Today, for a Sunday read, with Women in Horror Month, Pippa Bailey offers a short sharp story. Enjoy the ride and I’ll see you back here tomorrow with another guest for Women in Horror.
Ride or Die
On her journey home from work Amy started to consider if she was perhaps dying, no one could endure this much pain and not be dying, surely?
The wait for the bus had been arduous, weighed down by grocery shopping tugging on her back through mesh backpack straps. The numbness in her arms wasn’t nearly explainable by the weight, she was strong she knew that, or she’d have never made it to the stop in the first place. Her arms throbbed, spindles of icy electricity pricked at her skin, chasing the thrust of pulsating arteries to her fingertips and back.
Staring out of the window streetlights flickered in the haze of rain and mist, their glow almost doubling the size of already blurred luminescence. She tried to focus her eyes between the dirt on the window and the distant lights but could only take in a wash of muted orange, eyes listing as she attempted to control her vision.
15 stops to go.
With headphones plugged tight into her ears no one would try to start a conversation. At this time of evening on a Friday the bus clientele consisted of exhausted workers, drunks, and druggies off to the latest crash-pad or lost-view hotel, for another fix.
Her audio book mumbled, stuffing her cotton-filled brain with a jangle of words, excited characters to distract and entertain. Despite all of this she was always brought back to the pain. It tore through her like a knife, at first the image of sharp metal left a tangible taste of iron on her tongue. Peering down at her stomach there was no blade, no wound, simply a pouch of swollen flesh that had sprung over the previous three days.
Please arrive sooner, please arrive sooner, she begged. Furrowing her brow and hoping to force the bus onwards, she focused on the window as if her will was enough to change her circumstances.
Don’t die here, if you’re going, and this is it, don’t do it on a fucking bus.
She’d called her boyfriend from the bus stop near work, asking him to meet her when
she reached home. He’d sounded scared. His voice always a pillar of strength shook as he’d agreed. She’d ended the call at the next stab of pain, her voice an inaudible cry through grit teeth, flecks of spit hitting a metal bar that ran the length of the seat in front. A reflection of her face shone through layers of fingerprints. Tears scarred her cheeks, she’d expected them to be red and puffy but they were deathly pale.
The pain rose again, scouring her stomach and up to her chest compressing her lungs. She wanted to vomit and cry and let herself crash to the floor amid the dirt and empty bottles that rattled from seat to seat, rolling along the scuffed plastic as the bus rounded another corner.
Sodden branches whipped against the window like ancient fingers desperately clawing at the glass as the bus trundled down another woodland road.
She dug her fingers into her stomach, willing the pain away, her skin burning. Her blue jeans now stained red along the crotch stuck to her skin and dyed velvet seat fuzz from turquoise to crimson. She twisted in her seat, desperate to pull herself away from the mark.
A shop sign glowed in the distance, she knew the sign albeit she’d never stepped foot in that shop. A beacon in the darkness for home. He would be waiting to take some of her burden.
This month’s period had been the worst. She’d always struggled when they came around, normally a couple pills and a bar of Cadbury’s helped. She’d try to shrug it off with a laugh and call it Shark Week.
There’s that joke that women are not to be trusted, what else could bleed for seven days and not die. A stupid joke, but it was feeling more like a question, how could she bleed so much for so long and not suffer the consequences?
The bus doors opened ushering in a blast of frosty air, and two warm hands that gripped her bags and stroked a palm against her cheek as her world faded into black.
Pippa Bailey lives north of the wall in the Scottish Highlands. Principally a horror writer, YouTube personality and independent reviewer at Deadflicks with her partner, Myk Pilgrim. She’s known for supernatural horror with a vile sense of humour, and you can find her and Myk’s collections Poisoned Candy and Bloody Stockings through all good book retailers.
You can spot her drinking too much tea, making terrible puns, and bothering the local wildlife at www.pippabailey.co.uk.
Twitter handle: @Thepippabailey