This story is my own work, with the help of a short film 'the signalman'. I hope you enjoy. Please Review.
The bus keeper
The night was onyx and the bitter cold wind slapped me in the face as I strode back to the hotel. The hotel would close for the night soon. I realised I didn't recognise the path I was following. I urged myself to force my way through the harsh rain that the wind threw at me. Two bright lights shone in my eyes, blinding me momentarily. Another bus, the third one I had seen that night.
I kept glancing at my watch. The hotel would be shut by now. Oh well. I still walked on. I thought I could see the shadows of the hotel in the distance, but as I got closer, I realised it was a bus station. My mind turned its attention to the buses I had seen that night but suddenly, my step was halted by an invisible barrier and the ground came rushing up to meet me. Then… all went black.
I awoke sometime later, only to assume I had been unconscious for a while because it was no longer dark outside. I threw a quick glance at the old fashioned grandfather clock to my left. Midday, I thought. I then turned my attention to my position. I was in a warm bed in a particularly small room, each corner stacked with cardboard boxes. The bed was surrounded by old wooden chairs, which looked like someone had carelessly thrown into the room.
"Not the hotel," I assured myself as my eyes wandered the wooden walls of the room. Then, my eyes caught sight of the slightly open door. I slowly raised myself off the bed and towards the door, stepping over wooden chairs. I pressed my eye against the tiny gap. I was surprised to see an elderly man stood at the window, staring at nothing in particular. I could tell his face was extremely close to the glass, maybe even pressed against it.
Suddenly, I tripped and fell against the door. The hinges creaked really loud, like I was meant to catch the man's attention. I peered through the gap again. He continued to stare out the window, making no attempt to look round so I turned, hoping he hadn't heard me.
"You can come out, ya know," his bellowing voice tore through the silence. I jumped at the sudden sound. He knew I was spying on him! "I won't bite!" He added. I paused. I felt like a soldier on the battlefield. I didn't want to go out there, but I had no choice.
I slowly opened the creaky door and turned to approach the old man. He wore navy blue trousers and a lighter coloured shirt. His shoes were shiny black. So shiny, you could the light radiating off them. His undone jacket was the same colour as his trousers. My first thought was on how tidy he looked in his completely crease-less clothes. Upon his head, he wore a blue hat. It had a strip of black along the bottom. I couldn't see his face.
"Excuse me, sir," I stumbled over my words. "Did you bring me here last night?" He turned around in a mechanical manner. It was then I noticed a silver bus on his hat. I remembered the bus station I had seen last night. I realised where I was, the bus station! It seemed so obvious now.
I could see his face now. His eyes were a brilliant blue, the brightest I had ever seen and he wore a sad expression. I assumed he was in his forties. He lined his eyes up to mine. There was something about his eyes, like I could see a past filled with sadness and devastation in them.
"Aye, I did. Saw ya stumble over the black sack there." He replied with a gruff sort of voice. He looked out an opposite widow, I followed his gaze. I saw about five bin bags, piled up near the lamp post I had fallen under. A wave of embarrassment flew over me.
"Um… thank you." I replied. What else could I say? He saw me fall over and decided to help me out, and for that, I was grateful. "Do you know where I can find Placida Hotel?" I asked, hoping I hadn't disturbed the gentleman.
"Sorry mate, I ain't got a map in 'ere. You can stay 'til five o'clock though, wait for my friend Harry. He'll 'ave one. I could use a bit o' company in 'ere anyway." So that's what happened. I stayed until five.
"So, my lad, what brings ya to me old bus station?" he asked as we perched ourselves at the coffee table with a warm cup of coffee in our hands. I took a sip and turn to face him.
"You did."I joked. He chuckled loudly. His laugh made my hairs stand on end. Was it because I didn't know him?
"So," he started, "what da they call ya?"
"Daniel, but I prefer to be called Dan," I replied, "And yourself?"
