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Bus No. 1804. (Short Story).

April 18, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgEarly November.

“Why don’t we ever use that bus over there? The one sitting in the corner of the church property?” Pastor Holmes asked the man leaning a bit on the snow shovel, “I don’t think I have ever seen it used.”

The janitor spoke up slowly as he shoveled the newly fallen snow, he didn’t look at the bus in question, “It’s broken. No brakes.” He refused to look in the direction of the bus sitting in the farthest corner of the church parking. There was something unpleasantly angry about the scene in the corner of the property with the bus just sitting there looking weather -worn and sullen with rage. It was how he saw the thing as it sat there waiting. And it was waiting he thought, it was always waiting.

The new pastor of a couple of months frowned puzzled at the man’s odd behavior, “So, let’s get it fixed then.”

The older man seemed to ponder that a bit before responding, his tone was direct as he looked at the younger man, “Pastor Holmes, it’s broke. It’s been broke a long time and no one wants to get it fixed….” Under his breath, “Just let it sit there.”

Pastor Holmes didn’t appreciate the man’s tone but he was new at the church so he remained patient, “Why isn’t it being fixed? Looks like it just needs a little maintenance and a new paint job. What’s the trouble?”

He retorted back sharply, “It’s not worth the effort, Pastor Holmes. Just let it sit there. It likes sitting there being left alone…”

“It likes to be left alone? Explain that remark, it’s a bus, it can’t like anything…” He looked again over at the bus sitting alone near the fence, “If it can be fixed let’s get it fixed and use it. It can be fixed?”

He looked at the youthful face of the man and tried to not sound to annoyed or was that show his fear of the thing sitting over there just waiting, watching, and probably getting hungry again, “Pastor Holmes, it can be fixed mechanically.” The janitor replied finally as he shoveled the sidewalk, “It’s been fixable for a long time but…” He could see the interruption coming, “But it’s best to leave it alone…”

“Leave it alone? Explain that remark as well.”

The old man finally glanced quickly at the creature, he sighed a bit knowing the response as he leaned on the shovel and addressed the man, “It’s haunted, Pastor Holmes. It’s simply haunted so we leave it alone.”

Pastor Ian Holmes was a rational man and had never been one to believe in ghost stories or anything else that relied too much on the supernatural. He just preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that didn’t mean he believed everything in the Bible should be taken literally. He spoke his mind, “Haunted? Haunted by what or whom if I may ask?”

The older man looked at the church parking lot and the sidewalk that needed to still be shoveled of snow, looking at the man, “It use to be a city school bus. We bought it some years ago.” He started coughing  and felt the slight pang of his hurt lungs; damn bronchitis was coming back he thought annoyed, “It had been involved in a few accidents in it’s fifteen years as a school bus; some were fatal of course…” He could see the look in the dark brown eyes that the man was really having a hard time believing what he was being told. “….It was cheap so the church bought it.” Again he coughed, “It’s going to be a cold evening and probably snow.”

A silence followed as the wind softly blew at them with a chill of the weather of late Fall in Minnesota. It was going to be a long cold winter he thought. He also sensed the new pastor was waiting for him to continue his story. He reluctantly continued knowing it was a waster of time to tell people the unpleasant story of the bus that sat brooding in the corner of the yard. Brooding? Yes, damn it, it saw brooding, waiting? Yes, it was waiting. Patiently waiting. It was always waiting for the right time to go and hunt. It liked to hunt. It liked to kill.

He leaned on the shovel a bit, even his legs were hurting today, “So, as I said, the city sold it too us rather cheap. It was beat up even then but it worked and was actually fine for a while. Nothing happened for a long time…” Like it was waiting? Yes, just like that he answered his own unpleasant question. “…Well, nothing odd that anyone cared to notice or point out at first…” The old man wondered if the thing would ever simply just leave and never come back. Wishful thinking he heard himself reply back. It always came back. “As I said before, it’s haunted. We simply leave it alone.”

He had to interrupt and he wasn’t sorry for his tone, “I don’t believe in  ghosts, Kevin.” The cold hands went into the parka, “Ghosts are for children.”

