The first time I caught the night bus was pure chance. I’d heard the legends of course, we all had. Urban legends are a big thing where I live. I suspect its partly because I hail from an unremarkable and frankly dull provincial city that has little else going for it. Kids growing up around here don’t have much to do and so their imaginations tend to run wild, with escapism being all the rage.
My friends and I were obsessed with urban legends during our formative years, gobbling up the tales whispered in the playgrounds and later posted by anonymous posters on online forums. We found the legends both frightening and exhilarating, bringing excitement to our otherwise boring lives.
It would be fair to say that I was quite naïve back then. Some of my friends were more cynical, but I truly believed them all – the Vanishing Hitchhiker of Spencer Street, the South Side Troll Man, and the White Lady of Croft Manor were a few of my favorites. My friends and I took on the role of amateur sleuths, investigating every site and searching for any evidence of these legendary cryptids and otherworldly entities.
To my extreme disappointment, we found nothing…no ghosts or ghouls, no monsters, and no signs of anything out of the ordinary. Eventually I too became cynical, concluding that all such legends were just childish nonsense, and I was wasting my time pursuing them.
The last bus was another of the local myths that we’d heard growing up and I’d assumed it was bullshit like the others. But now I know better. Officially, the last bus out of the city centre leaves at a quarter to midnight from the bus depot on High Street. That’s the bus which sensible people catch if they want to get home safely after a night out on the town.
The pubs and clubs close at 1 am, and the crowds of drunken revelers pile onto the streets; fighting over taxis, queuing up for late night kebabs, attempting a last-minute hook up, or calling up friends in search for all night house parties. It’s the same chaotic scene every Friday and Saturday night. Usually there are a couple of punch ups and a few people who’ll injure themselves by falling over drunk on the pavement. It’s all depressingly predictable.
The police will be called out, as will the ambulance crews, and eventually the crowds will disperse, as an eerie silence returns to the darkened streets. Then we enter the twilight hours when all sensible and law-abiding citizens are at home, safely tucked up in their beds. After hours, the streets are left to the vulnerable; like the homeless with nowhere else to go, forced to seek shelter in shop door fronts, wrapping their cold bodies in old sleeping bags and praying that they make it through the night.
And then there are the predators – the ones that your mother warned you about. The gangs of thugs who patrol the streets, their blood up as they search for a victim to violently attack. And the predatory men who lurk in the shadows, watching for vulnerable women who they can prey upon.
On a Monday morning you’ll read the stories in the local newspapers; the homeless man beaten to a pulp, the young girl sexually assaulted in a back alley. Police will open investigations and appeal for witnesses. Sometimes they’ll catch the perpetrators, other times they won’t. You’ll have sympathy for the victims, but secretly feel relieved that it didn’t happen to you or somebody you know.
But in these cases the culprits are human monsters, made of flesh and bone, and not the otherworldly fiends I tried to chase. During my cynical years I believed these human predators were the worst thing out there, that they owned the twilight hours before the dawn. But I was wrong, and now I know the truth. There are far worse things that lurk in the shadows.
The first occasion I caught the night bus came during a difficult time for me. I’d just turned 21 and had split up with my partner of two years. Looking back, I now see how the breakup was the best thing for both of us, but at the time I was devastated and so angry.
My friends had taken me for a night out on the town in the hope it would cheer me up. A nice idea, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. I drank way too much, starting on the beers and moving onto shots of hard liquor. We went to a club where I made several embarrassing and unsuccessful attempts to hook up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then started a fight with my best friend, throwing a punch at him before I got thrown out of the club by the doormen and foolishly decided to walk the streets alone in a drunken stupor.
Somehow, I managed to avoid getting beaten up or falling on my face and cracking my head open on the pavement.
Instead, I managed to stagger to a bus shelter, not realising in my inebriated state that the official bus service had finished for the night, and there wouldn’t be another one due until morning.
I remember laying down to rest on the bench and I must have passed out, because I woke up several hours later and saw the streets were empty. I was all alone, or so I thought.
