I sat on the bus, watching the night-lit streets as they passed by like frozen, shrouded memories. The juddering, stop-start motion seemed to bring an uneasy comfort to my body, detached as it was from my consciousness. Other vehicles, heading in the opposite direction, appeared and then disappeared as if they were on some mythic quest, their headlights dull and dim below my position on the top deck of the bus, illuminating nothing but the first few steps on a journey without end. For a moment it seemed as if only they knew the direction in which to move in order to find some salvation, some respite from the pain, and yet I knew, contained within each metal box, was nothing more than one more lonely figure hoping beyond all hope that something, some miracle, would appear to snap them out of their coma.
Buildings rose up on either side of me now; giant monoliths, some pale and dark, devoid of life, tired and waiting for release, others still humming under the electric glow which gave them purpose. Their eyes stared out without seeing through the dark, and were gone again, lost to me as I moved steadily on. Their facades hung momentarily in my mind like all the faces of people I had met in my life, before fading into a sea of ashen memories. The night around me seemed to tighten its grip as, like an abandoned vessel, we sailed on.
To both the right and to the left of me roads sprouted off from the main artery down which I was travelling. They sparkled and twinkled with the hope of the newborn before even their lights were swallowed by the darkness into which, it seemed, the whole world had fallen. I shuddered as the bus lurched around a corner: not from the cold – I had long since become immune to that – but from the impending realisation that we were, at last, nearing my stop, my final destination.
And then everything was quiet, but for the pounding in my chest and the pulsing in my head. What if I were to remain on the bus? Would it eject me when it reached its destination, its point of termination, or would it show a glimmer of empathy, offer up a hand and cradle me to its heart? After all, my brain reminded me, what point was there to alighting, to leaving the bus to continue without me, if you were no longer there to welcome me home?
© All original writing copyright Chris Nelson 2000-2019