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Artwork [Story] Bus Depot


May 1, 2014
Ishtar Terra
Here's something I threw together last summer. Based on a true story, btw. It's called "Bus Depot."

From the road beyond shined two golden headlights, piercing the rainy residue of her glasses; a bus approached. It wouldn't be long, Phoebe knew, until the hiss of breaking tires announced its arrival to all who huddled beneath the shelter. And then the skirmish would begin. Had it been her first time at the bus depot, Phoebe might have primed herself to show some human decency - letting the elderly board ahead of her, waiting for passengers to step off before shoving herself aboard; civilised behaviour, the kind you might hope others would show. But she knew better now: a bus only has so many seats, and the night was spitefully cold. When the tires halt, tribalism begins.

It was the law of the bus depot. Mellow though its inhabitants seemed to the inept eye – doped up on the aromas of Greece and the Mediterranean from across the street – when the doors flap open and the warmth of the humming engine defuses into the frosty wind, natural selection wakes from hibernation.

Is it even moving? Phoebe wondered, itching with impatience as she honed her eyes towards the distant headlights. No. This was bad news; the longer it idled, the larger the congregation would become. It would not be long until the shelter reached capacity, and then she'd stand no chance of boarding! The downpour hailed overhead, swelling Phoebe's anxiety and checking patience with its cacophony of noise; claustrophobia was rampant beneath the narrow ceiling, as people competed for refuge from heaven's gutter. Gusts and gales bore the drizzle like a plague, escorting it to shirts and skin where it clung. None were spared from the holocaust of discomfort.

She scrubbed her lenses dry, wringed the raindrops from her brow - or was it perspiration? A suited gentleman, stoic in the face, stood at the edge of the depot. The downpour had flattened his shiny jet hair. No doubt he was a threat to her; his six-foot posture and broad shoulders gave an impeccable advantage. Tresses of red hair, interloping down the lean spine of a woman no shorter than the stoic gentleman, next caught her glare. She tapped her nail against the frosty column of the bus shelter - a clear sign of impatience! And her hair, tangled from the wind and dripping with drizzle - surely, she too was a threat then; somebody as brazen as she would never tolerate the back of the queue, where the danger of being left behind was greatest. Aha! cried the voice in Phoebe's head, noticing a greater observation. Her height was false, amplified by heels - a military deception! Like an eyed hawkmoth displaying its eyespots to intimidate predators. The dullard! What shot did she have at boarding ahead of the crowd, in such restricting footwear?

The headlights shined, penetrating the mist; its tires rotated at last. They ejected a foamy tidal wave across the pavement, scattering the miniature ocean which had congregated on the road. The warm hum of its engine entered earshot, and the brawl began. Subtly at first, then with greater disregard for hospitality, the would-be passengers approached like zombies towards the west wing of the shelter, where the buses most commonly halted. A push here, a shove there; a howling gale swiping a hat from one's head; the clash for the front of the line. Physical contact was no longer a controversy; it was nature.

Gamblers among the crowd, those who were too frail or too short to dominate the competition, hung back and prayed the bus might stop before them. They cast out their hands towards the glowing headlights, earnestly trying to ensnare the driver's attention. Phoebe, having prepared for the skirmish long in advance, was positioned on the west wing of the depot, her shoulders expanded outward to deter any line-cutting.

The shiny outline of the carriage came into view through Phoebe's blurred eyes. Though the downpour dripped across the cold windshield, she could see - almost feel - the snug fabric of the blue-and-orange seats. She wringed her hair, squeezing tightly to ensure little moisture remained. Wouldn't want it dripping down her neck, spoiling the pleasure of the window-side view, or the massage of the vibrating engine. She lusted for the… so warm…

Phoebe swiped the blur from her lenses, and caught the glowing sign atop the bus before it sped past: 'Sorry, bus full to capacity'.
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