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The Ride

The bus glided through the streets like a boat on a lake as smooth as glass; fluid and agile. It meandered through landscapes which blurred the open thoroughfare of the street with the blocks and bricks of the buildings, the straight lines with the contours - Road Runner running through Wile E.’s mural of a tunnel - into deep gullies black as pitch and into a deeper darkness that stripped me of everything, I no longer recognized my transport or even myself. Succumbed to an insatiable void. As you can imagine, this caused me great consternation. I felt completely lost. I’ve never been to my destination before, but I knew the city well. I cupped my hands around my face to see better through the glass, but all I could see was vegetation. Thick brush and tall, barren, skeletal trees. What happened to the city? Alone. Now separated even from myself. This was the true beginning of my loneliness and I had still had no idea where the bus was headed. I began to work up the courage to ask the driver where we were going but when I stood up the overhead sign that registers a stop flashed a bright orange X. An a thin, grey, rawboned arm extended out from the driver’s box, its thumb a dangling noose. What the hell?

I was jolted back into my seat suddenly as the bus lurched forward again picking up speed. It was so quick, surging from one place, nay, one reality to another. City to forest, industrial to dead wood, urban to suburban. Suddenly some I thought I did recognize in a familiar city and others were completely foreign. So, we were out of the strange leafless forest. The light was different. My head slammed off the metal strip holding the glass in the wall of the bus as it curved into a horseshoe, bending like star light under the duress of heavy gravity. The steering wheel and the rear emergency door handle were side by side. Whipping around the bend, my shoulder ached with the pressure of being pressed into the bus wall. Electric spikes slid through my neck and back folding me forward. The bus snapped straight coming out of the turn and I flattened against the seat as the bus shot forward. Magnificent structures of granite and onyx burst through the opaqueness standing tall, monolithic, and horned stabbing deep into the belly of the sky outside the windows. These huge monoliths were followed by squat buildings and houses that were warped. They defied true description, and yet stretchedand blurred as we passed. Everything smeared into wrongness. The colours were bizarre, tinted a rotten green. The the landscape emptied its guts behind us of anything remotely human. Forests of squat tangled brambles and thorny vines grew into Evil Dead tress that reach for the bus, dragging the tips of their branches screaming across the metal sides and roof. An abyssof thick murky air, visible in its viscousness swallowed the whole machine and in it massive white sea mines buoyantly bobbed threatening to destroy anything that got too close.

I had to turn inward. How could I accept what was happening outside? My mind found something to latch onto, a snippet of a song I’d heard once or twice, “and tell me, did Venus blow your mind? Was it everything you wanted to find?” What was I asking myself? I haven’t found anything. The bus accelerated again, swerving this way and that down winding roads that went around buildings and then mountains, through the horror trees, into tunnels - I don’t remember this city, my city, having any tunnels - everything whipped by so fast that it was was less like the driver pressed the petals and steered the bus so much as folded space in half, ploughing through the fold and arriving somewhere else in no time at all. It was so jarring that my mind felt like it was suffering from whiplash. My perception was so contorted that tension headaches stretched across my skull blurring my vision. It made me nauseas, especially when the bus came to a stop. I nearly slipped from my seat every time. What was incredible was how smooth and eerily quiet it ran. A stop would approach as if the bus were suddenly caught in an elastic, stretching it thin before being released again. It simply cut through the aether.

Regular stops appeared along the route. That was another thing in a long list of strange things; the only thing that resembled a familiar reality. Even that was undercut by the manner in which it stopped. In slow motion and in spite of the fact that no one was waiting for it. I still haven’t seen another human being. At one point the driver stopped the bus near an industrial park where there was wide shoulders on either side of the road. Beyond them were immensely deep ditches and even taller banks as if the road was set between large levees. The driver got off the bus and dissolved into the darkness. Maybe for a smoke or something. I couldn’t see her. Waiting there for her I realized I had no idea what time it was? See, been a while since time was brought up eh? Strange to have travelled so far across all of these great distances and not one time think about, well, time. It must be getting so late. I feel like I am back on that bus now, telling you about it. Truth be told it was much later than I had anticipated, but it was really hard to tell. Everything was happening so fast. And yet, time wasn’t at all.

I thought about him.I was missing him at the party. No, that isn’t quite right. I was missing him. It wasn’t about a time and place. It was only about him. Only ever about him. It was about the whole emptiness of the thing; an inner space of longing for something comforting. I wished he was with me then. The wish was an electric whip wrapped tightly around my heart and lungs sending waves of volts and convulsions rippling through my whole body. We were still going strong, setting fires everywhere. We were literally two halves of a divine spark. We belonged together. The longer I stayed in place, the worse the angst got. It was a lead brick pushing its weight down, squeezing right through the middle of me. Ironically, it was holding me to the seat with my eyes glued to the large pane of glass beside me. What the hell was the driver doing? I worried. She still wasn’t back.

