The Sixty Seven

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Scott Moore misses the bus home from work he sets off on the long walk home. A while later he catches a strange bus. Where would the Sixty Seven take him?

Submitted: July 22, 2015

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Submitted: July 22, 2015

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Scott Moore shut down his computer. He shrugged into his coat and rushed from the office. He had been stuck there late trying to sort out a problem with a delivery for a new customer. As he dashed across the car park he glanced at his watch. If he was quick he just might make his bus. He marched quickly. He turned the corner to see the bus pulling away from the stop. He swore and slowed his pace. Trafford Park was mostly an industrial area so the next bus wouldn’t be for over an hour.

Still cursing he resigned himself to walking most of the nine miles home. If the next bus passed by later he would hop on. Grumbling about work and the local bus service he set off walking. He had walked just over an hour when he noticed a bus stop he hadn’t seen before. Scott was certain his normal bus had never stopped there. He read the sign on the post. Only one bus stopped there. The number Sixty Seven. According to the time table one was due at 1940 hrs. Any minute now. He decided to see if the bus was going anywhere near his home.

A few minutes later an old green bus creaked to a halt at the stop. Scott smiled. They must have revived the old Salford buses. He had only seen these old style buses on black and white photographs. The doors hissed open. Just wanting to be on the way home he climbed on board.

The driver’s face was hidden by shadow. He stared but he couldn’t make out his features.

‘Are you going anywhere near Cadishead?’

The driver merely waved a hand, beckoning him to take a seat. Scott flashed his daily ticket and moved down the bus. The doors whooshed shut. Scott was surprised to find he was the only person on board. He took a seat near the front. The bus shook and shuddered as the engine started up. The driver puled out and headed down the road. Scott stared out the window. The bus turned left and right winding its way towards Salford. Something about the bus made him feel uncomfortable. A driver he could see, no passengers. It felt like a bad dream or the opening scene from a horror film. He decided that the next time the bus stopped he’d get off.

A thick fog suddenly descended. Scott was surprised by the mist. It had been a clear day and the forecast that morning hadn’t mentioned anything about fog. The mist was so thick it was as though the windows were frosted. The bus trundled on. He hoped the driver could see where he was going. A while later, as Scott was growing more and more concerned about where he was headed, the bus pulled to a stop. The doors opened. Nobody boarded. Scott stared out the window. The mist seemed to have cleared but he still couldn’t see anything. Was it dark outside? Surely not. It wasn’t due to go dark for a while yet. Where was he? He approached the driver. He still couldn’t see the driver’s face in the darkness. The lights inside the bus didn’t quite reach the driver’s cab.

‘Where are we?’

The driver said nothing. He didn’t move. Scott shook his head. He stepped off the bus and out into the darkness. He looked around, trying to figure out where he was. He glanced back over his shoulder. The bus was gone.

The street was almost pitch black. No street lights glowed the way. Every window in every building he passed was dark. No lights burned anywhere. Surely the entire street wasn’t asleep. Normally on any street some light shone from somewhere. Thankfully the moon was only partially covered by cloud. A slight pale moon glow covered the scene. Unsure of where he was he walked through the night.

He thought he recognised the street. Unless he was mistaken he was in Manchester city centre near the cathedral. The place looked different than the last time he was in the city and so much darker. Mind you, each time he visited the city centre it looked different. New bars and restaurants popped up each week. They city changed so quickly. But why was it so dark?

A siren sounded from somewhere. Scott flinched, startled for a moment. He looked around. He was alone in the dark street. The wailing siren continued. The noise sounded familiar. It was the old air raid siren from the Second World War. He’d heard the noise in films and now and again when they rang the old sirens. What was going on? He marched through the city looking for someone or something normal. He needed something to prove he hadn’t completely lost his mind. The siren went on.

There came another sound. From overheard there was the sound of aircraft engines. The roar of the aircraft sounded menacing. Scott’s heart pounded in his chest. An air raid? Surely not. But the sirens? The planes? Then he knew why the streets were so dark. The Blackout. During the Second World War light was kept to a minimum to avoid being a target during the Blitz. To prevent being bombed by enemy planes windows and doors were shrouded behind thick curtains.

But why now? When had the Blackout started again? Who was bombing Manchester once again? His thoughts were disturbed by the sickening sound of explosions. Bombs fell and exploded all around him. Fires broke out in the buildings as the bombs landed.

The once dark street now glowed with hellish red and orange. Flames licked at the rubbled ruins of once proud city centre buildings. Scott ducked into a doorway. He did not know where he could shelter. Maybe near a building was the worst place but he could not bring himself to venture out into the street. Out there he felt he would be more exposed somehow. The whole scene was like something from a strange nightmare. The darkness, the burning buildings, the roaring aircraft, the wailing sirens. It was all too much. He couldn’t think straight.

He saw someone running through the chaos. He felt relieved that he was not the only person on the street. Right there and then they could have been the only two people alive.

