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Canjul
July 21st, 2014, 02:32 AM
Ooookay...deep breaths.

Over the last few days I have been trying, desperately trying, to write this down. It's a story that began as just a simple idea but became increasingly surreal and increasingly personal to me as I wrote. The result frightens me a little bit. Writing it has been really damn hard, with all sorts of little demons standing in my way and well...I have a lot of neuroses tied up in the act of writing. Fiction is something I truly love, want to share, and I put a lot of weight in its meaning and quality My pen has rusted terribly and I would greatly appreciate any advice or help that those who make it to the end can offer.

I should also mention that very little editing or proof-reading was done, as this is a surefire way to make me delete the whole damn thing and start over. Hell, this is an entire second draft as a direct result of reading the first two paragraphs. Again, this is a neurosis I hope to cure in time, but please forgive and notify me of any errors you discover.

Finally, as this is a horror story, I ask that you read it in the suitable surroundings, if at all convenient. Not in a crowded coffee shop at breakfast, but in a quiet room lit by a single desk lamp or on a lonely bus ride home...

So, I present you with my first story in quite some time. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
Canjul

***
From on High

When was the last time you enjoyed a ride on a double-decker bus?


No, that isn’t some kind of sarcasm or irony, not an insincere play on the common and relatable disdain the everyman holds for public transport. It’s an honest question that I want answered because...I need to know if I’m going crazy.

The last time I got on a double-decker was days ago. The last time I enjoyed would be about...two months ago? Three? It’s starting to blur together for me.

Alright, so where do I begin? I live in a small satellite town in the UK. The city centre is a network of harsh grey cubism, urban sprawl on an economical budget. The suburbs aren’t too bad though. Mostly trim lawns and domestic flowerbeds. A few verdant patches of garden, carefully tended by retired middle managers who made just little enough that they couldn’t quite escape the gravitational pull of the big city. But the countryside they were hoping to spend their twilight years in is just visible here and there, if you stand in the right place of the tips of your toes and you squint. Gentle green domes peaceful enough that perhaps observers wish they were ever so slightly closer or the soles of their shoes ever so slightly thicker.


Back in the ‘90s, we had double-deckers to ferry the punters around. Just a handful I think, but it seems odd in retrospect. We never had close to the numbers required to keep the towering old wagons busy and profitable. I suppose that ‘93 must have been a good year and that some hero on the local council got it into his head that we were a metropolis. So that’s how we ended up with three or four retired London double-deckers cruising our sleepy grey streets, watching as road after empty road stretched away before their heavy-browed eyes.


I loved them, of course. I was four, perhaps five years old at the time. They were just uncommon enough to be a treat and I would be inside, up the twisting stairs before my Mum could even to announce me. By the time she’d paid, I’d have front row seats next to what was invariably a row of kids my age, all of us clutching the horizontal yellow crossbar with stubby fingers and holding our breath in anticipation of the first lurch forward. The air brakes would hiss and...haha, I don’t need to explain the appeal being fifteen feet tall holds to a four-year old boy. You’d get the watch the world roll by from up on high, you’d see things from a new perspective that you hadn’t even thought of before. Every adult would become a hat or a scalp (They DID have scalps!). Every turn would become a pleasant thrill as the top-heavy machine lolled slightly to one side. And every downward slope would become a sudden view, a panorama of the rolling green hills that were always so wild and free and beautiful in the distance.

For fifteen minutes, a terminally slow shopping trip with Mum would become a roller-coaster ride and we all bloody loved it in the front row.


The double-deckers disappeared quickly enough though. Gone sometime in ‘95, I think. I was mildly disappointed of course, but had forgotten all about them as soon as I got a hold of the next Beano or what-have-you. Important four year-old business you understand. In later years I would remember from time to time and I’d think what anyone would have thought. That such voluminous public transport simply proved too extravagant for a footnote at the edge of a city. Now I wonder about that and a great many other things. Some days, it’s all I do.

So then...last year. I’m standing at the bus stop on some errand or another on a soft March evening, when I see a tall and familiar shape crawling down the road. A tattered red coat all aflame and a pair of long-rusted London plates, one at either side. I was 21 then, but I feel no shame in admitting that I couldn’t suppress an involuntary grin. Haha, what nostalgia! The wolf at the door certainly hadn’t stopped the council (under new management, I presumed) from wheeling at least one of the old girls out of retirement, apropos of nothing.

