By Thomas Brown
Long weeks working. Rain still falling. Heavy droplets, water crawling down bus shelter, dark skies bawling. Another day is done.
Through the grey a bus approaches, teeming inside, full of roaches, human insects, tired voices, ‘Ticket please,’ one grunts. Franz knows the feeling; hating, hurting. Sick of service, new-world weary. Inside bright. The windows dirty.
Loose change. Find a seat.
Near the front, two ladies talking, behind them, a young boy squawking, rows of faces, soulless, gawking. What’s the world become? Tongues are wagging, swear words snagging, at the back three young men bragging. Stealing-shouting-almost shagging: Bus Route UB1.
All around him, buildings sliding, melting in the rain, subsiding, streaks of grey, rainfall hiding the city’s sobbing face. Lived for ten years. Worked for thirty. Bones are tired, his body hurting. Heart hammering behind his ribs; an ancient, tribal drum.
At the back, the young men shouting louder, voices sounding harder, jostling they assess their larder: rows of easy prey. He knows the sort; school but no teaching, fathers gone, their mothers breaching as they spawn clutches of offspring, hatching in the dark. The bus route is their hunting ground, their web where helpless victims found, like flies stuck to the city, to the monsters this world breeds.
Outside the road runs black with water; under doorways, people loiter, waiting out the never-ending rain that will not stop. Clouds were black at six this morning. Raining since the day was dawning. Since he stepped, pale-faced and yawning, into another day.
Before his eyes, the young men changing. Altogether, outlines blurring. Faceless shapes, new limbs emerging. Monsters in men’s skin. Arms are growing, bodies breaking. Snap like pencils. Sounds like choking. Sucking. Slurping. No one worried, not awoken, dead to this, their world.
From the back it slowly reaches, twelve long legs, thick, dark like leeches bloated on a diet of human peaches; tender fruit. He watches as the creature prowls, he listens to its high-pitch howls. Once-hoodies, now great fleshy cowls, what is there to be done?
What can be done against this beast, which on soft female flesh now feasts, and when encounters men proceeds to beat them black and blue? This hatred has not always been, not always was, not always seen, but in this time, grown dark and mean, has found a place to feed –
– and breed, a human brood lusting for food and heat and life and dark corners to do dark things, now brave and bold, the human beast of Bus Route UB1.
Thomas Brown is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton, where he is exploring the limitations of language and how to overcome them to better communicate meaning through fiction. Literary influences include Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite and Thomas Ligotti. He writes dark, surreal fiction.