The story of a sad, broken man making his last journey to wherever it may lead.
John beeped his pass as he stepped onto the bus. This was the last day of his tragic life.
John Roberts was no longer important. All that was left were his thoughts, and the reassuring weight of the revolver in his pocket.
The driver had a kindly old man’s face, a warm smile, and his voice was melodious when he said his good morning. John smiled at him and wondered if it would be the driver’s last day as well... it was up to John. The emptiness of the bus surprised John, it was at the third stop on its route and no commuters had yet to board, maybe it was a sign. He walked down to the back and took a seat. The bus was silent, a tomb as good as any other.
He never sat at the back of the bus. Today however, it was important he saw everyone who got on.
As the bus roared into life and began to move again John thought on the mess his life had become in the last twenty-hours. He was the manager of an electronics store. Over the years the slight tedium of his job had evolved into mind numbing boredom, the small dislike of his arrogant boss had grown into a profound and raging hatred of the man. John made a mistake with orders and his boss humiliated him. Fiery anger filled John. The dam burst. The instinctual animal inside released. He leapt at his boss and punched and bit and kicked until pulled off. He was fired, and sent home with the promise of a lawsuit to come.
John walked home covered in the blood of his boss.
More blood awaited him at home.
This bus, number 94, was the bus he always got to work; it wasn’t his destination today though. At the next stop three people boarded. First, an elderly couple. Both looked happy, content with the others love. The deteriorating effects of age were all but masked by the radiance of their love. John’s love for his wife was as pure as theirs, purer maybe.
Next a student that went to the school opposite John’s old workplace. He must have wanted to get to school early. The brats usually caught the next bus: if John got up late his punishment was the incessant shouts and cackles of those new to the world, the abominable “music” that erupted from their mobile phones filled in the gaps where the high pitched voices weren’t piercing the air. John was very punctual.
The boy who stepped onto the bus now looked about twelve. Nervousness plagued him, uneasiness. This boy was unhappy; you could see it in his eyes. They showed a cold reserve from the world around him. Maybe he was having an internal debate as to whether he should just hang himself upon returning home. John guessed he took the earlier bus to avoid the taunts of other students.
They took seats on 94. The elderly couple together at the front, the boy on the right side in the middle. A background of unintelligible conversation from the elderly couple joined the cacophony created by a waking civilization; the rumble of the bus, the roars and purrs of cars on their way to work, the laughs of passing school children, the sounds of everyday.
John found himself wondering if taking the boy’s life would free the boy from whatever injustices the world had thrown at him. He considered removing the revolver from his jacket pocket and ending the boy’s miserable existence right then. He did not.
Part of John understood he was losing his mind, but he didn’t care.
John was sixteen when he first met his true love. Laura was a vision of loveliness, a beauty even then. He met her at his aunt’s wedding. When his eyes fell on her the shyness in him melted away and he went over and asked her to dance. She accepted, they danced, and they talked. Laura was perfect, she understood him like no other did. She was smarter than him, more fun, more attractive but still she began to love him. They connected on a level he had never known with another person. They would be with each other forever. At eighteen they were married.
Laura was a free spirit, she was exciting and risk taking and for a while he became all those things. She made him so much more than he had ever been before. He loved her more than he could ever believe or describe. She was an infallible optimist and soon he left the depression of his youth matching her high spirits. For the first time in his life, he liked who he was.
At the next stop three more people got on. Sometimes 94 seemed like a separate entity, a monster unto itself, drawing victims in to its deadly claws. John recognized the first man as Dave, a friend of Laura’s. He would see John they would nod recognition, but Dave wouldn’t come to sit next to John and talk. They never liked each other.
Dave spotted John, nodded at him and John nodded back. He then took a seat at the front of the bus. John laughed coldly to himself. What a prick, but at least he was a predictable prick.
A young mother pushing a pram boarded next. The mother and her baby went to the middle, where the mother parked the pram and then sat down. Her baby facing her. The baby began to cry. The day was beginning to warm up, it was spring and it would probably be a beautiful day. John was genuinely sad he wouldn’t see it.
When Laura was twenty eight she became pregnant. They were ecstatic. They had been trying for years and finally she was blessed with child. All she ever wanted in life was to be a mother.
Laura had a miscarriage.
It hit her hard. She became depressed. John was hurt, but he knew she needed him. He was strong for her. In time she began to feel better, she was almost back to her normal self when she fell pregnant again. Eight months ago. It brought them back to the way they once were.
At the next stop still no-one got off, one more person got on the bus. He was a massive black man. He must have been just shy of seven foot tall and weighing at least thirty stone. He was overweight, and visibly struggling to move through the bus. So outrageous was his size, it seemed a punishment from God for some unimaginable sin. Because of his size he went to the back of the bus where there were more seats bunched together. He took up two and a half seats; only one and half seats separated him and John. John could hear his struggled breathing.
