by Frederick Chagnon
It’s 1:37am. There’s a party in the apartment below. The semi-regular beat of the music is keeping awake. I hear them talking and laughing and generally having a great time. I hate them. I am laying down in the darkness of my room. The apartment is empty. My roommates left for a party of their own. They didn’t bother asking if I wanted to go. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people that I know there. I guess I’m just bad company.
Loneliness weighs heavily on my shoulder this Friday night. A new school year is beginning, but there’s no one to celebrate with. I don’t know what my friends are doing. We’ve drifted apart lately. I guess when life is pulling everyone in different directions, there isn’t much to talk about. “How’s work/school?” only brings you so far. I wonder if they’re also trying to fall asleep right now wondering how they got to that point. Maybe we’re all too afraid of rejection to pick up the phone.
Speaking of which, the flashing light tells me there’s a notification. Local Sports Team #2 lost. Obviously. The music is still booming, and it’s impossible to sleep. What is wrong with these people? Don’t they realize there are other people in the block who happen to want to sleep and have no desire to get lung cancer? I turn on the light on my bedside table. It takes a brief moment for my eyes to get accustomed to the sudden brightness.
I get out of bed and put on some pants and a shirt. I pick up my keys from the “Miscellaneous Bowl” and exit my room. I pass in front the mirror without looking at my reflection. I don’t need to. I know what I’ll find and have no desire to face it. My phone stays on the table. Maybe the notification is flashing again. Maybe not. Right now, I don’t care. Whoever wanted to talk to me had the last 4 months to do so. I open the front door and step outside.
I hadn’t realized how hot it was inside until now. There’s a cold breeze that is most welcomed. I feel like I can breathe for the first time in a long time. The night’s silence is broken only by a few cars and the even rarer bike. I wonder where they are going. Where did they come from? What leads them to the streets at this hour? Their stories are probably a lot more interesting than mine.
I reach the end of the staircase and trip on a loose slab. I really need to get the landlord to fix this. Someone’s going to get hurt one of these days. I have no idea where I am going, but I start walking anyway. The starless night accompanies me as I go down the empty street. The moon is hiding behind a thick cloud. The downtown lights shine like a beacon, calling me. Maybe that’s why I find myself going that way. I pass by a group of girls on the way there. One of them is throwing up while her friend is holding up her hair. The other three are on their phone, oblivious to everything around them. I keep going.
I hear some shouting further down. The noise comes from an alley where two guys are fighting. Someone is screaming “Worldstar” as he pulls out his phone. I’m not sure if I’m not sure what makes me madder. The fact the fight is recorded in portrait mode, or whether I’m mad because he prefers filming it instead of breaking it off. I keep going. Maybe I’m as guilty as he is.
A homeless person asks for money. He’s holding a cardboard sign with a witty message. I don’t remember what it said, and I don’t give him anything. I lie and say that I left my wallet at home. I keep going.
There’s a party in the next apartment block. I can hear the music booming. A bunch of people are smoking outside what are most definitely not cigarettes. I’m not quite sure where I am, but I keep going. A taxi pulls up. The driver, hopeful to get a fare, asks where I am going. I wave her off. I guess I’m not the only one having a bad night.
I try to check the time, but remember that I left my phone at home. I peek and see that there’s a night bus coming. I can’t see which one it is, but decide to take it anyway. When it stops, the clouds move and some tame moonlight shines through. The doors open up creaking. Without saying anything, I swipe my card and sit down like I’ve done a million times before. I didn’t get a good look, but the driver looks sickeningly thin. His long bony fingers reach out and close the door.
I look around and the bus is completely empty except for one black girl sitting at the back. I vaguely remember her as one of the girls on their phones while her friend was throwing up. I wonder what happened to her friends and why she decided to sit all the way to the back? I mean, it’s arguably the worst seat in the entire bus. I don’t say anything and sit at the front. The bus resumes its journey to its mysterious destination.
A few minutes in, I look at my travelling companion. Her headphones are getting lost in her puffy natural hair on one side. Her hair is braided in corn rows above the other ear. I wonder what she’s listening to. I don’t have my iPod, but I feel like some Earl Sweatshirt would be good right about now. That’s where my mood is at. She’s barely wearing any makeup. Or maybe she’s wearing a lot of makeup to look like she isn’t. The intricacies of it all have always eluded me. Her heels are in the seat next to her. Is she also looking and analyzing me? Is she seeing the same person I see when I look in the mirror?
