by Scott Deegan
The bus had been early, otherwise I never would have been walking that night. The 10 o’clock bus is called the 10 o’clock bus for a reason, but it was usually late. My shift at Burger King had ended at 9:20 and it was a good twenty five or thirty minute walk to the bus stop. There was a stop closer but that area had a bad reputation so I avoided it. There was no reason for me to have missed the bus.
It was about 10:15 when I finally checked my phone and found out the bus was already three stops past mine. The 10 o’clock was the last bus of the day. My mom would be at her job an hour away, and my brother, well my brother was just a dick who wouldn’t come pick me up anyhow. It looked like I’d be walking the five miles home, and if I didn’t live on Summit Avenue it would have been an easy walk. Summit got it’s name because of its location, on top of Greensboro Hill. I was looking at a least an hour and a half walk on top of the double shift I just spent on my feet.
I was probably only six or seven blocks away from the bus stop nearing 16th street when I heard the car. I knew the car by the sound. No, I knew who would be driving the car by the sound and I stepped into the alley to avoid being seen. There was a niche I pressed myself into, the shadows cloaked me and I was able to watch the car pass without incident. I waited for the sound of the car to fade before stepping out of the alley and continuing on my way. I never really lost the sound of the car and that helped me gauge its location, there was no way I wanted to run into any of the members of Satan’s Children.
It was a stupid name for a street gang, but the members themselves were stupid and that’s what made them so dangerous. Stupid people don’t think, they just act. Two days ago Satan’s Children had beat an elder woman with tire irons before smashing her skull with a cinder block because she had pushed the walk button and made their light turn red. It was stupid, but like I said Satan’s Children were stupid. It was best to avoid them and it wasn’t that hard considering all their cars had the distinctive rumble of glasspacked mufflers.
I was almost to the park on Lexington Avenue, near the high rise when I first saw her. She looked about ten, maybe twelve, anyway too young to be out alone at this time of night. I had spotted her briefly near the bandstand where the summer plays were held and then what seemed like seconds later, near the swing. I didn’t see her move but she must have ran really fast to make it that far that quickly. She was the reason I almost got killed by the SCs that night.
I was busy looking for the girl across the street in the park, I had lost her again, when the car rocketed past. I had never had any interactions with Satan’s Children before so I wasn’t someone they would consider an enemy, but I was out on the streets and that made me a target. So when I saw the taillights come on and the car turn to circle the park I started looking for a place to hide. When I couldn’t see the car I made a run for the bandstand.
I had almost made it to the the shelter of the bandstand when the car appeared out of nowhere and started chasing me across the park. I could hear the car getting closer as I ran. I chanced a look over my shoulder and that’s when the car sped up. I froze, it headed right for me only to be veer off to my right just enough to avoid hitting me dead on. The mirror on the passenger door hit my right hip and exploded in a shower of glass and plastic. The pain was immediate and the impact sent me flying to the ground. As I rolled on the ground I watched the car bounce over the curb that I had just ran across and disappear down the street. I must have laid there for a good five minutes hoping the pain would subside, when there wasn’t much relief I tried to stand. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I couldn’t put my full weight on it, but I could at least walk.
“How bad is it?” I didn’t know how was suddenly standing beside me, but she was. I finally got a good look at her. She was taller than I thought, it might have been the distance that confused me. I would say older too, twenties maybe. She wore a hooded cape like Red Riding Hood, only not red. She was pretty at least what I could see of her, the hood and her auburn hair hid most of her face, but her eyes…
“Where’d you…” she didn’t let me finish just grabbed my arm and started leading me back the way I came. “What are we doing? I just came from that way.”
“You need to get away from here before they come back. Stay quiet and follow me or the rest will find us.”
“What do you mean the rest?”
“You think that was all of them? You’re the prize tonight and they won’t stop until they get you. Now be quiet, no more talking.”
She pointed towards the far end of the park, at least fifteen people were headed our way. They were dressed in black and carrying clubs, chains, and machetes. She pointed at the corner where the car had gone and another group was there. Movement closer to us caught my attention, someone had walked into the street. I recognized him. It was a guy that also took the ten o’clock bus, he stared at the approaching group of people coming from the park. He hadn’t seen the others coming up behind him. I wanted to call to him and warn him but she put her hand over my mouth and drug me through a doorway into an empty building.
