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Old 06-07-2014, 04:33 AM   #1
Doppleganger
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The Road to Central Station

Las Vegas, Nevada
November 2001

...

Dark clouds had overtaken the sky above as I sprinted madly toward the idle bus. Lucky, I thought to myself, the bus hadn't left yet. I don't often take public transit, although I used to in the past, but I could never remember what time the route downtown arrived or when it left. Half the time, I'd arrive and it had just gone. Today, I didn't have my watch, and my cellphone ran out of juice a few days ago. Work kept my from finding a moment to recharge it.

My heavy bags violently swayed to and fro as I hustled up the hill toward the stop. I bought milk, eggs, and some sirloin - Mother definitely wanted something fresh after several weeks eating canned food. It was all I could afford at the time, but here was a real treat.

As I approached the bus I saw a "DOWNTOWN" on the marquee, which caused me to exhale with relief. This was the bus. Strangely, it didn't have a route number, normally the marquee will scroll with the route and destination. What was the route again...? I think it was the fourteen.

The bus was on but the driver wasn't there, so I looked around for him. I spied a man in uniform on a bench a few feet away, under the overhang of the strip mall. He looked absolutely dead, slumped over with his hands hanging limply over his knees, as if he were exhausted. A thin plume of smoke was rising from the slightly glowing cigarette sticking out of his mouth, and the bill of his cap obscured his face.

I approached the driver. As I got a better look I felt he was rather disheveled, his uniform looked faded.

I asked him if he was headed downtown. It's an obvious question, but since I didn't know the route he could still be going there but taking a longer way, and I wanted the shortest distance possible. The driver replied he was, and asked me where I was headed.

"Downtown Sin City, Central Station."

He nodded. This was the bus. He said I knew the fare, and should find myself a seat. I thanked him and climbed on to the bus and approached the fare receptacle. I deposited in two dollars in quarters, but the machine didn't look on and gave no reaction to my fare. Figuring it was broken, I chose to sit toward the back of the bus, climbing two stairs to climb into the elevated seating. I noticed an elderly black lady in the back.

After a few minutes the driver took his seat and put the bus into motion. The lights then went out in the bus, but flickered on as the engine revved back up. We left the strip mall at a quick pace and passed by the usual stops without any other passengers. I was hopeful I'd get downtown quickly and be home before I'd have to drive in some heavy rain.

It was then I noticed the driver wasn't following the same path previous drivers were going. He took a right turn at a restaurant where I remember the bus going straight, and rode over a back rode uphill into the rocky, undeveloped parts of town.

The sky continued to darken as the driver mutely directed his bus down a road I didn't recognize, and a light drizzle began to fall outside. I reached up and closed one of the upper windows to shield myself from the rain.

We continued to climb until a familiar complex came into view, beyond the rocky terrace, the Twin Towers apartments. The rain paused as we approached. The Twin Towers were one of the stops on the original route, so I was quite relieved to see them. I didn't get on the wrong route afterall, it looks like the route had just changed in my absence.

I had only visited the Twin Towers during the day, however, and that was quite some time ago. It wasn't quite night but it was late in the day, and dark to speak nothing of the oncoming storm. I couldn't see the buildings very well, but to me they looked decrepit, ruined even, as if they had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. One of the buildings even looked like it had broken in two, missing its upper stories. What happened to this place? It was still inhabited, however - a bespectled man wearing a fedora and carrying a briefcase boarded the bus, paid his dues and sat down in the seat opposite me.

The bus descended from the hill and continued on its trek into the unknown. The storm had caught up and was finally starting to angrily throw water upon the bus. I couldn't see the road anymore and was getting a little nervous, as the driver didn't slow down despite the rain and even seemed to be speeding up. We twisted through curves and continued to climb uphill, but I managed a brief glimpse outside, and saw the bright lights of the city skyline dimly in the distance. Was I mistaken, or were we traveling farther away?

No sooner had I realized this, the bus had reached the hill's apex and stated to descend. It continued to speed up at a chilling rate, and the bus driver hollered to the passengers to hold on tightly. The wheels spun furiously without traction on the wet cement as the bus hurdled toward something that the headlights reflected off of. There was a sharp impact, and the lights went out. All I saw was darkness.

...

After I stepped off the bus, I managed to find a pay phone and call up the public transit authority. I told them my circumstances and they apologized profusely. The driver was expecting other passengers and should have clarified to me about the route before I left. I had definitely boarded the wrong bus, and they even promised they'd send a shuttle to take me home personally, although given the current state of the roads it would take an eternity before I could get home.

I accepted their courtesy and slammed the phone into its socket, chipping off part of the smooth white handle. Central station had some construction going on and smelled strongly of sulfur with occasional flashes from hot flame. Since there were pay phones here, I thought to myself that construction is probably good, they're trying to bring the first circle into the modern era. There were a number of shady figures hanging around the stands, but that's to be expected in Sin City. Now, I have to call Mother.

I dialed my home phone. The reception was quite poor, as I heard static on the other side. My mother sounded like she was crying, but she stopped once I started talking to her. I explained how I'd mistakenly taken the wrong bus and was on my way home. She asked when I would return, and I couldn't give an arrival time. I had a brief look at the proposed route from the company before I called, and I felt like I'd have to go through purgatory to get back to the highways. I assured her, though, that I would come back home eventually.

I hung up, found a bench and sat on it. What a day, I thought to myself.

"This is one Hell of a detour."
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