He was on the bus, and he – no, he was driving the bus – Never driven a bus before – down Market Street, and everybody on the bus was shouting at him because he kept blowing past the stops Have no idea where I’m going. And nothing made sense because it was Market Street, but it didn’t really look like Market Street; it looked like every other smut covered street around Don’t remember so many liquor stores around here. Or porn shops. All he heard was the shouts of the angry passengers, which he couldn’t understand because they should’ve understood he’d never driven a bus before, and he had no idea what he was doing here anyway, but there sure were a lot of drunks walking out of those liquor stores; they all looked pretty grungy and old – some short and fat, others tall and fat, some limping, shuffling, pulling booze from paper coated bottles – but they all had similar faces No, they are the same face, over and over. A hundred different wasted, drunken frames with the same face Dad. Passengers yelling became more frantic as he was nearly veering off the road, examining every face – every same face – he passed by What the hell are you doing here?
“Look out! You’re going to hit those guys!” hollered someone, and he realized these idiots were so drunk they were starting to stumble into the street, and he wondered why he couldn’t stop the bus, but it must have been because he’d never driven a bus before, so he didn’t know how to make it stop, and it was getting more and more tricky to keep from hitting that same drunk person over and over because they were stumbling out of every liquor store, porn shop, and alleyway he drove by. He stomped on the accelerator- somehow he knew how – figuring he could speed away from the drunken Dad obstacle course, but that carried him more quickly to the end of the street where there was nothing but a black wall and another drunk Dad standing in front of it, only this one was not stumbling or weaving about; he was just standing there, looking straight at the driver of the bus, with a familiar slack-jawed, emotionless expression on his yellowish face.
It looked as if there was no way to avoid running him over, unless he could manage an abrupt turn up an alley Do I know how to turn? He flipped the steering wheel sharply, and the bus’s tires squeeled deafeningly, and the passengers were flying all over the place, bashing into the windows – glass, limbs, lives breaking, and the driver felt a thump! under the bus Oh no!, then it was quiet – the passengers had shut up, the bus was still moving, it was pitch black through the windows, but the bus was still moving slowly, and there was a light now in the distance Are we all dead? There was a steady up and down motion under the left front corner Flat tire? Or a piece of – oh, not that! The light was getting nearer – a street lamp by the looks of it – showering a glow upon the pavement below, but there was a cloudiness in the center of the glow.
The cloudiness beneath the light took clearer shape as the driver pulled closer – it was a pale, thin shape with a shiny top, or the top was shiny because it was reflecting the street light, and there was a sideways “V” at its base; part of it was touching the light pole, part of it was leaning, or standing. It’s a person! Not another Dad! Rolling closer, the bus bumping up and down on one side; the alley was so silent, and the driver strained to make out the features of the light pole leaner. It became apparent that this was not another drunk as he’d seen again and again on Market. His features were too chiseled, and his skin was very pale; he was almost gaunt looking, hair was bright yellow, he was young! I’ve seen him!
The driver’s foot still couldn’t find the brake, but the bus was rolling thumping so slowly now that he was able to simply release the accelerator, and it dragged itself to a standstill right before the young leaner, who was standing with one foot resting against the back of the pole, and he was staring out into nothing, but he was scanning intently as though he had a purpose, like he could see something, even though all the driver saw was the street light, the boy, and blackness. He prepared to exit the bus, but then remembered that he’d never driven a bus before and had no idea where the door opener was. It didn’t matter because the front window had shattered at some point, so there was little more than a few feet separating him from the leaner.
“Have I seen you before?” he said, and his own voice was foreign, startling in the stillness. The boy turned his face robotically toward him, stared at him with brilliant blue eyes. The dense blackness surrounding the driver, the bus, the boy – it started to change in shade. It became lighter, but not in a way that illuminated anything; it was more like dense fog, and there was, in the distance, a peculiar whispering sound, and the driver realized it had been there for some time, but he hadn’t noticed it until now because it was growing louder. Is that a voice? A song?
The driver was suddenly aware of intense nausea and a sharp pain in his head Where did that come from? The fog was growing thicker, and it was starting to obscure the leaning boy’s features Why doesn’t he answer me? What is that sound? Oh God, my head!! Blue eyes pierced through the gathering mist, and he could see the boy was straightening up, turning, and then for an instant his entire face was clear.
“Help me.” said the boy, clearly heard above the cascade of noise entering the driver’s head.
“Charlie? Charlie, are you awake, baby?” came a desperate voice, like a song.