June 15th, 2020

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "To Find The Hero Within"

To Find The Hero Within
idol season 11 | week 24 | ~ 3600 words
If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn

Note: This week's story is an Idol Intersection with hangedkay. We chose a common idea, and then wrote our different adventures independently. His entry is here, and they can be read in any order.

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It was almost eleven o'clock, and Harold Bleeker was tired. It had been a long day—a horrible day—and Harold was standing in the damp and the dark at the side of the road, peering through the fog and hoping with each flicker of movement that the bus to Watertown Road had finally arrived. He'd reached the superstitious phase where he tried not to think about the bus (to avoid jinxing his chances), and he had almost circled around to thinking that maybe he was jinxing himself by not wanting it enough when the bus came rattling through the fog and creaked to a stop in front of him.

Thank god.

Harold climbed on board, dumped his fare in the coin slot, and dropped down into one of the sideways-facing seats near the front. His stomach churned over the onslaught of the vending machine snacks he'd eaten in lieu of dinner, but he was too tired to care. He'd be going straight to bed when he got home, hoping to grab five or six hours of sleep before starting all over again the next morning. Quarterly accounting reports were the pits.

He finally looked around at the other inhabitants of the bus. There were never many passengers that late in the day—or ever, as far as he could tell. It was not a popular route. But still, this group wasn't quite what he expected. There were three of them, all sitting near the back, and they were all such hulking sorts. Growly-looking too, now that he thought about it. Ogre-ish.

It wasn't that he thought they might try to eat him (probably not), or even start brawling in the aisle, but they were not a mellow bunch. As near as he could tell, anyway, since he couldn't really see their faces. There were just these glowing red things where their eyes should have been, which he had to be imagining. The whole bus was oddly dark. Murky, even.

Harold peered at the wall across from him. Would it kill them to do a little cleaning and maintenance once in awhile? He rode this bus every week, but it looked much worse than he remembered. Almost mossy.

The bus hit a bump, jolting Harold halfway out of his seat. The ride isn't usually this rough. Or twisty, he thought. Where were the Biltmore Kennels? He should have passed them by now, but he didn't remember seeing them. And what was that tall, gloomy house up ahead? He'd never seen that before.

There was a sound from the back of the bus that definitely sounded like a growl. After fifteen years working as an accountant, Harold rarely called upon his instincts, but they woke up on their own just then and informed him that the generalized "wrongness" of that bus was about to become dangerously specific if he didn't get off right now. He pulled the signal cord and lurched to the front of the bus.

"I'd like to get off here," he said to the driver.

The driver glanced at him. Wait, are those tusks? Harold thought.

"I'm afraid not, sir," the driver said. "This isn't your stop."

It wasn't one of the usual drivers—and those were definitely tusks—so Harold couldn't imagine how the driver even knew where he lived. "That's all right," Harold said, "I can walk the rest of the way."

"Not tonight, sir. We're all riding to the end of the line," the driver said. "You and those giant trolls back there all have the same destination."

"I'm sorry, did you say trolls?"

"Didn't imagine they were ogres, did you?" The driver snorted a laugh. "People are always thinking that. Ridiculous!"

"Well, I'm sorry if you find my troll taxonomy skills lacking!" Harold said. "Now stop this bus, I mean it. I want to go home."

"Oh, they all do, sir, but it's not up to me. So you'd best sit right down again and prepare to take your lumps like the rest of them."

"Now, see here—" Harold began.

"Yes, yes," the driver said. "All in good time…"

Harold flopped down into a seat. I've been kidnapped, he thought.

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