WritersBeat.com
 

Go Back   WritersBeat.com > Write Here > Fiction

Fiction Novel excerpts, short stories, etc.


A ghost story: The Passenger

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 08-29-2015, 12:24 AM
bcderbyshire (Offline)
Scribbler
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 30
Thanks: 4
Thanks 5
Default A ghost story: The Passenger


The bus driver swore softly but happily to himself as he peered into the tunnel of light his bus was throwing out ahead. Another late shift in out of season Cornwall. Another waste of time. Another run without a single passenger on board. Not that he cared. Passengers were an occupational hazard. He could live without them, particularly the old and infirm. He hated waiting while they dragged themselves onto the bus and fumbled for passes and change. He amused himself by waiting until they were almost sat, then starting off with a jolt and helping them into their seats. The truth was, he could live without people altogether. He drove buses because, apart from the inconvenience of taking money and handing out tickets, he could keep his own counsel. For a few hours a day he would be busy; the rest of the time he would sometimes drive for miles completely alone. Then he was at his happiest. Sometimes dreary old women came on and wanted to chat, but one look was usually enough to send them scuttling to their seats. Twirleys, the drivers called them, because every morning they would present their passes and say: “Am I too early?” He had other names for them.

He lived alone in a shabby bedsit, because he had no ambition to live anywhere better, nor any friends to entertain there. Other people lived in the house but he never spoke to them, and they had given up trying to speak to him. When he got home he would lock his door and slip the key into his pocket. Then he would open a tin, or put something in the microwave, for his supper. That and a can of cold, cheap lager. He dined alone, drank alone and smiled alone at private pleasures.

Driving an empty bus at fifty miles an hour down winding country lanes at midnight held its pleasures too. Truro was still three quarters of an hour away. Now he was contained in his own speeding, swaying, rattling, hissing, illuminated world without the need to worry about the safety and comfort of any one but himself. Even the road signs immersed him deeper in this magical world. Cubert, Holywell, Perranzabuloe – the names spoke of ancient Celtic mysteries hidden in the impenetrable darkness beyond the glowing Cornish hedges, firing his imagination.

He knew, of course, that these weren’t hedges at all. These tall grassy or leafy barriers which streamed past, plunging back into darkness, were actually dry-stone walls, overgrown with time, deceptive and treacherous, ready to tear the side out of any vehicle which dared to venture too close. But they held no fears for him. He had travelled this route so many times its twists and hills and hairpin bends had become conquered enemies who shrank back as he sped past, inches from disaster. He imagined how his bus must seem to any poor soul standing waiting in the cold: a noisy, glowing, welcome haven of warmth and comfort. He hoped if there was anyone out there they would neglect to put their hands out so he could justifiably race past and leave them to their fate.

He glanced up at the empty seats reflected in the interior mirror.

What was that?

He instinctively looked back at the road, steadying himself, then back at the mirror. No, the bus was definitely empty. Yet for a moment there, just for a second, he had thought he had seen a man sitting at the back.

He shrugged and swore again. He must be getting tired. It had been a long day – too long – at the end of a long week, and now he was on the last leg. That was it. A reflection which his mind had shaped into a passenger. He stared again into the lit road ahead. Where was he? Had he missed that last turn? Ah, no. There it was! He smiled at his own stupidity and started to hum tunelessly, pushing away the vague sense of unease which had crept into his thoughts. Still that bright tunnel snaked before him.

Fancy his mind playing a trick like that! But that was tiredness and the night for you. It was like a sailor seeing monsters in the great black desert of the sea. He smiled at the analogy. He was a landlocked sailor, riding tarmac swells and spying serpents in the foaming hedges.

He glanced up at the mirror again, and slammed the brakes on so hard he almost lost control. The bus shuddered and stalled. For a few moments he sat trembling in the eerie silence, his eyes screwed shut. He had seen him again. A dark figure right at the back of the bus, head bowed, black collar pulled up.

He opened his eyes again and slowly turned around. The bus was empty.

He got up, knees trembling, and opened the low door which separated him from the passengers. With his heart beating so hard he could feel it through his jacket he walked to the back of the bus, half expecting someone to leap out from behind a seat. But there wasn’t a soul there. He searched twice just to make sure, then went back to the front, still shaking, and started the bus.

