Riding the X12 bus home after another dispiriting day at the office usually brought Robert at least some grain of comfort. Not today though. It was just after 6pm on a wild November night with gusts of wind so strong, they shook the bus like a terrier with a rat. Reminded of the Twilight Zone episode where an airplane passenger looks out his window during a storm-racked flight to see a monster on the wing tearing it to shreds, Robert shivered, pulled his anorak tighter around his neck and studiously stared ahead at the CCTV monitor as it flicked from upstairs to down. There was something wrong with the colour, as though it was being leeched out of the screen leaving only a jaundiced, sepia tint. Just like my life, he thought.
He turned to the Metro newspaper article he’d been tussling with all the way from Corstorphine, but it was no use. He was thinking as usual about Jenny, his darling wife, who had not only just told him she was in love with another man, but was pregnant with his child.
That had ‘brought things to a head’ she’d said, smiling faintly, as though her adulterous coupling had been some sort of boil that she was desperate to pop. But she was the one who was going to do the popping in eight months or so. It wasn’t as though she was some prize pig either. Robert couldn’t for the life of him work out where his shy, dowdy, little wife had met her fertile Romeo never mind why he’d been attracted to her.
It wasn’t as though she worked for a living, Robert had seen to that. He’d insisted she stay home and taken care of her every need. Or at least, that’s what he’d thought. Clearly he’d turned out to be a bit of a disappointment between the sheets. Images of the pair in a hundred different positions came unbidden as they always did, searing themselves into his brain. The bitch had actually told him that she hadn’t wanted kids, but apparently she had.
Just not Robert’s.
Round and round on the vicious cycle merry-go-round. When would it end? Christ he needed to pull himself together. He heard a faint, insectile whine and looked up at the monitor again. He couldn’t tell which part of the bus the camera was spying on because the picture had distorted as though it was being stretched. But that wasn’t it either, because as he watched, Robert could see what looked like a face forming, with sharp humanoid features and long gleaming eyes. The lipless mouth opened impossibly wide as though in a silent scream.
Was that what the whine was?
The wind rocked the bus as it rounded a sharp bend and Robert thought they were going to tip over. Good, he thought. It would be a relief if it ended here for all of them, here in the no man’s land of the A8 as it led away from the city into the enveloping dark. If his life was ruined everyone else’s should be too.
The alien head on the monitor had now developed serrated teeth the colour of old dishwater. Was it smiling for Christ’s sake? It was almost as though it could hear his thoughts. Was that even possible? Had his distress driven him over an edge that he couldn’t even see any more, much less scramble back onto.
Free me, it said, voice like the tinkling of tiny, malevolent bells. Free it? And then what? His head felt heavy as though he’d been drinking all day as opposed to the four pints with whisky chasers he’d downed in quick succession during his lunch-hour, uncaring of the consequences.
Free me. Kill them all.
“What, all of them?” Robert asked aloud, prompting curious looks from his fellow passengers.
Robert thought for a moment. He wasn’t a monster godammit.
“Can we start with the fat guy at the back and just see how it goes?”