My heart almost jumped out of my chest when I saw the old bus driving down the street towards me, emitting black smoke from its exhaust pipe as it came, its noisy engine interrupting the previous quiet. The vehicle was partially illuminated by the streetlights, although I noted with some concern how the lamps flickered as the bus drove by them. The vehicle looked like a throwback from the 1960’s, the kind of ancient tin can on wheels you’d expect to see at a classic car show.
Unlike the modern vehicles we’re used to, those that glide along the street quietly, this old rust bucket rattled along, noisily looking as if it could break down at any moment, but instead it kept coming, driving down the empty road and coming ever closer to my shelter. I noted how there were no emblems or motifs painted on the side of the bus and no destination name was shown above its front windscreen.
The vehicle’s exterior was painted all in black, and even the windows were tinted, meaning I could not see who (or what) was inside. I felt a cold chill run down my spine as I recalled the details I’d heard about the ‘last bus’ legend, one of those I’d read and studied during my youth. The vehicle I was seeing before me matched the description of the coach in the stories, the phantom bus that appears on an abandoned street in the early hours, offering lifts to the weary and needy.
I came close to panic in that moment, wondering whether I was dreaming or suffering from a paranoid delusion. I’d spent so much of my youth chasing these legends, searching for any evidence that could prove the existence of something outside of our own reality. But now that the truth was staring me in the face, a big part of me wanted to up sticks and run.
But I didn’t. I don’t know whether I was frozen to the spot with fear, or if my curiosity got the better of me, but I held my ground and waited for the bus to come to me.
I stood up on my shaking feet as the coach pulled in beside my shelter, and despite the amount of alcohol I’d consumed, I suddenly felt quite sober. It seemed to take forever for the vehicle to park up and for the creaking old door to swing open. When it did, I was confronted by a friendly middle-aged man wearing a neat blue uniform while he sat behind the wheel, driving his bus to an unspecified location.
He smiled down at me, his eyes twinkling in an amicable and welcoming fashion. Then he opened his mouth and spoke in a soft, almost fatherly tone of voice, saying – “Good evening my friend. Are you coming onboard?”
I’d heard about the enigmatic driver before, but nevertheless his appearance and whole demeanor took me off guard. I struggled to find the words to respond, stuttering my way through my reply.
“…Where…where will you take me?” I inquired nervously.
“Home.” The driver responded, with a reassuring smile. “I’ll take you home, eventually. But life isn’t about the destination, its about the journey. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. So, what do you say my young friend? Will you ride with us?”
I’ll admit to being scared in that moment – terrified in fact. Somehow, I realised how important this was; how the decision I made right then could shape the rest of my life. I didn’t know what exactly would await me if I got on board, but I had a good idea, and it was terrifying. But if I walked away I would never discover the truth. And so, I took a deep breath, plucked up my courage, and stepped onto the bus, seeing the driver smile as the door shut firmly behind me.
When I saw the bus driver up close, I sensed something sinister about him and instantly started regretting my decision, but by then it was too late.
That was the first time I rode the night bus. Over the years, I’ve been on it three times in total, living to tell my tale on each occasion. Catching the phantom bus isn’t as easy as you would imagine. There’s no set of rules that you can follow, and no set time or location. I don’t know whether its sheer chance or if the bus itself chooses its passengers. I have however been able to piece together common threads, using both my own experiences and those of others who’ve made the journey.
We have an online forum which we use to tell our stories and exchange information. It’s an issue of safety as much as anything else. The night bus can be lethal if you don’t keep your wits about you. Having accumulated this knowledge over the last number of years, I will now share it with you here.
Once you step on board the bus, you’ll see rows of hard backed seats stretching back to the rear of the vehicle’s interior. There’s nothing unusual about this, at least not at first glance. You’ll see other passengers too, but you mustn’t engage with them at this point, and don’t look them in the eye.
Take a seat on an empty bench somewhere towards the front of the bus. It doesn’t really matter where exactly. They will come to you in their own time. The journey itself can last for hours, or at least that’s what it will seem like when you’re on board.
