I woke up to the sound of thunder, still sleepy. The sky was dark. I was alarmed. I got late for my bus. I was late by 4 hours. I must have slept through the alarm. 15 alarms, each separated by 5 minutes. I started to pack my bags hoping to at least catch the last bus to my hometown. I boarded the bus. I was lucky enough to get a single-sided sleeper seat on a double-decker bus. I was praying to not get stuck with a double-sided sleeper on the other side of the bus. Who would like to sleep with a stranger anyway? My seat was on the topmost deck of the bus. It was 12 in the midnight. I slept as soon as the bus started. After some time the bus made a sudden halt which woke me up.
I opened my curtain to check what happened. All the neighbouring curtain was closed. It did not look like any commotion so I went back to sleep. I was half asleep when I realised that for half an hour the bus did not move. I tried to look through my window. I could not see anything as it was foggy on the other side. I wanted to check it out. I was stumbling to get my shoes. I could not find it. It was so cold inside the bus. I just wanted to wrap myself in a blanket and sleep till eternity. But I had to know why the bus is not moving. I decided to go without shoes.
I climbed downstairs on the bus. For some reason, the stairs of the bus looked never-ending. I thought that I must be still very sleepy. I finally reached the bottom compartment of the bus and walked up to the driver's seat. I was astonished. There was no driver. I started to wonder why other passengers did not notice this. I decided to check with one of the passengers. I raised the curtain, there was nobody, I raised the next curtain, there was nobody. I started to freak out when I realised that I was the only one on the bus. I thought of checking outside of the bus. The bus was parked on the side of the road. I checked the surrounding area but did not find anyone.
I tried to board the bus but the door closed on its own. I took a stone nearby the road, broke the bus window and retrieved my baggage. I felt like a badass when I heard the glass shatter. It was very cold outside and I could not bear the climate. I had two options, either investigate the surroundings and find out what went wrong or simply have the don't give a fuck attitude and go sleep on an inhabited bus at an unknown place. The first choice seemed to be a smart one. I started to investigate around the bus to get some clues. 10 minutes later I was in front of the bus when I heard a rumbling sound.
It was the sound of the engine starting. I was frozen. I could see clearly that there was no driver, yet the bus started on its own and started to accelerate. Now, if you think about it I again only have two options. Either I board the bus or I don't. If I board the bus I would be travelling alone with a ghost as my driver. If I don't board the bus I would be stuck in a no man's land in this cold climate. I chose the second option. I would rather die in cold than to go on a journey with a ghost being my bus driver.
The driverless bus took off and I started to shiver. There were no buildings, motels or a place to stay for the night. I checked my phone to call but there was no signal. I discovered that there was a small town nearby when I read the milestone at the side of the road. It read “Harlington 2 km” I got some relief, but this relief is a pain in disguise. Walking 2 km in this climate is a painful task, but there was no other option for me. I started to walk as the wind started to blow against me. After some time I realised that I have walked 2 km and still there is no sign of any building. I wondered maybe it was 2 miles and not km. After walking for another couple of minutes I saw a milestone from far away. I started to walk fast to know where I was. The milestone read.“Harlington, 2 km” I peed inside my pants a little.
I was both confused and angry. How can the same milestone be there after walking for 2 kms? I started to examine the road. The road was similar to the road 2 km before. There were cracks in the road which I recognised immediately. However, I noticed that I was not tired. Not even a little. I wondered why. I came to a conclusion maybe I was daydreaming and started to walk again. After 2 km I again saw cracks on the road and saw the same milestone again. I got pissed off now. I cursed myself for taking the trip and started to beat me up literally. I wanted to wake up from my sleep. I ended up hurting myself. I had enough of this. This time I ran. I ran as hard as I could for the next two km. I saw a milestone again. It read “Harlington”. But this time instead of “2km” it read “4km”.
I was in disbelief. The running made my body ache and I was exhausted. I collapsed on the road and I stayed down for some time. Suddenly the road started to rumble. I tried to get up but my hands were too weak. I saw a car speeding towards me. It came in fast and I was on the way of the car. The car was so close to running me over. It stopped at the last moment. I tried to get up using the car’s bumper. First thing I checked whether the car was man-driven or ghost-driven.
The gentlemen in the car helped me get back up. “Why are you lying on the road? Are you drunk? Where do you want to go? Are you lost?” asked the two men continuously without letting me answer. They made me sit in the car and gave me a blanket to cover myself up. “Where do you want us to drop you?” one of the people asked. I answered, “Harlington please”. Both of them turned their faces to look at each other. I asked, “Is that place too far?”. One of them replied, “You are now standing in “Harlington”
I immediately looked at the milestone. It read “You are now in Harlington” “Well, its official now, something is wrong here,” I thought to myself. And suddenly out of nowhere towards my right I saw an entire town. I got out of the car and turned back to thank the gentlemen and guess what? Yeah, you have guessed it right! There was no vehicle or anybody there. I concluded maybe everything would be just an illusion to keep me sane.
