The Last Passenger – Part 1

Adrian Chambers was exhausted, after a long day his overwhelming thought was to get home as quickly as possible. His second overwhelming thought was the length of the journey to come. He lived in the Clear Water Bay Area.

He had left his office in Causeway bay at 10:30 only to find that it was a race day and half of Hong Kong was coming out of the Jockey Club in Happy Valley. What was worse was that they all seemed to be going in exactly the opposite direction. The night air was heavy and promised a storm and there was a hint of panic in the crowd as they hurried to get out of what was sure to be a heavy downpour. When he finally managed to get on the right line of the MTR it was nearing 11 and he was almost homicidal. When he came out of the MTR station at Choi Hung, the storm had arrived in force and the rain lashed the road.

He stood in the shelter of the exit and looked for a minibus that would take him to his home in Clearwater Bay there was one just up the road from him taking on passengers; it was only just visible through the rain. Hefting his briefcase he placed it over his head and made a dash for the bus. At this time of night and in this weather transport was unreliable. If there was a bus inside it was best to make sure that you did not miss it. He caught the bus just as it was moving off and had to bang on its side to get the driver’s attention. The door slid open and Chambers clambered on, dropped some coins into the cashbox and collapsed gratefully into a seat near the front. Finally, he was on the last leg of his journey home.

Settling back into the seat he relaxed for the first time all day. The minibus laboured uphill, grinding along in second gear and sometimes dropping down to 1st gear in an effort to keep going.

The storm rage on, showing no signs of abating. Chambers thought he heard a growl of thunder but with all the noise of the bus he could not be sure. The almost horizontal rain was leaking in through the ill-fitting windows and he cursed his luck at finding the oldest minibus in existence.

He surveyed his fellow passengers. There were four others on the bus and they all looked equally grateful to be on the way home. Finally, at the top of the hill, they were able to pick up a bit of speed and the bus rattled its way along Clearwater Bay Road.

It was not long before the first passenger called to the driver to stop and let him off. Chambers watch the figure of the man disappear into the rain as the bus moved off. Soon another one called out and this time two people got off. As they moved away Chambers looked behind at the only remaining passenger. He was a man of indeterminable age who, judging by his clothes was a farmer. He too looked about himself, perhaps out of curiosity or to make sure there was no one else on the bus. As he turned back to Chambers he wore a look on his face that seemed to indicate that he was about to say something, but he only shook his head slightly and turned away.

Suddenly there was a squeal of brakes and a car horn was blaring. A car, its colour indistinguishable in the rain had raced downhill behind them and almost ploughed into the rear. Chambers could only just make out that the driver was European and he thought wistfully of the car he had sold in England shortly before coming to Hong Kong.

The minibus driver remained strangely quiet, only just acknowledging the other motorist’s muffled curses with a grunt. The car sped on, going much too fast for the conditions and disappeared into the rain.

Chambers was left with his thoughts and it was then that he noticed the smell, at first he thought it was something they had passed on the road. It was not uncommon in Hong Kong to see cats and dogs lying mangled on the roadside after being hit by careless drivers. He and his wife had been upset more than once by the sites they had seen. Drivers here did not seem to be very sympathetic towards animals.

The smell was heavy and as if something long dead had attached itself to the underside of the bus. Chambers slid open the window a crack to get some fresh air. The rain dripped in but with the dampness came some relief from the terrible smell.

Then it was the old man’s turn to get off. Perhaps overcome by the smell he was getting off early. But then it was still raining very heavily and Chambers could not see anyone in his right mind getting off to walk in it unless it was absolutely necessary. The minibus pulled over and the man moved to the door and got off.

Once on the road, he turned back to face Chambers, heedless of the rain and wind the tore around him and did something that took the Englishman completely by surprise. The old man stood straight and tall, looked directly into Chambers’s eyes and made the sign of the cross, then he started motioning to him to get off the bus, his actions becoming quite urgent.

(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan 2020 – Not for Distribution

%d bloggers like this: