(A dear friend shared a picture from his commute, and I used it as inspiration for a story.)
It’s difficult. She just can’t quite make her mind focus. Thoughts move through like tumbleweeds, and she has trouble making the words match her ideas. It has always been this way. At least, she thinks it has been. Ever since…the beginning. She can remember a time of stillness; of reflection and contemplation, but only fleeting before it is lost again, like trying to catch cottonwood fluff blowing in a late summer breeze. But these puzzles help. They give her focus. If she can just keep them from getting wet. And thinking of that, she grimaces and looks to her left at her companion.
He’s always wet. Dripping. Soaking. Drenched. Nothing he can do about it, other than try and shield others from his dampness, lest they, too, become water-logged. It’s all he can do, to hang on while in motion, trying to keep his boggy self from splashing the other riders. And her. When she is near him, it’s like being run through the spin cycle on a top-line washer. He can’t do much else but apologize for getting her puzzles damp, when she brings them out of the safety of the baggie. But she doesn’t remember his contrition. And so they ride.
Getting around in winter is always tricky. But for the avatars of Wind and Rain, sometimes, public transportation is the only option, despite the frustration.
The seemingly solid barriers between realities can be easily shattered by the most innocuous of events. A baby’s cry. Knocking on wood. Whistling in the dark. Each may result in a veil being pushed aside and not without sometimes substantial consequences. But put many of them together, a veritable symphony of invitations, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
The bus careens along the dampened streets, flinging sheets of muddy water in its wake, like some great amphibious leviathan. Packed tightly aboard, the ridership jostles and sighs, as a typical weekday commute continues. As it does practically every day, the great metal caravan slows to a crawl in one spot in the journey and, despite this being a regular occurrence, the anxiety aboard palpably increases.
Then, breaking the quietly tense mood, a baby starts a piecing, tea-kettle scream. At the same moment, a woman in hushed conversation on her phone says, “Don’t jinx it!”, as she knocks on her wooden umbrella shaft. In the back, juggling her breakfast snack, a matronly woman in all tweed and leather accents, sprinkles salt on her hard boiled egg, and tosses some over her shoulder.
The invitations have been extended and accepted. The curtains are raised and the gates are flung wide
At first, there was only silence. All sound ceased being heard. It was, as far as anyone knows, still sounding, but the riders heard nothing, not even the beating of their own hearts. The sound vacuum lasted just a moment, less time than it would take a hummingbird to hiccup.
But it was long enough.
Without being quite sure how, the ridership noticed that there were more people on the bus than just before. Not so many as to be shocking, but where there were previously gaps between people, there were now more people. Shoulders bumped where they didn’t before. More often than not, there was the hot breath of someone standing too close. And the new people smiled. They were the scouts; the advance team, sent ahead to make sure that the way was clear, now that the gates were open. Somewhere in the back of the crowded bus, a singularly beautiful and clear voice started to sing. The song, ancient and powerful, was joined by others, harmony building to a crescendo of glory and deep longing. As it reached the end, the interior of the bus lit up as with a hundred floodlights, as it rolled along the expressway. Brighter and brighter it grew, and then, with a final, terrible musical finale, the bus, and all aboard, vanished from the road. And our world.
The Faerie are, by nature, polite beings. They don’t come without being invited. But once the door is open, they take what they want. And that, at times, includes commuters.
Gargantuan with hat the size of small island nation. Nose ring and grunting confirms. Minotaur has escaped and is on the 120.
Ramrod straight she sits. Her hair, the color of a muddy Golden Retriever, is pulled back and up into a tight bun. A navy dress, with white piping, is serviceable and of a durable cotton. Her shoes cause a double-take, for their color is so like that of her legs and feet, that it appears she is barefoot but with no toes, like a department store mannequin. Deep black and perfectly round sunglasses hide her eyes, but they must be watchful and piercing, just as the set of her mouth is one of implacable determination. Only when the light hits her upper arm just so do I see a tattoo, slightly raised lettering, hidden skillfully with makeup. “Olga – Mark IV”, it reads. It seems one of the local tech companies is dabbling in androids. The guy next to her is getting ready to hit on her. This may be a very interesting morning after all.