Of course I was upstairs for my front row seat at the drop of a hat. Why let the opportunity pass, I thought, to see my hometown roll by from...have I used that one already? My cheeks did redden just a twinge when I noticed that I was the only one in the front row who could legally be driving myself around, but still! A double-decker, here? And you know, that first trip was good. You notice things when you’re older. For the first time, I was able to appreciate the delirious beauty of the more lovingly tended gardens as they blossomed in the full Spring light. Riotous displays of colour hidden behind neatly-trimmed hedgerows were laid out before me for the first time, and I felt something close to admiration for the quiet old pencil-pushers who had made it all happen.

But they were outdone, as we always are, by nature’s display. The hills above and around us seemed to loom higher still than they during my time as a sprog, peaceful guardians of the river valley, harbingers of the dawn and the dusk. Even on that first trip I remember noticing the dusk they promised. It seemed early for Spring, a hazy red mist that capped the green hills with a pleasant, artistic contrast. It was relaxing, you know? Just to stare at it and think about how many times that mist had been cast. I’d missed every one before now. When my stop came, suddenly, I was surprised to feel tears on my cheeks and a lump in my throat. Feeling slightly ridiculous, I shook my head and stood up, sparing a glance for my fellow travelers. The little ones weren’t affected by the sense of flying time that had struck me, and all was well.

All was well.

I wish I’d never seen another fucking double-decker bus in my miserable life.

But I did. Life had conspired to place me in a situation that saw me make frequent, almost daily, use of public transport and it seemed that every bus in town had become a double-decker overnight. No...that’s not quite right. Rather, it seemed that every bus in town had been inexplicably replaced by three rusty old London chariots. You could tell without so much as a glance at the plates. They were just...used machines. They were weathered and bruised. Each limped along under its own unique chorus of plaintive groans and high-pitched wails, their rattling pace become more erratic, more noticeable with each subsequent journey. For weeks, I didn’t even see another bus outside of that exclusive and venerable brigade.
Every time I would do the same thing. I’d pay my fare and suddenly I’d be upstairs in the front row, beside a group of children, gazing out over the crush of steel and concrete, to the fairer green horizons visible only from on high. ‘From on High’ was a phrase that had come to me unconsciously in those first few days, inextricably linked to the vehicles as a salty breeze is linked to the sea. And every time, I’d do the same. I’d watch the streets below for a moment before my eyes drifted upward and I lost myself in the sight of the reddening hills. Always I would remember something new, something I thought I had left behind. Melancholy came over me, wrapping me in the gossamer darkness of its tear-stained shawl and sweeping me away to show me the things we all do when we’re angry and short-sighted, ignorant and upset.

Every time, it would become more intense, more painful. I would recall with perfect clarity every argument, every heartbreak, every barbed word ever spat by mouths that loved me. Every barbed reply I gave. I would feel shame, guilt, hopelessness. The world around me would fade and I would sit on high, in the air, alone. With only the distant, darkening horizon for company. With only the bloody red sliver of an angry sunset for warmth.

I would weep, every day. Sometimes many times in a day. After the first few rides, which saw only an easily-dispelled or ignored trickle of tears, I began to weep openly. It became impossible to hide it. I would attempt to calm myself, gripping the bar until flakes of fading yellow paint stuck to my hands and I would take great, shuddering breaths to slow my heart. I suspect I cultivated something of a reputation for what the polite would call eccentricity and what the honest would call madness. Whenever I staggered up the stairs, a rush of tiny feet would clear the front row seats, to settle beside parents or family further back. Eventually, the children wouldn’t bother trying to claim the row at all.

It was a fortnight, at least, before something obvious and shocking struck me. It rattled my already frayed nerve endings and set me to serious questioning my own perception. In my defence, I can offer only the explanation that my distressed state of mind, my exhausting internal miseries, had numbed me to the literal implications of what I had seen. I have said that the early, raging sunset over the Spring hills was always a powerful catalyst to my...thoughts and this was not hyperbole. Each and every time I sat in those buses, the sun was setting outside. No matter the time, no matter the place. On days that required multiple trips, the horizon would merely offer multiple sunsets. Now, I almost hazard a bitter laugh at the obliging nature of the cosmos’s inscrutable workings but at the time, I reeled at the realization.

