still don't understand," said Sergeant Ross, pacing slowly back
and forth across the faded yellow carpet, "is how a green bus
could have killed Donald Spencer?"
been through this a dozen times before," protested Arthur
Thomson. He was slouched forward across the desk in the centre
of the small, glass-walled office.
go through it all for the thirteenth time," insisted Danny Ross,
a tall, barrel-chested man, affectionately known as "Bear" by his
right. As I've already told you, Don and I had attended a
meeting of the Harpertown branch of the Masonic Lodge. There
was a big celebration at the lodge after the meeting, so we were
both a little under the weather by the time we set out for
staggered about in the dark, wending our way down a seemingly
endless maze of back streets and alleyways, like something out of
Sherlock Holmes's London.
And, as though to set the scene even further, after awhile a
dense fog began to drift in and envelop us, cutting our range of
vision down to less than a metre.
what seemed like hours, I looked down at my watch and saw it
AM. We had been walking for
nearly forty minutes. 'This way,' said Don, to my surprise. I
was well and truly lost and had thought my friend too drunk to
even read the low-hanging street signs.
minutes or so later, we arrived at a red-and-white bus stop.
However, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me we
had already missed the last bus.
the fog continued to hold us in its icy fingers, I remarked that
our predicament -- out late at night, in the middle of nowhere,
blinded by fog, waiting for a bus which might not arrive for
hours -- reminded me of a story I had heard as a child, more than
thirty years earlier.
bed-time story?' asked Donald Spencer."
let me see if I've got this straight," said Bear Ross. "Out
there, in the middle of nowhere, blinded by fog, waiting for a
bus which might not arrive for nearly six hours, you started
telling Don Spencer a fairy story."
it was hardly a fairy story, Sergeant. As I told Don at the
time, when I was a child of seven or eight, I shared a double bed
with my sister Adele, who is a year my junior. At night, our
father used to lie between us, in the middle of the bed, on top
of the blankets, to tell us bedtime stories. However, our
father's stories weren't the run-of-the-mill Mother Goose tales.
Our father told us his own stories."
own stories?' asked Don."
own stories?' asked Sergeant Ross.
right. My father was an amateur short story writer. He was
born into a family of bookworms and raised on Lovecraft, Poe,
Blackwood, Machen, and Bloch. Therefore, it was only natural
that when he turned his hand to writing, at the tender age of
thirteen, his inclination was towards fantasy and horror. Over
the next fifteen years, he penned more than three-hundred
stories, without a single publication. By the time he was
twenty-eight he had married our mother and had already given up
all hope of ever finding a publisher for his stories. Then when
I was four or five years old, my father realised he had a
ready-made audience and began reading his creations to Adele and
I as bedtime stories.
we were first told the story of 'The Green Bus' was like so many
other nights, except that our father carried his story neatly
typed, on a black clipboard, which meant that it was a new tale,
which he hadn't yet had time to memorise.
father eased his long, slender frame into the centre of the bed,
Adele settled her blonde head against his left shoulder, while I
lay on my back gazing at my own reflexion in the mirror-door of
the cupboard at the foot of the bed.
late one night,' began my father, in his rich baritone voice,
'and the two men, both in their late thirties, were waiting near
the roadside for a bus. The men had been waiting for a long
time and had begun to fear the last bus had already gone and that
they would have to wait there until morning. Being mid winter,
the wind howled through the trees. The two men were freezing
and nearly blinded by a thick fog, which had drifted in on them
"'They had given up all hope of catching a bus that night, when
the air was filled with a thunderous roaring, an evil, nameless
bellowing, like a cry from the nethermost reaches of Hades. As
the two men peered toward the murky centre of the fog, out of the
mist loomed an enormous shape: a great, green demon, breathing
fire and hissing like death itself.
men turned to run from terror, then realised they had been
mistaken: it wasn't a demon at all; merely a bus. An ancient
green bus, far older than any bus either man had ever seen
before. Whereas modern buses are long and flat-roofed, seating
fifty-five, or sixty, this bus had a strange curved,
cream-coloured roof, and would only seat twenty or perhaps
twenty-five at most.
men stood staring at the green bus for a moment, then one of them
began to walk toward it. However, the other man put a
restraining hand on his friend's shoulder.
it?" asked the first man.
"'"I -- I
don't know. I -- I just have the feeling something is
you mean 'wrong'?" asked his friend. He already had one foot on
the first step of the bus, one hand on the handrail.
bus. I don't know what. I just have the feeling that there is
something wrong with the bus. Something evil about it,
asked Donald Spencer."
