Last Stop

Filtered light from a drowning sun shone through the windows of the bus as it made it's way down it's appointed task. Every now and then it stopped and exchanged riders with pedestrians but never long enough for Benno to make certain where it was going. Now and then a new passenger who would make the preference of sitting in the back would eye him with uncertainty as they made their passing.

He could recognize certain sites as he passed. Had seen them in some cases three for four times as the bus had changed it's route according to it's schedule. The drivers would change, so they did not question the strange man on their charge. It was different for Benno, he had never rode on the bus for the sake of riding it. And felt himself more acquainted with the experience. He treasured the secret, among other strange secrets he had become a part of rather recently.

Now, a toddler, one of the other passengers, peered out back at him from a spot a few rows in front, forgetting about the plastic pony that had up until this point been the subject of her frequently divided attention. When he turned to face her after another session of world-watching, she gasped and turned to her caretaker, a young latina reading a paperback. "Why is that man wearing a dress?"

The woman shifted her attention, glanced back with barely a moment passing, and patted the child's hindside with a protective aire. "Sit in your seat, puchita." The woman leaned over and whispered something that Benno almost made out. "...nice t... stare."

Benno faced the window again and thought about the last two days. Or was it longer? He couldn't tell, he had passed out again several times during this ride and was uncertain what day of the week it was. He tugged at the hospital gown and revealed his previously useless legs and pinched them. He felt nothing. What was it that had happened to him. How warm the girls hands felt against his feet, in the absence of any other feeling at all.

She had done 'something' to him, and he wasn't entirely sure if it had been anything at all. He could walk again, but it had become a utilitarian endeavour. The action was devoid of the sensation of walking, save for the forward movement his body underwent as he continuously pushed up and fell between footsteps.

Benno thought about that early morning waiting at the bus stop just outside the hospital.

She had held his hand, guiding him out of his room and through uncommon corridors until they had managed to leave the building undetected, just in time for her to sit him down on a bus stop bench. She set him down and smiled and told him nothing.

He had found the day ride ticket there on the bench, discarded by someone who had no more use of it, sitting just beside him. And then the bus rolled up and unceremoniously the driver had asked him a question.

"Getting on or you gonna sit there for all eternity?"

Almost unconciously he picked himself up, stepped into the bus, and fed the pass into the machine. It beeped in acceptance.

Now, after several hours of riding on the bus, he had still had the dreams, same as before. They seemed more lucid now, and he could count the events as they happened. Butterfly, girl, dog. He didn't know what they meant. He sighed and shifted his weight to possibly lay down. As he did so, he felt a cool fabric on the bottom of his bus seat, and a sharp stinging in his hand against an equally cold metal. He dropped down and spied a jacket shoved into one corner of the seat, next to an incline in the interior, likely the wheel well.

Benno pulled out the jacket and inspected the black polyester. It was a good jacket, the kind to keep the moisture out on cold days. He checked to see if anyone was suspecting him of any possible theft. The task was meaningless. The passengers had done their utmost best at ignoring the man in the white dress.  He tried it on and it fit perfectly. Better than perfect. It was sublime. Rooting his hands into the jacket, he felt a bit of resistance. He licked his lips at the eerie state of his affair and pulled out the jacket pocket to reveal what was carried within.

With a clang, a small metal key struck the floor of the bus. To Benno, it looked worn and, when he picked it up, felt heavier than most keys should in his hand. It looked no more unique than a simple padlock key. Attached was a string and a worn, swollen cardstock tag. The penmanship was barely legible but he could just make out the numbers.

"4386." he read aloud.

A man who had preoccupied his time staring at a bus schedule stood up and walked closer to the front of the bus as it prepared to stop. The female driver cried out in a husky voice, "Last stop for the night before Fairview Central Station, folks."

Benno peered out the window and noticed the sun had disappeared completely. The bus lurched in the brakeing, and Benno could just make out the buildings by the streetlight.

The End

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