Scott called out to the person. He yelled at the top of his voice. The figure stopped in their tracks. Scott waved both hands. The person stood still amidst all the noise and chaos. Scott saw her more clearly as she rushed to where he huddled. In the light of the moon and the glow of nearby fires he saw she was in her early twenties, a similar age to him. She had dirt and tear marks on her face. Scott had so many questions.

‘What is going on?’

‘There is a war on, you know?’

‘What? Who with?’

‘Germany, of course.’

‘Blimey. I know Angela Merkel is a bit headstrong but this is ridiculous.’

‘Sorry?’

‘When did all this start?’

‘September last year. Are you sure you’re okay?’

‘What year was that?’

‘Nineteen thirty nine. Have you got concussion?’

‘Perhaps.’ he said.

They stayed together in the doorway watching the raid. Scott tried to get his head round the fact that he was in 1940s war-torn Manchester. He wasn’t sure if this was a dream. Maybe he’d fallen asleep on the bus.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

‘Scott.’

‘I’m Gladys.’

She held out her hand. Scott shook it, amused at her politeness considering that they were in the middle of an air raid.

‘What are you doing out here?’ he asked. ‘Shouldn’t you be in a shelter?’

‘I can’t stay down there. I get so scared. I feel like I’m going to die down there.’

The siren stopped. The sky was quiet except for the crackle of burning buildings. They watched the scene unfolding in front of them. Gladys put her arm around his waist. In reply he slid his arm around her shoulders. A while later the siren sounded again. Gladys explained that this was the all-clear. Other sirens rang out as fire engines tore along the street. They set about tackling the blazes with their long hoses and ladders.

‘I could do with a drink. Come on.’

Linking arms they walked through the night, past the burning buildings. Gladys led him to a Tudor style building. The sign hanging above the doorway said the Old Wellington. Scott was sure the pub was still there in his present day. If this was a dream then maybe this pub had popped into his mind from his visits to the city. He followed Gladys through the narrow creaking doorway.

There were a few people in the pub. In the lamplight he saw weary expressions. They clearly needed a drink and some company. As the customers drank and spoke in hushed voices most of them smoked cigarettes. Scott remembered that the smoking ban wouldn’t come into force for another sixty years. Gladys went to the bar. The barman’s smile asked what he could get them.

‘Two pints of bitter and two whiskies.’

Scott had been out with a few women but he’d never had anyone order a drink for him without asking what he’d like. Perhaps the war did something to you. Maybe it made you be more straightforward. As they found seats in a cosy corner of the pub Scott was struck by how pretty Gladys was. She had shoulder length dark hair in a Forties style that made her look like she should be starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in a Noir thriller. She lit a cigarette. Scott supposed that when there were bombs raining from the sky you did not worry about the long term health risks of smoking. He watched her. She seemed to be doing better than some of the people in the pub. One woman sobbed into a handkerchief.

‘You seem to be coping okay in spite of everything.’

‘You just have to.’ She shrugged. ‘D’you know, I can’t remember not being at war. It’s only been twelve months but all this is normal.’

Neither of them spoke for a moment.

‘What do you do for a living?’ she asked.

‘I work in an office.’

‘That might change. They say there may be conscription.’

Scott nodded then asked what she did for work.

‘I work in a library.’

‘Do you enjoy it?’

‘I love it. It’s like another world. Just being surrounded by all those books, all those stories. It’s like another world. I sometimes wonder if all this, the here and now, is just a story that someone’s writing.’

After a few more drinks Scott asked if she had a boyfriend. She shook her head.

‘Have you?’

‘No, no boyfriend either.’ he laughed.

She leaned closely against him.

‘You want to get married, have kids?’ he asked.

‘Is that a proposal?’

‘I mean, what are your hopes for the future?’

‘The war has turned everything on its head. We can’t really make long term plans, can we? We don’t know how long the war will last or who will win.’

Before Scott could reassure her a jazz tune played from the record player behind the bar. Scott thought he recognised the tune. He was sure there had been a remix version in the 1990s. Gladys jumped to her feet.

‘Let’s dance.’

She dragged Scott by the hand to a space in between the tables. A few others joined them as they danced. As song after song played they danced. Scott tried to keep up as she bounced around in time with the music. They danced for what seemed like hours. Eventually, sweating and laughing, they slumped in their seats.

‘Who would have thought,’ she said. ‘that the night would end so well.’

Scott raised his pint in agreement.

It was daylight when they left the pub. Scott felt sweaty, dirty and exhausted. The morning light stunned his eyes. His heart sank as the Sixty Seven bus pulled up among the bombed out buildings. The doors hissed open. Scott pointed.

‘I have to go.’

‘Will I see you again?’

‘I don’t think so.’

Gladys threw her arms around him. She held him tight. With tears in her eyes she watched him walk towards the bus. He gave her a sad smile then climbed on board.

The bus started up and the fog descended once more.

Some time later the bus pulled to a stop. Scott jumped off the bus. As soon as his feet hit the pavement the bus vanished. Scott looked around, scratching his head in confusion. He was in Cadishead, over the road from his house. He checked the time on his mobile phone. He had finished work just over two hours ago. As he headed for home he thought he heard the faint traces of a familiar jazz song.


© Copyright 2018 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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