Time passed before the doors exhaled dustily as they swished open. The dull grey material of the uniform ball cap bobbed as it rose up above the railings and plexiglass.The insignia revealing itself slowly -a white rectangular border with what looked a little like a gondola and gondolier etched above blue wavy lines inside.It didn’t look municipal. I stood to ask what had happened and if we were headed to the stop I needed. The driver turned to me, and as she did raised a vertical finger to her mouth, which had lost its lips - teeth protruding and petrified - “shh,” leapt noisily from between the wooden jaw, spittle fanned out in front of her. I gasped in horror and sat right back down.

Fearing anymore exposure to the grotesque, I turned toward the window again and stared as hard as I could, putting as much pressure on my eyes in an attempt to rid them of the image and memory; trying to get any kind of glimpse of the outside world, any kind of distraction. I looked for the house which held the party. God, I just wanted to be there so badly. A moment later strange dull clicking noises worked their way through the panels and into my ears. My blood turned to slush. I could feel it slow as a creeping terror filled the bus. Queer emanations pulsed behind my eyes and then I saw them. Eldritch looking shadows writhing all over the ditch. How long had I actually been on this bus? How could there have been shadows if it was dark out, you ask? How the hell should I know? I have no idea where they came from. The one thing I do know is that they were not thin and ethereal like actual shadows. They were faceless with a rough texture and their skin was the colour of a charcoal briquette. It looked like cooling lava, cracked and radiating thin lines of orange light from between the fissures in their flesh. I pressed my face against the glass and cupped my hands around my eyes. I watched as some lay stretched out in the gravel of the shoulder convulsing while others angrily struck them with blunt shadowy instruments. While the violence persisted, others skittered on all fours like spiders, crooked and contorted. They chased the bus screeching and clawing at it. Still others were simply limbless and lay about screaming in torrential bouts of agony, fetid orange light sputtering out of their blackened maws with each shriek. Unable to turn away, even though this was not the kind of distraction I needed, I couldn’t help myself. As if feeding on my thoughts a mass of the shadowy figures rose out of the gravel and stood facing the bus, far too tall to make sense. They seemed to stare directly at the bus before leaping straight up into the air, folding at the apex of the leap like a dolphin. They hit the asphalt and gravel face first with an audible crunch that caused my body to contract, to clench really hard. Jaws were split where the chin should have been or were torn from either side of the face. Thin strings skin flapped lose, torn by the pebbles and stones. There was a halo of blood on the ground from each impact. What the fuck was the point?

I had to be dreaming, I mean this had to be a nightmare. These faceless beings were the stuff of nightmares, not city streets. I shook my head squeezing my eyes shut as tight as I possibly could to try and reset myself, telling myself they’d be gone once I opened my eyes again. One grotesque thing to another, when is this going to all end? I couldn’t help but think these pathetic helpless thoughts. There was nothing else for me to do. I wanted to be at a party, nuzzling my man, instead I was in some kind of horrible coma filled with nightmares. I rubbed my eyelids and then opened them. It had to be some sort of mistake, some great misunderstanding. This was literally hell. When I opened my eyes again with the hope that everything would be normal, it wasn’t. The shadow things were still standing there outside the window, hordes of them. Silhouetted by the rotten green aura of the city, emanating there own sick orange pus-light. And, had the bus even moved at all? All at once they spasticallyturned toward me; the torn ones, the limbless ones, the spiders, and the abusers. They were all focused on me, specifically. They had eyes as red as newly stoked embers. In complete shock I scrambled away from the glass kicking at the wall of the bus and the chair armrest for leverage until I fell on my ass in the centre aisle. As if anticipating an onslaught the bus shifted gears and sped off.

Holy hell, what is happening to me. I really felt definitively that I was losing my mind. My body had planned a mutiny with my self. I was starving. Insane and ravished with famine. Time, that old huckster was trading up on me now for sure. I knew it. Formed a pact with my body to torture me. Rather than focus on that I thought I should ground myself. Try to get a sense of where the hell I was. But before I could gain any ground an old wound opened up; was I ever going to get to the party? Was he still there, and would he wait for me? Despite the questions and my inner turmoil the bus glided along smooth as ever.

“Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong? Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance?”

There it is again. That song. Wait, am I doing this now? Is this me here, and now, singing this song subconsciously to you? Or, was it haunting me that fateful night? Curious questions to ask, I know. No. I know, it never occurred to me before. It isn’t me, it isn’t my mind. I’m not the narrator in or of that song am I? Was I? No, it was him; all along it was him. My angel. Is he singing it to me now in his own loneliness? Am I receiving his mental radio? Oh, I hope so. I really hope so. Then this nightmare might end, could end. We are connected and will be together again.

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