Where the hell am I? I thought to myself as I was being shooed off the bus. I had fallen asleep and missed my stop. And since it was past midnight, the bus wasn’t going to make another trip back.
I adjusted my backpack on my shoulders and walked out of the parking lot of the bus station. It was pitch black save the occasional street lamp illuminating a section of the road. But as far as I could see, there was nothing around me. No buildings or landmarks that I recognized. How long was I asleep? I pulled out my phone and tried to call an Uber. There was nobody in the area to pick me up. Shit.
I opened up Google Maps to see how far I was from home, but for some reason the phone’s GPS couldn’t locate where I was. Odd. I had nobody to call to haul my ass at this hour, not to mention I had no idea how I would direct them if my phone couldn’t even tell me where I was. Even the bus station and roads were devoid of any signage.
I looked around to see if there was a guard or employee of the bus stop I could ask for directions but there was nobody around. The driver who had kicked me off the bus had already rode off in his scooter minutes ago. I decided to just pick one direction and head down the dark road, in search of something or someone who could help.
It had been no longer than five minutes of walking when I saw another person in front of me. It was a skinny looking chap dressed in a black hoodie, leaning against a lamp-post, blowing smoke from a cigarette he held in his hand. He seemed to have noticed my presence as I approached him because he turned to face me, dropped his cigarette to the ground and put it out with his foot.
“Yo,” he called out to me when I was within earshot.
“Hey man! You know how I can get home? I live in Rose Valley,” I replied.
Without hesitation, he replied, “just take the next left, walk for a couple of minutes and you should find your way back.”
“You sure?” I questioned him.
“Yeah man,” he replied as he pulled his cowl lower over his face and headed off towards where I came from.
“Thanks!” I said as he brushed past me hurriedly.
That was very odd. It was like he knew what I was going to ask him. But seeing how I had no idea where to go or what to do, I decided to follow his directions. I really didn’t have anything to lose besides a few more minutes of my life.
I took the next left and continued walking down the road. It was getting a bit brighter, I realized, as I reached what seemed to be the outskirts of a neighborhood. It looked somewhat familiar to me, but in a manner I couldn’t place. Like when you dream of a familiar location but with parts and pieces replaced by parts and pieces from other places you’ve been to before. It was strangely uncomfortable.
Anyway I continued down the road, hopeful for something that would point me back home. I checked my phone again, still no luck with the GPS. Why did I move out to the middle of nowhere? I should’ve stayed at home and found a job nearby, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now.
It wasn’t long before I encountered another person. This time it was a well-dressed man who looked to be in his 50s. Grey hair, purposeful walk, eyes focused on me as he approached me on the street. This time I stopped in my tracks as he came up to me.
“You going home, boy?” he asked without introducing himself.
“Yeah, I was told to come here to get back-”
“You ain’t welcome here, boy!” he interrupted me. “Turn around and go back to where you came from!”
“No, I’m just trying to go home,” I said.
“TURN AROUND AND GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM,” he said loudly.
The man now stood inches from me, and I began to feel uncomfortable.
“Look, I’m just trying to get back home. I don’t want any trouble, now back off and leave me alone.”
The man kept quiet at first. Then dropped his intense gaze.
“Fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
And just like that, he walked off towards where I came from, not another word from his lips.
I started to worry. Where was I? And why was he acting so strange? These were questions that needed answering, but for now all I wanted to do was to get back.
I continued down the road and reached a bus stop by a crossroad that would take me into a housing area. I still had no clue where I was and neither did my phone. That kid in the hoodie lied to me, this wasn’t the way home. I was sure of it. But there was nothing else I could do.
Seeing how there was nobody else who could help me, I pulled my hoodie out of my backpack, used the backpack as a pillow and made myself as comfortable as I could on the floor of the bus stop. I would find my way home when it was brighter.
I drifted off into strange but lucid dream, where I found myself being kicked off a bus again for missing my stop. I walked down the same road and encountered the same guy smoking by the lamp-post. This time he didn’t say a word when I approached him. But instead, he looked up at me and pulled his cowl back and I found myself looking into my own eyes. The man in the hoodie was me.
What the fuck? was all I managed to say as he broke off into a run away from me. It was a strange experience seeing myself not in a mirror. As I turned to chase after him, my legs felt like jelly and I collapsed to the ground – like how we sometimes do when we’re trying to chase after something in our dreams. When I turned around to walk in the same direction as before, my legs suddenly regained their solid state and I had no issues moving in that direction. It was like I had to follow the same path in my dream.
Sure enough, there was the man in the suit again. He acted the same way as before, telling me to turn around. He wouldn’t explain why though, and chose to walk off into the darkness again. What a strange man. I continued walking until I reached the same neighborhood. This time I saw a bus reaching the bus stop that I had fallen asleep at.
I jumped and waved my hands, hoping that the bus driver could see me, dashed towards the entrance to the bus and hopped on. It was the same bus driver from before.
“You going home, kid?” he asked me.
“Yeah, Rose Valley.”
“That’ll be three fifty,” he replied. I handed him the money and made my way to the back of the empty bus.
I sat down and stared out the window as the bus started to accelerate. It was then I noticed that there was someone sleeping on the floor of the bus stop. A skinny looking dude with a black hoodie draped over his body as a makeshift blanket. Is that me? It was a strange experience seeing myself not in a mirror. It was a dream after all. Nothing made sense.
It wasn’t long before exhaustion from walking all night kicked in, the constant motion of the bus didn’t help either, and I drifted off into a deep sleep.
“Hey kid, get off the bus!” I hear a voice waking me up. Where the hell am I? I thought to myself as I was being shooed off the bus. I had missed my stop.
Writing Prompt from Reddit: After realizing you’re lost in a city, you ask a stranger for directions. Apparently, your question was a secret code.
I know it didn’t really work out to be a story about a question being a code, but I guess that’s what you get when you free write without any planning.