This one eats children he wanted to state but didn’t. “That maybe true, Pastor Holmes, but something is very wrong with that particular bus. So, we just let it sit there gathering weeds and rust…” He coughed again, winced from a slight stab of pain, “Lungs hurt, and it’s going to snow some more….” Looking at the thing in the corner very briefly, “We have even accepted the idea that the snow can cover it all we care.”

Annoyed with the attitude of course, “What? You think if you ignore this problem it will go away?”

He looked at the man with a look, “What and what many of us think it is should be left alone, Pastor Holmes. Leave it and let it rust and hopefully die…” He could see the man was getting angry, “…We had it once towed away some years ago…”

“What?” Taken back, “You had it towed away, but it’s sitting right over there, Kevin. You didn’t tow it very far.”

Looking at the thing in the corner of the big church yard before returning his attention back to the man looking more upset than before, “It came back.”

“What do you mean it came back! Bus’s don’t simply come back, David!”

He told himself to be patient as it wasn’t going do any good to force the man to see the evil sitting on the church property. “Yes, Pastor Holmes, it simply just came back. We then tried it again and it came back again. It’s been sitting there ever since…” Moving the shovel a bit, “We even had a prayer service over it one night…” He knew the moment he said it what was going to happen.

“This church had an exorcism for a bus!” He was incredulous and trying to fathom if the fellow was serious. What kind of church had he gotten himself assigned to?

He was still trying to be patient, “Pastor Holmes, the damn thing is haunted by something very unpleasant or someone in a bad mood, but whatever it is we have learned to try and live with it….” Pointing at the bus, “But it’s haunted!” He again coughed painfully, “But whatever it is that is in that bus, well, Pastor Holmes, it should be left alone as much as possible…” He didn’t add that it didn’t seem to have any problem with reaching out and touch anyone near it. In bloody fact it seemed to chose people beforehand and lure them some how into the bus.

“That’s stupid!”

“Stupid maybe….” Not really listening anymore as he knew it was pointless to say everything, “Sometimes I get the impression it’s feeling or listening to everything that’s said about it….” He looked briefly at the bus, “I sometimes get the vague notion that whatever is inside that bus is very old…an ancient evil one could call it…” He coughed again, “Coming down with a cold again…love winter in Minnesota.”

“So, what about this ridiculous prayer service for that normal looking bus?” His tone was accusing of course, “I would like to know what happened with this praying over a vehicle accomplished…”

Ignoring the tone of course, still  avoiding looking in the direction of the bus, “Several deacons and the last pastor laid hands on that thing…” He coughed a bit, felt the slight pain from the bronchitis he was sure on the way hit his lungs.”

Impatiently, “And, what happened?” He wasn’t buying any of the story from the older man who probably needed to be replaced. The fellow looked about seventy so maybe a few changes were drastically needed and as he had a few liberal ideas for the church he had been voted into so it was apparent that changes were needed. Besides, he thought with assurance, one cannot believe everything is evil just because the Bible say it is or isn’t.

The older man knew full well what the younger man was thinking, “What happened was that as the men were praying over that thing it burst into flames and tried to kill them. They all had burn marks on the palms of their hands, Pastor Holmes…” He coughed again but it wasn’t so painful, studying the man with a look, “That bus is simply evil or controlled by something evil, but it won’t leave this property.” Softly but afraid, “It likes it here. For some reason it likes it here.” Softly under his breath, “It’s mocking us and our beliefs.”

Losing his patience a bit, “Any deaths since it decided to stay here?” He had to ask trying to take it all seriously on some level. The older fellow believed what he was saying that was very obvious and that he was afraid of something.

Sadly, “Yes, eight since that thing showed up.”

Not buying it still, “Any this year?”

The custodian looked at him as if he wished he hadn’t asked the question. He kicked the cold snow covered ground a bit, his feet were starting to ache from standing too long, “Yes, Pastor Holmes, three kids sad to say.” He inhaled and slowly exhaled the cold frosty air; it would be waking up soon if past history was correct as it liked the winter months. “One kid was found in the bus. He had frozen to death somehow….”

“How can…”

“Let me finish and I will explain.”

“Okay.”

