Relaxed Reads: En route to New York

Seth Murray

Editor’s Note: Each week, KSUBuzz will feature a fiction or poetry piece. Check next week’s issue for more of the story!

I reached the front of the line. “Ticket, please,” the blue-uniformed man said. I presented him with both my ticket and my ID, just as it said to do on the ticket. He gave me a strange, “Are you stupid?” look and said, “I don’t need that. You’re good.”

I took a seat near the back of the bus. Not the very back — I didn’t want to stand out as that guy — but the next-to-last row. I observed the different people filing on board; mostly solo travelers like myself, with a few couples and one large group consisting of people my age, some of whom, strangely enough, spoke in thick British accents. One of the Brits took a seat behind me. The bus was full except for the seat next to me and a seat behind me. A stern-faced woman, also in a blue uniform, boarded and shut the doors behind her.

“Alright everyone. My name is Linda. Welcome to my bus. I repeat: MY bus. We have some rules to go over.” The convivial, beginning-of-a-trip high spirits dwindled in the face of our dictatorial driver. I abandoned my slouch and sat bolt upright the moment her oratory began.

“Firstly, you see this yellow line behind my seat? It’s there for a reason. Don’t cross — oh for God’s sake.” We all turned to see what had distracted her. Two of the most bizarre looking people I had ever seen in my life were standing outside the door, one tapping on the glass. They were both clad in all black from head to toe and had wayfarer-style sunglasses on. They also both had pale skin and hair whiter than fresh snow. The driver was obviously contemplating not allowing them on, but after a moment relented. “You’re damned lucky I’m not sitting down yet.”

Once they boarded the bus, I realized A) one was male and one female, and B) they were, undoubtedly, twins. Besides the shockingly white hair and pale skin, the matching hooked noses and pointed chins left no room for uncertainty. That being said, they still looked completely different from one another. The girl had a very short, spiky haircut that made her look like Link from “The Matrix,” whereas the guy had shoulder-length hair, which he combed to the right, and the left side, which, was buzzed. They looked like the long-lost children of Andy Warhol. I was obsessed.

“Okay, again… this is MY bus. Rules: Don’t cross the yellow line. It’s there for a reason. Don’t cross it. Next, phones need to be on vibrate or silent. People are trying to sleep, like I wish I could be doing. Don’t disturb them. Same goes for music. I don’t care if you play it in headphones, but I BETTER not hear it. Lastly, no drinking or smoking on the bus. Violation of any of these rules will result in you being left on the highway. This bus’s final destination is New York City.” With that, she turned and closed the glass divider that separated her from us. The bus started and we were off.

The twins had taken the last remaining seats on the bus, and were standing next to me stowing their luggage in the overhead compartments. The male took the seat behind me, while the female chose to sit next to me. They took their sunglasses off and I realized that they had emerald green eyes.

“Hi there. I’m Jane,” the girl said as she sat down next to me. Her voice was much warmer and friendlier than her sharp features lead me to believe. “Seat open?”

“Uhm,” I stuttered “Yeah! I’m Alexander — Lex.”

“Oooooh, my brother has a Greek name too!” We turned and he nodded, a slight smile on his face.

“Archimedes. Pleased to meet you.” Although his tone was lofty and seemed cold, every word he said came across as genuine. There was a real sincerity to him.

“So,” she continued, “New York, huh?”

“Yeah. I’m moving up there.”

“Really? That’s great! Do you know where you’re living yet?”

“Well. Not really. I’m just sort of winging it. Patti Smith-style.”

She gave me an unreadable look and I was sure she was about to call me a fool, but instead she flashed me the happiest smile I’d ever seen and said, “That’s amazing.”

I scratched my head, unsure of how to respond. “Yeah. There just isn’t much happening in Northeast Ohio, and I hated college. So I’m giving the NYC pipedream a shot. Restart my life, I guess.”

“You must come stay with us. In the Village. We’re the snake-people. Here, let me give you our address.” Before she could write down the address, or I could ask what the hell a snake person was, music began playing from the row behind us. Nas’s “Illmatic,” of all things. Archimedes sat with his sunglasses still on and a smirk on his face.

“Oh dear,” Jane said.

“What is he doing?” I hissed.

“He’s pushing things. It’s what he does. He must feel that tyrannical spiel of the driver’s warrants testing.”

“He’s gonna get thrown off!”

Archimedes leaned forward and quietly said, “Perhaps. Not to worry, though. We always end up where we need to be.” Just as he said that, the bus came to a violent stop on the shoulder of the highway and the driver was walking the aisle like a shark in chummed waters. She came straight back to our section.

“So. Who is getting off my bus?” Silence. Archimedes sat with the same smirk still on his face, leaving no doubt as to who the culprit was.

“I’ll ask again, WHO THE HELL IS GETTING OFF MY BUS?” she said. Archimedes stood up, blew her a kiss, and sauntered out. Jane sighed and stood up to follow. I realized I hadn’t gotten her contact info. Just as she was at the door, she turned and looked back at me impatiently. “Well, are you coming or not?” She asked.

I got up and hurried after them.

To be continued…

Contact Seth Murray at [email protected].