Alice was new to the city. She was used to fields, and the quietness of the countryside, the countless number of people rushing around, and constant noise of cars and traffic was a shock to her system. She was starting her first job in a restaurant waiting tables, to help pay for her to go to university, and this was the best she could do at short notice. Her debts were rising rapidly, and the restaurant offered a surprisingly generous wage with tips. The problem was the distance, it was a bus ride to a small town she had never heard of, and she had to walk through the noisy city and find a bus stop. She had no clue where the stop was, even with a map, and she walked up and down streets and tried to ask people for directions.
“Excuse me can you….excuse me I’m trying to find…..I’m sorry can you help me….” She said to people as they walked past her at speed without even looking at her, she felt completely invisible and out of place. She shook her head and slapped her side’s in exasperation.
“Something wrong?” An old man said suddenly appearing beside her. He looked homeless with his dirty old rags and shoes that had holes in the fronts where his black toes pointed out. He lit a cigarette and grinned at Alice, flashing black teeth.
“No I am fine, thank you” She answered as she backed away startled.
“You do not have to be afraid of an old man like me, you just seem lost, and I know this city like the back of my hand” He puffed on his cigarette and nodded to Alice in a pleasant manner, which made her skin crawl for some reason. She knew she would never get to where she was going without some help.
“I need to find a bus, one that goes to …”
“Say no more, I know every stop and every bus, which bus do you need?” He smiled with smoke coming from his nostrils.
“666” She answered while crossing her arms, and the old man’s eyes went wide.
“You do not want to get that bus” He motioned behind her, where the stop was across the street, making her feel stupid.
“If you would be kind enough to give me some spare change, I will show you where you can get another bus” The old man said holding out his hand.
“I am sorry, I only have my fair for the bus” Alice lied, she had a pocket full of change, she had no idea how much the fair would be, but she knew she had more than enough, and could spare a few coins, but the man scared her, and she didn’t trust him.
“Alright, I understand, just do not get that bus, there is a stop down the street and on the left, you will find a bus, a lot of them stop there” He said flicking his cigarette away and nodding to Alice as he walked away.
“Thank you!” She shouted after him as he walked around the corner. She felt terrible, he had helped her, and she did not even thank him properly, he only wanted some change, but he was trying to stop me getting the correct bus, send me to the wrong place because I would not give him money, for cigarettes and alcohol I would imagine, she thought to herself before shrugging and crossing the road to stand at the stop. It was just a rusty old pole with a laminated piece of paper attached to it with 666 on it, there was no times or map to show when it was due to arrive or where it was going. Alice had a bad feeling, everything was just a bit odd, she just wanted to get there do her job and go home. A bus was suddenly creeping up the road in the distance, and she felt relief as it neared and, the numbers were 666, she flagged it down by putting her left arm out to stop it and board. It pulled up with a squeak, and a puff of smoke coming from the back as the doors opened. The bus was red and rusted, like it had been left in the rain for the last hundred years. A young man was driving, he was wearing an old flat cap and sunglasses with a leather jacket, and he looked like a should be riding a motorcycle back in the fifties.
“Come aboard little lady” He said sounding like he was from Virginia and waving her on to the bus when she just stood there looking at him. She nodded and stepped up, pulling out a handful of coins.
“How much to the Devils Grill Restaurant?” She asked.
“Oh the Devils Grill” He chuckled with a toothpick between his teeth.
“This will cover it little lady” He said taking one coin from her.
“Thank you” She answered and walked down the bus to sit somewhere in the middle where one of the windows was not completely covered with dirt. She was the only person on the bus and a small cloud of dust puffed up from the seat as she sat down. She sneezed and waved her hands in front of her to clear the dust from the air. The bus moved with a creak and a jerk almost sending her face first in to the seat in front of her. She felt exhausted and mentally tired from the afternoon of bus stop hunting and noise, not to mention the old death trap bus, do they not clean these things before charging people to use them, she thought. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to compose herself and get her head right, she stayed that way for a few moments before opening her eyes and looking out of the window. The city was gone and the bus was driving down a small street surrounded by empty houses, they had no windows or doors and bins were lying on their side’s with black ash scattered all around where they had obviously been tipped over. Homeless people must have been using them to make fires Alice mused. Every street and road the bus went down was the same, only now people were seen standing around in fancy dress, some were clowns and others wore Halloween masks, and they all had knives and bats, some even had chainsaws. Fancy dress street party? Must be, but very scary, the thought went through her mind. The bus moved on from the dressed up characters, and a popping sound started to echo all around, making the bus come to a stop.
“Sorry little lady, we have a problem” The driver said.
“What happens now then?” Alice asked him as he got up from his seat and opened the doors.
“I fix it of course” He answered as he pulled out a huge spanner the length of his arm.
