Bogleech.com's 2014 Horror Write-off:
" Beelzebus "
He woke up in his usual seat at the back of the bus. A window seat, so that he wouldn't have to look at the faces of the other passengers. But he couldn't help but glance.
An old lady clutching a ring.
Her young granddaughter. Couldn't have been older than 6.
A teen girl with headphones plugged in but neither in her ears. Close to the door.
A fat, middle-aged man with purpling ankles.
A man with bags under his eyes, wrapped in a fur coat.
And finally, him. Simon. The grocery store cashier.
And on each of their faces was the same expression he wore. Confusion. Suspicion. Terror.
The last thing he remembered, he was walking along a long sidewalk. Headed home in the dead of night, to family who didn't particularly care for him. Yet, he felt some obligation to them nonetheless. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in this grimy seat. In the back. By the window.
There was nothing to look at out the window. The blackness only showed his own face reflected. No one spoke, and before long, the bus lurched to life. It rumbled along, but in the windows, nothing seemed to change.
A voice crackled through the PA system. At the front of the bus, the driver whispered into a microphone.
He chuckled first, though it sounded more like wet choking. "Welcome aboard, everyone. Hopefully you enjoyed your… nap."
"I'll cut right to the chase: you're here cause you're dead. You're all dead. Congratulations."
There were murmurs of worry all around the bus. The man in the coat began hyperventilating.
The middle aged man would have none of it. "So, who does that make you, then? God? The devil?"
The driver rocked back and forth, more choking laughter emerging from his maw. "No, no! No one so important. But I can tell you that where you're going… well, let's just say that it's not all sunshine and harpstrings down here." The bus fell silent. "Yeah, it's Hell. Whoop-de-doo." "But hey!" He said with mock-enthusiasm. "I'm not so cruel that I won't make this easier on all of you. So, here's what's going to happen:"
He held out both of his hands. The wheel kept turning on its own. He held up eight fingers.
"Six passengers. And six stops. Each worse than the last. Each one intended for one of you… from the ones who stole from the cookie jar… to the serial killer."
The passengers tensed up. Looking at each other. The fat man grimaced. The daughter buried her face in her grandmother's chest, sobbing. Any one of them could be the killer. Except for Simon, of course. He knew he didn't deserve… whatever was the worst this place had to offer.
They all sat a bit further from each other.
"But here's the catch!" The driver said with cruel satisfaction. "I'm not going to tell you which stop is your rightful punishment. At each stop, one person may leave, and only one! And then the bus will move on."
"So that's it, huh?" The teenaged girl asked, voice shaking. "It's simple. We just walk out the first chance we get… and we'll be better off."
The driver's head bent downwards and turned to face her. He didn't have a mouth, but smiled manically with his eyes. She screamed, and turned away. There was no doubt now. This wasn't just some lunatic kidnapping scheme. It was real.
"Yes," He wheezed through the PA system. "Haha, yes, it's thaaat simple. Of course, that is if you can bring yourself to leave…" He laughed again, and turned back around. "Now, sit tight, all of you. We're nearing our first stop…"
The bus stayed relatively quiet. But the grandmother spoke out.
"How is this fair?" She spat, clutching her granddaughter close. "What is she doing here? She's done nothing wrong."
"She's done nothing right, either, apparently," The driver said in a matter-of-fact tone. "We've got very specific rules around here, and I follow them. To the letter. Speaking of which, we're heeeere~!"
The bus door hissed open. Only blackness could be seen outside. "Who's first?"
He expected there to be a pause. Maybe a moment of hesitation before someone stood up. But before the demon driver was even finished talking, the man in the coat stood up, ran to the front and dove out the door with an anguished howl. And as he vanished into the darkness, his voice was suddenly very far away, echoing for a while before disappearing entirely.
"Oh my god!"
"Is he alright?"
"What's out there? Where'd he go?"
"Smart man." The driver smiled and nodded.
Simon opened his mouth. With a bit of hesitation, he spoke for the first time since he woke up. "He… he was the killer, wasn't he?"
"Right… you… are…" He said, retrieving something from his pocket. A flashlight. But its glow out the door only illuminated more darkness. A hole. "The Pit. Bottomless, naturally. A soft and cushy fate, by comparison. You should've been faster."
Simon's stomach turned. It hadn't yet sunk in, until just then, that at some point, he'd have to walk through those doors. Into something even worse. And there he'd stay. For all eternity.
The doors closed, and they were back on the road again. Five of them now. All of a sudden, they were no longer just a crowd of passengers on the bus. They looked at each other with the same empty stares, then looked away. They should've been faster.
The bus stopped again. The doors slid open, and the air became cold as ice. Simon and the girl pulled their feet up to their bodies, and the man simply covered his legs as well as he could. But the elderly woman was the only one to stand, and she walked towards the door. Her shivering granddaughter followed.
"No! No, no, you can't!" She screeched, tears freezing on her face. She pulled at the lady's leg. "Don't leave me alone!"
The grandmother was at the top of the steps now. Simon wanted to look away. She looked down, at the young girl, and picked her up, holding her close. Making her warm, one final time.