My recollection is hazy at best, but I believe I became sick at the thought. It occurred to me at high noon, in a broad and busy main street. I stepped out of the twilit bus, into the bright bustle of the midday crowds, dropped to my knees and began to retch pathetically. I had eaten nothing, ate very little now, and could only heave. The horrendous hacking and sucking cleared a hole in the crowd. I managed to gain control of myself in a few brief moments and staggered off in a random direction, my errand forgotten, No one called for help.

For days after, I tried my best not to question the eternal sunset of the distant hills. I told myself that it was an illusion, a trick of the light, the result of a reflection corrupted by distorted old glass that sat loose and dirty in its frame. But there was no denying the glow, which grew every day, more and more. It spread across the sky like wildfire after I had halted my fruitless attempts to disbelieve it, jubilant in its victory.

Before long, the sky became a terrible, brilliant red while I sat in the front row seat of the double-decker bus. I knew now that I was going mad and could not, for the life of me, rouse myself to anything nearing concern. The sane do not see the skies I have, ugly crimson and shining like a fresh bruise. They do not dwell on every painful memory that the accusing fingers of thin, black clouds reflect upon them. Physical pain now, needling and biting. Every bee sting, every paper cut, every cat scratch. Every cut finger, every bruised rib, every nasty fall. Every sprain, every torn ligament, every broken bone. I remembered once, as my eyes reflected red, that I had fractured my ankle in 5th Class, playing some stupid game with boys whose names I couldn’t remember. Even as the synapses fired in my head and my eyes closed, I grimaced. I felt the branches strike me on the way down. I felt myself land on my feet, delighted for perhaps half a second, before my leg gave way underneath me with the sound of yielding bone. I heard sirens and I heard angry, concerned reprimands from my parents.


The pain passed, though a persistent throb lingered, as my stop came. I limped from the bus, my eyes stinging with tears.

So it went on, for weeks. You will ask why I persisted in taking the bus, in assuming my place in the front-row, on high. I will answer, for the same reason the deer stops in the headlights. For the same reason anybody does anything, when they’re afraid and alone. Even though I no longer had anywhere to go, I sat there, watching and suffering.

It wasn’t until a week ago that my worst fears were realized. It is a day I will forever relive, every moment that my mind isn’t blessedly occupied by some momentary, pointless distraction. It was the day I saw the girl, the day the sky turned black and the day I saw the truth.

I saw it as first, as a sleek, black sickle that topped the distant hills and interrupted the screaming scarlet of the unhappy skies. It was a darkness that seemed to shine, a twisted perversion of a sunrise that crept over the horizon and promised desolation with an uncaring inevitability.

The stain spread quickly and virulently across the red void, first as pitch-black veins that radiated out from a central mass and spread their poison to every corner of the sky. Then, suddenly as if a pot of ink had been spilled across blank paper, devouring darkness billowed and flowed forth with shocking speed. The skies offered no protest as everything they were was replaced with an almost tangible emptiness.

I watched in horror at this, what I thought to be final desecration of the natural world, the end of my mind. I believed that the cessation of my tortured reason had finally come, but it was not so. My eyes averted themselves from the blackness that stung them, searching for solace in the distant, beautiful hillsides.

They were gone, swallowed by the last nightfall I would ever see.

I looked to the streets below and saw...I believe that I should say ‘I saw them as they truly were. Truly are.’...but I cannot find the strength in my heart to admit it.

The sun was gone, of course, but an eerie black glow permeated everything. It illuminated the world below in its sick, colourless radiance and revealed a place of windowless grey monoliths. Gardens of jagged, lifeless rock. Fallen, decaying lampposts and postboxes leaned against one another as they crumbled to mingle with the fine layer of ash that coated everything in its muffling embrace.

Things walked the dead streets, things that resembled men and women, things that moved with an unnatural jerking and a clattering of empty bones. All I could truly see of them from up on high were their scalps, dry and dusty as everything else. They were built of solid ash and wispy hair that had lain undisturbed by any breeze since they first fell.

How many times had this sick pantomime played out, how many times had these shuffling beings engaged in their tainted parody of life? I’d missed every one before now.

