Friday, June 22, 2012

Route 666 by Barry Lowe

Public transport was never like this
          

Heading home from a dud date, Farley is soaked in a downpour miles from anywhere with no money and no prospects of getting home anytime soon. He flags down a bus that appears out of nowhere, grateful to be out of the storm. But have things just gone from bad to worse? The route is unfamiliar and the conductor is less than helpful when Farley asks the final destination to be told ‘Heaven or Hell. Your Choice.’ And the interior of the bus is odd: handcuffs dangling from overhead as grips for standing. And why are the passengers all hot men – exactly his type? 

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Excerpt:

It was pissing down like a mob of drunken men at a barbecue urinal. I was standing under a tree, the only shelter for miles, and it was as much help as, well, nothing. And the fuckin’ bus was late. Oh, did I mention, I was in the middle of nowhere with little money and just enough left on my bus pass to get me home? My own fault. That’s what comes of internet dating. I suppose internet dating is a misnomer, it’s really internet fucking but I hadn’t come.
    The guy sounded hot. Positives: Mid-forties, hairy, Arab, stocky body, and a no-bullshit attitude that appealed to me. Negatives: He lived in the middle of nowhere, it would take me an hour on the bus, and I had very little money and was relying on his generosity to drive me home. Outcome: His fuckin’ address didn’t exist, I was lost, I was wet, I was waiting for a bus that didn’t want to turn up, and it was too far to walk. I was also in danger of contracting pneumonia.
    I would have considered hitching but there was a singular lack of vehicular traffic along the deserted street, hemmed in on either side with derelict or deserted factories, set too far back from the roadway to offer shelter. I hugged myself tighter to keep the rain out and failed spectacularly.
    A soft yellow glow materialized in the distance, I hoped it was the bus of my salvation. And it was only twenty minutes late. The rain by this time was slating down so I stood in the roadway to flag down the approaching vehicle. When it didn’t seem to want to swerve to avoid me I jumped back onto the pavement and it pulled in abruptly at the curb where it plundered through a lake-size puddle that sprayed off the wheels like a tsunami of tree debris, dank water, and dead insects.
    “Sorry, mate,” the driver said as the doors swung open. “Didn’t see the puddle.”
    “Too busy talking to bother looking where you were going,” I said because the driver and his mate were scarcely containing their laughter at my situation.
    The truth must have struck home because when I tried to insert my soggy bus pass into the green ticket machine there was no way it was going to work, the driver quickly closed the doors and took off, telling me, “Don’t worry about the ticket. And if you go down the back of the bus, I’ll turn the heater up high, and you can strip off and put your clothes over the seat, maybe get a bit dry. Not likely there’ll be any more passengers this time of the night, not a good area. But if someone flags me down, I’ll give you plenty of warning so you can get your clothes on. Okay?”
    I grumbled my thanks and pulled a few twigs and leaves out of my hair.
“What route does a 666 take?” I asked. I’d never heard of it before but I’d noticed the number just before the disastrous drenching.
“Anywhere you want to go,” the driver smiled.
Okay, I didn’t pick up on whether that was a pick-up line or whether he was just toying with me, so I tried a different tack. “What’s the ultimate destination?” I asked hoping it would be close enough to my apartment to walk home.
The conductor answered. “Heaven or hell, the ultimate destination is up to you.”



www.barrylowe.net

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