It was raining. Raining, like only it could in London. Just like in those films, where rain often doubles for a feeling of ‘intensity’ or ‘oppressive atmosphere’. ‘Blade Runner…that’s the movie…” Christana thought… ‘it was always so oppressive”. She was sat on a bus, barely keeping herself awake. “Pure heavy rain”.
This was her normal bus route – the 381 that went past and below London Bridge, through some of the more archaic streets in London. In the summer, the same streets, low bridges and Victorian architecture may have contained an anachronistic beauty. On a bus, on a Thursday night in November, when it was raining – there was no beauty. Just an oppressive loneliness.
Christana looked out the window, on a seat ¾ of the way up the right side of the bus, with a young girl sitting beside her. She usually ignored the people beside her, but had actually noticed that this young (probably 16 or 17) girl had her music on loud enough so that everyone close to her could hear it. It sounded like some awful R’n’B. Christana sighed and put her own MP3 Player on – preferring something more classical – Chopin – Nocturnes perhaps. She looked around and out the window.
Looking through the rain soaked windows, the night gradually became a blur – she could make out street light with their slightly smudged back glow, streets blurring into one as the bus drove past them and washed out faces of strangers. The faces of the strangers were one of the many things that the rain in London tended to distort the most dramatically. That and the stars. The thing she missed most about living in London were the stars.
Staring out the window, Christana began to think about the evening. She was exhausted from work. Her job was not particularly taxing mentally – she was a secretary in a large law firm, but she was worked hard. At 38 she maintained some of her youthful looks, but had begun to think that life in the city gave her a worn out look. Combine this with the rain, and the words ‘washed out’ may sprung to mind. Christana had a plain black trouser suit and blue shirt, both were damp from the rain – her cheap umbrella protected her only slightly.
Christana continued to stare out the window, wondering where the exhaustion came from. She supposed it was a combination of poor quality sleep – she found it hard to sleep alone – and lack of exercise. While being of a slim build, she never exercised and relied more on falling asleep because there was nothing better to do, rather any sense of innate tiredness.
Christana saw two dark spots on the window – darker than the rest and supposed they were drops of water. Then she realised they were not moving. Christana stared at the dark spots, blinked and realised that they were not outside the bus – it was the depth perception confusing her mind. She blinked again and began to focus on the dark circles – then, slowly, she realised that she was looking at eyes.
The eyes were on the bus, it was the reflection of a young man, 20 or so, who was looking at her. Staring. The strange thing was, the eyes were not moving or blinking. The bus was moving and jerking along with the usual irregular pace, certainly she felt her own head moving around, but this man (or was it boy?) was totally immovable.
She looked at him, for the first time, in the face. He was not looking at her – apparently he was staring at the same space on the bus as before. But Christana did not think that he was – well – really there. He was stood on his own, at a slightly strange angle, but did not seem to be affected by the bus at all. Christana was worried, just ‘creeped’ out. The bus jerked to a stop. The boy didn’t move, several people moved past him as if he didn’t exist. Christana felt ill, and needed to get up.
About 30 seconds later, she stood up and got a full view of the man – he was dressed in plain black suit, black shoes, black over coat, had black hair (long, slightly pulled back behind his neck through being damp) and he held a black scarf. He was not very pale, but looked a bit like he spent a too much time indoors. As she walked down the bus, slightly off balance, she glanced at his face – she noticed he had a small tattoo on his neck, or rather, it was the start of a larger tattoo.
As she looked at the tattoo which ran from behind his right ear and down his neck, she realised that it got bigger as it progressed towards his collar. It was totally blank ink – like the eyes – and then noticed that he was actually craning his neck. He was craning it so that she could see more and more of the tattoo. It was curved parabolically and looked like it could have been the curved tip of a blade of some kind.
As soon as she realised that he was moving his head – he jerked it towards her – looking her square in the eye as she walked past. Christana was momentarily surprised as the man glared at her, his eyes widening. Time seemed to slow down as she moved past him.
Utter fear gripped her, the black eyes widened and everything seemed to dissolve. The man’s clothes and hair seemed to melt off – Christana was rooted to the spot.
He stood in front of her naked, turning his back slowly so she could see the full extent of the tattoo – beginning with a large and black scythe. The rest of the tattoo (or was it a painting?) was dominated by Deaths shimmering figure with a black hood covering most of his face. Death was beautiful in his intensity and the tattoo seemed alive.
The man jerked around and stared at Christana, his body fully in front of her. Flames seemed to pour from his face, heat enveloped her and Christana collapsed weak in the knees. She felt blackness envelop her and slowly, what she vaguely thought would be the last time, she thought of nothing but searing pain.
Christana woke up – faces stared at her with a mixture of shock and confusion. It took her 30 seconds to realise they were all holding her, offering her water and chattering. The bus had stopped.
“Are you okay?”
“Here take some water”
“Miss – do you want a medic?”
Christana struggled to her feet, her body was still burning. She had saw death and lived. What did it mean? She got up; people looked at her, now thinking she was clearly mentally ill.
Her body, hair, even soul, all burned, and she realised she had to get off. She tried to say something, but her throat felt like it was melting. All she needed was to cool down – put the fire out – and it hit her, she needed the rain.
Christana pushed out and past the crowd – she was lying right where she thought the man was, and stepped into the street. All of a sudden, her body cooled – the pain eased.
As the rain washed over her, she felt calm; she opened her mouth, drank some of the London rain water and breathed heavily.
It was now she realised she was sweating too. The sweat and rain water mixed and she felt her body begin to cool back to something normal. As this happened, Christana sighed and felt her pulse – it was at least double the speed.
Christana looked around – she was a 30 minute walk from her house. She stood for 5 minutes, and set off home, with no idea what had happened.
The walk took 45 minutes – not the usual 30.
Christana entered her house and looked at her mirror – she looked awful. As tiredness over took her, she stumbled into bed and slept, fully clothed and soaking wet.
The Metro 18-11-2011
Tragedy in London last night as a fire on a bus killed 5 people. Police believe the fire was caused by a collision between the bus and a petrol tanker. The collision occurred due to the tanker skidding on its way round a bend. Due to the poor conditions, neither the bus nor the tanker were able to stop and the collision caused fuel to spill.
Detectives are unsure as to what caused the spark, but say that their condolences are with the families. Of the 17 passengers on the bus, the 5 who died were all sitting on the right hand side, where the collision took place.
The bus was the 381 travelling and was ahead of schedule…
Christana woke the next day, 17 hours after she had slept, and put on the news.
There was a knock on her door, she looked out the side window and could see the silhouette of a man, dressed all in black with a tattoo on his neck.
Christana looked at her mirror. The following words were etched on it:
“your time will come”