This half-lit world of dust and bones was the last straw. I wanted to scream, tried to scream, but could only gasp my disbelief between chokes and whines and streams of tears. To my amazement, my gasp was echoed by a voice that sat beside me.

Two seats removed from me, in the front row, there sat a girl. I don't know when she entered, too enraptured by the madness outside, but I had never seen her before and never saw her again. Her face was a mess of running black and bloodless white, framed by disheveled red hair. Her eyes were green, wide and terrified, focused on the lifeless throng below. She could see them! Her eyes darted between the same dessicated skulls and featureless buildings and empty skies that mine did!

She was vindication. She was justification. I cannot remember now, if she was beautiful. But she was alive and warm. For one moment, I thought she saw me and met my astonished gaze. But then the bell rang out and her stop came.

Mine never has. I never left the bus. I merely faded away, on the top floor, up on high. When the day ended and the tired beast returned to the depot my body was simply no longer there.

Now I sit and watch. I no longer watch the darkness outside, the fields of the chattering dead who wander in confusion and sorrow. Instead I watch the life on the top floor, the warmth that passes through and leaves a piece of itself behind.

When you sit on the top floor, look for me. Listen for me. When you choose your seat, you may feel my lidless stare, gleaning nourishment and warmth from you. When you ring the bell, I will whisper your name, softly enough that the echoes of my voice fade before the sound of the bell fails entirely.

I will watch the world as it passes by
From up on high
From up on high
Forevermore, while silence looms
While the end draws nigh

From up on high

From up on high.

Mox
July 23rd, 2014, 12:55 AM
Firstly, that was very well written my friend. While I found the first half a bit dull (perhaps that's because I've never even seen a double-decker bus so I have no idea what you're talking about :P), the sheer power of your words drove me to continue reading. Bravo.
And as I did continue, I found myself not quite understanding what was happening. Was he just reliving an abusive, torturous childhood? It was a bit confusing for a few paragraphs near the middle, but after finishing the piece I really do believe that the confusion works in its favour. The last third of this was brilliant, as far as I'm concerned. It was forcefully descriptive and menacing and the bit with the girl was fantastic.
Anyways, well done sir. Loved it.

ShadowEyes
July 23rd, 2014, 03:27 AM
Okay, so I did what you asked and I read the story in the dark, by myself, at night. In the basement with open doors and windows. And I found it enjoyable, albeit a bit heavy-handed. I'll explain. Anyway, my comments are obviously in fire brick coloring. Thanks for taking the time to read!

When was the last time you enjoyed a ride on a double-decker bus? Actually, I never have. ^_^

No, that isn’t some kind of sarcasm or irony, not an insincere play on the common and relatable disdain the everyman holds I'm immediately skeptical because I didn't think this at all. for public transport. It’s an honest question that I want answered because...I need to know if I’m going crazy. I feel like you can just stick with the last sentence.

The last time I got on a double-decker was days ago. The last time I enjoyed would be about...two months ago? Three? It’s starting to blur together for me. Okay, good hook. It kept me reading throughout to the end.

Alright, so where do I begin? I live in a small satellite town in the UK. The city centre is a network of harsh grey cubism, urban sprawl on an economical budget. The suburbs aren’t too bad though. Mostly trim lawns and domestic flowerbeds. A few verdant patches of garden, This is a little hard for me to picture. Where exactly are these "patches"? Otherwise, I can only assimilate the knowledge, but derive no pleasure of being able to visualize it. carefully tended by retired middle managers who made just little enough that they couldn’t quite escape the gravitational pull of the big city. But the countryside they were hoping to spend their twilight years in is just visible here and there, if you stand in the right place of the tips of your toes and you squint. Gentle green domes peaceful enough that perhaps observers wish they were ever so slightly closer or the soles of their shoes ever so slightly thicker. Nice. It's a good comparison.

Back in the ‘90s, we had double-deckers to ferry the punters around. "Punters"? Just a handful I think, but it seems odd in retrospect. We never had close to the numbers required to keep the towering old wagons busy and profitable. I suppose that ‘93 must have been a good year and that some hero on the local council got it into his head that we were a metropolis. So that’s how we ended up with three or four retired London double-deckers cruising our sleepy grey streets, watching as road after empty road stretched away before their heavy-browed eyes. Okay. I suppose this is good. However, I wasn't aware that the buses were antiques or anything. Or perhaps newer models. Or even queer at all in a small-ish town.

