A short story by Pete Brisbourne
Today was The Bus Driver’s retirement.
Actually, “today” didn’t really make sense. Time simply wasn’t a thing when you got up to the higher non-physical dimensions, but after encountering so many humans, The Bus Driver had borrowed a few things they liked to use.
Firstly, there was the bus. At any time it could have been a spaceship, a boat, a line of shopping trolleys, or nothing at all, but The Bus Driver preferred it to be a bus. He’d once seen one in the luggage of a returning passenger. Long, blue, with doors that made a fun PSSSSHHH sound when they opened. He liked it. After all, “non-physical conscious conduit to all potential” was harder to say.
Then, there was himself. That had been an odd one. A boundless consciousness didn’t actually need any form or identity, but being able to pull the lever which opened the doors with that nice PSSSSHHH sound was just too much fun to pass up. A bus required a bus driver and so, The Bus Driver decided to be.
Lastly, there were the passengers. Down the infinite rows of seats, orbs of different glowing colours bobbed up and down while the bus trundled along.
The Bus Driver turned the big wheel.
“Now entering music in a major key,” he announced.
A few orbs suddenly disappeared.
“To your left, dinosaurs.”
Another bunch of orbs blinked out.
“To the right, pink elephants.”
With a slight groan of annoyance, more orbs vanished.
The Bus Driver smiled. He wasn’t just a driver, he was a tour guide. If you removed the human idea of time, what you would discover was The Bus Driver saying every possible word of every possible thing instantaneously. It would probably sound like “Flipdunikerighmaorkey” or something like that. And just as fast, the bus trundled to every possible place that could exist in the same instant.
To The Bus Driver, it was all simple and obvious.
“To the left, time travel involving cruciferous vegetables.”
A single orb vanished. Perhaps that place was slightly less obvious.
Whenever The Bus Driver focused on an orb, he’d gleam some details.
That small blue one on the front seat? A five-year-old human girl, Sofía, from Madrid, Earth. That purple one, a few rows back? A thirty three-year-old human male from North Korea, Earth. That large red one? A ninety nine-year-old human grandmother called Iris from Michigan, Earth.
They were all his passengers, and he drove them with care and pride.
Everyone was welcome on the bus.
As soon as an orb disappeared, a brief moment that didn’t exist later, it would reappear in a different seat, this time with a souvenir.
There were big souvenirs like spaceship designs, and small ones like puddings. There were mountains of words all tumbling down over each other, and notes of music bobbing up and down. There were dinosaurs, and adventures. The souvenirs were limitless, and luckily the great thing about a non-physical bus was that space wasn’t a problem.
Then the orbs would vanish along with their souvenir. Their little field trip complete.
Slowly the bus became empty. The job was finished.
The Bus Driver had come to the end.
He felt a twinge of sadness. He’d driven the orbs through the very fabric of imagination since the beginning, and still he was amazed by the new things they would come back with. Oh, the wonderful things he’d seen!
“One last trip. For old times sake.” He said, turning the big wheel. The bus heaved in a new direction and trundled on until The Bus Driver spotted a speck of light bobbing in the blackness. He stopped the bus next to it.
Resting his hand on the precious door lever, he pulled it down, grinning as the doors opened with that forever satisfying PSSSSHHH sound. At the bottom of the steps, the tiniest ball of pale blue light bobbed.
One-year-old, from Kepler-1649c.
“Hello, little one," he said with a smile. "Hop in. Let’s go and find you something.”