Randy, a young video store clerk in Chicago recently assigned to the closing shift, finds himself the victim of a potential stalker in the form of a creepy little gremlin-like man who sits near him every night on the bus ride home. More annoying than anything else, Randy tolerates the guy–who never gets off the bus with him, anyway–until one night when “The Thing” (as Randy’s come to think of him) reveals that he knows deepest, darkest and most horrifying secret of Randy’s past…before leading the young man off the bus and into the cold winter night, seemingly to his fate.
Word Count: 9,400
Categorie(s): Horror, Short Stories
“Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care… ”
My eyes flew open. I had no idea how much time had passed; maybe thirty seconds or even thirty minutes, I didn’t know. But I heard him, and jerked my head up from the sweating window, disoriented and a little scared.
There he was. Three seats ahead of me, but on the right side of the bus. The overhead fluorescent lighting gleamed off his almost-bald head, what little strings of blondish-gray hair left clinging to it now plastered to his shiny skull with either sweat or mildew. He sat, rocking back and forth—
“One day when ridin’ ‘round the farm…”
Sitting behind this big Harley Davidson biker-type with a ponytail who rode this bus every night, like I did—
“The flies so num’rous they did swarm…”
The Thing began to kick his tiny feet out in rhythm to the song. They were encased in dirty brown loafers that hit the back of Harley’s seat as he sang—
“One chanced to bite him on the thigh:
The Devil take the blue-tail fly!”
Biker Boy snapped. In one smooth motion, he was out of his seat and in the aisle, where he reached down and grabbed The Thing around the throat before the little gnome even knew what hit him. A smile broke across my face. Harley was well over six-foot, and maybe close to two-hundred-and-fifty pounds; at last, the little shit was going to get it.
“The master gone away,” The Thing rasped in his low, unearthly wheeze. He stared up into the biker’s face with his black, black eyes, no fear or humor or any emotion at all showing on his face. His long, corpse-like fingers reached up, curling around the muscular and tattooed forearm of the biker, as if he were going to try and break the much bigger man’s grip from his neck. Harley held his ground.
“Look, you little shit, every night you get on this bus and drive everybody on it nuts! You been badgering this guy—” With this he flicked his head back in my general direction—“for days and now you gotta come bug me? Well, you little weasel, this time you’re fuckin’ with the wrong man. Let’s settle this now!”
Oh hell, this was good! The Thing gets his, at last. Every person on the bus was watching like they were waiting for the blood to flow. And it did, but not from the source expected.
“Stop it!” The shout came from the front of the bus at the same time I realized it was no longer moving. The substitute bus driver had pulled over to the corner of Clark and Addison, across the street from Wrigley Field, and was standing up next to her driver’s seat, beefy arms folded over her huge breasts.
“I said stop it!” she hollered, and all eyes turned to her. She pointed to the biker. “Leave the little guy alone! If you wanna fight, take it off the bus—you got that? You ain’t gonna do this crap on my shift, sorry. I’ll call the cops, first!”
The biker turned to answer her, and when he did so The Thing spoke something to him—one word—but it stopped dead whatever Harley had been about to say to the driver.
Slowly, he turned back to The Thing, and in a breathless whisper asked, “What did you say?”
I moved to the aisle side of my seat to hear; I was maybe the only one close enough to do so. In fascination I watched The Thing, his long fingers still around the biker’s lower arm, trace one finger along the inside of the biker’s tricep, in a large circular motion close to his wrist. Harley’s grip on The Thing’s neck didn’t loosen, not at first, but then I heard The Thing utter one word in his harsh, gravel-filled whisper:
The color drained from Harley’s face. His mouth flew open but he was unable to talk; his grip on The Thing’s neck loosened, fingers going slack. I stood up, leaning over the seat in front of me as far as I could, and saw the word tattooed on the inside of the biker’s forearm. The word The Thing was tracing a circle around with his finger.
As I watched, the yellowish nail of The Thing’s right forefinger continued to trace around the one-word tattoo, breaking the skin until blood flowed. He had the entire Mother circled in a thin bubble of red that dribbled down the sides of Harley’s arm before the biker even knew what was happening.
“Suffocate,” The Thing repeated, then he let go and leapt over the seat Harley had been in before him, heading for the door. The lady bus driver screamed, moving very fast for a fat woman as she jumped out of his way, and in a blur, The Thing barreled through the door at the front of the bus, running off into the night. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard him giggling as he ran away.
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