It was early on a Thursday morning when I stepped out of the airport terminal. I had been travelling for several years, you know how it is. You go for six months and time just gets away from you. Recently the endless cycle of drink and drugs with other travellers on a variety of sun kissed beaches had worn thin. I’d been experiencing a nagging feeling of homesickness. I decided that it was time for me to return to the real world. I scraped together the last of my money from my part time job and booked myself on the first flight home. As I caught my first glimpse of England from the window of the plane I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d made the right decision.
The bus pulled into the terminal. Late. Bloody English public transport. Some things never change. Luckily, I was one of the first people on board so managed to snag myself a window seat. I was exhausted, so I was glad that I wouldn’t have to worry about drooling on some stranger’s shoulder. I put my luggage in the compartment and propped my head against the window. The bus pulled away and I swiftly fell into a fitful slumber.
I awoke an hour later. I was mildly irked that someone had decided to sit next to me whilst I slept. I’d always valued my personal space and I hated having someone that close to me. This guy especially. He stank. The kind of stink that seems to creep into you through every orifice. I could feel it begin to surround me. I wanted to scrub myself clean, I looked around to see if there was another vacant seat I could sit in but I was out of luck. The bus was full. I was in this for the long haul. I closed my eyes, attempted to ignore the stench and tried to get back to sleep.
It was the sound of the rain that woke me up the second time. Normally I could sleep through anything but something felt off. I slowly opened my eyes and my heart rushed towards my a******e. This wasn’t rain, it was blood. I watched in terror as the thick red liquid began to drip down the window, giving the world a crimson hue. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed. Everyone looked fine, as if this shower of viscera was nothing more than the usual autumn drizzle. I cried out and some passengers turned and gave me a puzzled look before returning to whatever activity they were engrossed in to pass the time. Then the world went to s**t.
I saw a flash of light through the window that blinded me for a second. As the spots in front of my eyes cleared, all I could see was fire. The buildings on either side of the road were practically obscured by the flames. My eyes widened as I saw people exit the buildings screaming. Their flesh bubbled and blistered as they were fried by the heat. I saw their eyeballs pop from the pressure of the boiling fluid within, the dark liquid running down their cheeks like mascara in the rain. They somehow managed to stagger towards the bus, what was left of their hands pressed against the window, wiping the blood away in long streaks as death finally overcame them. Fear gripped me, I reeled away from the window into the stinking body of the man sitting next to me. He merely grunted irritably and stared back down at his book. I noticed that others were staring out of the windows but instead of horror, their faces merely had an expression of boredom, as if seeing a man burned alive was something that happened far too many times for them to care. It was then I noticed those… things. They were tall and thin and seemed to be made entirely of flame. I almost missed them against the backdrop of burning buildings but if I looked closely I could see them. Grotesque stick men walking between the fires. Occasionally they would reach out and touch an unsuspecting bystander who would scream as the flesh fell off their bones. The smell of burning flesh made me gag. As I whimpered and turned from the gruesome scene I saw the passengers on the bus looking in my direction and shuffling away.
It was then I realised that the smell of burning skin was not coming from outside, but the man next to me. I looked at his face for the first time and saw nothing but fire. I panicked. I had to protect myself. I took my keys from my pocket, put them in my fist and punched the creature in the chest. I heard a primal scream escape from my lips as I fought to save myself. I felt his ribcage suddenly yield to my blows with a sickening crack. I watched as the other passengers started to run out of the bus, only to be disintegrated one by one by the things that lay outside in wait. I punched again and again, the tears on my face mingled with the hot liquid from the creature’s corpse. I finally stopped my onslaught, I was safe. The interloper had been destroyed and the creatures outside seemed unwilling or unable to enter the vehicle that was both my prison and salvation. I watched as they screamed, their fiery bodies changing from red to blue as their anger fuelled them. I realised I was alone. All the other passengers had fled from the beast next to me and had met their fates. I sat and cried for what seemed like hours as the creatures screamed their incoherent rage at me through the glass.
I sat there for what seemed like hours, mocking them, taunting them. As time passed I realised that I wasn’t safe, I was trapped. The driver had gone to his doom and taken the keys with him. I was stranded. Almost as if they sensed my realisation, two of the blue flame creatures tried the door. I screamed as it opened to their touch. The power that had kept them at bay was gone. I screamed as they began to walk down the aisle towards me. I pushed the corpse of the creature next to me to the floor and rose to my feet, ready to fight my way to freedom. One of the blue creatures pointed at me and I heard a crack as I was knocked to the floor. I looked down to see blood seeping from the gaping wound that was now in my chest. I could hear the creatures screaming in victory. I tried to pull myself to my feet but I heard another crack and I felt a sharp pain in my neck. I put my hand to the spot and saw that it came away covered in blood. I sank to my knees before lying face down on the floor. As my vision faded I saw that the creatures were not blue, it was just the colour of their clothes. Through the sound of my final heartbeats in my ears I heard one speak, not in the terrifying tones I’d become accustomed to, but in English,
“Suspect is down. Repeat, suspect is down. It’s over.” Then there was nothing but darkness.