The Long Ride – Part 5

Hey there, everyone. I officially made it through day five of the Long Ride. Quite a few things happened today, but while some of them were strange and terrifying, I also had a rather interesting conversation with a fellow passenger. Still trying to figure out what to make of it, though…

The morning started fantastic right off the bat. After I’d typed out the events of the previous night, I felt like utter shit. I was hungover; the tram was overcrowded, and the collective noise of all those people cut through my brain like a searing knife.

Eventually, I just didn’t care anymore. I pulled out one of the remaining two cans of beer my friend had gotten me and decided to down them, hoping they’d somehow be able to ease my hungover and allow me to sleep. Needless to say, people weren’t too happy about it.

As I said, no one cares to enforce the ‘no drinking on the tram’ rule, but that didn’t mean people were happy to see you drinking in the early morning hours.

I opened my can of ‘hungover cure beer,’ took a deep sip and could already feel the pain in my brain receding. I leaned back, took a deep breath, and then another sip. This behavior didn’t go unnoticed, of course. I saw the stares, and I could almost hear the whispers, but really, I couldn’t care less. I was just too damn exhausted.

It wasn’t long before I felt someone’s hand resting on my shoulder. When I turned, I saw an older man. His attire screamed blue collar. He was staring me down, waiting for me to take out my headphones.

The moment I did, he spoke up.

“Drinking first thing in the early morning, eh, but not even moving the damned backpack to make room for other people?”

I just looked at him and was about to give him a ‘fuck you,’ but he wasn’t the only one laying into me.

“There’re children here, you know? Can’t you at least think about what an example you’re setting for them?” an older woman chimed in.

“How about you just move the damned backpack and get up? Maybe standing for a bit might sober up,” Mr. Blue Collar spat at me.

Without waiting for an answer, he got a hold of my backpack and was about to pull it off the seat. I was quick to hold it in place with my free hand.

This time, I said it out loud.

“Fuck off, okay?”

He didn’t like me mouthing off one bit, and this time, he pulled on the backpack with all the force he could muster. The backpack slid off the seat, and I was promptly pulled after it. In the process, I spilt a good part of the beer all over myself.

I cursed, only to be greeted by snickering and more whispers all around me.

“Already drunk at this time of the day,” I heard a middle-aged lady say.

“Probably homeless, and slept on the tram,” someone else added.

“Should just kick him off,” I heard a teenager say to his friends, who enthusiastically agreed with his idea.

“Fucking hell, all right,” I finally said, and got up from my seat.

Then I got a hold of my backpack and pushed myself through the more than annoyed crowd of passengers to find myself some room.

As I did, it felt like the entire tram staring at me. Occasionally, people moved out of my way, their disgust at my drunken self visible on their faces, while others weren’t shy to elbow me or push me aside, trying to provoke yet another scene.

Eventually, I made to a spot near the tram doors and pushed myself against the side of the tram and began massaging my temples.

I still heard people whisper and still felt the glances. Yeah, you can all go fuck yourselves, I thought.

Yet some weren’t just satisfied by mere whispers and glances. When the group of teenagers from before got off the tram, they all bumped into me, one of them so hard, I almost lost my footing. In an instant, I jerked around and pushed the fucker. He tumbled off the tram and promptly crashed to the floor.

He got up a second later, was about to throw a punch, but then froze. His eyes grew wide, fear distorted his face, and he cringed back, just staring at me. He opened his mouth, but then closed it again. His friends asked him why he didn’t ‘punch the fucker,’ but he wasn’t able to say anything.

Now, I’m sure I look like shit, probably like a homeless person, but that reaction, that fear… It wasn’t normal. I don’t know what he saw. Maybe it was me or maybe it was something else, but it made me more than anxious.

I just stood there as the tram doors closed again. Could it be that whatever otherworldly influences I’d been subjected to had done something to me?

Before I could think about it any longer, the same man from before was yelling at me again, telling me he’d no problem to kick my drunk ass off the tram if I’d ever do anything like that again.

Eventually, more and more people left the tram, Mr. Blue Collar amongst them. He gave me one last angry stare before he got off. As he did, I heard him mumble to himself about ‘worthless scum.’

Soon enough, only a handful of people remained, and I could finally return to my trusty row of seats. I considered opening the last can of beer I’d left, but I could tell the driver had it out for me because of the earlier commotion. Unless I didn’t want to get kicked off for real, I’d better lie low for a bit. So instead, I decided to just settle down, close my eyes, and catch some sleep.