Sergeant Bear Ross.
right, the man in the story was also called Don....
about a bus?" asked the man named Don. "Don't be stupid!
Anyone would think it were alive or something, the way you talk."
He climbed the three small steps to stand just inside the bus
and asked, "Well? Are you coming?"
I'll wait for the next one."
you'll be waiting here till dawn!"
said nothing, merely shrugged his shoulders and stood watching as
the doors closed and the green bus started on its way.
"'As the bus
began to move, Don turned toward the driver to pay his fare.
However, where the driver should have been there was nothing.
Only an inky blackness: what looked like a black hole.
seconds or so, he stood frozen from terror, as the black hole
continued to drive the bus. Then slowly he returned to his
senses and realised it wasn't a black hole at all, merely a
black, chipboard partition separating the driver's compartment
from the passengers section of the bus. "My God, this bus must
have been in use before World War 2!" cried Don. "Circa 1925 by
the looks of it."
his way around in the dark, he moved down the centre aisle,
searching for the conductor to pay his fare. As the bus hit a
pothole and lurched, he grabbed for the overhead railing, but
instead found leather straps hanging about a metre apart, on
either side of the aisle. So, he moved down the bus, shifting
his hands from strap to strap like a child moving along beneath a
marvelled at the ancient relic, partly from awe, partly from
fear. The seats of the bus were like nothing he had ever seen
aboard a bus: wooden railings over solid beams, like old park
benches. Overhead, just below the ceiling, he could barely make
out the usual band of advertisements. Many of the products
familiar to him, but the prices were ridiculous: Aeroplane Jelly
one penny; Nugget boot polish three pence; Bex aspirin a half
penny, and so on. The clothes the people wore were ludicrous,
like something out of a "Roaring Twenties" movie. The men
sporting short-back-and-sides hairstyles and dressed for a day's
punt down the Yarra
the women wearing long sun hats over bobbed hair, and dresses
which swept the ground.
few moments the man began to move down the bus again. He
reached the end of the bus and found himself all alone; there was
no conductor aboard. "Looks like I get a free ride," Don said
aloud. He settled down onto the bench to gaze out through the
window into the seemingly endless fog.
begun to wonder whether the bus would ever escape the grip of the
fog, or whether it went on forever, when finally they broke free.
He found himself staring out over a wide expanse of densely
"'As the bus
continued on its way, the forest became steadily thicker, until
the trees seemed stacked one against another, their grotesquely
shaped trunks making them look like weird night creatures, tree
monsters from some Lovecraftean fantasy. Don sat silently on
the bench, gazing out through the window in rapture.
only as the green bus went past a railway station that he was
suddenly jarred from his reverie. "Glen Hartwell!" he said
aloud. "We're heading in the wrong direction!"
his feet, he felt about above his head for the stop cord.
Finding it at last, he began tugging frantically, to no avail.
The bus continued upon its way.
the front of the bus, he began pounding upon the partition to the
driver's compartment. From the rattle of the partition, he
received another shock: it was not chipboard at all, but glass.
Glass painted black! Then he moved a finger across the glass
and realised that he was wrong again. The finger had come away
black! It was not black paint at all, rather a layer of dust.
A layer a centimetre or more thick, which had built up over
years, or even decades.
"'Slowly he began to rub the dirt and grime away from the
partition, with a handkerchief. However, the shock of what he
saw was too great and he staggered backward, fell down the small
stairwell, and collided headfirst with the iron door.
he lay at the bottom of the stairwell for four or five minutes,
before dragging himself to his feet and up the stairs again. A
second glance through the glass partition confirmed the terrible
truth. There was no one in the driver's seat. The green bus
was driving itself!
then that he was doomed; that he would never escape alive from
the green bus!
man waited by the side of the road for more than four hours
before the next bus arrived. When he finally got home, half
frozen from his night outdoors, he considered ringing Don, but
thought better of it. "Let him sleep," he thought, "he'll have
only had a few hours sleep, and I'll see him tonight after
never saw Don alive again.'
it?" asked Donald Spencer."
asked Sergeant Ross. He thought, "No wonder he never got any of
his stories published, if he left them all hanging like
quite," said Arthur Thomson. "It was about
AM, when we heard the noise:
an insane, unearthly bellowing, like the voice of death
Earth was that?' asked Don.
"I -- I
don't know," I said as the vast, green shape loomed out of the
visions in my mind of gargantuan shoggoths roaring from the
bowels of the earth like monstrous express trains, I turned to
flee for my life. Only to be restrained by Donald.
Artie, it's only a bus,' he said, gripping me tightly by the
right arm. 'What a stroke of luck at this hour.'
