As the silver Honda City was driven down the bend in the hill road, the ragged house just came in sight. Made out of old stone, it wasn’t really attractive, and add in the blackness caused due to smoke emissions over the years, it wasn’t even able to home the crows around. There was absolutely no greenery in the patch of land, ugly moss covering the surface and a naked tree standing bent over the roof. There were two floors, a termite-eaten wooden door for the entrance, and two windows. It looked horribly suffocating.
“Oh, c’mon, any human can’t possibly live there,” Sanya said loudly. “It almost looks like prison.”
“Well, I’m surely not gonna live there,” Saina, her twin, said in her high-maintenance style.
“Then live on the road,” their father said. “You should know that we do not want to leave you here alone with that erratic aunt, but we have no alternative. Surely, you can’t go all the way to Mumbai to stay with your Grandma just for the weekend!”
“We can, but you won’t let us,” Saina mumbled and sighed.
“We very well won’t, stop being ridiculous” their mother scolded. “Now, for once, just let us spend our weekend without the stress of checking on your through the phone every second. We have enough job stress. It’s just today and tomorrow. Please act your age and do not trouble your aunt.”
“Lest she troubles us,” Sanya commented.
Their mother just sighed and looked out the window at the house.
They ascended the hill with much difficulty and Father loudly beeped the horn of the car. A bony figure draped in black stepped out of the front entrance. Her face was wrinkled and her chapped lips broke into a fake smile, displaying her yellowed teeth. With a pointy nose and bags under her grey eyes, she looked nothing less than a witch. Aunt.
Mother waved at Aunt, which the latter returned. There was no more conversation between the two sisters.
The girls’ night bags were taken out of the boot and they proceeded to the house with them.
They reached the door of the house where Aunt greeted them with a gruesome yellow-teethed smile. Without uttering a word, she went inside. The girls turned around to say goodbye to their parents, but they had already driven down the winding hill road. The girls went inside behind their aunt.
The house from the inside wasn’t any more attractive than it was from the outside. The furniture was all made of mostly termite-eaten or exhausted oak wood, the floor was uneven and the stairs creaked under feet. It was a very simple house but wasn’t neat. It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a very long time, and the dust settled upon the ancient furniture seemed to be sitting there for ages. Saina frowned in disgust.
All there was in the hall was a table, a bookshelf, two chairs and three doors; one probably leading to the bathroom, one to the kitchen and the third to an obscure place.
“You room,” Aunt spoke for the first time, in her heavily high-pitched, irritating voice, “is the one on the left,” she pointed at it. “Dinner will be ready at 8, and I’ll be in my room upstairs if you need any help.”
The girls nodded, and then entered their room, as Aunt swished and swayed her way up the stairs.
“This is prison.” Saina concluded. “How can I ever live in this room?” She looked around. It was a very tiny room, almost like a store room, with two mattresses laid down on the floor with faded white bed sheets over them. Other than that, there was nothing but blackened walls which were originally supposed to be cream. “I feel claustrophobic.”
“Well, this is fate, sister.” Sanya dumped her bag in a corner. “Let’s go ask Aunt if she has means of entertainment.”
They went upstairs and knocked the door of the only room there. It took Aunt around ten minutes to open the door. “I’m sorry,” she apologized with another one of those lunatic smiles. “I was a bit busy.”
“Not a problem,” Sanya said. “I was just wondering where your computer was.”
“Computer?” Aunt looked lost. “I don’t have one.”
“Then a television?” Saina said. “I really want to watch the new episode of my favorite show.”
“Don’t have that either,” Aunt said in an unabashed tone. “You can listen to the radio if you like. It’s downstairs, on the top of the bookshelf.”
The girls went downstairs, sat on the lone chairs for a while and then, bored out of their wits, they decided to turn on the radio. Only one station was on air, and there were no songs playing, just local news. The last news they heard before switching the dull thing off was this.
“And now for the third anniversary of the accident which killed 60 people on board the vehicle. We pay a tribute.” And a sad oldie started playing.
The girls didn’t wait to listen to the boring song, switched off the radio, and went to their room. There was no phone connectivity, so there was no way in which they could contact their friends. They couldn’t talk to aunt either, she was lethargic and tedious.
Saina slept for the rest of the day while Sanya explored the lady’s bookshelf, finding nothing but hardbound books about philosophy and history.
As the evening dawned upon the hill, Aunt came out of her room and went into the kitchen to cook the dinner. The girls offered help, but Aunt just denied. It took her a lot of time to prepare the meal, and the girls weren’t expecting much, but in no way were they expecting hard chapatis and distasteful bitter gourd curry. They ate it with bitter expressions and bitterer stomachs.
“How was the food?” Aunt asked in the end expectantly.
“It was very tasty,” Saina tried to be polite.