He sat without moving, trying to make up his mind what to do. The bus throbbed around him, occasionally releasing a hiss of air which sounded exactly like feet being dragged across the floor towards him. But there was nobody there. His search told him that, and the mirror confirmed it. Nobody. He was still half an hour away from Truro, and he didn’t expect to pick up any passengers on the way. He could either sit here and watch the mirror until his hands stopped trembling, or he could carry on through the lonely, empty dark until he reached the orange street lights of civilisation. He moved off. The sooner he finished tonight, the better.

He fought against glancing up or back, keeping his eyes firmly on the road. His driving was suffering, he knew. Everything had become unreal, as if he had fallen asleep at the wheel and was dreaming these lanes and walls. He blinked rapidly and slapped himself hard around his face. The stinging pain told him he was awake, but he still needed to keep telling himself these high granite hedges were real, and that any mistake could easily be fatal. He gripped the wheel tightly, leaning forward, staring into the dream. He needed all his concentration now just to keep on the road, so he was able to ignore whatever may or may not be happening behind him. The road straightened for a while and he was able to relax a little. Immediately, against his will, his eyes shot up to the mirror.

The passenger was still there. But this time he had moved forward one seat. The driver turned and looked back. The bus was empty. Yet there he was in the mirror, head bowed, black and silent.

The driver was gripped by terror. Though the autumn night was cold, sweat trickled into his eyes. He was holding the wheel so tight his knuckles were turning white. Now he daren’t stop. Now he daren’t look anywhere but at the road.

And which road was it? He tried to remember where he had turned last. Nothing looked right. The road was twisting in a way he couldn’t recall. Was he lost? Surely not! Surely not that as well! Not lost! He carried relentlessly on, hoping he would come to a landmark or a sign which would tell him where he was. But there was nothing. Just the endless road, the roaring bubble of light which sped blindly down it, and the dark passenger in the mirror.

He looked up again, and the passenger had moved another seat forward. He felt the last of the blood drain from his face as he pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator, willing the bus to go faster, to get him back to street lights and people.

His heart was battering against his ribs. His mouth was so dry he couldn’t have spoken if he had wanted to. But there was nothing he wanted to say to this… this spook sitting in a pool of his own shadow, two rows from the back of the bus.

No, not two rows. Three now. He had moved again. Slowly but surely he was moving closer. What did he want? Who was he? What was he doing on a bus of all things? Ghosts glide through walls and drift through graveyards. They don’t ride on buses.

They passed through a tiny village – nothing more than a dozen houses. A bleak, empty place of lichen-blotched granite, with a gaunt old church and a shuttered pub, where dead leaves scuttled across the road like hungry spiders. He didn’t see a name anywhere. He was completely lost. So much so that he didn’t even know which direction he was going. All he could do now was keep going until he found a main road and a helpful sign.

He couldn’t bear to look in the mirror again, but neither could he bear not to. The passenger was getting closer. He could feel him. A cold, lonely, malevolence, oozing like steam from the black coat. When he could no longer resist, he glanced up again. Sure enough, the passenger was closer, head still lowered, obscuring his face. Yet when he looked away he could feel dead eyes watching him.

They careered on along strange lanes, the sides of the bus scraping occasionally against walls when he misjudged the road, low branches banging and scraping the roof, air brakes still hissing like someone shuffling towards him. He prayed. He had never believed in anything beyond himself, but now he prayed. For a Police car. For a road sign. For a wide main road with street lights glowing orange and a board saying “Welcome To Truro”.

He looked again. Another seat forward. Slowly, stealthily, the creature was moving closer. Now he could see the mottled greenish scalp through the thin hair, and bony black-nailed hands crossed over the chest. He could also smell something damp and mouldering.

Another village loomed up out of its enveloping darkness. Another unnamed huddle of granite cottages; another black, haunted pile of a church, waiting like a sleeping animal behind its crumbling wall and shattered lych-gate.
Then it was gone, and the featureless road threw itself past them as they sped blindly on, scraping the walls and bouncing dangerously off the curb. Everything now was light and shadow and fear. Nothing else existed for him but the bus, the night, the road and the passenger.

