Erik had lost his gloves. Without gloves, the cold sat and ate upon Erik’s fingers. Nibbling away at nerves as he stepped from his temporary home in a rock quarry.
Outside the quarry, there was a dirt road, not fit for cars anymore. In the five years since the Resurrection and the Great Conversion this dirt road had grown some young trees and brush. Cars had become less popular after years of fear and death. Some roads were maintained but not many.
Erik walked along the dirt road, following a path he had knocked down, till a maintained asphalt road appeared. He stood alone waiting for the five o’clock Redline. He fiddled with small rocks in his pockets as time ticked by.
The Red line bus was a two-story monster on six wheels. The driver sat on the bottom right side behind a large front window. The doors, two of them, sat on the left side. One next to the driver and the other near the back. The driver slowed the monster. It growled and jerked and finally stopped with an angry burst of smoke from a metal pipe in the back.
Erik shook his hands, willing the dogs from his fingers, picked up the duffel, and stepped inside.
The driver stopped him.
“Blessed by the Omnipresent No’doer, you are,” the driver said. His chest and head are human. His body was covered in black fur. His hands and feet are large and clawed.
“How have you not lost your fingers?”
“There is still time,” Erik said as he placed the duffel on an empty seat and placed his bare hands under his coat.
“The bus is a bit empty this morning Harry. Did you scare them all off with your ugly face and fierce temper?”
“Ey, ridership has been falling off lately. This old Bear has nothing to do with it.”
“The vampire population is growing again. It makes it hard to trust anything. I don’t no’ how you survive in these conditions. You need to settle somewhere.”
“I haven’t…” Erik began. “I don’t… never-mind.”
“How do you drive this thing being a Taur and all,” Erik adds.
The bear/man laughed as he closed the bus door and put it into Drive. The Red Line bus growled and lurched forward.
“Where are u heading tonight?”
“I’m off to get arrested,” Erik said.
“You can get arrested for trespassing, which you do often. Where are you headed?”
The bus begins to slow, it jerks to a stop. Harry opens the bus doors and a pair of gaunt men step up on the bus from the back door.
Erik knows what they are immediately and he begins to stand.
“Sit down!” Harry growls. “No judgment on my bus, ever. Everyone is allowed a ride on this bus.”
“I’m not riding a bus with them on board!”
Erik shouts as he steps toward the front door.
“They are the sole reason for the death of my family!”
Erik glared at the pair’s elongated, muscular jaws and bulges beneath the loose-fitting clothing.
“Why are they here Harry? They can fly. I thought you were smarter than this.”
Harry stood over Erik, who was not a small human but was smaller than the human-like bear.
“Sit down Eric,” Harry said, exposing large teeth and a powerful human torso.
“On my bus, you are my guest and will be treated as so, understood.” He adds and then repeats the statement to the young vampire. The vampire nod and sit near the back door.
“No one is leaving till they reach the destination. Erik, please finish this plan of you wanting to get arrested.”
Erik sits down.
“Where are they going?” Erik asks.
“I don’t ask. They have passed.” Harry replied.
Erik sat quietly for several moments as the Red Line bumped along roads that had not been maintained in 5 years. Traffic had all but stopped while the vampire-infected humans known as Resurrected prowled the streets.
The North Eastern Territory didn’t use cars much anymore. The Red Line and other buses filled the need mostly.
The bus hit a large patch of trash lying in the street and the bus lurched left then right tossing the passengers around like dominoes.
“Fine… Harry. Fine, I’ll tell you. Stop hitting shit in the road.”
Harry smiled, slowed the bus and it stopped with a jerk. Harry opened the doors. Outside the door, a half mile away was a large stone wall. Erik watched as the two vampires stepped down. Through the grim-covered glass, he could see them unfurl a pair of wings each and begin to fly. They headed to the wall.
“For the god’s sake, tell me the plan,” the bear/man growled as his claws scraped the metal floor. If it wasn’t for you mother I wouldn’t care less but I promised I would take care ya. Spill it, boy.”
“I need to get into the Zoo Harry there is someone I got to find.”
“The Zoo? Are u mental? You know what’s in there, right?”
Harry drove around a fallen tree, slowed the bus, and stopped. He pawed at the steel floor, turned, and looked at Erik.
“Erik, your family is not there. It’s been two years.”
“Harry, they are not dead, I know it. I had a vision last night.”
“A vision…” Harry began then paused when a group of young humans stepped aboard the bus. He watched the group and waited.
The young men chattered. They stood in a tight circle till a small eruption of fire prompted them to laugh.
“Hey, I told you no magic on my bus. This is the last time,” he growled.
The men stopped immediately and sat nearby. They spoke quietly as Harry turned to Erik.
“Goddamn Magicians and their kids think they rule the world… but NOT on this bus! This is a neutral place,” he said.
“Drop me near First National on Michigan,” Erik said as he moved from behind the driver to the opposite side.
Harry made a right turn toward the wall and down Fourth St.
The red, double-decker AEC Routemaster rumbled past neglected houses. The residents hide within their homes. Cars lined up in driveways rarely used anymore.
“There’s never anyone out like there used to be,” Harry complained.
“What do you know of what it used to be bear man freak.” Snapped one of the young men. “Don’t pretend like you remember what it was like.”
Harry growled, slowed the bus and it belched to a stop. He took a moment then turned.
“Listen, I remember life before the Resurrected. I ran the town, just me and my bus. I picked up jerks and dropped them off.”
“The pain when I changed. I didn’t choose it. It’s like being struck with a terminal disease. Look at me, I am a human with bear legs. Do you think these are helpful!”
He stomped a large paw against the floor. “This constant judgement against Taurs is getting to be too much,” he grumbled.
The young men stood magic sparking from open palms.
“Rule number two Harry. No fighting. We don’t have time for this. Put your fingers away boys and Harry let’s take it down a notch.”
Harry looked at Erik.
“I’m sorry Harry,” Erik added. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
“Ay rule number two. These legs aren’t something to apologize for. It’s something I have. Something I use. Reminds me of you heading to the wall or The Zoo
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