"Remember, Tiffany," She said in a mournful voice. "Everything I've done, I've done for you."
She just sobbed, puffs of air misting in front of her face. Her grandmother pried her tiny arms off of her… and threw her out. Into the darkness. Into the cold.
The driver shone a flashlight on the girl's prone form. On a plain of ice. Her skin was already turning blue, like the countless others who lay shivering, curled on the ice.
"G-gramma…" She stuttered, trying to stand. But her hand froze to the ground. "It's c-c-cold… I'm scared…"
The old woman said nothing. The flashlight switched off, and the door closed. She stood at the door until the bus had fully pulled away. Then she returned to her seat. The man glared at her, and he stood up and gripped her by the collar. She groaned in fear as the man nearly strangled her with her own clothing.
"What the HELL was that all about?! You've made a big mistake, lady!" He shouted, shaking her back and forth. Tears welled up in his eyes. Simon and the teen turned away, shellshocked by her actions. "You were the one… you said it wasn't fair…!"
"Hey!" The driver yelled back, waving a fist. "No violence! That comes after you get off!" He made no attempt to stop them.
She steeled herself, and took a deep breath. "Use your brain, you idiot, before it rots in your grave," She grabbed his hand with a shaking grip. "We're all dead. She was dead. I was… sparing her," She looked out the windows. Into the blackness. "My only mistake was not being fast enough for the pit."
His grip loosened. But she smiled softly. "It's only going to get worse. But I'm going to go last. So don't worry your little heads about it."
They both sat down again, though the man couldn't keep his fists from balling up.The girl was shaking. "I'm… I'm going next. Don't try to stop me." The bus stopped again. No one raised complaint. But Simon was screaming on the inside. His mind was telling him to go, to push her out of the way and jump off the bus. But his body refused to move.
It's only going to get worse… it's only going to get worse… why doesn't he leave now? Before the tortures become unbearable?
She dropped her headphones and stepped out of the bus, onto a metal floor. She looked back at the driver expectantly. "What?" He asked, smirking cruelly with his eyes and patting the pocket with his flashlight in it. "Go on, don't keep us waiting~"
"F-fuck you." She said simply, and walked into the darkness. Her final act of rebellion.
Simon closed his eyes as she screamed and screamed, but her screams were soon drowned out by a ghastly metallic whirring that made the bus shudder. Simon closed his ears, but could not keep out the sickening popping noise that followed. Soon, the whirring faded, and Simon realized that they had moved on. Just like that, she was gone.
"What…" He tried to say to the driver. "…What did she do to get here?"
"I dunno, shoplifted a few times, maybe?" He said, scratching his head with one hand on the wheel. "I'm a bit hazy on the details."
The man vomited. Simon gagged, but he managed to control himself. He gasped, then buried his face in his hands, curling up into a ball. He had never felt so small. So alone. All the regrets he had about his life suddenly bubbled up to the surface, but then seemed insignificant. A cashier? Why had he become a cashier? Why hadn't he cared more? Done more? He had gone so slowly, so carefully. But it was all over.
The bus smelt worse than it looked now. Simon wanted to escape, but all around was blackness. Maybe if he left the bus and ran to the side rather than into whatever torment awaited him… but maybe what if it went on forever? Or worse, what if he stumbled into a torment far worse than what waited?
The bus lurched to a stop. "Alright, who wants to go next?" Simon lifted his face from his hands. The man was in the seat opposite to him, a dead, sick look in his eyes. One of them would have to go. The man shut his eyes, took a deep breath, and stood. He walked to the door, and stood before.
The driver laughed, taking out his flashlight. "Oh, you're gonna love this…" He shone it outside. Both Simon and the old woman gasped, but the man simply stared in terror. Human bodies. Strung up by barbed metal wire. Hundreds at least, dangling and twitching, eyes, nose, and mouth all sewn shut. They hardly moved. Twitching was the most they could manage. "The Gallery. Probably my favorite attraction down here. Well, second favorite."
The man didn't move. He had gone stark white. Outside of the bus, waiting outside, was a strangely mundane table, with a few things on it. A spotlight shone down on it, marking its importance. Simon squinted, but he couldn't make out exactly what they were. But the man shook his head, and returned to his seat. "I… I can't. I can't do it… I'm sorry…"
Simon's heart leaped into his throat. The driver turned his gaze toward him. "Well, well…" He purred maliciously. As only a demon could. "If she's going last… and he's not going now… I guess that just leaves you, then, doesn't it?"
His imagination ran wild. What could be worse than this? Could anything be worse than this? He wouldn't go- he couldn't go. "Am I going to have to start throwing people out?" He said, impatience creeping into his voice. "I have a schedule to keep, you know." Simon shook his head frantically, trying to plead with him. But he couldn't speak. He felt like metal wires were around his neck, strangling him… but then, something in him broke.
"Please…" He turned to the old woman, tears streaming down his face. "Please… leave. I don't… I don't want to…"
Sobbing, he curled into his seat. A hand landed on his shoulder, and then was gone. He looked up, through tears, to see her walking off the bus. "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…" The man mumbled. The bus passed, and Simon saw the woman holding a metal wire… and something long and thin. "I could never handle needles…"
The bus continued. As it always did. If Simon wasn't already dead, he'd swear that he was dying. His body felt hot and cold all over (Why did he still feel like he had a body? Maybe so he'd actually feel what was happening when his torture began), and he felt his sanity slipping.