You can see out the windows from the inside and look upon the scenery, such as it is. Initially you will see familiar sites – city centre streets, buildings, and businesses that you’ll recognise. Nevertheless, you’ll soon realise that something isn’t quite right with the scene. The streets will be totally abandoned, with no traffic or pedestrians anywhere to be seen. There won’t be any businesses open or lights emanating from anywhere along the road.
But the further you drive out from the city centre, the more bizarre the sights you will encounter. Soon, the tidy streets and well-maintained buildings will give way to urban decay – crumbling structures and ruins, like those of a lost city forgotten by time.
Eventually, the bus will leave the city behind and enter what appears to be a dense forest. The narrow road you will follow will be shrouded in darkness, with the only illumination coming from the vehicle’s bright headlights. If you glance into the woods on either side of the road you will occasionally catch a glimpse of shadows moving behind the treeline; strange figures and unidentified animals with glowing red eyes glaring through the darkness.
You’ll see these unnerving creatures for only the briefest of seconds as the bus drives through, and then they’ll be gone. At first you’ll think it’s just your fertile imagination playing tricks on you, but deep down you’ll know that there is something evil lurking in those woods.
By this point in the journey it should become clear that you’re no longer in the realm of the living. I don’t know where the bus takes you, but I do know its not wise to stare out the windows for too long. What lurks out there can drive you mad. And besides, your focus should be on those inside the bus, as they pose the more immediate threat.
My fellow online sleuths and I think of the passengers as ‘lost souls’. It seems certain that they are no longer part of the world of the living. There’s something lacking in them, an important piece that is missing. Once you talk to them (and they will engage with you, whether you want them to or not), you’ll see the sadness in their empty, dead eyes. They want to latch onto you because you have what they want – life.
That’s why it’s so important that you follow the rules. Don’t let them get inside of your head, whatever you do.
There are six entities you’re likely to encounter once you set foot upon the bus, all of whom have their own unique traits and tricks which they’ll attempt to use against you. Based on the shared experiences of our forum members, I have pieced together a description of each one of these otherworldly entities.
Firstly, there’s ‘The Driver’, whose physical description I’ve already covered. The driver’s first job is to get you onboard. That’s why he’ll appear to be so friendly and welcoming, enticing you to take a ride on his bus. However, once the door shuts behind you and the bus starts moving, you’ll see the driver’s smile falter ever so slightly as he breaks eye contact and focuses on the road.
Despite this, the driver is a benign figure who plays a small but important role in the events which follow. His job from this point onward is simply to drive. And he does keep his promise to you. He will bring you home eventually, assuming you don’t fall foul of any of the spirits during the drive. Like I said, the journey will seem to last for hours, but when he drops you off on your home street, back in our realm, no time will have passed whatsoever.
He lets you off, smiling once again and saying – “Have a nice evening. Hope to see you again soon.”
And you’ll be left standing on the pavement outside of your home, bewildered and still in a state of shocked disbelief as you watch the phantom bus drive down the road, before it inexplicably vanishes at the end of your street.
After the driver, the first passenger you’re likely to notice is ‘The Party Girl’. This is an attractive young woman who appears to be in her early to mid-20’s. Her physical appearance will change on each occasion. Sometimes, her hair will be brunette and other times blonde. Likewise, her skin complexion can either be pale or dark, depending upon the beholder.
What’s consistent is how she’s made up and dressed; donning a cocktail dress and high heels, and carrying a designer handbag. Her fragrance is sweet and enticing, but you may also smell a hint of alcohol on her breath. You’ll note how her mascara has run, indicating that she has been crying.
Nevertheless, there’s something in her deep and expressive eyes which will draw you in – an inner beauty and vulnerability that plays on your emotions. Its worth noting that you will be attracted to the young woman in spite of your gender or usual sexual preferences. You’ll be unable to take your eyes off her and will feel compelled to take a seat close to her.
The party girl will engage with you during the early stages of the journey, distracting you from the bizarre sights outside of the bus’s windows. At first, she’ll be flirtatious and fun, asking you about yourself and talking about her night out. But soon the conversation will take on a darker tone, as the girl tells you about a tragic event from her past – childhood abuse, a violent ex-partner, or the death of a loved one. The story will vary each time but will always be one of sadness and suffering.
