We must have turned northward sometime in the night, because the sun burst through the bus window as soon as it refracted above the horizon, and with that, my rest was over. The girl next to me stirred, but stayed asleep, burying her head against my arm. The night before, she’d looked nauseated at the thought of having to sit next to me, but all the other seats were full and the doors had closed and we’d already pulled away from the station. Nobody else on the bus was making eye contact with her, either, as she pleaded silently for someone to throw themselves on the proverbial sword of my companionship, so she had to choice but to sit down and hope that whatever it was about me didn’t rub off on her. And now she was curled up against me like I was her protector. Any port in a storm, I guess.
The slow awakening of the rest of the passengers finally reached my seatmate, and she jerked herself awake, glaring at me accusingly. At the sight of my hands jammed deep into the pockets of my jacket, she reddened, albeit slightly. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. You’re not the first to give me that look.”
She looked down at her hands, then back up to me. “I, uh, need to go use the, y’know. Could you watch my bag?”
I nodded, and she got up to use the y’know. It’s funny, isn’t it, how we feel compelled to make up for perceived social slights by doing things that would be in another context pretty stupid, like asking a complete stranger to protect our possessions. She didn’t have anything worth stealing in there, not unless I needed some Lexapro, but the street value of that was crap.
Of course I looked.
Whatever bond we’d developed during our little interaction had waned by the time she came back from the bathroom, and it had completely dissipated by the time she’d muttered a quick thanks and I’d nodded.
The rest of the bus ride was quiet, the muted tones of uncomfortable people broken every so often by some big fat guy who didn’t understand that his laugh was a little jarring this early in the morning. Not for the first time, I wondered what it would feel like to kill someone. I was curious as to what that much fat looked like when sliced open – would it be like an untrimmed roast – but if I found out, they’d never leave me alone, and I wanted that more than I wanted to shut that fucker up.
I couldn’t remember where the bus was scheduled to stop next. Cheyenne? Minneapolis? Traverse City? I hoped it wasn’t Minneapolis. Too crowded. Probably should have looked at the ticket when I’d bought it. I watched for road signs, but there weren’t any, other than some rusted mile markers. 229. 230. 231.
At some point just after we passed 235, there was a thump, and the bus lurched to the side. The rapid fwap-fwap-fwap sound coming from the right rear of the bus was a jarring as the fat man’s laugh to most of the passengers, but I found it soothing. I’d be able to get off this dingy coffin on wheels before we got to anywhere too crowded. I needed air.
Once the bus stopped, we all got off – the driver, the fat man, the depressed girl next to me, and the rest of the human debris that rode buses to Cheyappolis City in the middle of the night. Most folks pulled out their phones and tried to call someone or another, but we were too far from anywhere for any of the calls to go through. The fat man made another joke, and most everyone laughed, nervous and edgy.
I shifted my grip on the knife I’d been clutching in my pocket. We were alone now, all of us together, and maybe soon, just me alone. I strode over to the depressed girl and slit her throat. It wasn’t her fault she’d had to sit next to me, and she’d been nice enough. She didn’t need to watch the rest.
But I’d do that laughing bastard last.