I loved them, of course. I was four, perhaps five years old at the time. They were just uncommon enough to be a treat and I would be inside, up the twisting stairs before my Mum could even to announce me. By the time she’d paid, I’d have front row seats next to what was invariably a row of kids my age, all of us clutching the horizontal yellow crossbar with stubby fingers and holding our breath in anticipation of the first lurch forward. The air brakes would hiss and...haha, I don’t need to explain the appeal being fifteen feet tall holds to a four-year old boy. No you don't. I like that you can be honest with your readers. However, it seems like this section has a different tone compared to the other one. It doesn't sound like someone who has gone crazy. You’d get the watch the world roll by from up on high, you’d see things from a new perspective that you hadn’t even thought of before. Every adult would become a hat or a scalp (They DID have scalps!). Every turn would become a pleasant thrill as the top-heavy machine lolled slightly to one side. And every downward slope would become a sudden view, a panorama of the rolling green hills that were always so wild and free and beautiful in the distance.

For fifteen minutes, a terminally slow shopping trip with Mum would become a roller-coaster ride and we all bloody loved it in the front row.

The double-deckers disappeared quickly enough though. Gone sometime in ‘95, I think. I was mildly disappointed of course, but had forgotten all about them as soon as I got a hold of the next Beano or what-have-you. Important four year-old business you understand. In later years I would remember from time to time and I’d think what anyone would have thought. That such voluminous public transport simply proved too extravagant for a footnote at the edge of a city. Now I wonder about that and a great many other things. Some days, it’s all I do. This is relatable. This is something that makes sense to reflect. I feel like the honesty in the first section is lost in the latter sections because you're upping the ante. It's like you're trying too hard. Aren't scary things self-evidently scary?

So then...last year. I’m standing at the bus stop on some errand or another on a soft March evening, when I see a tall and familiar shape crawling down the road. Oh God, "crawling down the road". For some reason, I only picture something from Resident Evil or what-have-you. A tattered red coat all aflame and a pair of long-rusted London plates, one at either side. I was 21 then, but I feel no shame in admitting that I couldn’t suppress an involuntary grin. Haha, what nostalgia! The wolf at the door certainly hadn’t stopped the council (under new management, I presumed) from wheeling at least one of the old girls out of retirement, apropos of nothing. Wow, good use of "apropos".

Of course I was upstairs for my front row seat at the drop of a hat. Why let the opportunity pass, I thought, to see my hometown roll by from...have I used that one already? My cheeks did redden just a twinge when I noticed that I was the only one in the front row who could legally be driving myself around, but still! A double-decker, here? And you know, that first trip was good. You notice things when you’re older. For the first time, I was able to appreciate the delirious beauty of the more lovingly tended gardens as they blossomed in the full Spring light. Riotous displays of colour hidden behind neatly-trimmed hedgerows were laid out before me for the first time, and I felt something close to admiration for the quiet old pencil-pushers who had made it all happen. Hmm, I guess that's an odd take on it. Why do you mention this?

But they were outdone, as we always are, by nature’s display. The hills above and around us seemed to loom higher still than they during my time as a sprog, peaceful guardians of the river valley, harbingers of the dawn and the dusk. Even on that first trip I remember noticing the dusk they promised. It seemed early for Spring, a hazy red mist that capped the green hills with a pleasant, artistic contrast. It was relaxing, you know? Just to stare at it and think about how many times that mist had been cast. I’d missed every one before now. You could almost rhyme "mist" with "missed". When my stop came, suddenly, I was surprised to feel tears on my cheeks and a lump in my throat. Feeling slightly ridiculous, I shook my head and stood up, sparing a glance for my fellow travelers. The little ones weren’t affected by the sense of flying time that had struck me, and all was well.

All was well.

I wish I’d never seen another fucking double-decker bus in my miserable life.

