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Thread: "Last Bus of The Night" (please critique!)

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    "Last Bus of The Night" (please critique!)

    The single orange spotlight illuminated the tall and slender woman as she waited for the last bus of the night. Behind her, a couple stood holding hands in the darkness under the canopy of the bus stop. The woman never did anything of the sort: though the incident had taken place more than a decade ago, in her mind’s eye it was as vivid as the glaring white moon which shone ominously down on the small suburb of Dublin city. Since then, her luck in such departments had become a single and misfortunate blur.

    The woman heard its tortured screech before she saw it, then glanced to the far end of the otherwise deserted street in time to see it rattle miserably around the distant corner like an old age pensioner on the final stroll of his life.

    It was the same degenerate bus as always - the woman had long since surmised they only rolled out the oldest and crappiest buses when they knew few would be taking them. Still, as it coughed and wheezed its way around the pot holes and loose chippings, she embraced the sense of relief she felt all the same. She backed out of the circle of light as the bus pulled in, its air brakes gushing loudly, its door collapsing in on itself with a tired hiss. She stepped on as soon as it stopped, the fare already encased in a tight, always-paranoid fist. She gave the driver a friendly nod and dropped the coins into the hole in the dented, dull grey money box, which swallowed each coin gratefully. She took her ticket and chose a seat next to a window. In her fleeting glance before turning into her seat, she saw a large, oddly-dressed woman huddled over a newspaper sitting in the back row.

    The woman stared out the window as she waited for the couple behind her to pay the fare and find seats. She couldn’t help but look up when they passed, hands still tightly knotted, broad, cosy smiles branded on their youthful faces. The pang of jealousy she felt was expected, though was as sharp and as painful as ever. She wondered how long they’d been dating, and if it was more than a month. She did this a lot. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how thoughtful and caring and loving she acted, none of her relationships had lasted longer than thirty days. Several hadn’t gotten past the first date. She’d tried playing hard to get. She’d tried playing devil’s advocate. She’d tried playing no games at all. Her looks weren’t the problem - she’d placed runner-up in the Ms. Ireland competition three years previously, and her appearance hadn’t changed much since then, albeit with her first few crow’s feet. Her mother said she had bad luck; she insisted she was cursed. The last time it happened - over a year ago now - she’d concluded herself undateable and had since given up. The man - Paul was his name, that she remembered - had had the nerve to act like the date had been the best night of his life, and had told - no, had promised - he’d call her, but then never did. In his enthusiasm he’d given her his number too, but on the occasions she called she got his voicemail. A week later, the number went out of service.

    She let Paul’s mousy features disintegrate from her mind as the bus kicked pathetically into first gear and rattled onwards. She stared out the window across the dimly lit street and saw a teenage boy and girl meandering down the footpath on its other side. The boy had his arm around the girl’s back, sheltering her from the dry autumn breeze. Scowling, she turned the other way and looked out the opposite window instead, and was startled to see a dark figure running alongside it, their arms pounding against the glass so hard it shuddered, threatening to shatter.

    “Wait, bus driver, wait!” she heard faintly, and the air brakes whistled and the bus slowed. When the door slid back, the woman saw a pale, sharply-dressed man on its other side and eyed him with sudden curiosity.
    “Thank you, my dear man, thank you,” the main said with a clever smirk and paid the fare. His smooth voice rang out with heavy grandeur as though he came from high places, filling every corner of the carriage with ease like that of a television presenter. Though his face was pallid, his hair was a perfect jet black. A flawless set of straight white teeth were revealed when he spoke, and he walked with a level of confidence the woman had witnessed only once before, and that was in her late father, a well-respected Lieutenant General. The woman knew it was rude to stare but couldn’t tear her eyes away until the man’s eyes flickered into hers. They pierced her, their brilliant blue bearing down on her, forcing her to drop her gaze. When she looked up again he’d already taken his seat: directly across from her, obscuring her view of the gaping dirty window behind him. She didn’t dare look into his eyes again, though an overpowering urge to do so now lingered inside her. With much effort she stared straight ahead, peering around at him instead. He looked inherently out of place, and she was certain it wasn’t just because of his expensive-looking suit and newly-shined shoes. She didn’t need to look behind her to know everyone else was eyeing him too. Maybe he’s coming from work and his car broke down, she thought. Or maybe he was at a formal dinner and took some alcohol, so decided to leave his car in town for the night and take the bus home instead. Yes, both of those were probable alibis - no, reasons - as to why he might be taking the bus.

    Flustered, she rooted in her purse for something to occupy her mind. Her hand closed on her Sudoku puzzle book and she felt around the bottom for a pen. She found it hiding away in a corner beneath her mobile phone and withdrew it, removed the cap and tried tackling a puzzle toward the end of the book, one she knew would be more challenging and would therefore take her mind off the man sitting across from her. But she couldn’t think. She stared down at the page in a frown, though in her mind all she saw was those brilliant blue eyes, those gleaming white teeth.

