Desolate journey, jolting, stinking bus ride. So tired, drained empty by smiling vampires, by laughing leeches. Barely awake, barely seeing the blurred, unhappy faes that board, that snarl or smile or roll their eyes. Spurning the flirtatious glances of the track-suited Mother in the front row, her golden-haired child smeared with what I hope is some sort of strawberry sweet, squealing as she tugs on her arm, ocassionally barked at or batted away.
Flitting in and out of half-sleep, dusk deeper, every time I rise from dreaming sludge. So dark, so cold, by the time we leave the outskirts of town, the time terraces, red-brick neighbourhoods and council flats give way to patches of forest and farm land.
Snatches of conversation, snarling together, becoming a nauseating stew of banality:
“...well, I got home, like, and I said to him, I said...”
“...I went in, like, just like they told me. Any road, I get there and I tell 'em my name, like, and they look at me gone out...”
“...sometimes, yer do wish ye'd thought about it, dont yer? Yer wouldn't be normal if ye didn't...”
Tatters without context, without meaning; certain they wouldn't have much more if I heard the entire conversations, if I knew who and what and where they babble about.
Grey noise, less meaningful than the sudden patter of rain against the windows. Smeared, molten world, striations of chemical orange or moonlight silver from passing streetlamps, packs of dark and faceless figures braying animal nonsense as we speed by.
Empty. A grey waste inside, tomorrow too distant, too unwanted, to even contemplate. A dream of not waking; of drifting away, on those wastes, just another mote to add to the dunes. Of maybe finding ocean at its edge, silvery, shimmering and polluted, but a means of leaving, a means of drowning...
A moment, the bus pausing to let on a shivering, stooped woman who fumbles her change into the plastic recepticle, her entire breath and being an apology.
The house beyond the window immense, looming above the tall outer wall surrounding it, its upper storey windows blazing.
Catching my eye, wrenching me from the wastes, the polluted shore. Strange light, somehow too intense, too precise...as though a star has fallen through the ceiling, still blazing, allowing me to pick out the most exacting details:
The room to the far left clearly belonging to children; little girls, by the looks of it: bunk beds, drawings stuck or pinned to the walls, pink and frilly decorations strung from the ceiling, white chests of drawers scattered with dolls and stuffed animals and art apparel...
The one next door naked, undecorated; a spare room, perhaps, a storage space...all of the ones I can see the same, apart from the girl's room, as though no one lives there but the children, in that one corner of immensity, sustaining on idiot dreams of cartoon Summer.
All of this in less than a heartbeat.
Seeing him, the figure that stands in the bedroom doorway. But not seeing; a shadow, yet somehow more solid, a man caked from head to foot in congealed darkness, tumescent and distorted, hardly able to fit through the door without stooping. Strange motions, his body seeming gelatinous, his head quivering and warping, his limbs likewise.
No screams; nothing I hear above the sickly clatter of the bus, the stacatto of the rain, the idiot, empty chatter.
But I see: a long-haired girl in a white night dress, flying from her bed, silently screaming as she hammers at the window, as she claws at it. Does she see me, watching, staring? Maybe. Maybe these screams and cries are for me, begging me to call someone, do something...
Watching, breath hitching as the figure steps into the room, as the door slams behind it, as she turns to face it, suddenly still, save for twitches that shudder her from hair to soles.
Watching, as the figure reaches for her, as they blur to nothing, the bus coughing, lurching on its way.
Watching, as they dissolve to the smeared silhouettes of trees, to stars, undulating tumors of hills and fields.
Turning away, not realising that there are tears on my face until a boy in the seat three rows in front starts laughing, muttering to his Mother, who tells him to sit down and be quiet.
Cheeks hot, feverish. A flash of vague self concern: Hope I'm not coming down with that fucking cold. Can't afford the time off...
Dabbing at my cheeks, my eyes with a ragged tissue, not even knowing why. Nothing. A fragment of time, a moment that might mean anything. What a fool you'll feel, if you call the police and try to explain:
“Oh, I just saw something a bit weird while I was on the bus. Actually, I'm not sure I saw anything, but...no, I can't give you an address. It's the 113 route, out towards Lockley..?”
Oh yes, that's sure to go down well.
Already fading, by the time we near my stop, the wastelands already risen again to claim me, dreams of drowning in sleep a bliss that washes away all concern.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.