Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Passenger on the Fog Bus

The family Bible held 6 generations of flattened heirlooms. Pressed flowers, pieces of ledgers, and photographs fairly erupted from the browned pages. Ella spent most Sunday afternoons after church combing these pages discovering both scriptural and family stories that were hidden among the pressed heirlooms. She had pieced together the tale of her great great grandparents' courtship from a love letter, a marriage certificate, and a note written on an old Confederate bill. She had grown close to a long dead cousin who had carried the old Bible on a mission trip through South America all the while using the margins as a compendium of local curatives. She had found great Aunt Letty's best loved (and most delectable) recipes by following a scavenger hunt of sorts through the writings of Paul. All in all, the book had served both her spiritual and genealogical appetites. It was about to serve her more than she had ever imagined.

One Sunday the Bible seemed to fall open of its own accord to Isaiah 45. There, lodged in the crevice next to the first few verses lay a weathered bus ticket. In faded letters were the words "Fog Bus-Lifetime Pass." Thinking little of it she put it in her coat pocket (as with most libraries in old houses this library was best used when wrapped snugly) to ask her grandmother about later.

One evening, several months later, Ella was walking home from the university library. As was typical of November evenings in her town a thick envelope of fog had descended limiting vision to a few yards. The mist swirled and dampened each of her footfalls as Ella passed through the dusk. The world belonged to her and seemed only as big as her next step and so she was startled to see lights and feel the rumble of an engine on the usually deserted gravel drive between her house and the campus. As she stepped aside to let the motorist pass her heart suddenly leapt. The vehicle had come to a stop not far behind her. All manner of worst case scenarios flashed through her mind as she willed herself to turn toward the vehicle. Instead of her would be assailant all that she saw were 6 headlights and a glowing destination sign reading "Elsewhere." As Ella stepped closer she discovered that the lights belonged to an oddly shaped double decker bus. The engine shifted keys as the bus continued to wait. Cautiously she climbed the small steps at the front of the bus and pushed open the ornate door leading inside. As she stepped in she was startled by a figure seated in a gloomy cabin to her side. He slowly held out his gloved hand. Ella was at a loss for she had no change for fare and no... ticket. She quickly fished around in her pocket and produced the strange pass she had found. The figure held it up to where his face must have been hidden in shadow and then handed it back to Ella. She put the ticket into her pocket and asked the bus driver where she should sit. In response he slowly flicked his hand at a small sign that read "Occupants must stay seated while bus is in motion." Ella nodded and flashed a slight, nervous smile at the shadowed figure of the driver and hurried up the steps to the second level and slid into the first seat she found.

The bus shook and the motor growled. Outside the windows the fog swirled and the landscape crawled backwards. As the minutes passed Ella watched through breaks in the fog as the familiar shapes of her city give way to vast expanses of strange land. Sometimes the mist would part to reveal what looked like the caps of mountains far below or what looked like an Austrian castle or, more often than not, a sprawling plain with tendrils of fog reaching out toward a moonlit horizon. Ella turned her attention away from the window and sized up the interior of the bus. It was mostly gold and red, well lit, and buffed nicely. There were what looked like advertisements along the ceiling but the further back they went the more they seemed to be offering discontinued products from eras long past. And then she noticed the other passenger. It was a tapir, of all things, and it was staring at her from the back seat. Ella quickly turned and stared forward with her hands clenched. The absurdity of the entire situation suddenly descended upon her and she felt panic grasping at the edge of her consciousness. After a tense minute of reasoning with herself she turned slowly back to see if the creature was still there. Indeed, it was and still staring. Ella turned to face the front again. She weighed her options and decided it would stand to reason that on a ride of this sort she probably ought to go and sit next to the only other passenger on the bus. Ella stood, walked to the rear of the bus, and sat down in the seat beside the tapir. It turned to stare over its dangling proboscus and asked "Are we there yet?"

1 comment:

Kera said...

You're really good with the descriptions, man. It was even better than at book club ^_^