But I did. Life had conspired to place me in a situation that saw me make frequent, almost daily, use of public transport and it seemed that every bus in town had become a double-decker overnight. No...that’s not quite right. Rather, it seemed that every bus in town had been inexplicably replaced by three rusty old London chariots. You could tell without so much as a glance at the plates. They were just...used machines. They were weathered and bruised. Each limped along under its own unique chorus of plaintive groans and high-pitched wails, their rattling pace become more erratic, more noticeable with each subsequent journey. For weeks, I didn’t even see another bus outside of that exclusive and venerable brigade. I'm not sure that you explain this paragraph as fully as I would have liked. Why do the buses return?

Every time I would do the same thing. I’d pay my fare and suddenly I’d be upstairs in the front row, beside a group of children, gazing out over the crush of steel and concrete, to the fairer green horizons visible only from on high. ‘From on High’ was a phrase that had come to me unconsciously in those first few days, inextricably linked to the vehicles as a salty breeze is linked to the sea. And every time, I’d do the same. I’d watch the streets below for a moment before my eyes drifted upward and I lost myself in the sight of the reddening hills. There seems to be a tense shift here with "lost". Always I would remember something new, something I thought I had left behind. Melancholy came over me, wrapping me in the gossamer darkness of its tear-stained shawl It's a little too poetic to be of pratical use to a horror story, in my honest opinion. And it's a big jump from "I wish I'd never seen..." and sweeping me away to show me the things we all do when we’re angry and short-sighted, ignorant and upset.

Every time, it would become more intense, more painful. I would recall with perfect clarity every argument, every heartbreak, every barbed word ever spat by mouths that loved me. Every barbed reply I gave. I would feel shame, guilt, hopelessness. Once again, I'm not sure what you're talking about. The sins of a life that isn't five-years-old? The world around me would fade and I would sit on high, in the air, alone. With only the distant, darkening horizon for company. With only the bloody red sliver of an angry sunset for warmth.

I would weep, every day. Sometimes many times in a day. After the first few rides, which saw only an easily-dispelled or ignored trickle of tears, I began to weep openly. It became impossible to hide it. I would attempt to calm myself, gripping the bar until flakes of fading yellow paint stuck to my hands and I would take great, shuddering breaths to slow my heart. I suspect I cultivated something of a reputation for what the polite would call eccentricity and what the honest would call madness. Whenever I staggered up the stairs, a rush of tiny feet would clear the front row seats, to settle beside parents or family further back. Eventually, the children wouldn’t bother trying to claim the row at all. All of this seems terribly melodramatic for something that I do not understand, that is not explained. And so I have trouble relating to the main narrator.

It was a fortnight, at least, before something obvious and shocking struck me. It rattled my already frayed nerve endings and set me to serious questioning my own perception. In my defence, I can offer only the explanation that my distressed state of mind, my exhausting internal miseries, had numbed me to the literal implications of what I had seen. I have said that the early, raging sunset over the Spring hills was always a powerful catalyst to my...thoughts and this was not hyperbole. Each and every time I sat in those buses, the sun was setting outside. No matter the time, no matter the place. On days that required multiple trips, the horizon would merely offer multiple sunsets. Now, I almost hazard a bitter laugh at the obliging nature of the cosmos’s inscrutable workings but at the time, I reeled at the realization.

My recollection is hazy at best, but I believe I became sick at the thought. It occurred to me at high noon, in a broad and busy main street. I stepped out of the twilit bus, into the bright bustle of the midday crowds, dropped to my knees and began to retch pathetically. I had eaten nothing, ate very little now, and could only heave. The horrendous hacking and sucking cleared a hole in the crowd. I managed to gain control of myself in a few brief moments and staggered off in a random direction, my errand forgotten, No one called for help.

For days after, I tried my best not to question the eternal sunset of the distant hills. Okay, this makes a little more sense. Every time he goes on the bus, he finds a sunset and remembers the past (?). I told myself that it was an illusion, a trick of the light, the result of a reflection corrupted by distorted old glass that sat loose and dirty in its frame. But there was no denying the glow, which grew every day, more and more. It spread across the sky like wildfire after I had halted my fruitless attempts to disbelieve it, jubilant in its victory.

