Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
You get on the bus at around 11 PM. Finally. Later than you’d like. Much, much later. But at least, tired as you are, you’re finally on, headed home for the evening. You hadn’t expected the group meeting for your final project to drag on for so long, but your group got distracted and started amicably chatting about everything that wasn’t related to the project before finally, barely, getting down to business. Upon leaving the library at last, you realize that you barely accomplished anything at all.
But you don’t really care about that right now.
Right now, you only care about getting home. You make your way to the back, even though you’re one of only two passengers. This is mostly out of habit, but also out of preference. You’re used to sitting back there, and so you’ve grown fond of it.
The other passenger is a man, seated in the middle left row. You’ve never been very good at guessing ages, but you know that he’s much older than you. You’ve never been good at describing people, but you know how to describe him, just from what you can see of the back of his head. In one word, even.
And that word is weird.
The man has a full trash bag next to his feet. On the public bus. What kind of person would bring trash on a bus? Is that even allowed? You’ve been kicked off for bringing on fast food before in the day time. But you guess everyone, including the night driver, loses any motivation to care about much of anything at around 5 in the afternoon.
You text your roommate and joke about it, hoping to give her a few laughs after her late weekend shift. The two of you have been friends since freshman year, and you know that she would get a kick out of the weird trash man.
She doesn’t reply. Must be in the shower.
You wonder if the man is homeless. This thought makes you feel a bit guilty for a few moments, even though he doesn’t look very homeless. Then again, you wouldn’t know if “homeless” had a look, or if it did, what that look would be. Maybe he keeps his clothes in there. Maybe it’s not garbage at all.
You zone out for a while, eyes fixed on nothing in particular in the vague direction of the trash bag at the man’s feet. It only grabs your attention when it begins to move.
Your first thought is that, oh god, a rat or something got in. Or maybe this guy is some live-pigeon-collecting creep. You were startled out of your seat either way. Then you notice that the whole bag is moving, and whatever is in there is much bigger than a rodent or bird. You can’t keep your eyes off of it as it squirms and writhes.
After a few seconds, you start to wonder if the movement will cause the bag to break. Somehow, miraculously, it hasn’t. You aren’t sure that you want to see what would come out if it did. You text your roommate again, freaking out about what’s happening in front of you, but, again, no reply. No matter. She’ll get the full story when you get home, even if you have to wake her up to give it.
You watch in sheer horror as the clear outline of a human hand stretches the black plastic.
You can’t see inside, but… Oh god. The implications of what this means hit you all at once, and you can’t breathe. You can’t move. You’re frozen in fear. You wonder if you should alert the bus driver. On the one hand, you don’t want to let this creep escape with his… captive. But you realize that to get to the driver, you would have to pass him, and you don’t know or want to think of what he would do to you on your way.
Surely he’s noticed you by now. Your eyes on his bag. Surely he knows that you saw it. And you’re trapped with him on this bus until one of you gets off. The hopelessness of this situation is overwhelming, you can’t escape, you can’t get out, you can’t breathe–
And then, at the next stop, he makes the decision for you. He gets off with his bag, disappearing into the night, never to be seen again. Or, at least, by you. You know that you have to tell someone, but you aren’t sure what you would say, how you would describe him, or if anyone would believe you. You get home a few minutes later, relieved to be done with that experience, even though you know you won’t be sleeping that night. Your roommate should be home by now, so at least you won’t be alone.
Your roommate isn’t home.
You have the sinking feeling that she never will be again.
Credit: Max Rosa