Mile upon mile, roaring like a fabled creature breathing fire into the dark, the bus continued its winding, mad flight into the unknown. All the driver could do was to try desperately to keep it on the road. All he could feel was horror, bubbling through him as if his flesh was melting into his seat. All he could see was the tunnel ahead and the creature behind him.

The bell rang.

He slammed his foot on the brake, far too hard, almost losing control. The bus shuddered and squealed to a halt, rumbling in protest. He looked through the doors. They had stopped outside the grey silent mist-girt walls of a cemetery. In the thin light from the bus he could make out a pair of rusting gates hanging from tall decaying pillars. Beyond them rows of headstones rose from the vapour and the rank yellowing grass like spectres, waiting for their own. Unable to turn his head, he pressed the button to open the door. It hesitated for a long moment, as if it was stuck, then it opened with a crash.

The seat directly behind him creaked as someone stood. The smell of mould grew stronger. He waited, white with horror. The passenger moved awkwardly to the step, scraping his feet, as if they were twisted. Under his black, stained jacket his bones seemed to jut and swivel unnaturally. Nothing about him was straight. The floor was wet where he had walked. He turned and looked directly into the driver’s face. Even though the yellowing opaque eyes were sunken in their sockets and the top lip had begun to curl back, exposing blackening gums, he recognised him. He recognised the cold emptiness of that gaze, the deep lines on that forehead, the immeasurable isolation of that long-dead heart. Then the passenger sighed deeply, stepped off the bus and walked towards the gates, where slowly he disappeared. The driver shut the doors and stamped his foot down hard.

The last thing he knew, as he tore around a blind bend into the undipped headlights of an oncoming lorry, was that he had seen his own corpse leave the bus.


Last edited by bcderbyshire; 08-31-2015 at 10:37 AM..
Reply With Quote
The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to bcderbyshire For This Useful Post:
Benjamin Andrew (08-31-2015), BluebellCharm (09-06-2015)
  #2  
Old 08-31-2015, 05:04 AM
Checker's Avatar
Checker (Offline)
Copyist
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Fl, USA
Posts: 52
Thanks: 0
Thanks 6
Default

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion.

First of all, I think it really needs more paragraph breaks.

Otherwise, this was absolutely excellent. Very, very good work. I felt like I was reading one of the more mature King novels. Just wow.

What you could work on, however, is a touch more visual imagery. I noticed various places where I would have personally included more stylistic descriptions of the protagonist's surroundings, an example of this being when you were describing the road signs in the 4th or so paragraph - I would have described in some detail (enough, but not too much, as to not upset the rhythm of the piece).

Overall, an excellent start to something I would definitely read in full if it stayed this sort of quality.

I'm sorry that I could not help more.


-Checker
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-31-2015, 10:31 AM
bcderbyshire (Offline)
Scribbler
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 30
Thanks: 4
Thanks 5
Default

Thank you so much, Checker, for your thoughtful and encouraging critique of The Passenger. I really appreciate it. It's hard sometimes when you just get praise from your loved ones rather than unbiased constructive criticism.

I'll bear in mind everything you said, and when I get the chance I'll go back to it. At the moment I'm still finishing 2 novels while trying to get a new business off the ground, so time's short!

The Passenger was always intended as a short story. I first thought it up when I was driving an empty bus at night in Cornwall. I scared myself so much I thought it would be worth writing down.

Please take a look at Mousehead - I've posted chapter 1 in two halves. That's a completed novel I've recently published on Kindle Books.

Do you have anything posted I could look at?
__________________
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=node%3D341689031&field-keywords=mousehead
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-31-2015, 11:29 AM
Benjamin Andrew's Avatar
Benjamin Andrew (Offline)
Abnormally Articulate
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Huntsville Alabama
Posts: 116
Thanks: 23
Thanks 26
Icon7 Great Story!

Wow, this was an amazing story. Your writing reminds me of Stephen Crane; especially his book, The Red Badge of Courage.

I liked this part in the story a lot, "No, not two rows. Three now. He had moved again. Slowly but surely he was moving closer. What did he want? Who was he? What was he doing on a bus of all things? Ghosts glide through walls and drift through graveyards. They don’t ride on buses." Your descriptions were great, and the image was perfect.

