I sat there on the bus, contemplating the abnormal events of the day and staring at the thick snow that lay outside. It was a long bus journey back to my house and I had a long time to spend with the not particularly talkative driver. I think the driver had become accustomed to my presence as I travelled on the bus every Friday night. He would always let me on the bus without charging me and wait for another ten minutes and see if anyone else got on, which they never did. I had not, for as long as I remember had a conversation with him, and had for a long time now forgotten the sound of his voice. The only sound I would hear on a typical journey was the quiet grumbling of the bus driver and the loud roaring of the buses engine. Nobody got on the bus this late at night.
I was as I was saying, contemplating the events of the day, when I was interrupted mid thought by a more pressing realization. The bus was now stopping. This may seem a very normal thing for a bus to do, this bus however never stopped except for myself. The bus had stopped to let on another passenger. I looked forward to this, as my usual journey would include no human interaction. The passenger was a man, that I guessed to be in his mid thirties. I took a quick look up and down him. I looked up and down him again with a bit more detail.
No snow, he must have been standing at the bus stop for a little while, as buses never come on time, yet he had avoided getting any snow on him. My own boots were cased in a think slushy mess, but his fine black shoes were hardly even wet. My jeans and thick jacket, which I was quite fond of, were no longer covered in snow but were wet from the snow that had melted in the comfortable warmth of the bus. His trousers that had been ironed to perfection and the suit that he wore were both black as midnight and looked of incredible quality. The man himself was bald and was cleanly shaven; he was yet to face me as he was talking to the bus driver. He carried nothing in his hands but kept his body still with his arms by his sides while talking.
I started to hear their conversation after I was done scanning his person.
“Shame that it had to happen isn’t it?” The bus driver said in a burst of conversation. This in itself came as a shock to my system; it was such a long time since the bus driver had spoken in my presence. What was a real shock is what came next.
“Yes, the poor elderly lady must have been quite shaken by the ordeal.” replied the stranger. His voice was eerie. He talked normally of course, but that was the problem, it was too normal. He voice stayed at the same volume and pitch all the time, he didn’t change the level of excitement in his voice. He had no accent, he spoke perfectly and I was surprised to find that the bus driver, who had a strong accent, could understand him.
It was then I realised that they were in fact talking about what they had interrupted me thinking about. Earlier in my day I had witnessed an attack on an elderly lady. A young teenager had an interest in her handbag and its contents. My good nature combined with my belief that today’s youth should not be able to do as they please, caused me to leap into action. I had started shouting at the young boy and walking towards him, I expected him to run away and that to be the end of it. I pushed the boy back from the old lady and told her that she would be okay and should hurry home. It was after this as I was swinging round to give the boy a stern talking to, that I felt a sharp blow to my neck and then it was black. I woke up about two minutes later with a bit of a sore neck but otherwise unharmed.
The stranger walked down the bus and sat at a seat just in front of mine. I had seen his face as he walked down but there was nothing interesting about it, apart from the fact there was nothing interesting about it. He sat with the same amazingly straight posture as when he was standing.
“Where you gettin’ off then?” the driver cried down the bus.
“Crescent Road” the stranger replied.
“Oh, surprise surprise” the bus driver chuckled to himself.
The stranger didn’t understand what the bus driver was talking about but I did. The bus driver still only had to make the one stop because mine and the stranger’s stops were in fact the same. I thought this to be a remarkable coincidence. I returned to watching the snow falling gently outside. The night sky seemed to give me the impression that tonight was different in some way to every other night. I was snapped out of this small trance by the stranger standing and making his way to the front of the bus.
Fortunately he was on the bus to remind me that at some point I would have to get off, and up I leapt. The bus pulled in to the stop as I staggered to keep my balance. The stranger moved to the side to let me past and to say thank you to the driver. I got off the bus and stepped onto the crisp snow that had just fallen. The stranger followed and we started on our way home.
The stranger barged past me and started to walk briskly. I thought this to be quite rude and so I started to walk just as briskly to catch up with him. Even when in a hurry the man walked with impeccable posture.
“I much prefer the summer to this.” I said jokingly in an attempt to spark a conversation. The man simply took a deep breath and proceeded to walk more slowly. I walked beside him, he looked quite troubled. I felt compelled to try and comfort him. I reached to put my hand on his shoulder as my brain prepared my next sentence. He stopped. His head darted in the direction of my face.
It was not that he was looking at me, more that he was looking exactly in my direction. His look was empty and cold. He continued on his way and I kept my distance, I hoped he would enter one of the houses that we were passing but he didn’t. He continued to wander the same way as I was. He wandered across the small road we came to and up onto the footpath that lead up to my cul-de-sac.
The road was known for being dangerously icy. The path was also terribly dark and had trees along either side. This was all well and good during the daylight hours, but at night however the trees took on a more sinister presence and seemed to position themselves to block out the view of the moon or any other source of light. In front of me was the man, no more than five metres away. I could only just make out his suit and trousers. I could only just make out his shape. He was getting further away from me. I was trying to navigate the slippier parts of the path.
“Are you having as much trouble as I am?” I exclaimed trying again to get the attention of the wanderer.
“Don’t be silly” the wanderer turned and said. I could only just make out his face and was unsure whether he was talking to me or himself. Before I could come to this decision he turned and started the brisk walking again. I followed to catch up with him and was looking for him through the black screen that was in front of my eyes. I hit the ground. It hurt and I was catching up on what had just happened. I had tripped up on the shape of the wandering man. He had fallen in on the ice and from what I could see had hit his head off the ground. I leant over to help him up but was knocked away as he lifted himself off the hard frozen ground.
He held his hand to his head, and I was now quite worried about him, he looked like he had hit the ground with some force. He looked very frightened and was almost running along the road. We exited the small wooded path and to a fork in the road. I could see my house from here it was the first in the cul-de-sac on the right. The wandering stranger made his way along the road to the left and I felt it was my duty to follow him and to see if he was okay.
Luckily for him his house was not far along the road and he entered the front gate of an impressive looking building, the wanderer had found his home. He left the gate open for me and I entered the garden. He entered the house and I followed. I stood in his porch as he rushed upstairs. I heard the sound of running water and I assumed that he was cleaning himself up. He returned a short while after and came slowly down the stairs. He was talking to a woman which I can only presume was his wife.
“I am fine really, I just got a bit shook up along the path there” the man said.
“I do worry about you, you know” Replied his wife “Look what happened to that kind gentleman in town today. He helps an old lady get her handbag back and gets beaten to death” I stood there baffled, and felt a shiver down my spine. I started to feel myself slipping away as I struggled with the events of the day. I had stopped wandering, I had found my home and I knew where I had to go…