“What the fuck ever possessed you do that?” Dave yelled, pacing up and down the living room. Hastily, he allowed himself to fall backwards into the leather sofa which Katherine was sitting on. Her eyes, slightly watery from Dave’s reaction, fell to the floor.
“I thought it would be a good idea,” she whispered solemnly.
“A good idea, you say? It’s the most fucking brilliant idea I’ve ever heard!” he spat, the venom in his words clearly evident. “You’re endangering innocent lives. Young, innocent lives! I’ve decided that I’m going to come with you for the first couple of journeys.”
“But Dave!” she wailed desperately. “I can do this on my own; by myself! I’ll be fine. After all, it’s not as if the world would cease to exist should anything go wrong when I start tomorrow.”
Katherine arose from the beige sofa and headed towards the oak door which graced the dumpy room with a refined yet austere presence. She tore the door open and exited the room before proceeding to slam the door shut. It made a satisfying, explosive bang.
“The world’s school children are fucking doomed,” Dave sighed. “Katherine, as a bus driver? This is preposterous!”
He gazed out of the window into the garden, watching the sun set in the sky. The flowers were starting to bloom, spreading pleasant odours. Dave, who was worried about what tomorrow could entail, stepped outside. Closing his eyes, he leaned backwards and took a whiff of the fresh, pollen filled air as though this were the last day he would ever see.
There was a roar from outside. Dave groaned and rolled his head over onto the pillow and gazed lifelessly into the digital alarm clock situated on his pine bedside table. The garish red letters read ‘6:30am; Monday’. His eyes drooped again. The roar occurred once more. This cycle repeated several times before Dave found himself forcing himself out of his cosy, warm bed. He’d removed himself from his duck-feather pillows just to draw his bedroom curtains on the window which faced the road. Waiting a few seconds, in case the roaring had stopped, he lingered by the window desiring to return to his slumber. Roar! Irritated, he ripped the curtains open.
The sun, barely up, illuminated the outlines of what appeared to be an over sized box. Dave turned on the lights in his bedroom. The 37-year old jumped backwards when he realised the source of the roaring noise had in fact been a hulking giant of a school bus.
Katherine turned the key once more. The engine roared into life for a split second before her petal-adorned fingers slipped off of the smooth metallic surface, cutting the engine.
“Oh, dear,” she wailed. “How will I ever be on time now?”
She turned the key again, but to no avail. The silver key was simply too smooth for her to turn far enough to fully initiate the engine.
“Stop it! Stop it! You’ll wake up the entire fucking street,” Dave hissed. He burst out of the front door in his half-naked glory. “Move aside”, he muttered. Although the key had put up an almighty defence, it was no match for Dave. With the force of a small earthquake, the bus shuddered to life.
“Wait here whilst I finish getting dressed. I had considered letting you go alone for a while but, after this entire display of incompetence, I feel compelled to come just to ensure that you don’t keep missing the brakes on this thing!” Katherine could only blink in response.
Creeping upwards further, the sun’s rays began to illuminate the area. Terrace houses became visible, bordering a straight and very average road. Katherine, who was now revving the engine impatiently, had been waiting for what felt like a millennia for Dave to finish getting ready. By the time he had finally arrived, the sun was nearly fully raised.
“You took your time,” she remarked, inspecting his damp hair.
“I was getting Jean up, too.”
The Ninetales Pokémorph sulked, unhappy about having been woken up so early. She yawned, dragging her feet along the ground before boarding the bus and settling down right at the back.
Uncertain of whether it was supposed to be moving or not, the bus gurgled slightly before finally beginning to roll steadily down the road. Dave gripped his seat tightly in a vain attempt at avoiding being thrown around at high velocities whenever the bus came into contact with defects on the tarnished road. The bumps appeared to be causing Jean to become more agitated by the second. They drove for a while, stopping every so often to collect children on to the bus.
“Hi Peter, Jack and Gabriel,” Katherine said as they boarded the bright yellow box on wheels.