“There was another one crushed to death beneath the bus. The third, well, she simply vanished inside it…the kids saw her go in and never saw her again. They swore they saw her one minute and then the next she was simply gone…” He actually looked in the direction of the bus briefly as he felt the fear again rising up his spine, “She simply went into the bus and never left. The other kids told her it wasn’t allowed but she went in anyway and simply vanished….”

“That makes no sense. Children don’t simply vanish inside a bus.”

“They also aren’t suppose to freeze to death in matter of seconds when stepping on that bus, but he did. They watched him get in and in within seconds they watched as he literally froze to death before their eyes. Something in that bus killed them.”

“He froze to death in seconds? And this other child simply vanished?” Pointing, “Inside that bus? Inside that ordinary looking bus?”

“Nothing normal let alone ordinary about that bus, Pastor Holmes. It’s evil. And it will not leave.”

Folding his arms to make his point, “You said another kid was killed?”

“Yes,” He took notice of his attitude, “A kids ball had rolled under the bus. The kids forgot the rule about this particular bus The kid crawled under it and as the other kids reported the bus simply just, well, slammed down and didn’t stop for a few long seconds and then simply stopped…It was horrible what was left under that bus, Pastor Holmes. The bus simply likes to kill. It simply likes to kill…” He didn’t bother adding that when they retrieved the mangled body of the ten year old boy it was not only crushed but had burn marks on the body as well. The bus seemed to not only want to crush the life out of the kid but wanted to make it’s point by burning the body as well.

Interrupts angry, “This is insane, absolutely insane and beyond reason. What you’re saying went out with the dark ages. A haunted bus? A evil haunted bus! Get rid of it then!”

“It will come back as I said before. It likes it here.”

“So, all this happened and no one did anything about it? No investigation?”

Patiently, “No, Pastor Holmes. There were investigations on all the strange and unpleasant deaths and the vanishing of that little girl. Each investigation they came up with a reason that made sense to them and simply refused to believe, like you, that the bus simply killed those kids. It’s understandable in the long run, no one is going to believe that a bus simply decided one cold winter day to make a young girl vanish and never be found again. They simply decided she ran away and that was that. They couldn’t explain of course how the kid froze to death in a bus on a fifty degree day in October, but he did. They certainly had no way of explaining how that kid was literally butchered and then somehow burnt under a standing still bus. That the police never had a good answer for. The kids told them what they saw, they simply didn’t listen or didn’t want to listen….” Pointing again at the bus, “But that bus, has killed eight people one way or another since being here. It sits there waiting and waiting for the moment that it only knows it’s time to kill…and it likes to kill.”

“It’s a damn bus, David, they don’t hunt people.” Pastor Ian Holmes was simply losing his patience with the man, “This is all madness created by taking good and evil and the supernatural way too seriously, David. It’s damn school bus. I am certainly going to have a few sermons on the issue of rational belief in the supernatural and the irrational belief in demonic superstitions!” Looking at the man with a look, “I am also going to call for a deacon’s meeting next week and discuss this matter with them. This irrational belief in a possessed bus is getting out of hand….”

A few snow flakes started to fall.

David simply smiled feeling very tired, “While your in the deacon’s meeting ask Deacon Fitzgerald where the burn marks on his hands came from and watch his expression. He was there, ask him about the night he and the others tried to pray over a bus. He’ll probably give a bad reason and not the truth but watch his expression….it will say it. Don’t ask Peter Johnson, he was there also, but he’ll just walk away and say he doesn’t want to talk about it…”

The clouds where getting gray and threatening another snow fall.

“….You could also just park near the bus one of these cold evenings, it likes the very cold weather we have also noticed, and just sit there and then tell me the feeling I get from that bus is my imagination and insane, Pastor Holmes. Just sit there a while alone in the cold air and silence of the night’s snowfall and tell me or those kids butchered and their parent’s that it’s all irrational imagination…” He forced himself to stop, wiped his eyes, noted the cold in the air, “I did that one night. I thought I would confront the bus…I will never do that again.”

“What do you claim to have seen?”