I was awoken in the late afternoon by the sound of someone knocking against the tram window. I jerked up, turned, but saw no one. Great, I thought, probably a bunch of kids who’d fucked with me.

Then I saw him. There was a guy who stood a couple of meters away, on the other side of the street. He was staring at me. His face showed a slight, cheeky smile, as if he’d just played a trick on me. And as if to make it even clearer, he made a little knocking motion. So it had been him, but… how? How’d he be able to knock against the glass from over there? I mean, there was no way he’d been fast enough to knock and cross the street.

My eyes continued to rest on him until the tram drove off. The moment it did, his smile grew a tad bit wider, and he slowly raised his hand to wave at me.

I don’t know why, but he instantly crept me out. The hell was wrong with that guy?

I shook my head. No, don’t think about it. It’s probably just some idiot who saw me jerking up and decided to fuck with me.

At least, that’s what I told myself until we arrived at the next station. I’d just been sitting there, staring outside, but the moment we pulled in, I noticed a person waving.

At first, I thought it was someone waving at a friend or one of the other passengers, but then I recognized him. It was the same guy, the same freaking guy from the last station. How he’d gotten here was anyone’s guess.

He was still smiling happily, but now he seemed to have gotten a tad bit closer to the tram.

By now, I should’ve gotten used to these strange events, and I should’ve just ignored it. Hell, seen it as a normal part of my day, but I just… couldn’t. I don’t know why, but him looking entirely normal, his smile nonthreatening, was so much worse than any of the ghastly grins I’d seen so far. I told myself once more to look away, to ignore him, to focus on my music, but I found myself staring at him.

Finally, we drove off again, and once more, he waved at me, his eyes trailing after me.

When we pulled into the next station, I somehow knew he’d be there. We were still a good hundred meters away, but I could already see him waiting for me. And as the tram pulled in, he waved at me again. Once more, he seemed to have gotten closer.

I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat. This freaking smile!

Every time the tram pulled into a new station, that guy was there, and every time he was doing the same thing, happily smiling and waving at me.

I’d seen lots of weird shit, but this was just too damned bizarre.

And then, I did it. After more than a dozen stations, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I raised my hand, and waved back at him, just to see if anything would happen, if anything would change.

The moment I did, there was indeed a change. His hand went down, his eyes grew wide, his smile grew bigger, and then… after staring at me for another few seconds, he just left.

A wave of fear like no other washed over me, and I started shivering. I don’t know what I’d just done, but I knew I’d made a mistake, a huge fucking mistake!

As I sat there, shaking in my seat, I couldn’t help but stare outside, stare at the internal departure schedule to see when we’d pull into the next station. What if that guy was there again? What if he was waiting for me, or, hell, he’d get on the tram to come for me? Just because I… reacted to him.

Then the announcement of the next station was broadcast over the internal speaker by a friendly, yet monotonous, voice.

I froze. There he was. At least I thought so at first, but then I realized I was wrong. It was another person, another man, just waiting for the tram.

That waving guy wasn’t there. Yet as I sat in my seat, I knew this wasn’t over. I knew he’d be back, eventually.

Slowly, ever so slowly, afternoon turned to evening, Friday evening. Which meant the tram would be packed the entire evening.

I watched as teenagers and older people alike flooded into the tram. I saw guys dressed in suits, girls in short skits and knee highs, older ladies in classy dresses and even a group of guys in sweatpants, carrying two caskets of beer.

Almost the entire city was out to party tonight.

The later it got, and the more alcohol people seemed to have consumed, the more excitable they became. Here was a group of drunks bellowing a raunchy song through half the tram. Over there was a couple making out and further ahead I saw a group of girls so scarcely clad, you might think it was the middle of summer. I even saw two older gentleman, costly dressed who shared a bottle of disgustingly strong herb liquor between themselves.

For hours, I watched the going-ons, and the various people out tonight. To be honest, it was extremely interesting, and for the first time, I found myself ignoring the outside of the tram, not looking for weird locations, but instead, just watching people.

It was at about two in the morning when the tram grew emptier that she entered.

She was the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen, and my eyes grew wide. Her hazel eyes wandered over the tram in search of a seat, and I watched as she brushed aside a rebellious strand of brown hair that dangled in front of her face.

For a second, all the noise in the tram die down, and everyone seemed to stare at her.

Then, slowly, normalcy returned, or at least, a sense of normalcy, for she was still the center of attention.