That night the girls took no time to sleep, they were so tired of being bored.
The next day they woke up and after running their important errands related to the bathroom, they sat down for breakfast with Aunt, which Saina insisted on cooking. It was just normal toast (she had no idea where Aunt got such hard bread from) but was much better than last night’s dinner.
“Can we explore this place?” Sanya asked Aunt. “The afternoons tend to be dull.”
“There’s not much to see,” she replied, engrossed in the food.
“We’ll just take a walk, then,” Sanya said.
“Alright, but,” Aunt looked up gravely at the girls. “You should be back home before midnight. Never be out after midnight here.”
Sanya almost snorted. “You don’t need to worry, Aunt,” she said. “I promise we’ll be back. Only a maniac would be out after midnight.”
As noon came, the girls set off for their travel. It was an unusual place, and there was no sign of civilization in a two kilometre radius. The trees looked exceptionally old and the roads were unevenly out of place, the hills extremely rugged, explaining why people rather stayed far off. The girls found nothing more than huge rocks and yellowed grass.
On the way back home, Sanya said, “Why doesn’t she want us out after midnight?”
“Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s DARK outside.” Saina said matter-of-factly.
“But why didn’t she say come back before it’s dark. Why midnight, specifically?”
“Why bother with it, Sanya. Chill.”
“I can’t. It’s pretty mysterious.”
“Oh, oh,” Saina said all-too-knowingly. “Don’t start off with this mysterious stuff. I hate it. You’ve got us into so much trouble in the past, and I don’t want to do that idiotic stuff again.”
“It’s true, but you know how much I love mysteries and adventurous acts,” Sanya pleaded. “Please, just once. I swear we’ll be back once we’ve seen it all. It’ll be without a trace.”
“What if Aunt finds out?” Saina said suspiciously.
“She won’t, I swear!” Sanya said impatiently. “I’ll make sure of that. Just please say yes?”
“Alright.” Saina said and Sanya erupted into cheers.
And so it was decided that the two girls would leave the house at midnight to make sure they miss out on nothing in this curious town.
“It’s 11:45,” Sanya whispered into Saina’s ear, as the latter slept soundly. “C’mon,” she shook her desperately.
Aunt was fast asleep upstairs, and the two girls had planned to execute their plan only when that had happened. Once Sanya had made sure of that, she grabbed the torches and tried to wake Saina up.
“You know what, Sanya?” her sister commented, as she draped her cardigan over her shoulders, “This is extremely stupid of us. You, precisely. We could get into great trouble because of this, there could be burglars or kidnappers.
“I didn’t see any sign of civilization in a two kilometre radius. Not even an animal. ”
“What on earth are you expecting, then, sneaking out in the dead of the night.”
“You can still quit if you don’t wanna come.” Sanya declared and she started out the door.
“Fine, I’m coming.”
But as the two girls carefully tip-toed out the main door and shut it quietly behind them, stepping into the silent night, the moon shining in it’s full glory in an almost starless night.
Out of nowhere, Saina looked up at the first-floor window and could swear she saw someone sneering, looking at them. She swiftly turned around and tried to shake the image out of her head.
“There’s nothing here.” Saina concluded, exhausted, and sat down on a huge rock, trying to make out her surroundings in the dark.
“Let’s just go home then,” Sanya said. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Shut u- hey, there’s a couple of bunnies!” Saina pointed to two rabbits that had flashed under he torch, and rushed to them, picked them and handed one to Sanya. “Let’s take them home. Old Aunt will have company.”
“Yeah, they’re really cute. But what will we say to her?” enquired Sanya.
“That I saw them outside the house early in the morning when I went to the washroom. Can we take them, pleaseee?”
“Yeah, ok,” Sanya said and smiled. “Let’s walk back now.”
“But I’m so tired,” said Saina. “Can’t we just wait for sometime?”
“Are you stupid? It’s bloody midnight!”
Just then, two headlights came in sight, approaching the two girls on a completely deserted, dark road. They were pretty scared at first, but then they realized it was a bus. Of course, there’d be busses at night to ferry the passengers.
The conductor of the bus flung his head out of the door as the bus came to a halt near them. He had on a cap and his face wasn’t visible. “Do you girls need to go somewhere?”
“Yeah,” said Sanya. “We need to go to the house on the hill ahead. How much is the fee?”
“Nothing. We don’t charge at night. Come on board.”
As the girls ascended the steps of the bus, they noticed that every person on there was wearing a cap. Umpire hats, straw hats, baseball hats, anything. The girls sat down uncomfortably on two vacant seats, with the rabbits on their laps. No one seemed to be talking the only sound being the rubble of the bus’ wheels on the ground or an occasional cricket. The silence felt almost deadly. It was extremely eerie.