Your heart will go out to her, even if you’re not usually an empathetic person. Once she’s told you her woeful tale, the young woman will ask you to go home with her, to give her some comfort. You will be tempted, but under no circumstances should you agree to go with her. Its critical that you remember what she is, and what she really wants from you.
My advice is to politely decline her offer without causing her undue suffering. The party girl may be a lost soul, but by all accounts she still feels human emotions. She won’t be angry when you reject her, but instead will sob softly into her hands. You’ll feel guilty, but you must move on and switch seats, leaving the poor girl to her misery.
The next passenger you’ll encounter sits a couple of rows behind the party girl. We call her the OAP or ‘The Pensioner’. She’s an elderly woman, probably in her 80’s; her white hair in curls, wearing a shawl and a heavy winter coat, and with a shopping cart on wheels parked underneath her seat.
Her face is wrinkled, and the perfume she wears is quite overbearing, but the OAP has kind eyes and a sweet motherly smile. She’ll remind you of an elderly relative, like a grandmother or great aunt, and you will feel an affection towards her.
A woman of her age and appearance is the last person you’d expect to find riding a night bus during the early hours of the morning, and yet here she is…another lost soul trapped on a journey that never ends. The OAP will speak with you in a kindly, wholesome fashion, asking about your life and your family, while also entertaining you with anecdotes from her long and interesting life.
You truly will feel at ease talking with her, but you mustn’t forget what she really is. The conversation will end with the woman asking you to accompany her home to help with her shopping, or something like that. She’ll offer to prepare you something to eat – your favorite meal or snack (whatever that may be), and she’ll offer to put you up for the night.
Again, you’ll be tempted, but you must say no. On this occasion it doesn’t actually matter how politely you refuse her offer. Whatever you say or do, she will react with absolute fury, screaming every obscenity under the sun as her face screws up with anger. It’s the last thing you would expect from a seemingly sweet old lady, but this is what will happen.
As soon as she launches into her hateful tirade you should leave your seat and move further down the bus, and you would be wise not to engage with her again for the rest of your journey.
The next passenger you’ll meet is a scruffy middle-aged man known as ‘The Drunkard’. He sits close to the back of the bus and is perhaps the type you would expect to find on a late-night service. I wouldn’t recommend sitting too close to the drunkard, if only because he smells pretty bad – his breath stinking of alcohol and cigarettes. You’ll note how his old clothes are soiled and torn, and his unkempt beard will be badly matted.
You probably won’t wish to engage with him, but the drunkard will begin a conversation with you regardless, and against your better judgement you’ll get drawn in. The drunkard will turn out to be surprisingly intelligent and insightful, seeking to educate you on such matters as religion, philosophy, and scientific theory.
He’ll tell you a story in the form of a parable or fable, one with a dark twist to it. When I first met the drunk, he recounted to me the tale of the frog and the scorpion, one that demonstrates the cruel and destructive nature of life.
Next, he’ll remove a silver hip flask from his inside jacket pocket and offer you a drink. Regardless of your alcoholic preferences, you’ll be tempted to take a sip. The drink will smell so sweet and inviting, but of course you must refuse him.
After you turn down the drink, the drunkard will shoot you an angry look before shaking his head and saying – “You’re a damn fool. A stupid little child. You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”
This is your cue to move on.
Now, you’ll notice how the first three passengers are trying to draw you in, using whatever charms or supernatural powers they have at their disposal. Their ultimate goal is to trick you into leaving the bus. Needless to say, you must not do this – not if you want to make it home.
Nobody knows what exactly happens to those who fall into one of their traps. We do know that several members of our forum have vanished without a trace over the years, and my city has a long history of unexplained disappearances.
The fourth passenger is different from the rest however. He is a young male who sits on the back row whilst listening to headphones linked up to an 80’s style Walkman. We call him ‘Headphones Guy’, and it seems all he does is listen to music, his eyes closed as he taps his foot to the beat.
