Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Ride to Fear

               “Shh,” the boy hissed. The sharp noise contrasted over the singing crickets that dotted the grass field. He sunk to the ground with a crouch lower than before and whipped his head to look behind him. “Can you guys make any more noise?”
                “And shushing helps a lot, doesn’t it?” A teenage girl crawled forward with an annoyed glance to the leading boy. “Where’s the bus, Liam?”
                “Over there.” Liam motioned with his head to a building that stood ominous under the dark sky. “Just around that corner.”
                “Look, I’m just going to head back.” Liam and Margaret turned to the voice behind them. “You guys have fun with the reward money.”
                “Get down, idiot!” Liam grabbed a hold of the smaller boy’s arm and pulled downward. As the teenager fell to the ground with a grunt, the warmth of a whisper tickled his ear.
“We should have known better than to bring you out, Alfie. But if you get caught, we all do.” Liam’s eyes wandered from the face to the building plagued with peeling paint and cracked wooden boards. “Besides, I want to buy the new microphone with the money.”
“Then hurry up!” Liam and Alfie lifted their gaze to see Margaret padding toward the building, her black hair swinging like a large pendulum. With a quick glance to the other, the boys rose to their feet and began to follow suit.
“If you guys hadn’t fooled around back there, we would have caught her in the act already.” Margaret greeted the boys that alighted by her side as she peered past the corner of the building to the bus that stood alone. Her slender hand disappeared into a small pocket swinging by her side only to reappear with a disposable camera.
The dark object gleamed in the moon light. Liam smiled and the object that swung from her hand reflected in the teenager’s black eyes. “Perfect.”
Alfie stepped away, doubt ridden over his face. “It’s only a rumor that the bus driver sells that stuff at night. You don’t know it’s true. And why a stupid old bus, of all places?”
“Well, that’s what we’re going to find out. And you’re going to be out of two thousand dollars while Maggie and I cash in.” Liam held out his hand and Margaret handed the camera over with a flourish. “Be useful and shut your trap.”
Margaret and Liam lapsed into silence, scanning the area with perceptive eyes. Without a warning, they took slow and careful steps toward the dull yellow bus that stood twenty feet away. With a last glance around, Alfie sighed and followed, cautious to step on only wet mud that muffled his footsteps.
“Have your finger on the shutter.” Alfie heard Margaret’s murmur feet ahead of him. “We go up the stairs as quiet as we can, take the picture, then hide behind the building first, okay?”
“Got it.” Liam’s eyes ran over the length of the bus that now towered over them. He regarded Margaret with a quivering finger over his mouth, before giving the same gesture to Alfie behind him. A soft clicking was heard as he wrapped his fingers on the device and stepped forward.
The group made their way around the front of the old run-down bus in a soundless manner. The young eyes were fixed on the expansive windshield that reflected the darkness in the sky.
The three paused in front of the bus steps. The folding transparent door gaped wide open. Margaret reached to tug on Liam’s jacket sleeve in warning. Alfie couldn’t help but notice fright in the larger boy’s eyes as he nodded. Soon, he tensed and alighted on the first step. After a breathless moment that proved the action was silent, the boy climbed the rest of the steps and immediately turned to peer down the hallway of the bus.
A brilliant flash illuminated the ceiling and walls inside the bus. A sharp snapping sound was followed by a whirring. Alfie squinted and barely made out Liam’s figure visibly slumped as he lowered the camera to his side again. “No one’s in here,” the voice called from inside. A dull thudding could be heard as footsteps began to retreat further inward and the boy disappeared.
“That can’t be right.” With a growl, Margaret leaped two steps at a time and sailed inside. She followed Liam to the far back of the bus. When she neared the end, she hopped on to a seat and observed as he huddled underneath the seating. “See anything, Liam?”
“Not a single thing here,” said the stifled reply.
“Maybe Alfie’s right, no one was ever here.” A sharp thudding sound began to be heard, echoing across the bus in a strange rhythm. Margaret sighed, pulling herself higher from her seat. “Shut up, Alfie! Don’t rub it in our faces.”
                “That kid’s always making trouble.” Liam rolled his eyes before straightening up with a grunt. “Maybe they—“
                A larger thud slammed into the bus, bigger than the taps from before. Liam whipped his head to the front of the bus with a growl. “Alfie!”
                Margaret and Liam spun in time to see Alfie frozen to the spot he was standing with wide eyes. They followed his gaze to a bus seat near the front of the entrance where he had stopped.
                His eyes rose from the green seating to the duo. “The noise. It isn’t me.”
                “What?” Mark gave an incredulous look to the boy. Near him, Margaret stared in silence at the frozen boy.
Suddenly, a lurch wracked the bus. The teenagers were tossed into nearby seats as the vehicle became plagued with a powerful jittering.
“What the hell is that?” Margaret screeched. The sound of fingernails scratching over green leather resounded as she fought for a better grip.
Alfie’s shout pierced through the air. “It’s coming from the bus seat!”
All eyes turned to the single bus seat that Alfie had stared at as his hands gripped a nearby rail.

The sound of ripping fabric pierced the air.

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