I interrupt my reverie and stare outside the bus’s window. It’s all misted up and I can hear heavy rain hitting the pavement. Weird. I know it was cloudy, but I figured it wouldn’t rain until the morning at the earliest. I try to wipe it to see outside, but as soon as I am done, the window starts to frost. Now THAT is not normal. I look around and all the windows are frosting. She doesn’t seem to have noticed. The temperature inside is still the same however. I stand up and go check on the driver. The driver’s gone. The bus is driving itself. The steering wheel is turning left and right, avoiding obstacles I can’t see. The front window is also entirely covered in frost. I peak at the accelerometer and we’re going faster and faster. The engine’s temperature gage is almost all the way up. Already it’s in the “Danger Zone”. Shit.
That’s not good. I sit down and try to breathe. I must have cursed at life, because I feel a hand on my shoulder. I nervously look back. It’s the other passenger.
“What the hell is happening?” Her voice is deeper than I expected. There’s a hint of an accent I can’t place. Nigeria, maybe? I don’t focus on it too much. I have bigger issues at hand. Or rather a bus to stop.
“Where’s the driver?”
“The driver’s gone.”
“What do you mean ‘gone’?”
“Tell me if you found him. We need to stop this bus. The engine is about to overheat.”
She kneels down and ripped through the main console. With great difficulty, she pulled out a handful of wires.
“That should do it,” she says as she’s standing up. It obviously did since the engine shuts down almost immediately. There was still a bit of a problem. “Why is the bus not slowing down?”
She doesn’t get to finish her thought. A bright flash of light illuminate the entire bus. The light could have come from inside the bus for all I know.
When I wake up, the bus has stopped moving. It’s awfully quiet. I have absolutely no idea what just happened and how long I was out. I stand on my elbows, my head still pounding, and look around. The windows aren’t frosted anymore and there’s no light coming in. It must still be night time. I’m also alone. Where did the girl go?
With great difficulty, I stand up. The door is already opened. I smell a fire. That’s probably not good. I ran outside as fast as I can.
“Well, look who finally decided to wake up.” She’s sitting on a tree trunk in front of a bonfire.
“How long was I out?” My mouth is completely dried up.
“No idea. My phone died as soon as we got here.”
“And where’s ‘here’?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. It sure ain’t the city,” she said waving her arm.
The full moon and the stars are shining brightly over our heads. We’re in a clearing and surrounded by trees unlike anything I have ever seen. Their trunks are twisting in strange shapes and the leaves are completely foreign. The night isn’t as quiet as I thought it was. The air is filled with plenty of animal noises and birds chirping. I can also hear a powerful river nearby. There’s a mountain to our backs. The bus isn’t looking too good. The hull is darkened and the tires are flat. We won’t leave the same way we came in that’s for sure. The air is neither cool nor hot. The temperature is actually perfect.
“So I’m guessing you have no idea what happened last night either?” I ask.
“Not the slightest clue.”
“I should have stayed in.”
“Yeah, well I guess we’re in this together now. We better find a plan.”
Silence started to grow between us.
“Hey, is your iPod still working? This silence is giving me the creeps.” She turns it on and the first notes of Grief come on. “Ah, that’s funny. I was just thinking how I would have listened to Earl last night if I had brought out my own iPod.”
We start talking about our common music interests, for a time forgetting about the situation we were in. It feels good to bring some sense of normalcy to this whole thing.
“Shhh,” Chanell interrupts me as I was explaining how Mac Miller is no longer absolutely terrible. Rude. “Do you hear that?”
“Shut up, and listen.”
I pay attention and hear someone, or rather something walking on leaves and twigs. She signals me to shut up and we hide behind the bus. The noises stop. We can’t see 3 feet in front of us. We turn around to look at each other, when we both screamed in horror and surprise. A smallish creature stands in front of us. He roughly looks like a cartoon monkey with orange fur. Except he has a human figure and is wearing clothes that would have been fashionable in 17th Century England.
“Apologies for startling thee fellows. It was never part of my intentions. Pardon me for missing introductions. Robin Goodfellow is the name, at your service. You may call me Puck for convenience.”
The strange little creature bowed down to salute us.
“Uh… Thanks?” I reply, really confused about this whole situation.
“Wait a minute… Puck? Like in the Shakespeare play?” interjects Chanell.
“The very same, how’s this old chap doing?”
“He’s been dead for 400 years,” I say, not believing what my eyes are seeing.
“Wait a minute, you’re not actually Puck , are you? I mean it’s impossible, fairies don’t exist,” said Chanell.
“Impossible? Don’t thou knowst where thou art?”
And that’s the story of how Chanell and I ended up in the Kingdom of Fairies.
TO BE CONTINUED!