“Oh, Dave,” Jack sneered whilst adjusting a pair of thick-framed spectacles on his face, “I didn’t realise that you were still in school, too!”
The three of them strutted away, leaving Dave smouldering with anger in his seat. Peter smiled apologetically at his sister, Katherine, to try and smooth out the situation. She winked. In all honesty, she’d been waiting for something to happen to Dave; he’d been backseat driving her for the entirety of the journey.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! Keep your eyes on the road.”
“For your information, my eyes are firmly planted on the road, Dave. And for another thing, don’t yell those words in front of the children. They’re not age-appropriate.”
“Age appropriate? I’ll tell you what isn’t age appropriate,” he snorted. “Your driving.”
Katherine turned around to hit Dave, failing to notice that the bus had mounted the kerb. A semi-transparent girl jumped through the engine and landed in one of the seats, solidifying in front of the passengers of the bus.
“Oops,” Katherine sighed, tugging at the steering wheel. Her poor grip meant it took some time for the bus to be travelling in the correct direction. “Look what you made me do, fool!” she yelled. “We could have killed an innocent child!”
Dave sighed, pushing himself further backwards into his seat, as though it may engulf him to hide from the yelling Katherine. They had been driving for a while and had nearly arrived at their destination when there were yelps of excitement from some of the children. Pressing their young faces against the window, they were all quivering with anticipation. Katherine glanced into the wing mirror and her jaw dropped slightly. They were being followed.
Humans in purple robes with large golden chains leaned out of the vehicle behind them. Religious figures were all crammed into a small white van. There was a panicked wail from the children as the religious sect began to pull out firearms. One of the men took aim. He fired.
The shot rang out into the air, followed by a noise which sounded like a small explosion. They had shot one of the back tyres. Hurriedly, a flustered Katherine desperately pulled at the steering wheel, trying to control the now swerving vehicle. Her hands slid off of the wheel ineffectively. The yellow monstrosity left the road and juddered violently as it rolled helplessly down a steep hill.
“Katherine! The brakes! Apply the fucking brakes!” Dave yelled. It was futile; the sounds of the screaming children drowned him out as they continued their perilous journey down hill. Tears rolled down Katherine’s eyes when she saw that the hill ended suddenly and was replaced by nothing but thin air.
Two hours, a cliff face and a demolished bus later, two figures arrived on the scene. They were both wearing long robes with hoods which shrouded their faces and obscured their bodies to the point that even their gender could not be recognised at first glance. The tallest of the pair, who was wearing a brown robe, leaned over and gently shook Dave.
“Wake up,” they said. It took some vigorous shaking before he got up and in that time, the short figure, who was wearing sky blue robes, had managed to awaken and gather the others. The wreckage of the bus had clearly been burning and the smell of charred flesh hung heavily in the air. The hooded figures backed the group against a cliff.
“Follow,” said the shorter one in a soft and child-like voice. The group formed a line, lead by the shorter figure and backed by the taller figure.
“I wonder how we survived that fall,” chattered Jean, excitedly. “I mean, it’s like some kind of miracle! Did anyone do anything to save us at the last second or something? I mean, like, how are we still alive?”
“Oh. Okay,” she said. “Hang on a minute. What!”
Jack laughed. “This is awesome! I haven’t felt this great in ages,” he chanted, finally feeling that he had paid his part back for the deaths of Mia and Will. He knew that if they had passed on, they had too. Peter clung to his elder sister, as though holding her close would keep him protected from anything which lay ahead. They kept walking, following the edge of the cliff until the robed characters stopped dead in their tracks.
“Please wait in silence as we take you down,” said the short hooded figure.
The blue-clad guide whipped out a cell phone, seemingly from thin air. With the push of a button, their phone began to dial. Pressing it to their hood, they spoke.
“Yes, we’re ready to go down now,” they said before snapping the cell phone shut. “Heh, speed dial. You’ve just got to love it. They’ll take us in a few seconds.”