"I don't deserve this…" The man mumbled, anger rising in his voice. "I don't belong here… I've been a good man… a good husband and a good father… I've been a devout man, my whole life… why…?"
"I couldn't tell you," Simon replied weakly. Since they were the only ones left, he felt… obligated to reply, somehow. "I've done nothing my whole life. Not really."
The man chuckled. "Isn't that typical… you kids. Think you can just lounge around and pleasure yourselves and leave the world to rot," He spat at the ground, into his cesspool of vomit. Simon could swear there were maggots crawling around in it. "It was probably my hate that did it… my hate for you damned hedonists… but is that really so wrong? Is it wrong to hate what should be hated?"
He stared into Simon's eyes. And Simon stared back. The bus stopped again, and the door opened. The driver tilted his head back and clapped twice. "So, who's it gonna be? Who wants the worst, and who wants the second-worst~?"
Without changing his expression, the middle-aged man spoke. "You go."
"But… what about you?" Simon asked, surprised. He was sure the man would've gone himself.
"I've realized…" He put on a crooked smile and raised his head up high. "God… would never allow someone like me to be in a place like this. This is a trick. A test of my faith. He wants to see… if I'll sacrifice myself for others."
"If that's really what you believe… alright." Simon said quietly. He put his hands on his knees. He was trembling all over. What could be through that door? Worse than the Pit? Worse than the ice, the grinder, the gallery? But he stood. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
Walking towards the door happened in a blur. He was at the bottom of the steps, looking out. A click. The light spread slowly, weaving itself over…
The eyes. The vibrating eyes, belonging to bald, stretched grey heads. Jammed together, stuck in a silent, still mass of bodies. All staring at him, mouths folded over with blackened flesh. Their limbs grew into each other, their spines weaved together until the great floating mass was a perfect sphere. And all their collected blood, tears, and bile mixed together, dripping off the bottom into neverending blackness.
"Go on, child," The demon said. "Take your place among the dead."
Simon howled in terror and scrambled up the steps, only to find the man waiting for him, livid expression on his face.
A boot smashed against Simon's face. He saw stars for a moment, then those eyes. Those black pupils, seeing all but knowing nothing. He fought back. Pressed his face against the sole.
"I won't let you take this from me!"
"Don't… please… don't let them take me!" Simon latched onto the rails, but the man's stronger fingers pried his own up. His grip was loosening, his hand was bleeding. But he would die again before he would enter that mass.
"You deserve this! Wretched… damned… filthy…!" He punctuated each word with a kick. Simon felt his teeth knocking loose, his mind spinning...
Then, the man pitched forward, out of the bus, and into the pool of collected filth below the dead. The demon retracted his foot and waved to him as he pulled Simon aboard. "No violence on my bus! Have fun out there~!"
The doors closed and left the man outside. To rot.
Simon stumbled back to his seat, but slipped in the vomit and fell to the floor. But he pulled himself up, laying across the seats. For the first time since he boarded the bus, he slept.
And when he woke, things were not much different. They still traveled in blackness. So it wasn't a nightmare.
"Hey hey hey… look who's awake?" The driver teased. "We're approaching our last stop. Aren't you excited?"
Simon was silent. He had let his fear get the best of him again. And now that man was out there. He tried to tell himself that that horrible man deserved it… but maybe that kind of thinking was why he was here in the first place. Maybe HE deserved it. Maybe it was right that he got the final punishment.
"You get to experience the worst we have to offer… you should feel lucky. Not many people make it this far. You're either very brave… or the biggest coward in the world."
Simon chuckled. Once.
"I guess that's fitting though…" The demon mused. In the windshield, Simon saw a light, far in the distance. That was their stop, most likely. "The one who hasn't done a damn thing their entire life… continues to not do a goddamn thing."
Simon closed his eyes. Ignored the driver. It's not like what he said mattered anymore. He was dead. This was the end.
"I knew that you'd be the last one," The driver said. The light approached. Simon could see it through his eyelids. "I knew this would be perfect. What better punishment could there be, for someone like you?"
The light engulfed them. But they kept on driving. There was a ripping noise. "Open your eyes, idiot," The driver said, voice suddenly lacking its wheezy quality. "We're here."
Simon did as he said. His mouth gaped, and he put a hand over his mouth. He tried to scream, but his throat was shot. All he could do was squeak.
It was a beautiful day. Green hills, blue sky, lightly cloudy. Simon scrambled to the back of the bus. Behind them was wooden double doors, and within, only blackness. They were connected to a warehouse, a huge warehouse in the middle of nowhere. So huge that it could probably hold a city inside. Millions of people.
The driver dropped a flap of fake skin to the ground, and grinned at Simon with his rotting teeth. "You get the worst torment of all, Simon. Welcome home."
And even as the bus doors opened to the front porch of his house, Simon could not speak. He would be in hell for the rest of his life.