[EDITOR’S NOTE: While traveling on a bus, several passengers endured the drunken and boisterous clamor from several obnoxious frat boys in the back. They could not be quelled or cajoled to quiet down. In an effort to deal with these circumstances without going insane, my girlfriend and I started writing the following story on a laptop, switching off every 300 words or so until the battery died. The warped results can be read below. Aside from the brain monster and other supernatural elements, this isn’t that far removed from what actually happened.]
Their drunken bellows roared from the back of the bus, veering as aimlessly as a driver without a map, demanding all destinations.
There were twelve of them. And they sat in the back. They sang off-key. They shouted horrible jokes. They laughed at their limp bons mot. But there was no sign from the passengers in the front. No actions. Nothing so much as a “please be quiet” or a “hey I’ve got a headache here, would you mind keeping it down?”
They were the center of their own universe. Their universe belonged to them. And that universe involved the bus. Even if that meant lighting up a bit of skank weed or spilling the bottle of Jack onto the fraying gray carpet. Even if that meant seizing the seat of the eighty-two-year-old lady, telling the elderly cunt to sit the fuck in the front before I munch on your muff.
Fury floated across the faces of those who sat in front of them. One man who worked as a bounce tried to get this fakers dozen to stop. But they wouldn’t. The bouncer figured he could break six of their necks easy. But the bus was moving. It was already late. And he, like everybody else, just wanted to get the hell home.
Bellows, cackles, and frat house cries were the order of the evening. And headaches burgeoned and tempers flared until there was a sudden screech of the brakes.
“What the fuck was that?”
The fakers dozen waited.
“Yo, why we stop?”
But there was no movement from the driver. No stirring of life from the passengers.
Their faces looked out the window, but there wasn’t the single sound of cars passing, nor even the trusty wisp of the wind.
“What the fuck’s going on?” said Enrique, who was high as a kite on Don Julio.
“Well, fuck that shit,” said Harold. “We can have ourselves a good time whether the bus is moving or not, eh?”
They shouted at the top of their lungs again, expecting a reaction from all the chumps who had bought tickets for this ride from hell. But there wasn’t a sound. Not a peep. Not even the muted sigh from an exasperate.
Dawn, just one of two girls of the fakers’ dozen, nudged Harold in the shoulder. “This is really weird, why isn’t anyone else saying something?”
“Fuck if I know,” said Harold, “and why should you care?”
“Because it’s creeping me out! You should see what’s going on.” Dawn poked Harold in the small of his back. He yelped and Gregg, sitting the furthest away from him, bellowed, “She’s got you by the balls again, H!”
Harold’s face blushed. Struggling with the sense of shame that accompanied it, he denied Gregg’s claim with equal volume, then turned back to Dawn. She had that needy look again, like her world couldn’t work without him turning the lever all the way to the end, and once more he wondered why he was banging her, even if only on Sunday afternoons. She wasn’t that hot. And now she wanted him to stop the party in the backseat and check on – it flew out of his head.
Dawn stared at him, not wanting to understand Harold’s total enslavement to attention deficit but knowing she had to. Of course it sucked. Nothing got through to him, not even basic human decency. She tried to remember why they fucked every Sunday, why she was sitting with his sorry-ass friends, why she was smoking their low-grade weed. And why they were the only ones making noise.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll go and check.” She shoved Harold harder in the small of his back and took secret pleasure when he cried out. The rest of the twelve voiced their displeasure, too. “You always have to spoil everything,” said Enrique’s fuck buddy Miranda, a joint dangling from her mouth. Dawn hated her the most, but fighting Miranda was like trying to engage with a brick wall.
She stared ahead, focusing intently on the front of the bus. It was strange to think of silence as being louder than noise, but that’s what Dawn thought as she made her way to the driver’s seat. When she did, all thoughts of silence versus sound escaped her mind.
Because the driver was gone.
“Hey, what the fuck?”
“Silly bitch at it again,” said Harold. “Always looking for someone new to blow!”
“I’m serious, Harold. There ain’t no driver here. Just a buncha….”
That’s when the first of the fakers dozen went down. Harold was keeping track.
“Dawn?” called Harold.
“Stupid bitch. I’ll suck your cock better,” said Miranda. The weed was hitting her head almost as hard as Enrique’s tequila.
Enrique laughed. Everything was funny with Don Julio, almost as funny as it was with jello shots. Not that he went in for that pussy drinking shit. Even the sight of Dawn falling down, as if sucked through a hole at the bottom of the bus like some human-sized chunk of strawberry shake slurped through a giant straw.
But where the fuck was Dawn? And why the fuck weren’t the passengers ahead saying a goddam thing?
“Hey, assholes,” shouted Harold to the front. “You paying attention?”
There wasn’t a peep from the passengers.
“Ain’t it a bit fucking funny that nobody’s saying a FUCKING thing?”
Harold tapped the shoulder of the woman in the seat in front of him.
“You paying attention, you cunt? Dawn’s gone, you fucking….”