After about fifteen minutes, the girls asked the man sitting across them the time. The man mumbled something incoherent.
“What?” Saina asked. She almost felt the man smirk. “It’s one-forty,” he said as he looked up and grinned with black teeth at them. The girls almost fainted at the sight of him.
The man’s face was literally melted on one side, the skin hanging loosely with just his eyes intact. His nostrils were left to nothing and lips were completely black. The other side of his face had a deep burn wound on the forehead and a huge cut on the cheek. He was a gruesome sight.
“What happened to you!?” Saina cried as she regained her senses.
“This,” said the woman sitting beside him. She lifted her cap and her face was more or less the same. It was completely burnt and red, but her eyes started at the girls. All the people sitting in the bus took off their hats, and Saina found her knees too weak to support her weight.
The people in the bus had major burns, slashes and wounds that would probably kill anyone. One had nothing left of his arm, another had her cheek almost hollowed due to the burn.
“What happened to you people?!” exclaimed Sanya, who was a little more composed that her sister.
“We’ve been in an accident, and never been found.” said the conductor, who came from behind them with his jaw completely off it’s hinges.
“What do you mean?”
“We’re dead, stupid girl. We’ve been dead for three years.” said the gruesome conductor.
Now it was time for Sanya to fall onto the floor of the bus. “The… the motor accident… three years ago… the tribute… sixty people dead…” She felt dizzy.
“That’s right,” the man who’d told her the time stood up to address the girls. “No one was there then, when we were struggling in between life and dead. No one was there for our rescue. No one came to claim our bodies, because they couldn’t be revived. Half our relatives weren’t even informed. They forgot us. No one paid us a tribute then, what’s the use now? We didn’t even have a proper funeral!”
“We were forgotten, we never had an escape from this world! And so we drive through here every night, on the same route we went that night, to find a mouse to trap.” The woman beside him stood up in anger. “We need to kill a creature for every one of us for the peace of our souls. You, my dears, are the fifty-ninth and sixtieth ones. Get ready for your fates…”
The girls closed shut their eyes hard and just thought of their parents before the there was a huge clicking sound. Sanya sneaked to see the bus door being unlocked. The girls and the rabbits with them were pushed out of the bus at the foot of the hill.
The scrambled up to their feet and, in utter horror, watched the bus hit a huge rock some distance away, turn, and slide over the side of the hill to crash tumbling down. They ran to the aid of the unfortunate vehicle, but their eyes popped up in shock when they found nothing. No rubble, no ruins, no bus… just a wide, empty patch of yellowed grass.
They reached the top of the hill in an eerie silence. No sound came out of their mouths or entered their ears, and even the rabbits which were literally dangling from their legs in the girls’ hands were quiet.
When they sneaked in the door of Aunt’s house, they found her standing in the hallway, watching them with horrified eyes. Those eyes were more filled with rage and fury, and were almost piercing the two girls.
“Where have you been?” she hissed. “I told you not to leave the house.”
“Aunt, we’re sorr-”
“SHUT UP!” Aunt lost her temper and shouted in a man-like voice, much unlike her normal high-pitched one. “WHY DIDN’T YOU OBEY ME! Now you must know why I denied your access outside after midnight, you conceited girls!”
“We know, Aunt, we know, and we’re extremely sorry!” Saina spoke. “There was this bus full of these souls in unrest wanderin-”
“You think I don’t know, living here since 20 years?” Aunt said in a disgusted voice. “The accident happened right here, right in front of my house, and you think I don’t know? I know what that bus does to the creatures which dare to step in this place. I know, alright. That’s why I told you not to go.”
“B-but A-aunt, why did they not harm you?” Sanya asked. “And w-why did you n-not help them, after the accident.”
Aunt gave a hysterical, fake laugh. “You really want to know?” She didn’t wait for the girls to answer. “Because I was in the bus. The sixtieth passenger.”
All at once, her skin burst out into an ugly wound across the whole of her face, blood oozed out of one of her eyes and burns appeared all over the rest of the skin.
Saina’s knees gave up and she crumbled to the ground. Her rabbit fell onto the ground and scrambled into the kitchen. Sanya’s grip loosened and her rabbit, too, ran to freedom.
“I didn’t want anything to happen to you because you were my family.” Aunt continued. “I wanted to keep you safe, to not let you know. But if this was what you wanted, then I have no alternative.” He fingers clawed the girls’ hand with a tight grip and the last thing the girls’ remembered was their limp bodies being dragged into the drawing room.
The next day, the police and the girls’ parents found the girls unconscious in the ruins of Aunt’s house, the old woman nowhere to be seen. And further, they also happened to find the bodies of two mutilated rabbits.
The Midnight Bus was never seen again.
Author’s note- I know this is not the best horror story but it’s all I could do! Thanks for reading!