Alice looked at him curiously as he flipped the toothpick around in his mouth, and grinned at her. What could he possibly do with that thing? I doubt there is a nut or bolt big enough to require the use of that spanner, her mind was ticking away trying to work this problem out before she looked out of the window and realized it was dark, the bus had stopped next to a field with a small park and a lamp post that flickered. It was not much of a park, just a swing that moved back and forward in the breeze and a metal slide that was badly dented, probably by a sledgehammer that hit it over and over again before being attacked with red paint which almost completely covered it. She was feeling a little sick at that moment, she realized she would have to make this same journey every time she had to go to work, and she knew she could not do it, she just wanted to go home and get out of this creepy town. Everything was silent, and she wondered what the driver was doing, she looked at her watch to check the time but it had stopped at 16:32, she tapped it a few times but it did not help, so she took her mobile phone out of her pocket, but it was dead, which was also strange since she had charged it fully before leaving home and also turned it off when she was not using it. She shook her head and cursed under her breath, she suddenly heard someone singing outside, making her jump and look out of the window again. It was not the driver, it was a female voice, nobody was in sight but the swing was moving back and forward like somebody was on it, only there wasn’t anyone anywhere. What is that song? I recognize it? She thought. Then it came to her, Sympathy for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones, strange song choice, and it made her skin crawl for reasons unknown, other than the surrounding she was in, the bus she was on, and where she was going, everything pointed to the Devil, just coincidental, right? That’s ridiculous, just letting fear get the better of me, she whispered aloud. Alice stood up and moved down the bus to look out of the doors for the driver, but she could not see him.
“Hello? Are you there?” She said aloud with a shaky voice. The singing stopped when she spoke, and it turned to a whistle of the same tune , which was even creepier, and she didn’t know why, but her fear was beginning to spike.
“Come on, I don’t like it here, please hurry up” She said a little louder. The whistling stopped abruptly and turned into a child like giggling, which also stopped abruptly after a few seconds, and a banging started on the bus making her scream out and back away from the doors. The bus fired up, and she heard a man cry out in agony. She sat in her seat and began to cry uncontrollably while putting her head down between her legs and praying. The sound of agony stopped and the singing began again, Alice tried to stop her sobs by holding her breath and putting her hands to her mouth to stop any sound accidentally escaping. She looked up and over the top of the seat in front of her to see if anything or anyone was there, but there was nothing, she turned her head to the window slowly with dread, and all was clear, only the singing ringing out from who knew where. The driver scrambled through the doors closing them behind him and putting his hands to his knees out of breath. Alice jumped up from her seat, she was panting slowly and sweating.
“Are you OK? Where were you? What was happening out there?” She said fearfully. He began to laugh and didn’t answer as he took his seat. A huge smash sounded from the window next to Alice and covered her in filthy black glass as she screeched out in terror. A brick had just missed her head. A young girl was stood a few feet away from the bus, dressed as a mime, with a painted white face with black teardrops and long black and white socks that came past her knees with a black school uniform, shirt and skirt. She was juggling what appeared to be small net bags full of marbles, the type Alice used to get as a present every birthday from her gran, which she hated, nothing more boring she had always said. The girl through a bag at her when she saw her watching, it hit her in the arm as she tried to protect her face, cutting her and making her cry out. She put her head down and away from the window and picked up the bag. It was not marbles, it was a pair of eyes with razor blades in them, she screamed and through the net bag down the bus before putting her head between her legs again. The singing turned to giggling once more and a hand grabbed her by the hair, she screamed again and slapped at the hand, she spotted the brick on the floor and reached out for it, the hand dragged her head back towards the window, trying to pull her out, and off the bus, she fought and struggled and reached out with her feet for the break, her hair felt like it was going to come out of her head until she picked the brick up between her feet and into her left hand. She swung with all of her force smashing into to the arm of the girl forcing her to release her grip.
“Move this bus now!” She shouted at the driver desperately.
“All right little lady, let’s go” He answered turning around. His glasses were gone, and so were his eyes, just gaping holes with blood running down his cheeks, but his grin and toothpick remained. Alice didn’t scream this time she just backed away and sat on the opposite side of the bus from the window in shock as the bus jerked forward sending her head into the seat forcing her to sit back and close her eyes, she may have passed out or just been dazed, but she opened her eyes when she felt someone shaking her. She put her hands up in defense and cowered.
“Come on little lady, wake up, this is your stop” The driver said. Alice moved her arms and looked at him with confusion, he was wearing his glasses again.
“Where is your eyes?” She blurted out.
“My eyes? Right here little lady” He answered taking his glasses off and showing his baby blue eyes and winking.
“Sorry, I must have had a bad dream” She said.
“That’s OK, we are at your stop, David’s Grill in Little Town” He said helping her stand up.
“David’s Grill? I thought it was Devils Grill?” Alice looked at him confused.
“I thought you were joking when you said that, hope this is the right place, if not I will take you back” He offered.
“No” She said quickly, wanting to get off the bus as fast as possible. He nodded, shrugged and walking back down the bus to his seat with Alice following.
“Thank you” She said stepping off the bus that pulled away. The number was 606 not 666, and this was not a town, it was just the name of the area, she was still in the city, she remembered the email she received offering her the job, even though she could not remember actually applying for it, but she applied for dozens and simply thought she forgot. A pain shot up her arm from the breeze, and she had a cut, the same cut from her dream, was it dream? She was doubting everything, she checked her watch, 16:32 just as before, but it was ticking, and her phone was fully charged.
“I told you not to get that bus” The homeless man she met before all of that happened said, as he walked past with his cigarette smoke following him, Alice stared at him in shock as he passed her and disappeared around another corner.
“To hell with the job, taxi!” She shouted and got into a black cab. She was going home to the country, the city was too strange for her. I hope this cab is not like that bus, she prayed.