I hate the bus.
I’m a simple person with a boring, plain life. Every morning I wake up at six in the morning, eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, then take the bus to my workplace. I get there around eight and head in to deal with the hubbub of my colleagues, taking a lunch break around twelve to relax and eventually heading home at three, again taking the bus.
I truly hated the bus. It was loud packed, and ridiculously tiresome. My best friend had offered to drive me home but, due to my stubborn nature, I turned him down. I had one seat on the bus that I always sat in, the seat three back from the driver’s seat, and since I looked to grumpy, nobody ever dared to take my seat from me. No one sat next to me either, but there was a seat behind me that random strangers would sit in, often a mother and her son that I grew interested in. Her son said he was sick, and had to go to the hospital very often, and I sometimes saw the two in the park when I was on my break. They were kind people, the mother was a bit dreary and the child acting like any seven-year-old would, and I came to like talking to them on the morning bus. The mother seemed tired all the time, often seeming to ignore her son more than talk to him. I knew her name but not the name of her son. They were the only people on that bus that I could put up with.
December thirty-first was like every other day for me, just an average Wednesday. I got up at six, ate a bowl of cereal, took a shower, dressed myself, and headed to the bus stop. That day I wore a scarf I’d gotten for my birthday two days earlier, which had penguins on it. I knew the boy behind me loved penguins so I was looking forward to showing him the scarf. When i got on the bus and sat in my usual seat, I noticed the mother was there but not the son. Seeing her somber expression, I left her alone, my heart sinking. When i arrived at my workplace, I got off and went inside.
Everything was as usual. I stole a cup of coffee from my boss, narrowly dodged having my ass grabbed by the most annoying man in the building, handled a few computer glitches, designed more of our company’s project, and took my lunch break. I went to the park as usual, sitting on my bench and feeding my bread to the animals. I saw the mother from the bus, too, but again didn’t ask about her son. She seemed tired, like she hadn’t slept in a very long time. I soon went back inside and worked for the remaining time before my bus came, and left to head home.
On the bus, the mother was absent from the seat behind me. I put on my headphones and listened to music like I often did, ignoring the beating of feet on the back of my seat. They kicked my back annoyingly, but not hard enough for me to care. I figured a restless child or teen was seated behind me, like usual on the afternoon bus.
When i got up to leave the bus, I checked the seat behind me to see who it was that had been kicking me. Even though I still felt their feet before I stood, there was nobody int he seat behind me…
The next day, concerned, I saw the woman sit behind me on the bus. I gently asked her what had happened to her son. What she said made my heart stop.
“A son? I don’t have a son, I only have two daughters.”
“But almost every day, there is a boy that sits beside you,” I insisted, worried for my own mental health.
She made an odd face and suggested I might have been hallucinating.
I knew that she had a son. I often would feel his feet on the back of my seat, I could hear him playing with his little toys, felt him play with my hair and tell me it looked funny the way I dyed it. He even asked me if I would take him to have his dyed that way. How was there no son? She seemed genuine when she had said it, looking at me like I was insane, almost.
After work, I asked my friend to start driving me home. I haven’t ridden that bus since that day. I asked my friend if he had ever seen the kid in the park, since we took out breaks together. I told him about the woman and he said he knew about her.
“Yeah, she’s never had a son, but her grandmother did. The kid died many years ago, he was sick almost all the time. I’ve heard she looked exactly like her grandmother did when she was her age, why do you ask?”
I didn’t tell him, fearing he would think I was crazy. Was I crazy? Had I been hallucinating every single day, for almost two years now?
I haven’t been to that bus, not even that bus stop, not even that park, nowhere I had ever seen that boy. My friend worried about me, but didn’t say anything.
One night, on the news, I saw that the bus that I rode had crashed, the bus driver and a few riders had died. Turns out, my paranoia saved me from a coincidence. The next morning, however, I saw that boy in the back seat of my friend’s car, kicking my seat and playing with my hair…
submission by anonymousalpaca