as he pulled Aaron Evermore’s lifeless body off the desert
road. His left arm throbbed again and a numbing pain traveled
from arm to chest. He spat a black, mucous filled glob of liquid
onto a cactus and then wiped the sandy sweat from his brows.
His blood-filled eyes stung as he spotted a big enough sage-bush.
With renewed vigor, he pulled his victim farther away from
Charlie dropped the top half of Aaron’s body behind the bush, bent over and
coughed hard. He then slammed his knees into the sand and began to dig.
He yanked the body by the feet and dumped it into the grave. Heavy handfuls
of sand were first dumped over the face, then over the rest of the body, and
only when the numbness in his left arm turned to pain again, did he stop pounding
It was finally over. He would go home alone, pretend he didn’t know anything,
collect the insurance, and live fat. Just like last time—until that money ran
out. However, right now, only one problem: getting away. He was in the middle
of nowhere in the dead of the night. Since he had ditched the bike—along with
the knife—a few miles back, he would have to thumb it.
His left arm throbbed to numbness again. Suddenly, a red dust ball filled the
air near the highway. He ignored his arm and lumbered toward the highway, thanking
God for the luck he had just received. The bloody dust on the road cleared
to reveal a flesh-colored mini-bus.
“Red Lines,” Charlie
whispered as he gazed upon the flashing red title with a vermilion
light oscillating on a sideways “S” underneath.
The bus doors opened, sounding like a parched mouth parting from cracked lips.
Charlie gripped the doorframe to steady himself. The odd metal, a hint of red
mixed in with the steel, felt rubbery and vibrated against his palm.
Sunken eyes held in place by an ashen face stared at him from behind the steering
wheel as he climbed into the bus. For a second Charlie thought of backing out,
but, as if the bus or driver sensed this, the doors slammed shut, sealing his
fate. The driver wore a stained, dark red uniform, the words “Gus” etched in
red on his pocket in the same manner as the lettering on the side of the bus.
Charlie dug in his pants jean pocket and came up empty.
“You’ll pay at the end,” the driver said in a grating voice
With each step toward the back of the empty bus, the air became hotter and
a strange coppery taste wetted Charlie’s tongue. Charlie likened it to walking
into a salty-aired sauna. I’m jumping off this Hell-ride at the first town,
man. Then, play dumb, live rich.
He sat and eased his head back and concentrated on the scenery as the bus slowly
picked up speed. The red pulsing of the “S” on the side of the bus cast an
eerie glow on the sand, cacti, and various desert brush off the highway. It
was as if someone were spraying blood toward the highway edge from the bottom
of the bus every few feet. Suddenly, he felt a slight prick in the back of
his neck but the pins-and-needles building in his left arm overshadowed that
momentary pain. Charlie found his eyes drooping . .
He bolted up, shaking and sweating. The pulsing light seemed brighter and redder
the moment he awoke, but then as his eyes adjusted he realized it must have
been just his imagination. He directed his eyes on the side window and grasped
the seat rests even tighter.
Pitch-black outside. How long had he been asleep?
His eyes drooped
and his body felt heavy Sweat dripped down the middle of his
neck, tickling him. He reached back and froze. He jerked his
neck around to see a fleshy, blue and red-veined protrusion,
with countless cilia traversing the outside, flicking back
and forth from the back of his seat, its bulbous head engorged
with blood—his blood The creature’s body glugged down his blood
and through blurry eyes Charlie followed his blood as it diffused
through the back of the bus and disappeared downward. With
each suck of blood, a puff of red smoke would brush up against
the outside back window.
Charlie wanted to scream but could only manage to lean on the seat in front
of him and moan as his chest erupted in great stabbing pains. Through short
desperate breaths, Charlie labored toward the front exit. With his last ounce
of strength, he tried to push Gus aside but Gus just turned to face Charlie
and flashed him with a yellow gap-toothed smile. Charlie caught a rush of wind
from behind and turned just in time to see the large, blood-guzzling vermicule
snap toward him like a rattlesnake lunging after a rabbit. Charlie opened his
mouth in surprise and the creature plunged in.
The creature traveled down his throat and Charlie felt its many cilia stabbing
into his throat, each finger-like projection serving as a tiny cylindrical
blood pump. As the rest of his blood drained from his body, Charlie’s dismal
life flashed before his eyes, and he tried to attach himself to a memory: anything
good, anything wholesome, worthwhile, or—
His shell flopped to the ground.
Refueled, Gus clapped
his hands together, jumped back into the driver’s seat, and
drove the bus off the road and into the desert. The bus stopped
and shit out Charlie Evermore’s shell—skin, muscle, organs,
and bones—on the sand next to a sage bush.
Gus backed the bus onto the road again, and continued on the journey, for as
long as fuel remained plentiful and cheap, there would always be work to do.
# # #
Suck-U-Bus by Gary
published July 28, 2008