The strangest thing, however, was how plainly she was dressed. Instead of a fancy evening dress, she wore a pair of roughed up jeans and a white tank top, but this made her even hotter.

As her well-measured steps led her through the tram, I couldn’t help but stare at her. I told myself to look away, to stop being a freaking creep, but I couldn’t. This girl, whoever she was, was exactly my type; a fantasy become flesh.

Then she noticed me. In an instant, I averted my eyes. Shit, you’re acting way too freaking creepy.

I did my best to just turn away and stare out the window, but then, only a few moments later, she was right there, standing next to my row of seats.

“Hey there, is this seat available, or is it reserved for your backpack?” she asked, giving me a hint of a smile.

Oh Jesus fucking Christ, I can die happy.

“Oh yeah, it is, I mean, it’s reserved… not reserved, available, I mean. Just let me get this out of the way.”

With that, I heaved the heavy backpack over to my side, and then, with all the force I could muster, pushed it between my legs. It barely fit, and I was damned sure I’d just ruined a fair bit of the food still inside, but I didn’t care. I’d have thrown the damned thing out of the tram if it meant having a short with this girl.

She watched my efforts, slightly giggling, before she sat down next to me.

“So, are you out to party?” she asked.

Her voice was pure seduction and the smile she gave made my blood rush through my veins.

“Ah, no, I’m…”

Shit, what the hell do I tell her? If I told her what I was really doing, she’d probably think I was the biggest freaking idiot on planet Earth. Which, honestly, wasn’t too far from the truth.

“No, I’m going somewhere,” I eventually brought out.

“Hmmm,” she mused. “Why don’t the two of us go somewhere together? To be honest, I’m really bored tonight, and am looking for a bit of fun, you know?”

After she’d said this, she gave me a little wink.

Believe me, I wanted to, I fucking wanted to, but I couldn’t just give up like that, could I? Not on day fucking five!

Then she put her hand on my leg, caressing it slightly.

“Why not take a chance for once?”

At that moment, I was done. Fuck the Long Ride, fuck the tram, and fuck my friends who’d most likely call me out for giving up. I didn’t care anymore.

The tram rumbled on, and then came to a stop. At that moment, she got off her seat, and held out her hand toward me. Without even thinking, I took it and got up myself. Yet before I could leave my rows of seats behind, something unexpected happened.

Some idiot who must’ve sat behind us and was on his way towards the tram doors as well bumped right into her. Her hand was torn from mine and she stumbled a few steps forward. I was about to yell at the fucker, but at that moment, something changed. She changed.

For the shortest of moments, the beautiful girl in front of me… wavered, for lack of a better word.

In an instant, her brown hair and hazel eyes vanished, and something not human replaced her face and comprising nothing but bone and scare tissue. I cringed back, almost toppled over my seat, and crashed hard against the tram’s side.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” I heard from behind me and when I turned, I saw a scruffy-looking older dude.

When I turned back towards the girl, she was all hazel eyes and brown hair again.

“Are you okay? Are you still coming?” she asked, but this time, the illusion wasn’t complete.

For a moment, her face was replaced by what I know recognized as some sort of beak, and the hand she held out to me was nothing but a twisted set of claws.

Once more, I pushed myself against the side of the tram. When she saw my reaction, her entire act fell apart. Her smile was gone, her eyes had turned hard, and an expression of pure and utter anger came over her face.

For a second, I thought the thing might throw itself at me, but then she just walked off.

I couldn’t help but stare after her, after… it.

“Wouldn’t look for too long, or you fall for it again,” the scruffy guy said. “Care if I take a seat?”

I measured him up for a moment, wondering if this was another trick, another ploy by some strange thing to get close to me, but when I saw no sign of ill will on his face, I nodded.

“Thanks, I guess,” I eventually brought out.

The dude gave me a shrug. When he did, a rain of dandruffs descended from his head, and I couldn’t help but inch a tad bit away from him. Now that I had time to get a better look at him, I saw he wasn’t just scruffy. He was dirty, his clothes nothing but rags and smelled way worse than I did after five days on the goddamn tram.

He had to be a freaking hobo, I reasoned. Probably on the tram for the night to catch some sleep in a warm place.

“How did you know about this… thing?”

The guy chuckled, but then started to talk. When he did, I could smell disgustingly heavy liquor on his breath.

“When you live where I do, you catch on to a thing or two. Seen it before. Almost fell for it myself once.”

“What is it?”

“Haven’t gotten the slightest clue. But sure is nothing good. I can tell you that!”