"Bill, me great grandfathers name, served in the war." And we talked about how his great grandfather had fought against Germany in the Second World War. Sadly, he had died during a grenade attack in one of the tents. About half way through his story, he paused, leapt out his seat and ran to the window. He stood and stared at an empty parking space. He was up there for two minutes and forty-seven seconds. (Yes, I counted. It was because it was such strange behaviour and, being a journalist and all, it might have been a good idea to find out details.) Anyway, I waited until he came back to ask him why he had got up like that. He looked down at his feet and slowly looked up.
"I tell ya what, Dan," he replied, almost in a whisper, "meet me 'ere at 'alf ten tonight." So I agreed.
We walked back to the window. I spotted a man outside, a lot younger than Bill. He wore similar clothes to Bill, but he wore his jacket done up and had black trousers. His hat too, had a bus on, but his was gold. He must have seen me as he looked up and waved. I waved back and asked Bill who he was.
"That'll be Harry," he replied as he showed him the thumbs up. "He's a very lucky lad, very lucky." Harry ran behind a bus and drove off in bus one. I then knew he was the bus driver.
"Why?" I asked "what happened to him?"
"You'll find out at 'alf ten." He teased.
At 10:30 I arrived at the bus station. Bill was waiting outside. As I approached, I noticed a blue box in his hands, the size of a shoe box. The closer I got, the more I realised it was a shoe box but it was decorated with a darkish blue wrapping paper. He looked down at it as if he didn't want to be holding it at that particular moment.
"What's that?" I asked, staring at the box. He sighed as he lifted up his head.
"Newspaper cuttings, come inside, I'll show ya." He instructed. I followed him quietly; questions filling my head as I saw him empty out his box of newspaper cuttings. There were headlines in bold letters, brown and white photos that looked older than they probably were and small words, long and short, but I couldn't make any of it out from where I was stood. I watched him unfold a big piece of paper and he handed it to me. It was an old, stained newspaper article. I looked at the headline.
'BUS SINKS IN LOCAL LAKE. 26 DEAD'
Bus 26 and bus 39
Once we were settled, Bill had placed all the newspaper cuttings on the table. I asked him to explain but all he said was that it wasn't Harry's fault. He kept repeating it until I finally managed to calm him down. He looked at me, apologised and smiled. He was close to tears but he quickly hid it as he started to tell his tales.
Apparently, it had all began at this very bus station when he was back from his lunch break. Harry had just driven off in a single bus, number 26. He was on a road near a lake called Kalmia. The lake was to the right of the road and the concrete wall separating the two roads was to the left. He was driving past when an old man walked out in front of the bus. Harry had panicked and quickly turned the bus right. Unfortunately, the grass was wet so the bus had slid down the slope into the lake. Harry had only just managed to escape the bus, but everyone else hadn't. Harry was extremely upset by this and blamed himself since.
"And the strange thing is," Bill said, "Is that 26 people died on bus number 26."
I told him I thought it was just coincidence. He told me otherwise.
"What has this got to do with you staring out the window?" I asked, trying not to offend him in any way as I knew I had just interrupted his story.
"Lots, just look at this article." He cried as he waved yet another article in my face.
'BUS CRASHES, 39 DEAD'
This time, Harry wasn't the bus driver but, instead, he was a passenger. He always used to take the bus to work and when he was going out somewhere. It happened in a tunnel about nine weeks after the last accident. The bus driver, Phil, was jumping along and singing to the radio in the driver's seat like a lunatic. He was so busy jumping around and singing that he didn't notice the bend in the tunnel, but Harry did. Harry jumped out his seat and ran to the wheel. He grabbed the wheel to turn it but the bus driver, still not noticing the bend, turned it back and…BOOM! Crash. The bus went up in flames. There were seven survivors including Harry, of course. Phil didn't survive to Bill's relief. (He didn't say that to be mean. E is just one of those people who thought others should get what they deserve.) Who would have guessed, the bus number was 39.
"It was entirely that idiot Phil's fault!" he burst out. "I'm glad he died!" He got up but I calmed him down again.
I stared at the newspapers and read them over and over. My eyes scanned all the writing in a way that made me want to read the rest of the papers, but I didn't. It was too hard. Instead, I read the headlines. Three more, then another two. Then I realised, this was not a coincidence, no way. No chance.