"It was a
green bus all right. The oldest and smallest bus I have ever
seen. It was a dull, faded green, with a strange, curved,
a few metres past us, and we stood for a few moments watching it.
Then as the doors opened, Don started toward it. 'Come on,'
I'll wait for the next one,' I said, surprising even
sake, it's only a bus!' insisted Don.
"'I -- I
know,' I said.
on,' said Don.
wait for the next one.'
waiting here till morning then,' he said.
say anything to that, merely shrugged and waved goodbye as the
doors closed, then the bus drove away with Donald
the last time I saw Donald Spencer," said Arthur Thomson,
finishing his story at last.
stood staring out through the glass wall of the small office for
a few seconds, as though trying to read the general notices on
the cork bulletin board across the room. Finally, he turned
around to face Arthur Thomson, and asked, "Why didn't you get on
the green bus with Donald Spencer?"
"I -- I
don't know. I suppose I must have spooked myself with my own
actually expect me to believe that the green bus had something to
do with the death of Donald Spencer?" demanded Bear Ross, raising
his voice for the first time.
"No! No, I
never said that!" insisted Arthur Thomson. "I was only telling
you everything that happened to Don and me that
said Bear Ross, scratching his chin ruminatively for a few
seconds. Finally, he asked, "Do you believe that your father
somehow created the future all those years ago when he wrote his
story?" "They say that a good writer can weave magic," thought
the sergeant, then immediately dismissed the idea as nonsense.
"Could he somehow have unwittingly caused the death of Donald
Spencer thirty years later?"
"Oh, God, I
don't know!" said Arthur, clutching his head in his hands.
"Quite frankly, I'm beginning to doubt my own sanity over what
happened that night. I mean, how cam you explain everything
exactly duplicating what had happened in my father's story.
From the two of us waiting after midnight on a fog-shrouded
roadway, to our initial impression of the bus as some kind of
supernatural demon, to the similarity of the shape and age of the
do you explain that?" Sergeant Ross asked himself, without
getting any satisfactory answer. He continued to question
Arthur Thomson for another ten minutes or so, before allowing him
to leave, promising to let Arthur view the body as soon as they
could reveal the cause of Donald Spencer's death.
can't you show him to me now?" demanded Arthur. He was angry at
the way he had been treated: dragged out of bed in the wee hours
of the mourning, interrogated for hours, then not even allowed to
view his friend's body, or even know how Don had died. "After
all, I was his best friend! Who has more right to know than
shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm sorry. I know how you
feel, but I'm not allowed to reveal the cause of death at this
stage." "If only I had a clue what it was?" he
the point for another few minutes, and then reluctantly Arthur
allowed himself to be shepherded out of the police station
a sigh of relief as Arthur Thomson finally departed. The sun
was just coming up and he was due for some well-earnt rest.
However, he couldn't go off duty, without having one last look at
Donald Spencer, to prove to himself that he wasn't
Street it was a ten-minute drive
down Wentworth Street
to reach the
wreckers' yard, on the border between Glen Hartwell and
the sky-blue police Ford Fairlane while his constable, Terry
Blewett, opened the chain-link gate for him. Then he drove
slowly through avenue after avenue of rusting, tyreless wrecks
stacked five or six high, until coming to the wreck that he
sought at the opposite end of the yard.
It was the
rusted out hull of an ancient World War 1 issue bus. Small and
green, with a strange curved, cream-coloured roof, the bus sat
tyreless, propped up on four stacks of bricks beneath the
here?" he asked, alighting from the Fairlane.
of us," answered grey-haired Sergeant Mel Forbes, not knowing
whether his friend and colleague had meant him or Donald
duck his head as he went through the low doorway, Bear Ross
walked down the narrow aisle between the seats, ever wary of the
movement of the bus, which swayed precariously upon its props as
he walked. Near the back of the bus, he saw they had removed a
large section of the bench-like paling seats, to allow access to
the body of Donald Spencer.
much as we can do, until Sam Hart gets here sometime later today,
with his welding equipment," explained Mel Forbes.
his agreement, then looked toward the dark-haired body of Don
Spencer, which stared up at him, it's mouth set in an open,
silent scream, from where it protruded from the wall of the green
bus. "It's just like when you watch one of those science
fiction shows where people teleport down to Earth," thought Bear,
"and you wonder what would happen if they re-materialised in the
middle of a rock or a tree or something? Would they just merge
with the fabric of the rock or tree? Become part of
The way that
Donald Spencer had somehow merged with the iron bodywork of the
green bus, to become part of the bus itself.