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The balding man in the trench-coat stood at the bus stop, wiping the mist from his glasses with his handkerchief. He had just arrived and didn’t see the concerned looks of the people around him. The cold and rainy February morning chilled the man to the core. He scuffed the soles of his shoes into the slushy ground, trying fruitlessly to get some blood flowing to his icy toes. This was unusual, as the man had become used to the late-winter snaps.
Hearing whispers behind him, he glanced at an older couple shuffling aside as a taller man made his way between them. The tall man whispered something to the older man and then nodded in agreement with a frown.
The balding man began wiping the other lens, satisfied that the other was now free of moisture.
The morning wasn’t getting any warmer. The low-hanging fog played patterns along the sidewalk and seemed to surround everyone. The squeaking brakes of the oncoming bus in the distance could be heard as it made its stop before the one he was at. Wiping the other lens, he gently held the spectacles in his right hand and picked up his bag with the other. Taking a few steps backward, he rubbed shoulders with a girl in her early twenties. An attractive Asian girl with long hair and delicate features, she gave him a wan smile then eyed the oncoming bus.
The bus pulled to the side and the driver opened the door. The balding man looked up and down the windows of the bus, seeing what he always saw – many people who looked like him. Most wishing they didn’t have to go to where they were going. The balding man could sympathize with them. This really did' seem mundane. Well, he thought so anyway.
He stepped onto the bus, giving the driver a curt nod before taking his seat at the front. The oncoming passengers behind him each gave their toll to the driver before taking their own seat. He put his bag down and unfolded his glasses; putting them back on to get a better view around him. There were people of all ages, gender and race on the bus. No surprise there. The city had become very multi-cultural over the past few years. A decade ago, there was a large Jewish population, but the city's ethnicity was now largely mixed.
A rotund woman took the seat next to him. She moved with surprising grace for a woman of her size, and took the seat in a quick and fluid motion. She nodded at him then looked out the window as the bus made its way toward the fringe of the city.
Glancing at the fog-touched poles and threadbare walls that sped by, the man had, again, regretted putting his glasses back on. His vision had faltered over the years and he had to succumb to wearing the damnable things.
If he would’ve kept them off, his fading vision wouldn’t have shown how the woman that sat next to him died of a massive heart-attack. He could see her dying over and over now as he looked at her. Her ending was obviously the same, but at different angles and perspectives of the witnesses at that restaurant last night.
Or of how that beautiful Asian woman he stood next to moments before was gang-raped, then stabbed; seemingly hundreds of times. He glanced at her as she sat toward the middle of the vehicle, but couldn’t stomach the repeated details for long and turned away. Her drawn-out, final pleas were polar-opposites to the calm look on her face as her cheek rested on the cool glass of the bus window. She was almost smiling.
The tall man and older couple sat at the back of the bus. Their manner of death was nothing he hadn’t seen before, but it was the subject manner that jarred him. They were quietly discussing how there was a war in which millions upon millions of Jews were systematically exterminated in some type of holocaust years ago. That was around the time his vision had faltered and he began to go bald. Well, the balding part was a façade, but his vision was not.
“So, that explains it,” the man thought to himself, remembering how strange it was that so many of those poor souls shared the same manner of death, but he couldn’t quite see it back then. Even in the afterlife, the kind Jewish people wore humble smiles on their faces. Many even struck up a conversation with him before the bus came, inquiring about stock prices or surrepetitiously telling dirty jokes to him.
The bus made its way across the long bridge. The man looked at his reflection in the side-view mirror and hated that he couldn’t force the smile off of his ivory, skeletal face. Long gone were the human features he wore to placate the incoming newly-dead. Small cracks had begun to form along the edges of his eyeless sockets, making their way to the top of his head. This was, no doubt, the cause of his visual affliction.
There was a time that he relished this part of the trip that he had made millions of times. However, the monotony paired with the scope of humanity’s blackness had begun to feel like a personal hell over the years. It seemed mankind’s cruelty knew no bounds. It struck him as ironic that this very cruelty would start to age one such as himself.
The driver had similar features to his own. But then, Charon always bore a striking resemblance to his twin brother. He bore cracks similar to his twin as well. The two shared an eyeless glance in Charon's rear-view mirror, both feeling the weight of millennia upon their insides with words not being needed.
”What happens when death itself begins to age, then eventually wither and die?”
He had asked himself this same paradoxial question over and over lately as the crack count increased slightly every time the bus made this journey.
The bus sped across the Styx to its final stop.
Written by Mystreve