The headphones guy will not attempt to engage with you or even acknowledge your presence. That’s not to say he isn’t dangerous however. There was a member of our group who had a run in with the guy. To be fair, it wasn’t unprovoked. Feeling bold, my friend got right up in the passenger’s face, waving his hands and clicking his fingers in an attempt to gain the spirit’s attention. When this failed, he foolishly grabbed the guy’s headphones, physically pulling them off his head.
Predictably, headphones guy didn’t react well to this violation. In an instant, he jumped up from his chair, lashing out with his fist and knocking his assailant down with one punch. My friend remembers a sharp intense pain in the back of his head before he blacked out.
The next thing he remembers is waking up in his own bed the next morning with a broken nose and a nasty gash on the back of his head. He also found a note in his jean’s pocket, crudely written on the back of an old bus ticket in what looked like dried blood. And it read – ‘Do that again, and I’ll rip your fucking head off!’.
Unsurprisingly, my friend never rode the night bus again. I don’t know what the headphones guy’s deal is, but my advice is to leave him well alone.
So, at this point you’re probably wondering why one would wish to catch the night bus at all, given how you’ll be transported to a terrifying alternative reality and encounter otherworldly spirits who wish to trap you there. Well, the short answer is that no sane person would, bar a handful of crazed urban adventurers and amateur paranormal investigators such as myself.
Most of those who’ve boarded the phantom coach have done so by accident, not realising what they were getting themselves into until it was too late. And most of those who ride the bus once have no inclination to do so again. But those of us who do seek out the phantom coach for a second, third, or (in my case) fourth occasion…Well, we have our reasons.
One reason above all others in fact – we want to see the Harbinger and ask him our one permitted question.
I’ll regret my first ride on the bus for the rest of my days. Although I was drunk, I had enough wits about me to see off the various tricks used by the ghouls, but I wasn’t prepared for him. The Harbinger is the only passenger who isn’t already riding on the bus when you first get on. He comes later, after you’ve negotiated your way through the ghostly entities and you think the worst is behind you.
The first thing you’ll notice is the burning cross mounted on top of darkened hillside, overlooking the road on the left-hand side. I remember the first time I saw that foreboding symbol and the immense fear I felt, as I knew something bad was coming.
A moment after I spotted the cross I was shocked to see the bus was slowing down, pulling over to the side of the road and parking up in a lay by. Next, the driver operated the swing door at the front of the bus, opening it to whatever lay on the other side.
The terror almost overwhelmed me as I thought of the horrors that lurked within the shadowlands, of the creatures and demons hiding in the haunted woods and hillsides. I recall looking to the other passengers, somehow hoping these devious spirits would offer me some protection from whatever was coming, but instead their heads were down, as they all maintained a solemn silence.
Realizing I was on my own, I glanced out the window to witness a sight which chilled me to my very bones. There was a small, covered shelter by the roadside, almost covered by overgrown vegetation and only just visible in the dim light. And, within this seemingly abandoned bus shelter stood a tall, hooded figure; a sinister individual with his face covered and his considerable frame hidden underneath a long and dark robe.
The mystery man remained still and silent, although I soon spotted the animal by his side, a large black dog that snarled aggressively through a snout filled with razor sharp teeth, as it glared at me with hungry and predatory eyes, only a thin glass pane separating me from him.
I imagined the hound breaking loose, ascending the steps and charging down the aisle, before burying its razor-sharp fangs into my soft flesh. Thankfully, the dog’s master retained control of his beast, although I was far from out of danger.
I also noticed how hot and stifling it suddenly became, as an almost unbearable wave of heat hit me. Meanwhile, the bus remained parked for what seemed like an eternity, its door ajar as the driver waited to see whether his passenger would get on.
Now, I’ve since learnt that the hooded figure we call the Harbinger will do one of two things at this point. Either he will remain rooted to the spot until eventually the driver will say something like ‘Well, not tonight then’, before he closes the door and drives on. From what I’ve been able to gather from both my own experiences and those of my contemporaries, this is what happens most of the time.
Two times out of three, the Harbinger won’t step out from the bus shelter and that will be the end of it. But sometimes he will step forward, marching through the mud in his heavy boots while dragging his hell hound along on a leash, and he’ll come on board the bus, prompting the driver to say – “Good evening sir. I trust you’ll have a pleasant journey.”