Before long, the sky became a terrible, brilliant red while I sat in the front row seat of the double-decker bus. I knew now that I was going mad and could not, for the life of me, rouse myself to anything nearing concern. The sane do not see the skies I have, ugly crimson and shining like a fresh bruise. They do not dwell on every painful memory that the accusing fingers of thin, black clouds reflect upon them. Physical pain now, needling and biting. Every bee sting, every paper cut, every cat scratch. Every cut finger, every bruised rib, every nasty fall. Every sprain, every torn ligament, every broken bone. I remembered once, as my eyes reflected red, that I had fractured my ankle in 5th Class, playing some stupid game with boys whose names I couldn’t remember. Even as the synapses fired in my head and my eyes closed, I grimaced. I felt the branches strike me on the way down. I felt myself land on my feet, delighted for perhaps half a second, before my leg gave way underneath me with the sound of yielding bone. I heard sirens and I heard angry, concerned reprimands from my parents. This is touched upon but not brought up. It's like it didn't really affect the narrator at all.

The pain passed, though a persistent throb lingered, as my stop came. I limped from the bus, my eyes stinging with tears.

So it went on, for weeks. You will ask why I persisted in taking the bus, in assuming my place in the front-row, on high. I will answer, for the same reason the deer stops in the headlights. While this is a good explanation, I feel it lacks the actual supporting evidence that would make it seem likely. We don't necessarily see the main character do this. For the same reason anybody does anything, when they’re afraid and alone. Even though I no longer had anywhere to go, I sat there, watching and suffering. But you said this went on for weeks. Surely the character would tell someone.

It wasn’t until a week ago that my worst fears were realized. It is a day I will forever relive, Cliche. every moment that my mind isn’t blessedly occupied by some momentary, pointless distraction. This is a bit heavy-handed. It's a moralistic judgement without the visceral drama of experiencing it through the character's eyes. Furthermore, I'm not sure that we'll get to see it since it preludes to something after the story. It was the day I saw the girl, the day the sky turned black and the day I saw the truth. This is creepy, though.

I saw it as first, as a sleek, black sickle that topped the distant hills and interrupted the screaming scarlet of the unhappy skies. It was a darkness that seemed to shine, a twisted perversion of a sunrise that crept over the horizon and promised desolation with an uncaring inevitability. So, to recap from what I was trying to say about emotions being visible. I wish you would show us, or, at least, make us feel like it's inevitable instead of saying it is.

The stain What stain? spread quickly and virulently across the red void, first as pitch-black veins that radiated out from a central mass and spread their poison to every corner of the sky. So it's like the sky is cracked. Normally, veins do not radiate out of anything; I think of veins as parallel. Then, suddenly as if a pot of ink had been spilled across blank paper, devouring darkness billowed and flowed forth with shocking speed. The skies offered no protest as everything they were was replaced with an almost tangible emptiness. So the main fear is darkness. Can you combine it with any other fears?

I watched in horror at this, what I thought to be final desecration of the natural world, the end of my mind. I believed that the cessation of my tortured reason had finally come, but it was not so. I'm not emotionally connected to the character at this point because simply saying, "I am in horror" is much less impacting as making me feel in horror. You're not describing a memoir, to spare the reader. You're trying to scare me. My eyes averted themselves from the blackness that stung them, searching for solace in the distant, beautiful hillsides. This is the first real sense of longing that I get from the character.

They were gone, swallowed by the last nightfall I would ever see. A bit melodramatic, but it's okay.

I looked to the streets below and saw...I believe that I should say ‘I saw them as they truly were. Truly are.’...but I cannot find the strength in my heart to admit it. Why not?

The sun was gone, of course, but an eerie black glow permeated everything. Redundant. You explained this already with the ink pot bit. It illuminated the world below in its sick, colourless radiance and revealed a place of windowless grey monoliths. "Windowless" is good because it's comparing something natural to something unnatural, like a door. Except in this case, it's blackness. I like the idea of comparing how things should be to their unnatural counterparts. It's like the only way a brain can explain what it is seeing. Gardens of jagged, lifeless rock. Fallen, decaying lampposts and postboxes leaned against one another as they crumbled to mingle with the fine layer of ash that coated everything in its muffling embrace. "Lampposts" and "postboxes" are oddly specific. Are they really the first thing that would be noticed?

Things walked the dead streets, things that resembled men and women, things that moved with an unnatural jerking and a clattering of empty bones. All I could truly see of them from up on high were their scalps, dry and dusty as everything else. They were built of solid ash and wispy hair that had lain undisturbed by any breeze since they first fell. I think you can get even grosser here. Like maybe musculature or ligaments or the yawning and snapping of jaws and teeth. The will-less compulsion that seems to move them towards any form of life. Or towards a black hole. Just some ideas.

