I took the wrong company bus to work – By practiceandgo
I think I fucked up. Let me give some context, my name is Alex, I am 23 years old and take public transport to work every day since I started my mundane, 9 to 5 desk job in Singapore, which meant public transport is generally affordable and frequent if not on time. I lived briefly in other countries where a bus comes every 30minutes so I think we are pretty fortunate in that regard. In addition to this, one bus stop usually has several different buses rather than just 2 or 3 so you can hop on to a different bus if you miss one.
My usual routine consists of walking to the train station, take the train to an overly crowded station, and wait for the bus at the interchange.
After about 2 months into the daily catch-the-bus routine, I noticed that certain companies have catered buses for their employees. For certain buses, the back door is always closed and the driver must verify the employee work pass before allowing them to board. These usually apply to banks and big corporations where several buses come within the span of an hour, and it still isn’t enough to fit everyone.
There are, however, other buses which belong to smaller companies. They are usually unmarked and identified through a simple piece of paper on the windscreen or only known to the employee of the company internally. These are the buses that do not need verification and people frequently enter through the back door. Knowing this, I started playing the “pretend-I-belong” game, I would hope on to buses on days where I am not scheduled to work and see where it goes.
After a few trial and errors which led me to business districts and offices, I found 2 buses which goes to the district which I work in. It saves me roughly $50 a month on concession pass which I am extremely thankful for.
This became the norm for the following 4 months, but one day the bus which I usually hop on to hitch a ride to work did not arrive. Neither did I see the usual employees wearing the signature orange striped shirts. After a quick google search, it seems like they have stopped the catered bus services due to a huge layoff and shit. Basically, running out of money and on the verge of closing the company.
Well, like any other sane human being would, I sucked it up and took the normal, not-free bus to work. By the following week, I had already spent more than $20 simply travelling without concession. The next Monday, I woke up earlier to skip the traffic and to make use of the policy, whereby if you take the train earlier than 7.30AM, the fees would be drastically lowered. Why I didn’t buy the concession, I will never know. I guess I was just not prepared to blow $50 a month for it after all that free-riding.
In any case, I arrived earlier than I have ever been. The bus stop was surprisingly empty apart from a handful of people. As I resumed playing Arena of Valour on my phone, I noticed a sleek white bus arriving. Being both hopeful for a free ride and curious as to where it leads, I sneaked in through the back of the bus.
I didn’t notice then, but there was something off about the bus. Firstly, there were already people on the bus. Catered buses usually don’t make stops, so it should have been empty. Secondly, no one got on the bus but me and another child who was too young to be taking catered buses. Unless this was a school bus, but the passengers all seem to be of a very different age. The youngest was a baby, cradled by his or her mother, fast asleep. The oldest was full of wrinkles and I suspect could barely take a step without falling.
In any case, I was early so if the bus went someone else I could just take a bus to work from there instead. The problem is, I have been on the bus for close to 15 hours and it still has not stopped.
Now I know what you must be thinking, why didn’t you get off the bus when the traffic light was red and all that. Well, the bus doors were locked tight and the moment I got up of my seat. Everyone, and I meant everyone, including the probably 3-month old baby, stared at me with wide-opened eyes.
Needless to say, I immediately sat the fuck down and kept my head low.
The passengers continued to stare for a good 5 minutes before resuming starting into space. I guess I should have noticed another thing by now, and it’s that nobody is using any form of mobile devices. They were all staring into space, solemn as if waiting for something to happen. I was sacred shitless and resolved to continue sitting there until the door opens or someone else gets up.
After taking a close look at my surroundings, I realised it does not look like any part of Singapore that I know. For those who live here, and even those who don’t, knows that this place is damn small. No, we are not in China, thank God for the summit. Yet, I had no idea where I was. Throughout all this, I kept trying to catch the attention of the bus driver but could not seem to make out his face, there seemed to be a dark shadow looming over him.
The bus seemed to go on and on, to an underdeveloped area with wilting grass and barren lands. There were no other cars nor traffic light in the vicinity and my iPhone had no reception. Not awfully uncommon for our mobile provider but the weirdness creeped me out more than pissing me off. It was 9am when I boarded but in the 15 hours, the scenery gradually changed to that of an orange-y sunset glow.
By now, I think both you and I understand this is not a normal bus anymore. But hey paranormal things aren’t real and the bus eventually came to a stop. Something told me I shouldn’t get off so I stayed.
The first stop was beside a river, reflecting the red and orange glow of the sunset, the children got off here, except for the baby and her mother. The next stop was in a quarry-like area, adults and old people both left the bus. This left me with the mother and her baby in the bus and eventually, she too alighted inside a bamboo forest, without her baby.
The bus throttled on and on, the baby was surprisingly quiet and deep down I prayed this was not the end of the line for me and I would be able to get off the bus. We came to an empty place, it was white. It seemed like you were surrounded by walls… but that’s not exactly true. It’s simply that everything was white and no distance nor time could be told. The bus driver got up then and walked towards my direction at the back of the bus and it was then I realised he had no face. It was a face where the skin would be but without the eyes… the nose and any facial feature. On his forehead, an eye opened in the middle where your normal eyes would be.
He carried the baby and proceeded to leave the bus.
“Wait!”, I meekly called out, reluctant to be left alone here, possibly for forever.
I got the same response back in return. In a soothingly handsome voice (If there’s even such a thing), without turning back at me. I stayed there for what felt like hours, but probably 15minutes. I saw him walk towards a white altar, left the baby there and soon the baby was engulfed in a gentle, warm light which had an outline of a woman’s hand.
He returned to the bus then and started the bus, he seemed to sense my confusion and fear, only responding with “It’s not your time yet” and continue driving into the brightest of light, so bright that it turned blinded me into the darkness.
I awoke on a hospital bed. Apparently, I had collapsed as I was boarding the bus for work that day and someone called the ambulance. I spent 3 days in a medically induced sleep while doctors figure out what happened and let me rest. I was discharged with no diagnosis except to take care of my diet and avoid getting up too fast. I have a sense of what happened that day, and I am thankful the one-eyed driver sent me back to where I belong.
A part of me knows one day, I will be on that bus and I will meet him again.