I thought of spending the night at a hotel and then starting the journey fresh tomorrow morning. I went to the hotel to check-in but unfortunately, all the room were sold. I check a couple of hotels but none had rooms available. “This is the time of festival for this town, which is why all the room is occupied.” said one of the hotel staff. After enquiring and bribing people I got to know that there is one room available at a certain hotel by the name “Garden Palace”. I decided to speak to the manager and got the key to the room. The manager warned me that the room was haunted. “It would not make a difference to me” I replied.
I checked into the room. I was lying in bed but I did not sleep. I was very sleepy till the time I was informed that this is a haunted room. Now I am wide awake. I was waiting for the ghost to do its move. I waited and waited. Not a single paranormal activity. I slept like a baby. Any haunted room will show its paranormal things before a person sleeps, but this room showed it's true colours after I woke up. I woke up the next day morning in a pile of rubble. The entire hotel was burned and collapsed. The building and the whole town looked like it was gone through a war.
I walked through the aftermath and reached the road. I checked for a few things, the road still had cracks and the milestone still read “You are now in “Harlington”. I waited for any vehicle to come so that I could ask for a lift. I would not dare to walk again. After some time a person came riding a bike. Even though we did not speak the same language, I could make out that he agreed to a lift. He had a d design of a dragon in his motorcycle and had words which read “I will find you”.
Half an hour into the journey the guy started making awkward noises. I could not hear it because he was wearing a helmet. Suddenly his head and body fell on the top of the bike’s tank. He became unconscious. Instinctively I started taking the wheel and I tried to apply the brakes but the bike won't stop. I could hear the sound of brakes being applied but the bike is not stopping. I was not able to put the gear properly and I lost control of the bike and hit a tree. The bike was wrecked into pieces. Luckily I was alive with a few minor injuries.
I went to check on the biker. He was still unconscious. As I walked up to him I realised that he looked very thin. He was lying down with his stomach facing the ground. I lifted him and opened his helmet and I ran opposite to his direction. What I saw under the helmet was a human skull. In fact, his whole body was a live skeleton system in motion and I was not able to recognise it earlier because he was wearing typical biker clothes. The skeleton stood upright when I took off the helmet. I ran as fast as I could. Each time I turned back, the skeleton came closer and closer. I stopped looking back and I ran.
I ran and ran until I was out of my breath. I fell to the ground and was exhausted. Suddenly I could hear the noise of a bike’s engine. A biker came in the opposite way. This biker was human. I could say this because he was not wearing a helmet and had the normal expressions of a human. I quickly asked for a lift and was about to sit on the bike when I saw the words “I will find you”. The guy’s head turned 180 degrees. I reached my breaking point. I screamed and I started to run again. I started hearing a honking sound of a bus from behind.
I recognised this bus as my initial bus where I travelled and I boarded it. After I got my breath back I started inspecting the bus like a police officer. I checked the passengers, the conductor and the bus driver. I even made conversations with a few to check if they really are humans. I did this in an assumption that ghost can’t talk about day to day happenings in the world. I even became good friends with the driver.
I usually don't speak much but the loneliness and the fear within made me talk to people which made me feel better. I reached my hometown safely this time. I got off the bus and waved my hand at the driver to signal farewell. The driver who was a human all this time changed to the skeleton I encountered from before. He along with all other passengers was a skeleton all along. As the bus left, the driver along with the passengers was waving their hands at me.
After reaching my hometown I slept for a while in my home and went to visit my friend who was a psychiatrist. I sought his help for the trauma I was facing during the journey. I told him all the things I saw and all the paranormal activity happening around me. After a long talk and debates with him, he finally concluded that I was under the illusion this whole time. He explained to me that this illusion was caused by over intake of drugs. Before the bus journey, I went to a random party where I was knocked off by drugs which caused me to miss my alarm. The effect of the drug did not wear off even after I slept because I slept only for 2 hours. I was under drug the whole journey which is why I was under the illusion of being haunted by ghosts.
I was relieved by what my friend concluded. I went to my home and that day I could not get my night’s sleep. I was keeping on thinking about the party. I somehow was in a mindset that I was miscalculating something. I checked my injury from the bike crash before to check if it really happened. There were no bruises, but the area was paining from the inside. I checked my pockets for clues. Instead of one ticket, there were two tickets and I had also found one more thing which increased my heartbeat.
I noticed a key which was in my pocket. I looked closely at the key, there were words engraved in the key.
It read “Garden Palace”
To be continued. . .