“We have to help him.” I said.
“Keep your voice down. Getting you to your destination is my job.” She whispered and pulled me to a window. “It’s too late for him, look.”
They had encircled him and both groups seemed to be there, maybe a third. I don’t know where they all came from, there was at least forty now. They were laughing and didn’t speak just kept pushing him back and forth. A small child carrying a baseball bat entered into the circle with him, struck him in the left knee and the man stumbled to the ground. When he had reached his feet, it was a teenager holding the bat. I hadn’t seen the exchange, I didn’t know where the teenager came from or the child went. The teenager brought the bat down so hard on the man’s right shoulder that the bat broke and I’m pretty sure his shoulder shattered. The man screamed and a girl struck him in the mouth with a metal pipe in the middle if his vocalizations of pain. Teeth flew and the screaming became sobbing. The girl that hit him was gone and the man was on the ground. The crowd was bigger, I hadn’t seen anyone join them and my eyes had never strayed, but it was somehow bigger. An elderly black man stepped through the crowd into the circle and grabbed the man’s right arm and raised it above his head. The old man moved fast for someone who looked so frail. The hand not around the wrist of the man on the ground shot out and snapped the arm he was holding. Bone ripped out of flesh at the point of impact. The elder man released the wrist and took the bone in both hands and pulled it back tearing more flesh. The man on the grounds screams awakened again and spilled from his throat. The crowd fell on him and I’d like to think the stuff flying into the air was just his clothing.
“Come on.” She said dragging me away from the window just as a voice drifted in from outside.
“It’s not him, but he’s close. Find him.”
We headed towards the back of the building through the darkness. She was pulling me and I was struggling to keep up. She stopped and I heard a noise, then the night was in front of me as we stepped out the door onto a dark street.
“Where did all those people come from? Where are the cops?” I asked.
“Things are different now. How’s the hip?”
“What? Fine, doesn’t even hurt anymore. Why’s it so dark, what happened to the lights?” Every building was dark, not a single street light burned, and there was no traffic.
“Things are different.” She said again. “Let’s go.”
“I need to get you to your destination.”
“The place you’re going.”
“I know what a destination is. I was going home and it’s not this way.”
“Yeah, like I said, things are different.”
She refused to answer any more questions or talk at all. She looked around and when she didn’t see anyone, she took my hand and ran for the alley across the street. Even with no light I felt exposed and the darkness of the alley was a welcome relief. We were no more than ten feet past the mouth of the alley when I heard the sound Satan’s Children approaching. I looked over my shoulder and there were hundreds of them, it reminded me of zombie hoards from Left 4 Dead games. She grabbed my hand and started running, I had no choice, I followed.
We ran through the alley and out the other side, running to make it to the next alley, before the hoard that was now closing in from each end of the street could reach us. We made it into the next alley and I could hear Satan’s Children right behind me. I expected to feel hands grab me at any moment when I saw light.
Street lights, police lights, and people, normal people were there surrounding a bus as I burst into the street. The girl was gone. The hoard was gone. There wasn’t even an alley where I just came from. This was my bus stop. That’s the ten o’clock bus. What’s going on? Why all the emergency vehicles? Then I saw.
There was a body laying about thirty feet past the bus stop. No one seemed to even pay attention to me as I walked toward it, I had to see. The mangled remains of the man from the street, he was clutching a gun. A hand touched mine, I turned and saw the girl. She took my hand and led me to the bus.
It sat where the bus stop had been. The front end smashed into a light pole, windshield broken, door open, driver slumped over the steering wheel. I felt a breeze pick up as we passed. There was another body. This one beneath the bus, but I knew my shoes when I saw them. The wind blew harder as we walked past. There was a light ahead of us. The wind gust caught her hood and blew it back and I saw her fully for the first time. The light shown through her head.
“He tried to rob her on her first night driving. Must have shot her in the head, that would be my guess as to what caused the accident.” Someone said.
We stepped into my destination.