All Change Please

Entry by: Tauren

15th December 2017
As Bobby looked around the coach his first thought wasn’t, where the hell am I? Or, how the hell did I get here? No his first thought was, why is everyone naked? If he hadn’t been so distracted by the redhead sitting next to him he might have noticed sooner that he too wasn’t wearing any clothes, but then who could really blame him?

She was, he guessed, in her mid-twenties, and had what was once commonly been referred to as a voluptuous figure. that is to say she had wide hips, a narrow waist and large breasts; Bobby thought they were at least double D`s, if not E`s. she was pretty, in a Hollywoodish sort of way, and in a certain light she might even pass for beautiful. But up close and in the unflattering light of day, her face had an ugly hardness about it, particularly around the mouth and eyes that suggested perpetual anger, perhaps even cruelty; he turned away, looking out the window to his left at the passing scenery.

There wasn’t much of it to see, just an interminably passing field, varying from corn, to grass, to sunflowers, then back to corn again; all this under a perfect summers sky with only the hint of a single fluffy cloud that hung perpetually in the near distance.

I`m dreaming, he thought, yeah that’s it. I`m still on the plane somewhere over the Atlantic having one of those whatchamacallum`s? those dreams where the dreamer knows he`s dreaming? A lucid dream, yeah that’s, it I`m having a lucid dream.

He turned to the redhead and smiling asked, “So what’s a nice girl like you doing in a dream like this?”

She frowned at him, “Wha`d`ya mean, this is my dream; isn’t it?”

“Actually,” a voice said from across the aisle, “I think we`re all dead.”

Bobby leaned forward to see who was talking. He was a heavy set man with short hair and a paunch that suggested a sedentary life; he was smiling despite his proclamation.

“wha`d`ya mean dead?” Bobby asked, surprised to find he`d somehow lost his infamously quick temper in his sleep. Usually about this point he`d be on his feet, fists balled, he`d always hated being contradicted.

“I`m just saying,” the man said, “at first I thought I was dreaming, but you and the young lady appear to believe the same thing, and we can’t all be sharing the same dream, now can we? So I figure we must be dead.” The woman in the seat next to him said nothing; she just sat there with her back to them, her forehead pressed against the glass, watching the world go by. Bobby guessed she was old, maybe eighty, maybe more, judging from how her skin sagged, and she had those flaps under her arms that only really old women had.

“I`m telepathic,” the redhead announced, “I went to Madame Zara, over in Queens, she`s a really famous psychic, she told me I was telepathic, maybe I`m the link, the….. what’s the word, like a bridge between all of us.”

They studied her, “You ever read anyone’s minds before?” the man in the next aisle asked, she shook her head; he nodded his in a satisfied, thought so, fashion.

“But if we`re dead where`s everybody else?” Bobby asked.

“Everybody else?” the man said.

“Yeah, all the other people who`ve died, there must be thousands of people dying every hour, where are they? This coach isn’t big enough to hold them all, is it?” as he said this the note of the buses engine changed, dropping in pitch, and when he looked out through his window Bobby could see that they were slowing.

“My name`s Eddie by the way,” the man across the aisle said.

“Bobby,” Bobby replied.

“Well,” Eddie said, “Looks like we`ll find out soon which of us is right, personally I hope it`s you; I wouldn’t mind waking up in my cab somewhere on sixty third street just about now, a little fenderbender would be a relief instead of this.”

The coach downshifted noisily, the airbrakes hissing and “Schoooching” as they slowed, and though he pressed his face against the glass Bobby couldn’t see anything up ahead that suggested a terminus.

“See anything?” Eddie called from across the aisle; without looking around Bobby shook his head.

The bus juddered as the driver downshifted again, and Bobby was thinking they couldn’t be doing more than twenty when the tarmac began to stretch out to his left in a widening arc, they were finally getting there, wherever there was.

The coach came to a complete stop in the centre of a large tarmacked circle. To his left Bobby could see another pair of coach’s maybe fifty feet away, back to back, a coach length apart. In front of them were maybe two dozen people in uniform white slacks and short sleeved tops. The most striking thing about them was their supermodel looks and the fact that not one of them looked a day over thirty. The odd one out was a bearded man holding a clipboard; whilst the others chatted amongst themselves he stood apart, the only one paying any attention to the newly arrived coach and its passengers.

“what`s going on, can you tell?” The voice so near his ear made Bobby start.

Eddie was leaning close to him, looking over his shoulder, so close Bobby could feel his breath on his neck, “Guess we`ve arrived, “ he said, “and it looks like you were right.” He pointed to the identical coaches, the Letters E. T. A. emblazoned on the side of each and under that were the words

Eternity Transportation Authority

“Damn,” Eddie said, “Sometimes I hate it when I`m right.”