How many times had this sick pantomime played out, how many times had these shuffling beings engaged in their tainted parody of life? I’d missed every one before now. "Missed" what?

This half-lit world of dust and bones was the last straw. A bit of a understatement. I wanted to scream, tried to scream, Cliche. but could only gasp my disbelief between chokes and whines and streams of tears. To my amazement, my gasp was echoed by a voice that sat beside me. Nice. You had me focused on the outside of the bus for so long, it's eerie to think of someone in the bus, too.

Two seats removed from me, in the front row, there sat a girl. I don't know when she entered, too enraptured by the madness outside, but I had never seen her before and never saw her again. Her face was a mess of running black and bloodless white, framed by disheveled red hair. Her eyes were green, wide and terrified, focused on the lifeless throng below. I get the gist of this, but it could be misconstrued for actual melting faces. Or that may have been your intention, and black mascara and a pale complexion might have been my imagination. She could see them! Her eyes darted between the same dessicated skulls and featureless buildings and empty skies that mine did!

She was vindication. She was justification. I cannot remember now, if she was beautiful. But she was alive and warm. For one moment, I thought she saw me and met my astonished gaze. But then the bell rang out and her stop came.

Mine never has. I never left the bus. I merely faded away, on the top floor, up on high. When the day ended and the tired beast returned to the depot my body was simply no longer there.

Now I sit and watch. I no longer watch the darkness outside, the fields of the chattering dead who wander in confusion and sorrow. Instead I watch the life on the top floor, the warmth that passes through and leaves a piece of itself behind. It's a little disappointing that you didn't explain the events of the story. In From A Buick 8, by Stephen King, for instance, the reader can focus on a car. And it doesn't matter why the things happen; they just do. But you didn't focus on the bus. You focused on the character, as a sort of psychological drama. But I'm not sure I fear double-deck buses. I think the scary part of being on a bus like that is you can't leave unless you decide to jump off.

When you sit on the top floor, look for me. Listen for me. When you choose your seat, you may feel my lidless stare, gleaning nourishment and warmth from you. When you ring the bell, I will whisper your name, softly enough that the echoes of my voice fade before the sound of the bell fails entirely.

I will watch the world as it passes by
From up on high
From up on high
Forevermore, while silence looms
While the end draws nigh
From up on high
From up on high.

The ending is a bit cheesy.


Okay, so you've got a great story. It's fleshed out, visually realized, and historically accurate, as far as I can tell. However, I lose the sense of realism and wonder as soon as you shift to the section that leaves childhood. It's as if you're trying to explain a shift in mood, contrive a darker tension. And a lot of the tension simply isn't there because you do a lot of telling emotions as opposed to showing them. This said, you do have great visuals; but they're written ... without context.

I think this is because most of the horror elements are lacking. From what I can tell, you want a psychological horror story. From the character's perspective. But I'm not sure who the character is, why he or she should be scared, or why I should care that this happens to him or her. I have no backstory besides what directly relates to the story itself. I'm missing an emotional dig, so to speak. A reason to like the character. Being on a bus with his/her mother isn't enough.
What you have is: darkness and grossness. Darkness mainly from the ... well, sky. And grossness from the dead figures. I'm not scared of the things that he sees because they're too quick. It's like if I say, "The monster approached from the hallway." I'm looking at the approach, but I can't do anything about it. I suppose the character is too passive to be interesting. There's no running away, no hope of escape for it to be scary. It's like the difference between being on a theme park ride and running through a haunted mansion yourself.

This said, I really hope you run this through another draft. Because you're writing, technically, is very good. It's very polished. If you don't want to do another draft, maybe this is it. Maybe you'll just write something else. But when you do, feel free to PM me.

Daniel Loreand
August 17th, 2014, 03:06 AM
Very, very interesting read. One of those where you realise you ahve just read a thousand words and it felt like only a couple of hundred. You are a talented writer and you can tell you have laboured over this. I love the surreal feel but think it could do with a bit more clarifaction. During the end I didn't quite understand what was really happening, but it's late and perhaps I need to give it a re-read. Best of look.

Daniel.