    “Need a hand?” came the deep and familiar voice and the woman jumped so high the pen flew clean out of her hand, spinning erratically through the air like a confused ballet dancer. In a blur the man had caught it, and now he held it out in front of her, smirking at her astonishment. It was several long seconds before she could speak.

    “T-thank you,” she managed. “Thank you very much.” She tried to smile but instead it looked like she was in pain.

    “No problem,” he said, his brilliant blue eyes flaring at her. “But as I was saying, do you need a hand with that? I’m a big fan of Sudoku.”

    “Oh, y-yes! Okay!”

    The man stood up and slid into the seat next to her.

    “I’m Blaine, by the way.”

    “Oh, nice to meet you, Blaine. I’m-”

    “Susan - I read your name tag,” he added, preconceiving her confusion. She looked down at the dull greens and blacks of her hotel uniform and realised with embarrassment she’d left her name tag on. She always made sure to take it off as soon as she finished work - the thought of perfect strangers knowing her name made her uncomfortable.

    “I couldn’t help but notice-” he flashed those gleaming teeth of his again “-how beautiful you look.” The words wiped Susan’s mind clean.

    “Oh, well, thank you, thank you very much,” she said, smiling up at him as she experienced a strange mixture of intimidation and admiration.

    “Now, let me help you with this puzzle of yours,” he continued, and moved closer towards her, his eyes bearing down on the open page of the puzzle book. Susan stared down too, but all she could notice was her hands. They were gripping either side of the book so tightly the page had become creased all down the middle. Blaine, however, didn’t seem to notice. If he did, he knew better than to mention it. Either way, Susan was suddenly at ease, and felt that the man beside her, from wherever he hailed, was no stranger at all.

    “Where do you get off?” he asked, his voice as silky smooth as a snake.

    “Three more stops, I think,” Susan replied at once, then looked up at the LED display at the front of the bus.

    “Yes, three more.”

    “Well, here’s a proposition for you.” His brilliant blue eye’s pierced Susan’s and she stared back as though entranced.

    “How about we both get off a stop earlier and go for a drink?”

    “I’d love to,” she blurted out before she had time to process what he’d said.

    “Great.” He smiled widely at her and Susan found herself smiling back wider still. By the time they came to their stop the bus had emptied and they’d completed the puzzle.

    “After you,” he smirked, standing back so she could vacate the bus before him. She thanked the driver on the way out, feeling more elated and hopeful than she’d felt in months.

    They turned onto another street not unlike the one she‘d been standing in earlier. It was dim, deserted, though familiar to her. Again she saw the wide open eye of the moon peeking through the clouds.

    “So, where would you like to go?” she asked, surprised at how calm her voice sounded. Though she was tall, he was much taller; her head barely came to his shoulder.

    “Dealer’s choice is it? If you’re sure…”

    Susan watched him closely, waiting for his decision. She felt something for this man. Something good.

    The memory visited her again, the hike up the Comeragh mountains all those years ago when everything had gone horribly wrong. And for a fleeting moment she knew; she understood what it meant and she tried to tell him to get away, to run, but couldn’t.

    And then it happened all over again. Susan’s scream became a roar as sudden and excruciating pain consumed her. She felt as though something was trying to escape her, something foreign, something inhuman. Her purse hit the ground and its contents fled it in all directions. The threads in her uniform stretched and began to snap, and Blaine let out a horrified scream as her face began elongating and her uniform began ripping at the seams. Her arms and legs burst through and thick brown animal hair began spurting from all over as her nose became a snout and her pupils turned a sharp, restless yellow.

    Blaine backed against the wall, his jaw unhinged in a silent scream, his mind telling him to run, his body refusing to listen. Susan’s clothes hung in rags from the animal as it hunched over on all fours, bigger and wilder than any dog Blaine had seen in his life. It snarled, revealing long, yellowing fangs, raised its lupine head skywards and howled horribly, the moon reflected twice in its putrid yellow eyes. It lowered its gaze and looked at Blaine hungrily and he wanted to look away but couldn’t. The animal leaped in a high arch and landed on him, and finally he was able to scream. The animal saw his brilliant blue eyes, his perfect white teeth and brought its long curved claws down on them, defacing him at last.

    It feasted.

    Hi there, I'm Brian and I'm 21. I'm from Ireland, so you may have noticed I'm using British English in my writing. I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I'm currently working on my first novel, but here is a short story I wanted to get some feedback on. Please be brutally honest, I need it. Thanks!
    Last edited by theepicwinner; 07-04-2010 at 11:17 AM.

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