The Harbinger will not answer, instead gliding down the aisle with his faithful mutt following behind him. He’ll take a seat near the front of the bus, pulling down his hood to reveal what lies underneath.
To this day, I can’t fully explain what I saw in that terrifying moment. It seemed like there was only a dark void where his face should be, with two burning orbs instead of eyes. He had no mouth that I could see, and so by rights he shouldn’t have been able to speak. And yet he did, calling out to me in a booming, God-like voice which echoed through the hollow interior of the bus.
“Come to me, mortal child.” He ordered, “Come sit with me, so we may speak.”
As you can imagine, I was utterly terrified in this moment, so much so that I thought I might pass out. But, for reasons I can’t explain, I obeyed the Harbinger’s orders, feeling like I physically could not resist him, and as if my legs were no longer under my control.
I remember looking to the other passengers as I walked down the aisle, hoping that one of them could help me. But each of the four kept their heads down as they muttered in unison, reciting a prayer in a language I could not understand. It became obvious that the Harbinger held power over these lost souls and they were all trapped under his spell.
Perhaps they were once like us, falling victim to the phantom bus and the Harbinger’s God-like powers. In any event, they offered me no assistance in that fateful moment, and I soon realised I was completely at the Harbinger’s mercy.
I involuntarily took a seat in the row directly behind the Harbinger. His head turned in an unnatural way to face me, as his dog snarled aggressively in my direction, but thankfully resisted the urge to bite me in the leg. I can’t really describe how the Harbinger smelt, other than to say he stank of death.
The fiery orbs he had instead of eyes stared right at me, and I couldn’t look away, no matter how much I tried. I felt like I was on fire, my soul burning under his hateful glare. In my state of abject terror I imagined what this monster might do to me. I reckoned he could kill me with ease, but this was the least of my fears. Instead, I believed I may become like the others – another anonymous lost soul, riding this damned bus for all eternity.
In any event, I was powerless to do anything in that moment other than remain frozen to my seat, waiting for the Harbinger to speak. Despite his absence of eyes, somehow I could tell he was looking down on me, that he considered me with total contempt, like I was something he’d stepped in. To this day I don’t know whether he was speaking out loud or if his booming voice was only in my head. Either way, I found myself totally transfixed as he spoke his words.
“I see another mere mortal has found its way into my realm.” He began. I assumed he was referring to me. “I’ll confess to having little time for your contemptible and weak race. Nevertheless, I must respect the bravery of the odd individual such as yourself. Not many have the courage to come to this dark place. For this reason, I will grant you safe passage, and I will answer you one question. Ask me what you will mere mortal, and I will impart to you my infinite knowledge.”
Now, this is a moment I’ve replayed over and over again in my mind over the years. I literally could have asked the Harbinger anything – the winning lottery numbers, who killed JFK, the meaning of life…He sees and knows everything, and the possibilities are limitless.
One of the guys on our forum asked the Harbinger how he would die and was told that his vices would kill him within 6 months. Well, this guy was an addict, but he laughed off the Harbinger’s warning and continued using. Six months later, he was dead from an overdose.
And then there was a young woman who, at the time of her encounter with the Harbinger, was stuck in an abusive and controlling relationship. She asked the entity what would happen if she stayed with her asshole boyfriend. Well, she was told that her life would end unless she broke off the relationship. This proved to be the motivation she needed to leave him, and about a year later, the bastard was arrested for murdering another girl and ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
But of course, I didn’t know any of this at the time. I felt nothing but pure terror as I sat frozen to my seat, quaking in my boots as the Harbinger glared down upon me with disgust. In that chilling moment, I could only think of one question to ask, which I stuttered out from my trembling lips – “What…what are you?”
I swore I could hear the creature scoff with contempt before he gave his answer.
“My poor child,” he bellowed, “alas, you humans will never fully comprehend what I am and what I represent.
Nevertheless, I owe you an answer and so I shall explain in the simplest of terms. I am the past, the present, and the future. I see all from where I stand, and yet I have sworn not to intervene in the mortal realm.”
