The Rusty Bus

No one knew why it was there.

But it’d been there ever since he could remember. He even had a memory of looking at it from his pushchair, and that was like a whole six years ago.

While the rest of the field looked normal, right in the middle, surrounded by shoulder height grass, and covered in snaking brambles, sat a bus.

Not like a bus from nowadays.

This was an old bus. It had a really weird radiator on the front, like it was a thousand years old or something. Probably used to be green, once, with bright red wheel arches that were still vivid in colour, but were pockmarked with rust.

Chips never went near it.

Lowdon had told him it was haunted. That the bus had crashed through the hedge and rolled into the field a hundred years ago, killing everyone on board, except the driver, who had panicked and scarpered. Now it was home to the ghosts of those passengers, trapped in limbo, vowing into the ether to exact their revenge on the driver, or whoever dared sit in the driver’s seat.

So, why now, was Chips wandering through the field, heading directly for the rusty bus?

What was he doing?

It loomed closer, and the tall grass scratched at his legs. There was a smell. Not of rotting, but of decay. It just had the odour of age.

The side door had long since fallen into a heap, grown over now with brambles. Chips pulled off a blackberry and put it in his mouth without thinking.

It was sour

He spat it out, and saw that it wasn’t even ripe.

Inside, if he angled his head just so, Chips could see the seats. Some were rotten, some weren’t. None of them played host to a ghost though.

Not that he would know what a ghost looked like.

Whatever.

Lowdon was full of it.

Chips stepped up into the rusting carcass of the bus, half expecting to fall through the floor. But it took his weight. Felt solid even. He bounced, and felt secure.

Two brave strides and he was stood next to the driver’s seat. It looked comfy. The dials on the dashboard were old fashioned and had needles not digital readouts. And the steering wheel was huge. Almost his whole arm span he calculated.

Chips shivered.

Swallowed.

Plucked up all his courage.

Listened to his heart drumming a beat inside his chest.

And climbed up onto the seat.

He heard air, like the seat was sighing at his weight, content that at last, someone was once again sitting on it.

His fingers curled around the big wheel, and all his dread left him.

For an hour he played at being a bus driver.

It was the best fun he’d had all summer.

Playing alone was better than having friends anyway.

And next time Lowdon called him names, he’d just smile to himself and remember how brave he was to play in the rusty bus.

He clambered out of the seat, feeling his tummy growl with hunger, and ran home to ask Mum if he could have chips for tea, and vowing to come back tomorrow to play some more.

From their seats, the ghosts of a dozen passengers watched him clamber through the hedge and disappear.

It was nice to have some company at last.

They hoped he’d come back tomorrow.

Every Bloody Time

It was fair to say that he’d coasted through his life without paying much attention. Barry knew it, he’d be the first to admit it, if he noticed you making the point. Which he wouldn’t.

Lately though, he was starting to notice things.

Namely, the same things.

Over and over a-bloody-gain.

Every morning, he woke up, swore at himself in the mirror, dribbled toothpaste down his chin, swore at the milk bottle for being empty, then ate a Weetabix as if t’were a biscuit.

Then he sat in traffic, moaning to himself and shouting at the idiot man on the radio for saying idiot things to idiots who were calling in to prove they weren’t idiots, then being shown to be idiots by an idiot who didn’t know he also was an idiot.

All the while, he was eating another Weetabix as if t’were a biscuit.

When he got to the office, he said hello by way of a nod to the man on reception, then went in to make a coffee. At the same time, the same person as every morning came in at the same moment, and they exchanged the same conversation, which always ended with the same ‘another day, another dollar’ line being said at him, as they raised their mug by way of a goodbye.

Then Barry would swear at the departed person, because they had polished off the last of the milk.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d not had a black coffee.

Then around midday, his mind would go blank, and he’d have to ask the same bloody question he always asked.

“Is it Tuesday?”

And then came the same bloody answer, every bloody time.

“It is. All day.”

But today, Barry realised something he’d never realised before.

It was always bloody Tuesday.

It had been Tuesday for twenty years.

He had eaten fourteen thousand six hundred Weetabixes as if they t’were a biscuit. He’d had twice that many coffees without milk. And he’d go home and watch the same episode of Eastenders he’d seen over seven thousand times, then have the same dirty dream about Melinda Messenger he’d had over seven thousand times.

Next morning, he woke up, swore at himself in the mirror, dribbled toothpaste down his chin, swore at the milk bottle for being empty, then ate a Weetabix as if t’were a biscuit.

Fourteen thousand six hundred and one.

Okay?

The Drive Drive

I built it because I was getting fed up with the amount of procrastinating I was doing. I could have procrastinated for money. A Pro Procrastinator. Nothing was getting done.

Then I had the idea to build The Drive Drive.

And even though it was a fairly simple device, made from a colander and an old strimmer mower, it took me weeks to get round to making it.

But when I finally did, and pulled the ripcord, it all started spinning, and I never looked back. My productivity went through the roof. All the little projects around the house got done in days. All the big projects were ticked off within weeks. I wrote like it was easy. Words fell out of me, even when I was doing other things. I had to have a dictaphone with me, as I wrote out loud and built a three storey extension.

Everyone else on the street seemed to up their game too.

What I didn’t know was that The Drive Drive was driving itself forward too.

After six months of running, it achieved sentience.

You’d think this story might end with The Drive Drive wiping out humanity, but that’s not what happened at all.

With its sentience, The Drive Drive realised its purpose. It knew that it existed to drive everyone on. It knew that it should do this at the expense of all else.

So something odd happened.

It started to channel its own drive into its output.

I noticed that even by my new standards I was getting even more done than usual. I was in the middle of remodelling the basement, which is where I kept The Drive Drive. As I was building a complicated water proofing system, the white noise that had become the sound of the drive changed.

It began to slow.

The Drive Drive had channelled all of its own drive into making more drive.

And now it was losing the will to carry on.

Over the next few days, it slowed, and slowed, and finally drew to a halt.

I’m sure I can fix.

When I can be bothered.

The Story Sandwich

She was addicted to sandwiches. Well, not just any sandwiches. Specifically, she was addicted to one sandwich, from one cafe, in one town. And they didn’t always have them.

She could never recreate the taste of them at home, even if she bought the right bread, the same ingredients, even the same butter. She’d asked what she was doing wrong, and the teenager who seemed to run the cafe, just blinked at her and sprouted some more acne.

Maybe it wasn’t a taste thing. Maybe it was the whole mis-en-scene of ordering it, having it bought the table, and lazily eating it as she stared out of the window and watched the world go by.

This was happening one day, when she bit into the sandwich, and something felt different. It took her a moment to realise that there was a bit of laminated paper in amongst the lettuce.

She was about to loudly complain, mostly because the illusion of the whole thing had been cruelly shattered, when she saw there was some handwriting on the paper. She stared at it, not quite understanding, and it took a moment to decipher the badly scrawled cursive.

“You died last week.”

Whilst she thought about what that might mean, she took a small bite from the sandwich and ruminated on it.

Was it just a random message? Something that had accidentally fallen into her beloved sandwich? Or had it been placed there deliberately? For her?

And then she remembered.

She had been in here last week.

And she had been eating her precious sandwich, whilst watching a man punching the post box across the road. It was fascinating, and engaging. And weird. And distracting. Why was he punching a pillar box? What had it done to make him so angry? Had he written a letter and posted it, and immediately regretted what it had said?

She remembered feeling something odd in her mouth as she swallowed.

And then …

… she choked to death.

On a small piece of laminated paper.

And somehow, as she faded away, her ghost passing over into the other world, she knew, with absolute certainty, what had been written on that first little note.

“I love you.”