventh day after meeting her, and that memory was lovingly-fresh in my mind. I was in love with an apparition, and it was fun feeling that emotion again.
That day was typical. Finished my shift, hopped on the wrong bus not realizing it was taking me north instead of otherwise. Coulda swore it was my normal Line 199. Fell asleep in my usual seat just one up from the back door, enjoying a dream of a lass long lost. Bus driver woke me up quite suddenly at the end of the line, telling me I had to get off.
Shaking my head, I apologized to the newbie operator, whose kind face dictated the same in return. I thanked her, closing my eyes another moment, rubbing them and thanking her for allowing me to shit my get together.
Upon opening them, I was confronted with Griswoldene’s visage. The bus went dark, gradually brightening into a hazy blue mist. Her skeleton mouth loomed inches from my face, her jaws wider than humanly possible, intent upon swallowing my entire body.
“Hello Brian, P-Brain, Dumbfuck,” Grizzy snarled. Drool drizzled down her jawbone, slowly receding to whatever normal should look like. Skeletons don’t usually have that ability, I thought.
Grizzy morphed into the operator who screamed at me when I shut the windows. Seeing this, my body shot deeper into that hard/unforgivingly stiff seat than possible, every inch super-glued into it. Frozen with fear as Grizzy went back to a skull and bones, weaving internal organs into flesh and back to skeleton again. All the while, her face/skull wove in rhythm to some B.B. King-inspired tune. She gradually into a Stevie Wonder boogyin-down riff I never danced to again afterward. Words cannot describe the terror I felt with her jaws snapping to and fro, closer to my neck while I could not even move. My neck hairs are stiffer than my 15-year-old dick just thinking about this moment.
My life until then was not worth the movie they tell us happens this close to death. For what seemed like minutes I didn’t even breathe. Then, I felt thankful as she backed away. Only for a moment, for she waved her arms and I was instantly faced with a dozen demon-looking, I can’t describe other than “things”. They weaved hypnotically in front of me. Snarling, hissing, snapping their teeth in hungry manners like a starving dog confronting a fresh side of beef.
My body just gave up this ghost. Deathly functions preceded the forthcoming event. It stank worse than the fart I let when Davey entered our tent on Mt. Graham, got zipped up in his sleeping bag and I let loose with the Mutha of All Stinkers. When I opened my own bag, laughing myself silly at the odor, Davey’s dog Dylan burst out the door in disgust before his master could even unzip his bag. It was a horrid stench, and I was certain my life was about to be brutally ended.
Then, at 1:12 a.m., the sun rose brighter than normal midday. Millimeters from my throat, demons stopped. Frozen in time. I wasted not a second, jumping from my seat leaving a horrid trail of bio-hazards behind me and flew through the back door. I think it was closed, but I managed to escape. Into total darkness outside. The sun was directly above, shining solely on the bus.
I shudder stepped backward and away as far as my feet would shuffle, directly onto the lawn where Grizzy had deposited that first sack of bones. Sitting there in the shit and wet grass, I watched the intersection of Lombard and Chataqua become a gaping sinkhole. That sun, completely enshrined in darkness, shone solely on Grizzy’s bus.
The silence was pierced by the cries/shrieks/howls of a thousand wolves and ghouls as the bus slowly rose several hundred feet in the air. Slowly doesn’t accurately describe the horror and escalation of volume as it rose ever higher. It took several minutes. As I watched, the bus became enveloped in a flame-color I had never imagined possible. A combination of orange, purple, green, then red and ultimately bluer than the sky ever was. The heat grew with intensity as the screams subsided, then went silent.
Just a few moments afterward, as if whatever was raising it was satisfied, the bus slammed down into the sinkhole. The ground in front of me began caving inward. I scrambled frantically backward, escaping the downward pull.
I could see the bus, some several hundred feet down in the sinkhole, flaming as the Earth reclaimed its demons. Then, a torrential downpour frequent to the Northwest this time of year rained molten rock down into the hole. Only there. Upon me fell the sweet, cool rain I was only too happy to feel.
The molten rock covered the ever-descending burning bus and its occupants, and the sinkhole began to close. After 10 minutes, life returned to the intersection. The street was just as it had been before, perhaps a bit smoother than a Portland tax dollar was ever able to accomplish. In fact, for decades afterward, it was remarked that this intersection’s pavement remained flawless.
* * * * *
I sat there in the park’s grassy middle, 120 yards away from the sinkhole, shit-and-piss-smeared, breathing heavily and fearing a fatal heart attack at 40 years of age. Found myself sitting on the same bench where DaeShown found me. Swearing off cigarettes and booze (which I failed to fulfill) if this vision escaped me, I watched until the end. I dreamed of Morgan Freeman laughing in the distance as the Earth closed down on Griswoldene.
Several hours later, a cop woke me, holding his nose in disgust and bade me get the fuck outta there. I don’t know where I went but my next recollection found me safely home in my cozy shower. About 20 hours later, I awoke with a dimming memory of something weird happening on last night’s drunken festivities.
* * * * *
Sorry, I must have dozed. These drugs the doc scored me are good dope.
It was a dark, cold, stormy night…
* * * * *
That week’s obituaries included one for Brian P. Gomer, found in his bed, hands on his laptop keyboard, having passed of “natural causes” following a “long battle with heart disease”. He was survived by his wife and scores who loved him dearly. None of them knew this story.
Until now. God help you, chillins.