He looked away from the man making demands on his memory, “It just sits there waiting and brooding and I can feel it. Many can feel it. We can’t get rid of it so we have learned to simply try and ignore it. There is something very wrong with that bus’s soul if buses could have one. I know what I saw that cold night last winter. And no amount of prayer is going to erase the horror I saw coming from that bus’s door…” Agitated and feeling his chest hurting, “I don’t like talking about it, Pastor Holmes, what I saw or partly saw coming from the bus door isn’t possible…It’s evil, an ancient evil…” Softly, “Even the kids around the neighborhood avoid that bus. It’s never vandalized….” Looking away at the bus  and back to the man looking at him with growing impatience, “Well, we don’t really know if it’s ever been vandalized…”

Angry, “Just have it towed away, David. It’s must a bus, a piece of junk sitting in the corner of our property and shouldn’t be here if it’s causing so much angst for this church…”

“It will simply come back.” He said it and looked at the man who simply wasn’t listening and wasn’t going to learn anything until it was too late. “We’ve towed it away a few times before as I said before, it’s come back every time. It’s been brooding in that corner and we leave it alone.”

“Maybe what we need is a new custodian, David.”

Amused, “I mow the lawn, I also have to mow near that thing, so good luck finding anyone who wants to mow that part of the property.”

“It’s a irrational superstition this idea that some demonic entity can posses a bus!”

“Not sure really it’s a demon, I call it an ancient evil because I have no other answer for it. But, Pastor Holmes, something in the bus….”

“David, just have it towed away. Enough of this. Next thing you are going to say it was made simply evil!”

“Yes, that’s what I mean. It was made and it was made all wrong somehow. Somethings are just made wrong and then grow from it.” He was thinking more to himself of course, “Something happened in the building of that particular bus….something went wrong. It became evil somehow?”

“This is absolute rubbish, it’s superstitious non-sense and I am going to put a stop to this fear of a piece of metal and rubber and rust!” His anger was rising, “Just have it towed away and be done with it. It will not come back!”

“You know the last time we did that I know the person who saw it coming back and simply park itself where it sits now. It likes it over there. He was coming out of the building late one night and saw the thing backing up into it’s space….the thing was burning inside. He could see the flames engulfing the inside of the bus like a hell on wheels….he never felt more afraid in his life….it’s killed eight people since being here. This winter so far it has left us alone….we leave it alone by not touching it.” Adding as he saw the man about to interrupt, “He claims he could hear from inside the bus horrible screaming….he left the church a few weeks later but I see him every once and a while.”

Finally having had enough, “David, I am ordering you to tow it away by the end of the week. I want it gone!”

“He claims he could even feel the thing staring at him with a hatred he could feel…”

“Get rid of it, David. It’s just a bus.” He stormed off swearing under his breath. “….Superstitious nonsense!”

The older man watched as the new pastor stormed off; he wanted to call after the man to please listen but it was apparent he wasn’t going to. The snow was falling  as David simply continued his shoveling as he headed away from the view of the bus that sat in the corner of the property he knew was waiting, brooding, thinking, watching him with a malice David could feel. He knew it was pointless in the end to get the new pastor to see what the others knew and felt from the creature brooding in the corner. The man would have to discover for himself what it was and hopefully live long enough to understand that the bus was never going to leave. He stopped shoveling and walked to the back of the church building and headed toward the small custodial and maintenance area room behind the church; no one needs to see where he worked thought David. Truth was though he had not told the new pastor completely the truth about the bus. Would he had believed David anyway? He had mentioned the eight deaths since the bus arrived and the man didn’t seemed to interested or really that phased by the comment. Eight people were killed by that thing in the corner of the church. The truth was that he and a few others knew the history of that bus and quit possibly what was actually haunting it? Haunting it? It seemed so wrong to say that word for a bus used once as a church bus. But the truth was it was originally an old school bus and even then there were stories about the thing killing; mysterious deaths so said the school that sold it to them. Unexplained deaths? One story went that someone set it on fire to destroy it but somehow he never got out of the bus in time; burned alive. He opened the door and leaned the shovel against the wall near the door. He was tired of the bus; he really wished he could just get rid of it but it would come back. The bus just kept killing and nothing was going to stop it because it wasn’t a ghost that haunted the damn thing, the bus was alive and it liked mocking him from the corner of the property; it mocked them all.  It killed for the fun of it. It even stalked people for the fun of it; just ask the last pastor.

