A short ficlet I wrote based on this one time that I missed my bus.
Basically right now I’m really enamored with the idea of Transformers-as-urban-cryptids.
(Written in the second person.)
Your shoes don’t make a sound as you trudge along the sidewalk, but that’s probably because the sound of the harbor and street traffic passing you drown out the pitter-patter of your steps. Even at this time of night, when most everyone is home eating dinner, there’s still some hustle and bustle about the water to the north of you: the deep booming thunder of freight trains decoupling or shuddering to life around this industrial part of town is no stranger to any hour. Tugboats are still going about their business putting away the container ships for the night, and the ferry looks like it’s making its last trip to the other side of the water.
But it’s dark out, and you’re alone, and you’ve missed your damn bus. Home is just close enough to make a go at it on foot, and this bus stop has no bench or shelter anyway, so you buckle down and hit the pavement. Even as a few thin droplets of rain begin to fall.
You might grumble to yourself, you might not – the sidewalk takes you up a formidable grade as the street passes up and over some railroad tracks and after a few minutes you’re embarrassingly out of breath. The bridge gives you an interesting view too, at least. This area always passes by so quickly when you’re on the bus that it’s almost nice, once you’ve started catching your breath again.
When you near the top you slow your pace, looking south into the heart of the warehouse district. It looks like a ghost town at this time of night, you note. Even the streetlights are few and far between. It feels like you’re gazing into another world, actually. The sea of dark cinder-block buildings, old and square and plain, look so different during the day. Every rare halo of orange light that you manage to catch several blocks off makes you feel as though you might see something that you aren’t supposed to witness, and the little hairs on your neck stand on end.
A car pulls into view, you notice, though. Its black shape almost feline from this far away, its sound inaudible against the ambient harbor noise. It’s a cop car pausing at an intersection, and part of you breathes a sigh of relief – it’s a familiar sight against the surreal and unknowable backdrop of concrete and enigmatic signage. A sign of life. Whew.
You make to look away to the water on your left as you walk, but something catches your eye and you stop.
It’s the car. Suddenly, you find that you’re not sure if it is a police cruiser – all you know now is that it’s low, broad, and dark.
Then it does something that has you doubting your eyes; something that you’ll only be able to later describe as a “bristling”.
The shadowy form shudders now, arching like an animal in pain – the movement is so organic that you have a hard time believing that you’ve been looking at a car all along – and with a spasm, it jerks upward, pulling it’s insides up on top of itself.
You’re torn between a wince and a gasp.
It’s standing on a pair of legs now (so big) and when you realize that it has a head, you no longer feel like a passive spectator. The electrifying sensation of being a participant crashes through you, and suddenly you’re aware of your own presence here. Like being spotted through a one-way mirror.
If you were still before, you’re practically frozen now. It looks around for a second, and when its eyes settle in your direction, you want to scream but your mouth refuses to open. Behind you, your bus roars by, but it barely registers. It might as well have been a mile away.
The huge thing still stares at you, unmoving, and you’re almost sure that it’s going to beeline for you, reach up onto the overpass and–
But it turns away and slips out of the orange glow on massive feet that you still can’t hear from this far away. The last thing you see is its leg and hand as it walks, uncannily human, its dark body disappearing into the inky blackness of an alley.
A tremor fills you when you realize you’re alone again – and that, for a brief moment, you weren’t.
It’s some minutes before you can muster the strength to step away from the guardrail, eyes still trained on that single spot of dim light at the intersection, waiting for movement. Hoping or dreading, you have no idea. Part of you wishes that the bulb would give out so that there’d be no accidentally seeing it again: something that you shouldn’t have.
But your phone rings, ripping you away from the window into that other world. It’s your partner, wondering where you are. You wonder where you are, too.
Sorry, you explain, beginning to walk again and trying to sound normal. I missed my bus.