The Last Passenger – Part 3

There are a few turnings of Clearwater Bay Road once passed Hiram’s Highway. Chamber’s minibus continued slowly down the road before turning off onto a dirt track and traveling a little way along it.

As the wheels hit the rough track chambers came back to his senses. He told himself that this was a very elaborate hold-up, frightening but nothing more. Moving suddenly he threw the old man’s hand from his shoulder and sprung at the driver, intending to force him to stop. However, Chambers’s timing was off and he fell onto the engine cover beside the driver who slammed his foot on the brakes. Chambers got to his knees to launch an attack at either of his assailants and stopped in horror.

With the engine idling the power to the lights was increased and Chambers saw what the driver had become. This was not fatigue, it was no trick of the imagination. Long dank hair fell about a thin pale face, the nose was long and narrow and the mouth hideously thin. Sharp yellow teeth, so large that they protruded over the lower lip as the creature smiled down at him. Chambers recoiled and a hand gripped his shoulder again. He spun about, only just aware that he had hit his head on the lower roof and another nightmare confronted him. The old man had shed his overcoat and was wearing a Chinese funeral robe. He looked as if a tin of talcum powder had exploded over his face. The creature that the old man had become smiled at him as well and Chambers saw a thin red tongue flicker out between the lips.

Anger took over from fear, these things were not real. It was all part of an elaborate, sick joke, and whatever they wanted they were not going to get it out of him. He pushed violently at the old man catching him by surprise. The driver lunged at him but Chambers had anticipated the attack and turned to meet it. They grasped each other’s necks simultaneously and the combined weight carried them against the door of the bus which gave way, depositing chambers and the driver on the wet ground. He threw a punch and it caught the driver square on the jaw. The man fell backward but Chambers had felt a snap on his fist at the moment of impact and knew that he had broken something. He sense movement at the door and spun just in time to see the old man crouching there, ready to spring, his face fixed in an awful snarl. Chambers rolled to one side as the attack came and straightened up to meet his assailant and stopped in absolute amazement. Apart from the driver sprawled out against the side of the bus he was alone. The old man had vanished.

Chambers staggered backward, the pain in his hand is throbbing fire. He looked around wildly expecting to see the old man coming at him from out of the dark. He brushed the rain out of his eyes and looked for the best escape route. The driver moaned and started to come around. Chambers rushed forward and struck him several times with his good hand, knocking him back into unconsciousness. The pain in his broken hand was immense but he ignored it. He had to get away and find the main road where they would be cars, people, and normal people who would stop and help.

He made his way around the bus expecting to see a dirt track or a single-lane road leading back onto Clearwater Bay Road. He could not make out anything in the darkness, having lost all sense of direction.  The area to his left was open so we headed that way, it was a disused paddy field, rough and uneven. He stumbled and fell hitting his hand against the ground. Pain flared and he was almost sick with nausea. He sat up in the mud of the field holding his injured hand to his chest but the pain refused to go away.

Then a noise filtered into his agony. He could just make out two figures moving towards him from the edge of the field. Chambers had just enough time to realise that the shorter of the two was obviously trotting with difficulty over the muddy paddy, the taller figure was gliding, undulating slowly as it moved towards him. And then he heard a voice in his head. Words, which were spoken in another language but understood, telling him that it was alright, that he did not have anything to fear.

Chambers got up, ran, stumbled, and ran again, he was searching the country in front of him. There was a clump of bushes at the edge of the paddy fields and he headed for them. Beyond them with trees and dense undergrowth where he might be able to include his trackers.

He was 20 feet short of the trees, then ten, five, when a figure stepped out of the bushes in front of him. It was the old man. Chambers stopped in disbelief. He spun about expecting to see another old man behind him but there was only the figure of the driver, still moving across the muddy field. The old man was only an arm’s length away when Chambers whirled off in another direction only to trip over something and fall headlong into the mud.

Then the driver was on him and they struggled, Rolling over and over in the slush. All the while the voice continued in his head, attempting to soothe him. As long as he still had the strength he would fight these things. Then the driver took hold of his injured hand and squeezed and Chambers could only gasp in pain. He knew that it was over, he could no longer struggle as the thing had a grip on his hand. The driver sat astride his chest, grinning down at him. The voice continued to bombard his mind and he started listening to it, to make out the words.

The old man was at his side and the driver held out the Chamber’s wrist. With incredible strength, the old man ripped back the sleeve of Chamber’s suit jacket exposing the flesh of his wrist. His teeth seem to glow in the darkness as the old man grinned down at him. He smiled, the voice in Chamber’s mind told him once again that in a short while everything would be alright.

And this time Chambers believed it.

The old man bent his face towards him and raised the wrist to his mouth. The teeth glowing even brighter tore into the flesh and cold thin lips fastened around the wound. Chambers felt very little, a coldness, the dampness of the Earth under him, and then nothing.

Copyright John Stewart Sloan 2020 – Not for Distribution

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