A days later and as always Pastor Holmes was the last one to leave the Wednesday night services. But he had waited a little longer than usual for everyone to leave so he sat in his office doing some minor reading in the Bible and some brief praying before heading out of the building.

The heavy snow was falling of course and the cold was of course whipping the snow about in hurricane looking swirls as he drudged to his car. He had of course deliberately parked near the so-called haunted evil bus to make his point clear about his thoughts on their superstitious minds. He caught a few weary and unpleasant glances from the people but he did it anyway with a smile and wave. It was just a damn bus people! Nothing was haunting it or making it kill people! Enough was enough of this haunted church bus. It was irrational and stupid to believe in demons or haunted pieces of rusting yellow and black metal of a bus. It was going to stop now and he told the janitor again yesterday when he discovered that he hadn’t gotten rid of it yet.

“It will simply come back, Pastor Holmes.”

“It’s a school bus, unless someone drives it back it can’t come back!”

David said nothing but his look said something that the man didn’t like.

Pastor Holmes walked the best he could through the heavy falling snow; the yellow and black rust streaked bus loomed next to his car. He hadn’t noticed it before of course but the closer he got to the bus he did feel watched; it was a foolish to think such a thing. It was stupid. It was irrational to believe that everything in the Bible was meant to be taken literally or seriously and he wasn’t taking a demon controlled bus seriously. They had allowed a few deaths, granted horrible and unpleasant, but still deaths do occur on bus. This was the 21st Century, time to leave the Middle Ages!

The blustering wind whipped and particularly blinded him with a white snowy carpet. It was typical Minnesota. This was getting bad he thought and worried a bit about being stuck in the snow. Hopefully some of the roads were being plowed? He fumbled for his keys as sermon thoughts came to him and one of them was going to be on the irrational belief that demons and evil spirits couldn’t, didn’t, and don’t take control of machines and kill people with them. Pastor Holmes had a few opinions on the idea on demons and their mythology and maybe he would do a few sermons on that as well. He finally got to his car and stood at the door. The unpleasant feeling of someone watching him was more and more apparent and he didn’t like it. It was stupid. But it did feel like something or someone was watching him rather closely. He turned around with a grunt of disgust at his own silly imagination and looked at the bus and of course saw nothing evil or remotely evil stating down at him from the windows. It was a damn bus sitting in the damn snow and not much damn else he thought satisfied with his correct thoughts on the bus.

A few hours earlier.

“Pastor Holmes, may I speak with you?”

He looked up at the man who stood at his door, “Yes, Deacon Tichardson?”

The man was nervous, uncomfortable in his manner, even afraid it seemed, “I have heard you have ordered the bus removed from the property…..”

The hand went up, “Yes, I have, and I will have it removed. It’s an eyesore and not being used. I will not allow that thing to become some kind of demon to excuse everyone’s behavior…”

Tichardson understood the man, “The last pastor had the same idea, the bus stalked him. Didn’t try to kill him but it did stalk him until he finally left. That bus isn’t going anywhere, Pastor Holmes, as I am sure you have been told it likes it here.”

Not happy, “Why would that be the case? Why would it want to be here?”

Tichardson knew this was pointless, “What people don’t understand about that bus is that it was causing deaths from day one of it’s use. I checked it history before buying it and there are many deaths associated with it….It started with a fire on it’s first day of use, several kids were killed…”

“What caused the fire?”

“No one knows, it just started one kid reported, it simply started burning.”

“The bus just started itself on fire?” Remained sitting, “I suppose you too believe it’s possessed by some kind of demon from the pits of hell?”

Tichardson frowned a bit, “Not sure it’s possessed by anything but it’s own need to kill.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Pastor Holmes, that bus is alive and no I don’t know nor anyone else does why it’s alive but it is. It’s been alive since it’s creation and I and no one else can explain it. I’ve gone back into the records of it’s actual building and every place it’s been it’s killed one way or another.” As he turned around to leave, “It’s an evil bus because it wants to be…”

“That’s foolishness, Deacon Tichardson…” He got up and closed his door. That wasn’t the only person that week who begged him to just ignore the bus and accept it’s part in their lives. It wasn’t going anywhere! It would just come back was their final comment and it annoyed him top impatience.

He stood at the door frame looking uncomfortable, “Pastor Holmes, leave the bus alone. Let it stay where it is and let it rust…” Softly, “Maybe it will simply one day collapse from rusting and just finally whatever it is that dwells inside it will die…” Deacon Tichardson tried to be calm even as the other man simply stared back with no emotion, “Look, I know of some who have seen that thing coming and going from it’s resting place…” He raised a hand as the other man tried to interrupt, “I know you will not leave this alone but let me tell you one last thing about that bus. It drove the pastor from this church….it stalked him. Ran him off the rode one night he claimed. It followed him. He too wanted to get rid of the bus, he even in a fit of anger went outside and confronted the evil that looked back at him. He swore that he could feel the bus glaring back and just daring the man to come closer. He could feel the glaring evil from inside the bus or the bus itself. A few weeks later he had a nervous breakdown as he swore he could hear the bus from the pulpit taunting him….”

“This is madness created by not thinking things through and believing everything has a devil attached to it. The Devil has more important things to do than haunt a bus…”

“Pastor Holmes, do you believe in the Devil? In Evil at all.”

He stood up, “I am aware that you are one of the few who felt I was not qualified to take the last pastor’s place, Deacon Tichardson. I am aware that this church was having problems but I was not fully aware that this church was still living in the Dark Ages of theology and belief in devils who take over bus’s…”

“We don’t think it’s a devil or even the Devil. Something else dwells in that bus.”

“Nothing dwells in that bus but ignorance and superstition, Deacon Tichardson. Nothing more than that. I know nothing about these stories you have all convinced yourselves to be true….”

“I was one of those who tried to pray over the bus, I was there when the horrible screaming began from inside the bus….”

Losing all patience, “Enough, that eye sore will be gone by the end of this month, Deacon Tichardson, and it will not be coming back with a big old happy demonic grin on it’s face. It will be gone.”

The snow was still coming down as he felt stupid staring at the bus and letting his imagination get the better of him. He was going to prove to them all that it was nothing but their ignorant imaginations and old thinking about the devil and hell that was the real issue. He walked up to the bus best he could in the thickening snow and touched the metal he knew was going to be cold too the touch. It was cold; very cold actually. He laughed a bit as he slammed his open palm into the bus. But it was warm now. No, no, he thought quickly, that’s silly. So he touched it again. And again he could feel the strange warmth beginning to spread across the side he was touching. He put both hands on the bus sides again and it was getting warmer. He cursed at the thing.

“What the damn hell?” He stepped back a bit and looked up at the empty and yes cold looking bus windows. He saw nothing. He felt uncomfortable and he didn’t like it. This was irrational he heard himself say it out loud. “This is stupid, there is a rational answer for this, Pastor Holmes, very rational….”

The engine of the bus screamed into life; and then the screaming inside the bus began as the inferno engulfed the bus and the lone figure pounding on the side of the bus.

Deacon Tichardson stared out feeling tired and defeated at the congregation that looked back at him with their own feelings very evident; they were terrified. He started talking but it was strained.

“As Pastor Holmes has gone missing for a week now…” That wasn’t completely true but for the moment it was good enough, “We have called this special congregational meeting to decide whether to remain in this location as a church or sell the property and locate the entire church somewhere else….” They all looked shell-shocked he thought, each one wondering what had really happened to Pastor Holmes and knowing the horrible answer; he should have left the bus alone. “We have been planning this for a while and after the latest, um, incident, maybe it is time to leave this old property…” He knew he sounded idiotic because they knew what the real problem was and were quite convinced it would follow them. He noted a few heads shake and one or two of the older members weeping softly to themselves, “….Maybe it will stay here….” He wanted to cry at the reality of the statement, “Maybe it will leave us alone….” He wiped his eyes, “Leave us alone…”

It didn’t but at least it had a new driver.

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