The Five to Midnight Bus

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This material is not for the faint-hearted. You have been warned.

We often accuse Cactuscafe of taking us for a ride. This one's got a spooky (and ultimately, moving) destination, but we think it's worth the price of the ticket to get on. . .

The Five To Midnight Bus

On Windsor Gardens road

It is a quarter to midnight, and my bus leaves in ten minutes.

The air is heavy and damp and gunmetal grey. It's an effort just to walk, but hurry I must, through the town which is alight with Hallowe'en merriment and masked menace.

At another time I might have reluctantly joined the party, scuttling dramatically through the shadows in a bowed and sinister way, with my black raincoat draped over my backpack.

Not tonight, though. I'm in no mood for theatre.

As I reach the bus stop, a fluorescent green skeleton reaches for my soul, trying to pull it out from the cracks in my certainty. I watch my essence stretch like chewing gum into sticky ectoplasmic strands.

I am saved by a gentlemanly apparition in a tweed jacket, a gracious presence from a bygone era, who helps me load my pack onto the bus.

He reminds me of my father, and now I feel I will spend the entire night crying, which is embarrassing on a bus. I should have brought my dark glasses to disguise my tears.

The call came today, that dreaded call. My father is dying. I hope I can get there in time.

I peer through the window at the damp grey night, which is illuminated every now and then by crackling firework stars.

Sleep is impossible, but eventually I fall into a reverie, and become involved in a ludicrous daydream about a Hallowe'en pumpkin lantern.

'People fall in love with my candlelit eyes,' this lantern informs me.

'I wear dark glasses to protect myself, but then I look like a rockstar, and that makes it worse. My charisma becomes even more irresistible. It's an illusion of course. Sometimes I feel so hollow, as if all my flesh has been scooped out. I wouldn't change things though. It's creatively challenging. I'm working on a new album right now.'

I try to suppress my laughter. What will my fellow travellers think? First I am crying, now I have laughter tears. At least the bus isn't crowded.

My father loved a laugh.

I wonder about the future, a few hours from now, that moment when I will walk into the hospital.

Will my anxiety become a carnival demon, trying to steal my soul, pulling out my essence in long sticky chewing gum strands from the cracks in my certainty?

I don't think so.

I have never been that keen on Hallowe'en, but tonight I find that I am almost enjoying this bizarre and otherworldly theatre.

Dying is surely peaceful in comparison.

'Too right,' says the pumpkin lantern, still in daydream mode. 'I'm not scared of what happens when the dream is over, when my candle-eyes burn out. It's my fans I worry about.'

'You'll inspire their memories' I say, reassuringly.

'Yes! and my music will live forever.'

Fortunately, this dialogue is interrupted by an announcement informing us that a refreshment break is due in twenty minutes.

Perhaps I shall use the time to write this story.

And the five to midnight bus lurches on through the night of gunmetal grey. Every now and then, a wondrous constellation of crackling multi- coloured firework stars illuminates the atmosphere.

I close my tearstained eyes, and prepare for the journey ahead.

On Portobello Road
Café Dreams Archive


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