“Okay Ladies and Gentlemen if I may have your attention..”
They looked towards the front of the coach, the driver was standing in the aisle, Bobby saw he was wearing the same uniform as the people on the tarmac.
“This is the end of the line for this route,” the driver continued, “You`ll change coaches here, Mr Shepherd will allot you a space on the appropriate one.” He leaned across the console and pressed a button, there was a “hiss” and “Clalunk” sound as the door swung open. He turned to leave, paused turned back to his passengers and tipped the brim of his cap with the first two fingers of his right hand, “I wish Y`all good luck,” he said, and then he was gone.

Bobby, with Eddie still leaning across the redhead, watched him march over to the man with the clipboard, have a brief conversation with him, before strolling away to the right; they watched him until he disappeared around the front of the bus.

“So which one is up and which one is down?” Eddie asked in a conversational tone.


“The coaches,” Eddie said, “Which you figure is going to heaven and which is hell bound?”

Before Bobby could say anything the redhead said, “Shut up, shut up, shut up,” in a fierce whisper.

“Well excuse me. I was only…..”

“Go back to your own seat,” she snapped, “No-one cares what you think.” She stared into Eddie`s eyes and whatever he saw there made him look away, mumble something Bobby couldn’t hear, though there was no mistaking his tone, there was real fear in his voice, and he returned to his seat without looking back.

Bobby sat there doing what he supposed the other passengers must be doing about now; interrogating his life, weighing up all the things he`d done, putting himself on trial… and maybe finding himself a little lacking.

Sure he`d lied, and cheated on his taxes, and there was that time the checkout girl had given him a hundred in change instead of a ten; but wasn’t that all penny-ante stuff, or did it all add up, make one big sin?

Hey it wasn’t like he`d ever raped or murdered anyone, and weren’t they the biggies? Okay there was the abortion, but that was legal, and anyway it`d been Angela`s idea, hadn’t it. Besides they were only kids themselves. You couldn’t expect them to put their lives on hold, they were just out of college, they had their careers to think about. And it wasn’t as if he`d abandoned Angela, a lot of guys would`ve, no he`d been a stand-up guy, paid for the procedure and everything. But suddenly he wasn’t sure whether that would count for him or against him.

He looked across at Eddie who appeared lost in thought and realised that nobody`d made a move to leave, he almost laughed out loud as the thought struck him that this was the first time he`d been on any kind of transport where there hadn’t been a mad rush for the exit as soon as the bus had stopped.

“Excuse me,” every head in the coach turned and looked to the front of the aisle, the bearded man was standing there a patient smile on his face. “Thank you,” he said, “glad I`ve got everybody’s attention. Alright folks you`re going to leave sometime, we`re only called eternity transport.”
No-one laughed.

His smile never faltered and he looked to his right, leaned down and said, “And what`s your name?”

Bobby didn’t hear what the woman said, but Shepherd said, “Take my hand Ethel,” and to Bobby`s surprise she did, and then followed him down the steps. The man who`d been sitting next to her followed suit, and as if by some internal signal the people across the aisle followed him, each standing and waiting patiently, taking their turn. And that’s how they went, row by orderly row; stand, step into aisle, shuffle forward, next row please, all in silent terror.

“Please no, no, please God please, I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to, oh God no, no, no,” the words slipped from between the redhead`s clenched lips in a keening whisper as she rocked back and forth, arms wrapped around her chest as if she`d only now realised her nakedness, and felt suddenly ashamed.

He looked past her at Eddie, caught his eye, and mouthed the words “Oh Shit,” to him, Eddie nodded and mouthed back, “Poor bitch.”

When the row in front of them emptied out, Eddie, without hesitation went first, followed by the woman in the seat next to him.
Bobby was sure the redhead would make a scene, clutch the armrests and refuse to go. but as soon as it was her turn she stood without protest, falling in behind the old woman, though she still had one arm wrapped protectively across her breasts, still softly imploring God to forgive her for whatever terrible thing she`d done. Bobby, to his own surprise, falling in behind her.

They shuffled forward a space, stopped, shuffled forward, stopped; until they reached the top of the steps and Bobby realised he was in luck. Unlike everyone else he was standing behind someone who was convinced she was going to hell; as long as he was allotted a different bus he`d be alright.

When she reached the bottom step, Shepherd asked, “Name?”

“Victoria Tarrant,” she replied, seemingly attaining some semblance of self-control.

Shepherd ran one finger down the list, called a female assistant over and pointed to the coach on the left. The woman took Victoria by the arm, patting it as she led her away, Bobby amazed she went so quietly.

“Name?” Shepherd asked him.

“Robert, Robert Givens.”

The finger ran down the list; C`mon right bus, he prayed, C`mon right bus.

Shepherd beckoned one of the male assistants over and then Bobby`s world slowed to a crawl, first the man`s hand extending in slow motion, then the index finger, until it was pointing at the coach on the left.

He tried to back up, but the man behind him didn’t budge, instead giving him a shove.

He fell to his knees, raised his head and begged, “Please, no please, God help me????”
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