“Oh my god!” Jean wailed. “My cell phone! I had completely forgotten. How will I ever be able to make contact with anyone ever again? It’s going to be absolutely dreadful. I will be the laughing stock of the school and everyone will mock me for not having my cell phone.”
She’d seemingly forgotten that now she was dead, all contact with the living would be impossible. The others were looking around, wondering where they were being taken. Would this be the last glimpse of the surface world that they would ever see?
“In silence, please.”
Dave had been morbidly silent ever since their deaths. Thoughts had been rushing through his mind while trekking with the group to their current locus. Concepts of an afterlife, they were wrong. It was impossible and yet, it was very real. He had to have been dreaming. Yes, that was it! The crash had put him in a coma and he was safe in hospital. He was just hallucinating, fabricating the entire thing whilst unconscious. There was no proof he was dead – there was absolutely no evidence for it. No bodies, nothing.
“I’ve just got to spot the differences between here and the real world,” he thought to himself. Trying to keep up hope, he searched frantically. The body count at the crash site had been zero, and therefore this was wrong; he knew in the back of his mind that the reason for there being no bodies was that they had been burned away when the bus caught alight. “These strangers, they’re obviously my imagination. Hooded and mysterious, they fit the stereotypical human view of inhabitants of hell,” he continued. He knew they were all part of his imagination. He’d just get them to reveal their faces and his death could be disproved!
The ground opened up and swallowed them. Air rushed past their faces even though they did not appear to fall. Instead, brown and grey walls of earth rose up around them. Eventually, lush green grass of a species none of them could identify pulled towards them, slowing until it lightly made contact with their feet.
“We’ve arrived,” said the tallest of their guides. Another figure, in flowing robes of crimson, joined them.
“Welcome, milady,” they crooned, bowing on to one knee and kissing the hand of the figure in brown robes. Deep tones indicated that the person in crimson robes was indeed a male. “Their garments have been prepared.”
Atop a lone hill which was rich with vibrant foliage stood a lonely door of solid oak. One of the hooded figures knocked lightly on the door. Creaking, the door opened inwards, revealing entirely new scenery. They entered, passing from the grassy hillsides in to a lavish room which was adorned with masonry of an unknown design.
“You,” the blue hooded figure announced, indicating at Dave. “Come with me.”
Before he could even begin about thinking to object, he found himself being forced away from the others, essentially being kidnapped by an unknown hostage from this strange, bizarre underworld. The remaining group found themselves subdivided and stolen away to different locations, each of them headed by a different guide.
Dave found that he’d been taken to a narrow stone corridor; there was almost a castle-like quality to it. In fact, he’d been lead through many rooms with red carpets, purposefully placed over well polished marble flooring and flame torch adorned walls, crafted with unworldly architectural features and embellishments. His guide pinned him against the wall with superhuman strength. He struggled, face-to-face with his hooded kidnapper.
“Ever since I died,” they began. “I’ve not been able to stop thinking about you. I’ve craved you every single day. I’ve been keeping a close eye, waiting for when you would finally die. Every day I’ve found you so much more attractive, so alluring,” the person announced. They seemed to twitch and shake with excitement at the current situation.
Elegantly shaking their head back and forth, they threw off their hood.
“Oh, Dave! I’ve been kept an eternity from you. Never again will we be apart,” she whispered in his left ear, leaning in far too close for comfort. She raised one of her arms and revealed her razor sharp scythe-like arms. Carefully, she began to cut down the middle of his tops, starting at the neckline, almost as though she were starting a dissection, gradually revealing more of his body. “I will connect us and then I will never lose you again…”
She raised her strong scythe and pierced Dave’s sleeve, like a needle through cloth. He shivered. She was insane and obsessed with him. “Oops,” she giggled, pulling the blade out. “Looks like I missed you.”