He paused momentarily, turning his burning orbs towards the darkened landscape outside the window.
“This world you see before me is my kingdom. My domain. I offer sanctuary to those who have nowhere else to go, giving a home to those lost souls trapped between the mortal and eternal realms. Perhaps you will come here one day and became a permanent resident of my dark realm…Or perhaps not…”
“You could have inquired after your ultimate fate of course, but you choose not to do so. But I have answered your one permitted question and fulfilled my obligation. And now my child, I will bid you farewell.”
With that, he rose from his chair and summoned his hound, gliding down the aisle as he made for the exit. I was flabbergasted and in a state of shock. I still had so many questions to ask, and I opened my mouth without thinking.
“Wait…” I called after him, instantly regretting my decision to speak.
The Harbinger turned sharply, his orb-like eyes burning ever fiercer, his hound growling as it bared its sharp teeth, pulling on its lead as it tried to get at me. When the Harbinger spoke again, his tone became angry and threatening.
“Heed my warning, you damn fool! I have tolerated your presence in my realm thus far, but do not test my patience! I can inflict pain upon you which goes beyond your worst nightmares, and I will not hesitate to do so if you break my rules again!”
I felt all the blood drain from my face, and my whole body shook uncontrollably as sheer terror overcame me. Needless to say, I did not utter another word. Instead, I watched on in shocked awe as the Harbinger glided down the aisle, dragging his snarling hell hound with him.
The driver brought the bus to a slow halt to allow the God-like creature to disembark. I began to feel pangs of relief as I thought my ordeal was nearly over, but there was one last twist to his macabre episode. As the Harbinger stepped off the coach, my fellow passengers suddenly shot up from their seats, all simultaneously turning in my direction.
To my horror, I saw how their eyes had turned jet black, and their mouths were opened wide, revealing gaping black holes. It seemed like they were all trying to scream, and yet no sound was emitted.
And then I saw what was lurking in the darkened woods on either side of the road – hundreds of fiery red eyes emerging from the treeline, belonging to unholy beasts that howled like wolves in the night, every one focused upon our bus. I screamed out in terror, fearing that the Harbinger had changed his mind and was summoning his hellish minions to tear me to pieces.
The howling rapidly increased in volume, becoming so loud that I was near deafened. What happened next remains something of a blur in my memory. I recall the horrific din, and the pressure built up inside my head until I thought my skull would explode.
Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light, forcing me to hide my eyes underneath my hands. A moment later, I opened my eyes again, only to discover that the beasts had vanished, as had my ghoulish fellow passengers. I was on my own inside the bus, just me and the driver, as we continued down that lonely stretch of road.
I have very little recollection of the rest of that journey. I don’t think it was much longer before we left the dark realm and returned to the city streets I knew and recognised. When we arrived on my home street, I could not believe it, thinking this was another trick. I sat still in my seat for some time until eventually I needed to be prompted by the driver, who called out to me, saying – “Your stop my friend. Come on now please. I can’t wait here all night!”
With some trepidation, I walked down the aisle and stepped off the bus, feeling the cool fresh air against my skin as I returned to the realm of the living. I recall the driver wishing me good night and saying – ‘he would see me again’, before he drove away.
So, that’s my story, but its not quite the end of it. You may well ask why I didn’t abandon my obsession with the phantom bus after my terrifying encounter. Well, for a long time I did, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me. I don’t like the uncertainty of life, of not knowing what lays before me. I used to think that’s just the way it is, but now I know better.
The Harbinger is out there, and he can provide the answers I need. I won’t waste my opportunity a second time. For years I have chased the bus, and I’ve caught it a further two times. On both occasions, I boarded and avoided the traps set by the ghoulish passengers. And both times, I waited for the Harbinger to board, but he would not move from his shelter, and so my hopes were frustrated.
It’s been extremely disheartening, but I will not give up. Tonight, I will seek out the bus once again, and I’ll keep doing so until the Harbinger answers my call.
I know the risks. One night, I may board the phantom coach and never make it home. But nevertheless, I need to do this. I must know the truth, no matter what the cost. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bus to catch.
Credit : Woundlicker
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