The light of the moon cast a pale light on the city below as a lone figure stumbled along the sidewalk.
His shadow loomed ahead of him, devouring everything in its path.
It had been a good night, he'd scored enough in the subway station to buy himself a nice tall bottle of vodka, and he was planning on drinking himself
to sleep in the alley that he had come to call home.
In his growing stupor, he didn't notice that the downtown area was covered in a thick, dank fog that was spreading with each passing moment. If he'd
had full control of his faculties, he might have realized that he hadn't seen the headlights of a passing car in at least 20 minutes –a record for
this part of town– but his love affair with the bottle had blinded him to this fact.
Along the litter-strewn sidewalk he shambled, stooping every so often to try to pick up some imagined treasure or another. Somewhere beneath his feet,
the rumbled of the 'A Train' could be felt as much as heard, but with numbness creeping up from his feet, neither sensation registered as more than a
mild distraction in his inebriated state.
His fingerless, knit gloves clung to his prized possession with a strength the belied his condition, his matted, dirty hair hung in a tangle of
failure and delusion, adding little compliment to his haggard and filthy appearance.
At one time, he'd been a professor at the state university; his students always enjoyed his lectures, all of them, that is, except for that little
bastard that was working for the H.R. Department.
“He spied on me for Them
!” he mumbled as he staggered past a closed delicatessen, taking a fleeting moment to peer in at the delicious
looking meats, illuminated in the showcase; he was so
With a snort, he spat on the ground and then fed his hunger with a long swig from the brown-bagged bottle, before continuing his trek toward his
shelter for the night.
“Lil' bastard! I was gonna get tenure!” he howled at no one in particular. “TENURE!”
His mind filled with long-buried memories of sitting in the University President's office, proclaiming his innocence of ever having taught class while
drunk, while Hurley –the fat pig– looked at him in [I]that way.
“Charles, are you sure
you want to pursue this course with what it could do to your career?” Hurley's imperious voice echoed in his mind.
“You need to do something about your drinking before it ruins you.”
“I showed Him
!” he gurgled, remembering the right-cross that had sent Hurley to the floor with a bloody nose, as a faint circle of light
began to approach him from behind, causing his companion shadow to fade as it came closer –he thought that it sounded like a bus– though he hardly
took notice of it since he had no change, and quite a way to go before he would reach the alley.
Shaking the cob webs from his mind, he tried to remember more of the conversation that had ended his career –and for all intents and purposes, his
life– but try as he might, he failed to call up any semblance of a cohesive exchange with President Hurley just prior to, or immediately following
the punch that he'd thrown; he'd blacked out.
The lights of the bus slowly drew closer, as though allowing him his reverie before interrupting him with it's blinding lights and piercingly loud
To his astonishment, he thought he could hear singing
, which broke his rickety train-of-thought; it sounded like children.
”The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round, all through the town...”
His eyes became slits as he slowly turned into the blazing beams of the vehicle, which had come to a –surprisingly– silent halt directly behind
Half-expecting to see a classic, yellow school bus filled with kids –which, he knew was a ridiculous thing to expect at this hour– his bleary eyes
slowly adjusted to see a transit bus with the silhouettes of a handful of occupants hardly visible through dark-tinted windows.
As he stood blinking dumbly, the doors of the bus folded as they opened.
“Hey, you need a ride, pal?” called a gruff, male voice from within. “You don't look too steady on your feet.”
He half-stumbled to the open doors, “You– you offerin'?” he slurred in response.
The driver of the bus, was a n average-looking man, with a shadow of a beard that graced his full, round face with the appearance of an “Everyday
Joe”. His ample gut protruded into the enormous steering wheel of the vehicle. “You look like your feet could use a break, am I right?”
Charlie thought –as much as he was able– about how nice a little rest would be, and also about how far away the alley seemed.
“I gesh– Er, I suppros– Yeah, yer right.” he stammered.
“Where ya goin'?” the driver inquired.
“Up by Maple and Drummins” Charlie answered after a pause to get his mouth under some amount of control.
The driver clapped his hand on his ample leg. “We're goin' right by there! You're in luck!”
With a grand wave, the bus driver urged him onto the bus. “Well, come on then. The kids are hungry, and I can't sit here all night.” he chuckled.
As Charlie stuffed the bottle of vodka into his coat pocket, and clumsily made his way up the steps the driver leaned in conspiratorially. “I
promised 'em dinner, and the little monsters just won't shut up when they get an idea, you know?” he smiled. “'Name's Gus by the way.”
Charlie smiled. “I had a kid once, he was a greedy little creep. Hey, why'd you stop for me?”
“Felt like doin' a good deed, no crime in that, right? And kids ain't changed a bit, buddy.” Gus pulled the lever to close the doors. “Trust me
on that one.”
“With a meaty hand, Gus reached up and grabbed the mic from his radio. “We've got a passenger, kids. Be polite, He's not going to be with us for
Charlie's eyes didn't dilate quickly enough to prevent a flood of fluorescent light from shooting daggers into his brain. In the bright blur, he could
make out a few dark shapes seated in various places throughout the bus. None of them moved, or made a sound; it was as if he were surrounded by a
bunch of little mannequins. Deciding that this was probably for the best, since he really didn't feel like talking to children, Charlie fell into the
seat that was directly behind Gus, and began to doze.
Voices broke into the haze that had enveloped him; a young girl's voice. “My parents will be very upset with you, Angus!” she shrilled. “This is
how these trips are supposed to work!”
“Settle down, Gladys. I had no choice and you know it!” Gus barked back. “It's not like there's been a lot to choose from!”
“You just wait! I'll see that you're fired for this!” she spat in reply.
“Everyone gets nervous when it's their first time, Gladys. There's no reason to get angry, just get it over with, so that you can start going out on
your own.” Gus reasoned.
Charlie had opened his eyes enough to glimpse the scene, luckily, he felt like he'd sobered up, though the headache that had replaced his drunken
stupor was one for the ages; Gladys was standing almost directly in front of where he sat, her plaid skirt and dark sweater-vest contrasted with her
bleached, white blouse and pale skin. Her face was pristine, seemingly devoid of imperfection, crowned by long black hair that fell to the middle of
her back in a flawless braid.
[continued in next post...)
The ATS 2013 Halloween Writing Contest [HWC2013]
edit on 10/2/2013 by
ProfessorChaos because: typo