Even in death, the threat of Mia’s scythes managed to frighten Dave to no end. She had her arm raised ready to strike; this was his chance. He rolled out from underneath her along the stone walls and fled down the corridor, panting madly. Mia’s once playful expression suddenly hardened to that of pure rage.
“You? You would dare deny my love! You will learn to feel my love!” she yelled, almost on the verge of tears. Taking off into chase, she flew after him with a glint of lust and sorrow in her eyes.
His semi-shredded shirt was quickly becoming a hindrance. He decided to finish the tear which Mia had started and threw the old and worn fabric away. Gasping for air, he kept running. There was no possibility of stopping while being chased by a sociopathic, blade-wielding Scyther Pokémorph. She was making a terrible buzzing noise. An awful noise which was rapidly getting louder. Who was he kidding? He couldn’t outrun her.
There ahead of him was a door. She was nearly upon him. Valiantly, he made a final charge for it, resting assured in the knowledge that once he was through the door, he was safe. Slamming the door behind him, he stopped and pulled anxiously on the door handle. There was a satisfying thud as Mia ran head first in to the door. She got up and tried hacking at it with her scythes but it was no use; the door was made of solid oak.
“This is your entire fault, Katherine. If you were actually able to drive, we might still be living right now.” snorted Gabriel. He, Katherine and Jack had been taken away by the man in the crimson robes to receive their own. “You could have put the brakes on, or something. Then we would have just been fine.”
“Y-yeah,” Jack chipped in. “You suck, Katherine!” he snorted. Crimson-robe had been leading them through what appeared to be some kind of garden with a water fountain in the exact centre. The flowing water didn’t help to calm anybody’s mood; Katherine was furious at the two boys. They seemed to be completely ignoring the fact that they had been previously chased by the religious extremists of the living world.
“It’s not my fault!” she wailed.
“Oh, Katherine we’re so bored of you screwing everyone’s lives up. After all, you’ve only just gone and killed everyone,” yelled Gabriel. He lunged at her and threw a punch with reasonable force. Katherine stepped sideways to avoid being hurt however; it made no difference as Jack had joined the brawl. Anticipating her dodge, he had launched a roundhouse kick with perfect aim, making contact with her waist.
Being dead, the kick didn’t injure Katherine in any way, shape or form. Rather, it just knocked her backwards and ever so slightly winded her. She knew that after she’d recovered, they wouldn’t expect her to try and counter-attack for fear of hurting them but she knew that she couldn’t hurt them. Now that they were all dead, it was impossible!
Katherine waited for the prime opportunity to strike, feigning that she was still winded. Slowly, they advanced upon her, slightly spread apart, hoping to back her against the water fountain to block any chances of absconding.
Katherine threw herself forwards at the exact perfect moment, striking both of them across the face with open palms.
“Cool off you guys,” she yelled at them. “If you’d care to remember, we were being chased by the religious nuts?”
As if the phrase ‘religious nuts’ had triggered some kind of alarm, fundamentalists surrounded the garden, pouring out of oak doors at every corner causing all three of the squabbling pokémorphs to effect a ceasefire.
“Those doors weren’t there before, were they?” whispered Gabriel.
“N-no, they weren’t. What’s going on?” Katherine queried.
“So sorry to ruin your fun kiddies but, you were supposed to follow me quietly. Now that you’ve shown that you can’t behave, I have to twist the rules slightly,” emerged a voice. They heard the sounds of a mobile phone being turned off. It was the crimson robed man who had led them to the garden initially. “Even though we’re all here together, the Church of Holy Truth still denies you access to the afterlife!”
The members of the Church of Holy Truth, still ‘the religious nuts’ to Katherine, swarmed the trio and began forcibly dragging them towards one of the oak doors.
Jean, Peter and Lucy had been taken by the third and final hooded figure, the shortest, blue garmented guide. They’d been walking in silence through a room where the walls were seemingly made up of oak doors.
“I know it’s you Will,” Jean said triumphantly before proceeding to forcefully pull his hood down.