As I stared ahead, I saw that the woman had already found another guy, and was seductively talking to him. A moment later, I watched as she pressed her mouth against his and couldn’t help but shudder.

“What’s it you see?” the guy next to me asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The thing, what’s it look like to you?”

“Brown hair, hazel eyes, wearing jeans and a tank top.”

The guy next to laughed.

“See, that’s how it gets you. Knows what type of woman we like, then shows it to us!”

“What’s she looking like to you, then?” I asked, giving him a slight grin.

“A blond with a pair of killer knockers!”

I burst out laughing when I heard this.

Then I watched as the woman got off her seat, the guy she’d sat with trailing after her. I was about to get up, to do something, but for just a second, she shot me a threatening glance. That made me freeze.

A moment later, she’d dragged the guy from the tram.

My eyes wandered towards the station, towards the two of them. The guy was still grinning like an idiot, enamored by what he assumed to be the girl of his dreams.

As they went on their way, I could see their shadows, cast by a nearby street light. His was normal, but hers was entirely different. It was a giant, lurking thing, something akin to a sort of bird, a bird of prey. The image of a vulture appeared in my mind, a lurking, preying vulture read to devour its prey. Then the tram drove off, leaving the two of them behind, and the guy to whatever terrible fate the creature had in mind for him.

“So, what’s your deal?” the guy ended the silence.

“What do you-?”

“Been sitting here with no intention of getting out, carrying that damned thing with you. You sure don’t look like party people to me.”

Guess I really stuck out. In a few words, I told him about the Long Ride, and that I was already on day five.

When he heard this, his face grew dark.

“Doing a stupid thing like that,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “Staying on here for so long, even overnight.”

“Aren’t you doing the same thing? I mean, aren’t you on here to catch some sleep?”

“God no! I might live on the streets, but I ain’t stupid! I’m just on to get away from those damned party people. Can’t sleep with all that shouting and what not. Stayed on here once, but it’s not worth it. Not with all the crazy shit happening.”

“What do you mean?”

He stared at me for a moment, probing me.

“Sure you must’ve noticed them by now. Them people who just up and vanish, strange creatures like that thing before and those places who shouldn’t be there but somehow are. Like this one!”

With that, he pointed outside, and I saw we were just passing another un-location. This time, it was a scrapyard. It was a huge, constricted place, looking almost labyrinthine. As I focused on it more, I saw its giant heaps comprised nothing but old, rusty toys, all stacked upon one another.

I shuddered when I saw strange figures shuffling around between these heaps, figures that seemed as mechanical as the rest of the place.

Eventually, I gave the guy a nod and began telling him what I’d seen over the past days. When I told him about the waving man, he cut me off.

“You did what?” he asked in shock.

“Like I said, I waved back? Why?”

“Goddamnit! Tell you what,” he started, leaning over towards me, staring me deep into the eyes. “You better get off this damned thing right here, right now!”

“Why? What’s going to happen? What’s he going to do?”

“Ain’t going to do a damn thing, but now he knows you’re on, and that you’ve seen him. He’s marked you and, now, others know as well?”

“What others?”

“God knows what they are. Might be ghosts, might be demons, but they sure are trouble. As I said, best to call it quits about your damned game and get off!”

“Wish I could do that, but to tell you the truth, I’m prepared to sit this one out.”

Once more, the guy shook his head.

“Wouldn’t do it if I were you, but I guess you’ve made up your mind.”

After he’d said this, he got off his seat.

“Well, time to get going. I sure don’t like taking my chances.”

I gave him a nod.

“Well, thanks for the warning! Ah, hold on. Here for saving me!”

With that, I handed him my last can of beer.

The guy’s face lit up the moment he saw it. He almost tore it from my hands and it vanished in one of the many pockets of his jacket.

“Tell you again. Get off while you still can.”

Then he made his way toward the tram doors and once the tram came to a halt, he left it behind.

Outside, I found him looking at me, giving me a well-meaning nod before he walked off.

For the next hour, I sat in my seat, thinking. He’d said I’d been marked, but… what exactly did that mean? I’d thought he was just some crazy hobo, but it was clear he knew what was going on here, and he knew more than I did. I cursed to myself for not having asked him to stay on longer and to share more information.

Well, nothing I can do about it now. So instead, I typed out my experiences of day five. It’s close to five in the morning now, and I’m getting tired, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to sleep, at least not until the sun is up.

That’s it for now. See you all tomorrow. At least, I hope so.

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