By Jeff Baker
“Hey! Look over there!” James said.
“That bus looks like I feel,” said Francisco.
“Any more dirty and overgrown and it would be a garden,” Miles said.
“How long’s it been there?” James asked.
“Longer than we’ve been walking down this damn dirt road,” Miles said.
“Looks like a while,” Francisco said. “Looks like it skidded off the road and into the gully here.”
“Hope nobody was hurt,” Miles said.
“Geeez, will you look around!” Francisco said. “Everything looks green. Even the light!”
“Guys, maybe the bus still works!” James said. “If we could get it out of that ditch…”
The three of them looked at each other for an instant, and then rushed over to the bus door which was open. A few of the vines that grew around the bus’s sides were dangling in the doorway. Miles, Francisco and James brushed them aside as they stepped over the water in the gully and entered the bus.
“Phew! What smells?” Francisco said, pulling his shirt over his nose and mouth.
“Hope it’s not a body,” Miles said, shaking the water off his shoe.
“Stagnant water, I bet,” James said. “Yeah, look back there.”
James pointed to the back of the bus which was tilted at a slight angle. There was a small puddle of blackish water in a back corner of the bus.
“Forget that. Does it run?” Miles asked.
“Let’s see,” Francisco said, sitting down behind the wheel. “I drove one of these once.”
“In between making out with the drivers,” James snickered.
“Or with you!” Miles shot back.
“Hey, gimmie a minute,” Francisco said sticking his hand under the dashboard. “I think I can wire this if I…hey…look at this!”
“What?” James asked.
“The key.” Francisco said. “It’s still in the ignition. Why would they leave the key here?”
“Maybe it’s stuck?” James said. “See if it turns.”
“See if it runs,” Miles said.
“Here goes.” Francisco said, turning the key.
He pumped a pedal, held down the clutch and tried the key again. Still nothing.
“Not gonna work guys,” Francisco said.
“Too bad. I would have liked to ride the rest of the way,” Miles said.
“Hey, where are we going anyway?” James asked as he hopped out of the bus.
“Not sure,” Miles said following him.
Francisco stopped halfway down the stairs. “Guys,” he said. “Look at this.” His voice suddenly sounded hoarse.
Miles and James walked up to the doorway. Francisco was standing there, his eyes wide. Francisco pointed to the mirror by the door. It was dingy with dirt and Francisco spat on it and cleaned it off. It clearly showed the dirty side of the bus.
“So?” Miles said.
“Look at this, guys, don’t you see?” Francisco said. He was breathing hard. “Watch.” He reached behind him and slapped the side of the bus behind the door just below the passenger window. “Don’t you see?”
They stared. The side of the bus and the windows were reflected clearly, but there was no Francisco.
“What is this?” James said. He reached over and turned the mirror. The reflection’s point-of-view moved too. He held his hand in front of the mirror. It didn’t reflect at all. Miles grabbed the mirror and stared right into it.
“What the hell is this?” Miles said.
James had sat down on a step of the bus and was staring at his hand.
“Guys, what’s the last thing you remember before we were walking on this dirt road?” Francisco asked.
“We peeled out of the dorm parking lot, late at night,” Miles said slowly. “Yeah, it was almost midnight, and we were going real fast…”
“We wanted to get to the liquor store before it closed,” Francisco said. “And you were driving, James.”
“The train was coming…” James said. “I didn’t want to wait…oh, God…”
“Then we were walking along here…” Miles said. “This is your damn fault, you bastard!” Miles grabbed James by the collar and about stepped into the gully. Then Francisco yelled.
“Look there! In the water!” Francisco yelled pointing. “It…it…I don’t know what it was! It wasn’t a fish, it wasn’t a snake…it was a…a…”
The three of them jumped back onto the road.
“Let’s get out of here,” James said, pulling at his collar.
“Yeah, let’s get away from that…” Francisco said.
The three of them resumed walking down the road.
NOTE: Okay, a serious cliché, but I don’t care! Had fun doing it!——jeff