“H-how did you know?” he said, shying away from her.
“No-one else smells quite as strongly of cat’s urine as you do!” she squealed excitedly.
He giggled nervously, turning a slight shade of pink. They had been walking for a while, through a very plain room with white carpets and, barely noticeable between the sheer quantities of oak doors littered on the walls, bright red wall paper. The ceiling was low but beyond this and the numerous doors, there was really nothing notable about the room.
“So uh, I don’t mean to be rude about the decor of this place but, why are there so many of these doors everywhere? I’ve noticed them everywhere I go,” Lucy whispered.
“They’re just like any other door. You walk in one side and come out of the other. Of course, they’re the exact same door so you can actually choose where you go when stepping through. You think of where you want to go and then open the door. Until the door is closed again, you can step through to the place summoned by the opener,” Will explained.
Jean leaned towards Will and stroked his shoulders.
“Oh, you’re so knowledgeable. I’ve missed you since you’ve died. I just wish we could be together again…”
He blushed slightly before turning to her.
“Hands off, bitch! He’s mine!” yelled Lucy.
“Don’t worry, we can both have him,” said Jean.
Will turned and ran for the nearest oak door, wishing to be somewhere safe. He slammed the door behind him, knowing that the two crazed girls could not follow.
Will had stumbled into a room which was just made of grey bricks. The floor had grey bricks. The ceiling had grey bricks. There were no windows, just the one door he had stumbled in through. Oh, and a half-naked Dave.
“A-a-am I interrupting something?” stammered Will.
“No. Not a thing,” Dave lied. In truth, being chased by a crazed Mia had left him with nothing but a stronger desire to get out of this afterlife than before. “I want to fucking get out of here.”
“Oh. Uh, right. Maybe you could if you knew any oak doors on the surface. You’d become mortal again, if you weren’t wearing any robes though. Don’t you want to find your friends first?”
The oak door burst open. It was Jean and Lucy.
“Ha,” Jean chortled. “I knew if I asked the door to take me to you, it would!”
“Wait. So you’re telling me that these oak doors can open at any other oak door?” Dave groaned.
“Yes,” whispered the Meowth pokémorph, shying away.
The Church of Holy Truth had dragged Katherine, Jack and Gabriel down into a large prison cell. They had been locked away.
“You’ll never get out,” muttered the man in the crimson robes. “These doors are made of pine!”
The trio panicked. What would they ever do? That door was made of solid pine. The man in crimson robes sneered at them through the pine bars of the prison cell. They sat there for what felt like hours, praying that by some stroke of luck, they’d be able to escape.
The oak door leading down to the cells burst open pouring out Dave followed by Jean, then Lucy and finally Will, slamming the door behind them.
“Oh my goodness!” cried Will. “That door is made of pine!”
Dave sighed, stepping back through the oak door, threw ample amounts of sand into the cell chambers. He reappeared with another handful of sand, throwing it through the bars in to Gabriel’s face. Gabriel sneezed with considerable force, letting out a burst of embers. The pine door caught alight.
“Oh. Fire,” Will whispered as he turned a bright shade of scarlet. Crimson-robes despaired over the loss of his pine gates. “I can’t come back with you. I’m sorry. I’ve been dead for too long. It was nice seeing everyone again. I’m sure Mia would have felt the same way…”
Dave shook his head, solemnly.
“I know just how Mia felt about the situation.”
The group, minus Will, stepped through the oak door for one final time.
“Quick, burn it!” yelled everyone at Gabriel. He inhaled and let out an almighty flamethrower, burning the once beautiful oak door to little more than a pile of grey ash.
“Where have you guys been?” Peter said. He’d been sitting on the sofa in Dave’s living room for a couple of hours now. The entire group turned to face him, glaring.
“Peter! How on earth did you get here!” yelled Katherine. Shuffling uncomfortably on the leather sofa, Peter looked up at his elder sister with wide and innocent eyes.
“I walked back through the oak door, wishing I were home again!”