Earl Grey at the End of the World

A very strange thing I am writing. A short story which I estimate will end up being half an hour-ish in length.

Just a heads up, in chapter three, the double dashes are the closest I could get to those super long dashes you see in books when people's speech is interrupted. If anyone knows how to get those, please let me know.


1. 1

   Michael was drunk that night. He'd meant to stick to a few beers, but the bar was cheap, the night outside was unforgivingly cold and he had little to come home to. So he drank some more beers, whisky, vodka and finally a glass of an unidentified but noxious substance which set his already whirling head to jigs and reels.

   When he finally staggered from the dimly lit doorway into the small parking lot, the moonlight seemed to ricochet from the ground and throw bright spots across his vision. The sound of a distant police siren filled his ears with one long, drawn out scream and when he looked over at his car, it was to discover that it was blurry at the edges. So he shrugged, thrust his car keys back into his pocket and made his way across to a graffiti daubed bus stop tainted by the smell of alcohol and littered with sweet wrappers and empty beer cans. 

   The night breeze was icily cold and stole under his collar to nip at his skin. He reached out to draw his coat tighter around himself, only to discover that he'd left it behind. It was at that moment, however, that the bus drew up.

   There was a small part of Michael's mind that knew it was unlike any bus he had ever seen. It was long, thin, sleek and moved completely silently. It had no lights, but seemed to be followed by the moons glow. If he'd had to tell you the colour, he would have told you it was black - but it wasn't exactly black. It was the colour of things unseen, of people who go unnoticed in a crowd and of sounds too low for human hearing. It was the colour of an underdog and it spoke to his soul.

   Michael found it impossible to recall later who the driver was, how he had payed (if he had payed) or why he had boarded a vehicle which he sensed would take him nowhere near his home. Nor could he recall in very great detail what the interior of the bus was like, beyond that the lights were dim and the seats were covered with a deep purple rexine and felt faintly of tobacco smoke.

   Only one other passenger was sat there, hunched at the back with the shadows playing over his face. Michael caught the impression of a profile deeply lined with age, framed by wiry hair and a beard  like a bush of silver briars. Michael dropped into a seat close by and stared despondently out of the grubby windowpane.

  For a moment, there was quiet. The night outside flew by in a blur as the bus sped down an empty road; then a raspy, hacking cough rent the silence. Michael turned to find the other passenger looking at him pensively with small grey eyes that were pinpricks of light in his  tanned face.

  "You want something?" He asked. The man was silent. He only folded his arms, leant further back in his seat and and stared out of the window. Michael shrugged and turned away again.

   "The world is flat," pronounced the old man suddenly. "If you walk for long enough you'll fall right off the edge." It was an absurd statement, but in that moment, from his mouth, Michael believed it to be true; although that night, in that place, any wild allegation might have seemed credible. 

  So rather than tell the man he was mad, Michael nodded his head sagely and asked "Long walk is it?" His words were slurred and his vision was still swimming, but in that moment it seemed like a fine idea to walk to the end of the world.

   "Oh extraordinarily long," the man assured him.

   "Take long to walk to the edge of the world does it?"

   "No," he replied, "not really."

   "How'd you get there?" Michael slurred, leaning back towards the strange man.

   "You want to go?" The man queried, quirking an eyebrow. Michael did his best to nod, but found that once his head had flopped forward, it was difficult to raise it again.

   There was a pause.

  "Okay," said the man at last. He tapped his foot loudly against the floor. "Driver," he yelled, "pull up here. Our friend wants to get out." The silent bus glided to a halt and Michael looked at the man questioningly. "Get out here," he instructed, with a faintly sardonic air. "Find the road and just keep walking. You'll get there eventually." He reached a rough hand over the seats to grab Michael's. "Good luck," he said.

   Michael smiled thinly, suddenly less sure that the journey was a good idea, the fresh breeze that was blowing through the doors strangely sobering.He hiccoughed. Then, with a last look over his shoulder at the old man, he got up and walked away down the aisle.

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