Yesterday after attacking his boss he walked home, he had a car but he usually took the bus or walked wherever he went. He was scared. He had to tell Laura that he had lost his job, she was eight months pregnant and he had lost his job, Christ he was a dead man. The fear was somewhat dulled by the immense comfort of knowing Laura would understand. In knowing she would light the way ahead as she always did.
When he opened the door, and stepped into the house he was struck instantly by a terrible silence. Usually Laura would have had the radio playing and would have been singing, but that wasn’t it. That silence, that terrible silence. There was something dark in that silence, something wrong. There was something terribly wrong.
94 drove on, ferrying it’s passengers to their destination. Most sat quietly, in their own little world. Perhaps they wondered why such cruelty ruled the world; the boy reeked of this horrible knowledge, the titanic black man a physical manifestation of it. It was the couples fragile love however, that showed it most strongly, how their bond could be so easily broken. And when it did, and it would, because such a bond was not meant to last, it would leave a void so deep that nothing could ever fill it. It would break the soul, crush the spirit, leave but meaningless, painful memories of what once was, what would never again be. John was comforted by the weight of the revolver against his chest; his talisman, his protection against the cruelty.
The revolver rested silently, a sleeping beast of immense power. He imagined firing it; his heart sped up a beat. He reached into the pocket, his hand clasped the gun… no he could fight it.
He let the door shut behind him, his pulse crashing in his ears like a thousand war drums. With trepidation, beyond fear, he stepped into the dark hall. He probably should have called Laura’s name. He didn’t. He walked into his home.
The bus came to some traffic, now only ten minutes from the town centre, his workplace, the school. Where it would end.
He stepped into the kitchen from the hall. There was nothing out of the ordinary in there. He carried on. His heart beat hard, like a beast imprisoned in his ribs trying to smash its way out. The lights were all off. He turned them on as he went. Darkness was waiting for him.
On 94 he thought about what he was going to do next. Maybe he would just shoot himself, maybe he’d shoot them all. All he knew is that he would save one bullet for himself. He wouldn’t survive, that thought didn’t sadden him.
John reached the bottom of the stairs. Their house was small but it had a nice little upstairs for their room. He turned on the lights. Dried blood matted the carpet on the stairs and at the bottom. NO! He felt faint. He staggered up the stairs, legs wobbling beneath him. At the top of the stairs he found the door ajar, a bloody handprint. He pushed the door open, he felt sick. The sight struck him like lightning. Blood and feathers covered the walls, the ceiling, the floor. Laura lay on her back on the bed. A shredded, blood-drenched pillow covered her head. A revolver in one hand a bloody note in the other.
He sat on the bus. A tear ran down his cheek. The skin was warm where the tear fell, then cold where it dried. So, so cold.
John stepped through the red feathers, tears burning his face. He sat next to her. He put his hand on hers, still warm. He took the gun from her, the evil thing that had taken her away. He reached over her and gently took the note from her slack grip.
In a hand that shook violently he held a note, a note written by a hand that would never write again.
To my love,
John I am sorry, truly. I fell, the blood, so much blood. I was okay but the baby wasn’t, I knew, oh god I knew. I felt for it, but it was gone, dead inside me. Dead inside.
I love you John, truly.
All I ever wanted to be was to be a mother, all I ever wanted.
She had fallen down the stairs, the blood. The baby dead, dead inside her, dead inside. She picked up the pillow to quiet the noise, even in death she didn’t want to disturb anyone. He imagined the muffled crash of the revolver. The blood red feathers falling through the air with ethereal grace as Laura crumpled onto the bed, dead inside, dead. He pulled off what was left of the pillow, for the first time in his life averting his eyes from her once beautiful face. He laid her down properly, and lay with her, holding her one final time. He cried, sobbed, broke down, and finally slept hand in hand with his fallen beauty. He woke the next day, showered, picked up the revolver, and got on the bus.
John cried silently, he cried with the baby on the bus, cried for the babies he never had, cried to the rheumatic breathing of the fat black man. 94 had begun to move again; the traffic was clearing.
He had three choices:
He could stand up and fire at the passengers of the bus. He could end the school boy’s unhappiness, stop the bullying or abuse or whatever had left him with such visible sadness. End the babies crying. End the mother’s grief at seeing her baby dead. End the black man’s struggle with his weight and probably a host of disease related to obesity. Make it so the elderly couple wouldn’t have to bury the other and carry on alone, he could end it for them together. The bus driver was too far to receive John’s gift; death. He would leave Dave the prick to carry on with the despair of life. And finally he could end his own painful misery.
Or, he could stand and fire into his own skull ending his sorrow instantly, go alone into the darkness.
Or, he could carry on with life like nothing happened, no, that wasn’t a choice. He couldn’t live on, he was dead inside.
The truth was he wasn’t cruel, he wasn’t thinking about killing these people for a bit of a thrill, no he was afraid. If he died and couldn’t find Laura, if he died and was just alone with his thoughts for eternity, he didn’t even want to think about that. If he took these sad few with him, at least he wouldn’t be alone. Not alone forever.
94 reached its final stop. John Roberts rose from his chair and withdrew the revolver from his pocket.