But her shoulder dissipated into a shower of ashes. Harold looked at the other passengers. They were all grey husks. Even the colors of their clothes had faded to gray.
And still there wasn’t a sound outside.
Harold looked at Enrique, who was still laughing at nothing. This was the guy who was supposed to be his best buddy? When the girl he was fucking would happily ask anyone, especially Harold, if she could suck him off? When he wasted himself day and night on that Don Julio shit when everyone knew it just made Enrique look and act like a bigger chump? And now that Dawn was fucking GONE, all Enrique could do was sit around and laugh?
Harold could hardly process what was happening, but he knew this: everything was a big fucking lie and he had to do something. So he lunged at Enrique, hands going for his best buddy’s throat.
“What the FUCK are you doing, you mongrel waste of a piece of shit? Dawn – did you even SEE what happened?”
“Harold, calm the fuck down,” Miranda slurred, “You don’t have to get so violent. What’d Enrique ever do to you?”
“He never did anything! He never did anything for any reason!” Harold pointed to the vanished woman in front of him. “And now she’s disappeared, too. The whole bus has disappeared and everything’s grey and he does fuck-all!” Harold tightened his grip on Enrique’s throat. The laughs turned into slight choking sounds that made Enrique sound even more pathetic. “You really pick ’em, Miranda. You foolish little slut.”
“Hey, don’t call me a -” But Miranda didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence. The left side of her head began to melt, starting with the blond hair framing her face, to her cheekbones, down to her neck and collarbone. Then the right side melted away. A husk of grey nothing remained, and even Harold, who only cracked open his introduction to neuroscience book once every few weeks, recognized the color as being the same as the mush making up most of a person’s brain.
Miranda’s brain. Right. In front of him.
He dropped his hands from Enrique’s throat and screamed. Then screamed even louder when he heard Enrique’s stupid, pathetic little laugh start up again.
“What the fuck? The two hos of the fakers dozen are gone?” shouted Harold. “What? The? Fuck?”
Enrique was laughing his ass off. Shit, this was better than that viral video he had watched of the guy shoving the peanut jar up his ass and bleeding all over the fucking place.
“Enrique, are you paying attention?” Harold screamed.
Miranda’s gray ash had splattered all over him. He had become a human-sized Miranda ashtray, so to speak, in less than a second. And this was fucking funny. But then Enrique realized that he couldn’t move. The ash had seeped into his skin, casting a gooey mold and pinning him to his seat.
Enrique stopped laughing.
“Guys, what the hell’s going on?”
Two small globular claws punched their way out of Miranda’s brain. The claws begin to snap at Enrique, clacking in a staccato pattern that Enrique recognized from some mariachi techno shit he’d heard that day on some MySpace page. Some band called The Frat Boys Heading to Manhattan. Shitty name, shitty concept, but good music. And now the good music was biting right back.
The brain leaped forward and the claws tore at Enrique’s throat. Great geysers of red exploded from his torn neck. Enrique couldn’t laugh. And he certainly couldn’t scream. The Miranda brain monster had clawed out his larynx and was snapping further. There was only the sound of hollow gargling. A broken pipe experiencing an unexpected brush with the air.
As Miranda’s brain supped on Enrique’s blood, it seemed to obtain more energy. And the claws began moving faster. Snapping quicker. Suddenly, two eyes burst out of the brain. Harold knew those eyes well. They were Dawn’s.
Harold’s brain split across his corpus callosum. The left part coolly told him to get the fuck off the bus, because everyone who stayed on it either turned into gray brain ash or got killed by it. The right part got more to the point: RUN!
He listened to the right part of his brain and sprinted down the center. The Miranda-Dawn monster was gaining on him, flinging blood towards Harold that he had to duck to avoid. He reached the front, keeping his eyes well away from what remained of the other humans and looked for the door.
And then he could not move. Almost against his will, he turned away from the door and faced the Miranda-Dawn monster. When it spoke, the voice was terrible and emitted a smell not unlike human decomposition. It filled Harold’s nostrils and the gag reflex was overwhelming.
But he found a way to swagger because because hey, he was Harold Motherfucking Chase and no one, not even a monster, was going to mess with him. “You might think you’re a badass monster but you’re really nothing but a double-ho-bag of pussy stench,” he gritted out, each word more difficult to speak than the last one.
The monster laughed and the resulting sound was like feedback from a microphone, the whiny pitch growing louder and more intense until Harold thought his eardrums would burst.
He wanted to turn, reach the door, but his feet would not obey. Then his legs. Then his torso. He looked down and it wasn’t that they couldn’t move. They had transformed. He was becoming grey ash from the tips of his toes until his midsection, his chest, up and up. He had a dim memory of a strange-voiced man singing about being eaten by a boa constrictor until ‘oh heck, it’s up to my neck. Oh dread, it’s up to my head.’
The monster laughed again, and Harold’s eardrums succumbed. As they shattered, he let loose a matching sound of agony and torture that he could not hear. Neither could anyone else. Except the monster.
And when it did, and Harold was nothing more than a puff of grey matter, it grinned.