The only flaws I found were grammatical. There were a few "buts" that needed commas.

Other than that, this story is perfect. Keep up the good work!
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 09-01-2015, 03:09 AM
bcderbyshire (Offline)
Scribbler
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 30
Thanks: 4
Thanks 5
Default

Thank you Benjamin! It's amazing to get these positive comments. They mean a lot. Writing can be a lonely occupation, putting stuff out there and hoping someone will be somehow moved by it.

Again I'll say, give Mousehead a go. As far as I'm concerned it's the best I've written - though of course I could be wrong. It's been read a lot of times here, but only one cryptic comment so far.
__________________
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=node%3D341689031&field-keywords=mousehead
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 09-01-2015, 03:21 AM
IanG (Offline)
Word Wizard
Official Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 514
Thanks: 18
Thanks 113
Default

Your descriptive style is very evocative and the plot gripped me from early on. Keep writing.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 09-01-2015, 03:31 AM
pswgear's Avatar
pswgear (Offline)
Word Wizard
Official Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Posts: 564
Thanks: 150
Thanks 121
Send a message via Skype™ to pswgear
Default

Nicely done.

A few points though:
-first paragraph goes on too long
-you say the bus stalls but when the driver searches the back of the bus it's clearly implied the bus is still running
-at one point you writer careering instead of careening.

Really nice writing.
__________________
Hey, look, I have a
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
where I do more things with words. Born in San Francisco. Grew up in SC. 8 years in Baltimore. 1 year & counting in Germany.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 09-01-2015, 11:19 AM
bcderbyshire (Offline)
Scribbler
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 30
Thanks: 4
Thanks 5
Default

Thank you IanG and pswgear. Just one point in my defense though - he restarts the bus after it stalls!
__________________
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=node%3D341689031&field-keywords=mousehead
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 09-01-2015, 11:42 AM
pswgear's Avatar
pswgear (Offline)
Word Wizard
Official Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Posts: 564
Thanks: 150
Thanks 121
Send a message via Skype™ to pswgear
Default

Ah, you're right - caught it the second time.
__________________
Hey, look, I have a
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
where I do more things with words. Born in San Francisco. Grew up in SC. 8 years in Baltimore. 1 year & counting in Germany.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 09-01-2015, 01:43 PM
Checker's Avatar
Checker (Offline)
Copyist
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Fl, USA
Posts: 52
Thanks: 0
Thanks 6
Default

Originally Posted by bcderbyshire View Post
Thank you so much, Checker, for your thoughtful and encouraging critique of The Passenger. I really appreciate it. It's hard sometimes when you just get praise from your loved ones rather than unbiased constructive criticism.

I'll bear in mind everything you said, and when I get the chance I'll go back to it. At the moment I'm still finishing 2 novels while trying to get a new business off the ground, so time's short!

Do you have anything posted I could look at?
I'm very glad that you found it to be of some use!

Though I'd normally consider reading and critiquing someone else's work to be a reward in and of itself, I do happen to have something I recently posted here that I'd like your opinion on (if you wouldn't mind, of course).

http://www.writersbeat.com/showthread.php?t=57918

I'll definitely check out Mousehead, by the way!
__________________
"So you are going to relax, cher ami. You are determined to hide your trembling, achieve a few moments of silence, begin smoking one of your delightful cigarettes, and then after this appropriate expenditure of precious time and in the midst of your composure, then you will attempt to dissuade me, to talk me back to sanity (as you will express the idea), to appeal to my kindness and good sense. I approve. I am listening. The hour is yours. But of course you may use the lighter. Only reach for it slowly and keep in mind my warning. Do not be deceived by my good nature. I am as serious as a sheet of flame."
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 09-02-2015, 06:02 AM
Benjamin Andrew's Avatar
Benjamin Andrew (Offline)
Abnormally Articulate
Official Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Huntsville Alabama
Posts: 116
Thanks: 23
Thanks 26
Icon1

Originally Posted by bcderbyshire View Post
Thank you Benjamin! It's amazing to get these positive comments. They mean a lot. Writing can be a lonely occupation, putting stuff out there and hoping someone will be somehow moved by it.