"So, how does this link in with you staring out the window?" I asked, still re-reading the papers and headlines. I had just picked up a picture of Harry and bus 26 in the lake.
"Well," He began, "before them incidents occurred, I saw a lone white figure stood by bus one, over there."
I looked up and followed his finger to the location of the bus with the big black one painted on the door. I looked back at Bill.
"You mean, a ghost?" I stammered over my words as I knew there was no way he was making this up. I trusted him as much as I could trust any friend.
"Aye, a misty figure without gender." He replied. "Appears three times before tragedy."
"So, if you've seen it at bus one," I got up slowly, mouth wide open, "and I've seen you at the window twice, does that mean there will be a tragedy soon?"
"Aye lad. Unfortunately, I only need to see it once more. I told Harry to take bus one, minimise any casualties. We requested a bus zero to be made and brought to the station. Should arrive next month." He explained. I told him this was a good idea as I stood up. I walked towards the window.
"Is it there now?"I asked in great anticipation, great wonder. This fascinated me but not in a way that made me want more accidents. I would hate for anything else to happen.
"No, not there now, but Harry is." He smiled and laughed for the first time that night. Harry could tell he was not happy, even as he laughed at his own joke. Bill lifted up the picture of bus 26 in the lake. Harry squint his eyes at his picture, as he found it difficult to see, and replied with an understanding expression on his face. He smiled and made a funny dance, right there, next to the bus. Bill grinned, then chuckled, then burst out laughing. I laughed too until we were all in tears. Harry came in for a while then afterwards. Bill introduced us to each other but, for some reason, I felt like I already knew him, not as a person, but as a friend.
We all decided to forget all about the buses and the ghost. Instead, we arranged a time for me to come again tomorrow. We settled on 11:30. It suited all of us. Harry would be back from his bus round by then, I would have finished writing up my story so far and Bill would be on his shift from 10:30 to 3:30. I stood up and bid my friends farewell as I left. I paused and turned around slowly.
"You… wouldn't have a map I could borrow do you?" I asked. Then, we all burst out laughing. We had the best night of our lives.
I arrived back at the bus station at 11:30 that morning, but Harry wasn't there. Bill came out and told me he was running late with the bus.
"He's always late when you're waitin' for him." He replied. I laughed as I followed him inside. He asked me if I wanted a tea while I was waiting. I nodded in reply. I stood at the window and watched out for Harry's arrival. Suddenly, I heard the smashing of china from the kitchen.
"Bill? Are you alright in there?" I called out. No reply. At this point, I was scared so I ran into the kitchen with a golf club. (Don't ask how or why!) There was a broken cup on the floor but no Bill. I didn't know what to do until I heard the bus. I ran to the window. Bill was outside, walking towards where bus one should be parked. He stopped and stared straight ahead of him. I then knew what had happened. He had seen the ghost and was talking to it. Then, I saw Harry, but Bill didn't.
"Bill! Move out the way!" I called out to him but he didn't hear me. Stupid double glazing! Harry tried to brake on the bus, but it had a mind of its own as it cruised along the tarmac floor. Then…well, all I can say is I had nothing to say. I ran outside to find Bill on the floor. I knew he wasn't awake, but he wasn't asleep either. That was when Harry ran out the bus calling himself a murderer. I tried to re-assure him there was nothing he could have done but he was having none of it.
"I've killed my best friend!" he repeated again and again. Listening to him repeating himself like that reminded me of what Bill had said to me.
"It wasn't your fault." I told him. These words calmed him down. I put my arm around his shoulder and took him inside.
Not much happened after that. We called an ambulance but they pronounced him 'dead at the scene'. Harry couldn't stop blaming himself for his death and retired from being a bus driver. He never took the bus anywhere. I don't think Bill ever told him about the ghost appearances. I didn't either. There must have been a reason as to why no-one was told. But then, why would Bill tell me, a complete stranger, and not his best friend Harry. I never found out but I hope this will make a good story for my report.
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