Again I'll say, give Mousehead a go. As far as I'm concerned it's the best I've written - though of course I could be wrong. It's been read a lot of times here, but only one cryptic comment so far.
I'll take a look at Mousehead. Thanks for telling me about it.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 09-06-2015, 12:59 PM
BluebellCharm (Offline)
Intellectually Fertile
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 157
Thanks: 74
Thanks 25
Default

Loved this!! I have a tendency to get bored very quickly if something doesn't hold my attention, but this had me gripped. It was very easy to read.

Excellent!
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 09-06-2015, 06:35 PM
risk10 (Offline)
Scribbling Master
Official Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 781
Thanks: 163
Thanks 280
Default

Let me start of by saying this is the best piece of writing by a WB "noobie" I have read in a long, long time.

Character was great. Descriptions were spot on. Fantastic flow in the story during the middle section and you built the dread nicely.

You also have an imaginative and unique style to your description. My personal favourite was the leaves that scurried like hungry spiders. Wonderful!

I think there can be improvements. There are quite a few grammatical errors throughout this piece, but I feel you are of a standard that you may already know this and should be able to spot and vanquish them with a thorough read through.

Somebody already mentioned the over-long first paragraph. I will go one more and say you need to jump into the story quicker. I think you establish the 'loner' mentality of the driver quickly and the part about his bedsit is a great way to illustrate this. The more mundane explanation of "he doesn't like people" stalls the story. The beginning is so important, and I feel you could tighten this up.

I think you tend to overwrought the description in some places. You clearly have a gift with regard to painting a picture, so there is no need to add extra brush strokes where they are not needed (again spoils the flow). As an example:

"His heart was battering against his ribs. His mouth was so dry he couldn’t have spoken if he had wanted to. But there was nothing he wanted to say to this… this spook sitting in a pool of his own shadow, two rows from the back of the bus."

I can't tell you what to edit exactly, as there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of it, but I feel it is labored. If this were my piece, I might consider dropping the first sentence and removing the ellipsis from the second. I think you get what I mean.

This is minor, but given the high quality of your story, it sticks out. Reading aloud might help you identify those points where a "less is more" approach might work.

Finally, I am not sold on the ending. Is the driver a ghost from the start? He has seen a rotting corpse of himself, but is not dead? This would work if he is stuck in a "spirit loop" reliving his death over and over, and we are just reading the latest iteration. If this is the case, then it kinda works (the corpse sighing). But perhaps more pointers could be made to this (feelings of deja vu around the old villages; some feeling of inevitable dread welling up in the driver toward the end of his ordeal).

Anyway. I really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing.
__________________
TAKE THE RISK
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 09-06-2015, 11:39 PM
SoCoWordMachine's Avatar
SoCoWordMachine (Offline)
Typist
Official Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Colorado
Posts: 73
Thanks: 15
Thanks 18
Default

I'm usually bored by these types of stories, I always feel like "horror" stories struggle desperately to put new spins on tired cliches, and the endings tend to be pretty obvious.

I liked this story, though.

Pacing was the strong point IMO, with some pretty great imagery/simile/metaphor as well.

I'll admit that I didn't find the story-line itself to be anything too spectacular.

"Guy in an empty bus. Creepy ghoul in the mirror gets closer and closer. Holy shit, the ghost is himself! Guy (supposedly) dies minutes later."

When you put the story into plot points like that, it seems like it could be anyone's story. Fortunately, your fantastic story-telling kept me reading.

And hey, maybe I'm just a ghost-story cynic; but that's my two cents.
Reply With Quote
Reply

  WritersBeat.com > Write Here > Fiction


Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
might offend you jimr Fiction 4 02-20-2015 12:41 PM
first hour as a story begins, 1000 words max crash Writers' Cafe 2 12-08-2014 10:03 AM
Crime and Suspense (Mystery) Jay Writing Markets 0 11-02-2006 05:53 PM
QWF: Quality Women's Fiction Jay Writing Markets 3 06-07-2006 02:08 PM


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:34 PM.

vBulletin, Copyright © 2000-2006, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.