Queenie sat in her seat mortified. The stench of the zombies groaning around her was unbearable. She had a small bottle of perfume in her bag, which she sprayed onto a tissue and held it beneath her nose, which gave her a little break. The zombie sitting on the seat in front of her turned his head right the way round to face her.
“You’re new!” he said, with a toothless smile.
“I’ve just got on.” Queenie replied, looking at the man’s neck. “Does that hurt?”
“Everything hurts.” The zombie replied. “You get used to it.”
Bess skipped along the aisle of the bus, and sat herself down besides Queenie. With her hand, she slapped the man in front’s head back around to face the front.
“Bess!” Queenie scolded. “That was not very nice at all!”
Bess looked upset for a split second, and then giggled. “You need to ignore Clive.” she said.
“Clive?” Queenie asked, not associating the name with the zombie in front.
“He thinks you’re food for thought.” Bess teased. She pointed to another zombie on the other side of the aisle. “See her?” Queenie looked over to where her old friend pointed. “That’s Claudette. Like you, she got on the wrong bus without checking. She’s been stuck here ever since. She wasn’t in that state when she got on. She was like you, sort of.”
“What do you mean, ‘like me’?” Queenie watched Bess use her other hand to fold back down her pointed finger. Bess noticed her watching and giggled again.
“Human.” Bess looked Queenie square in her eyes. “Clive helped her to become the thing she is now. See you later!” Bess skipped to the back of the bus and disappeared up the stairs.
Queenie walked to the back of the bus and looked out of the opening. The thick green fog was licking at the entrance, disappearing as it rolled inside. Outside she could see nothing through the fog, but she felt the bus travelling at speed. She pressed the button on one of the bars at the back of the bus in the hope this would make the driver stop. She looked into the driver’s compartment at the front, hoping to grab his or her attention, and noticed nobody there. The bus was driverless.
“Somebody must’ve stopped it for me to get on…” Queenie thought, reluctantly turning herself around to go back to her seat. It was now occupied by two passengers. She stormed along the aisle and stood next to the seat. “Excuse me! I was sitting here just a moment ago. Where did you come from anyway?”
“We’ve just got here” The red-skinned man said.
“We’re looking for something. I think we’ve taken the wrong turn.” The green-skinned woman said.
“Well, you can’t sit there.” Queenie demanded. “This is the Eternal Circular, the number 42, and there’s no getting off now. There isn’t a driver to even stop it. I refuse to sit next to one of these other people on the bus. Sorry, you’ll have to move.”
Mr Sinster smiled and got to his feet. “I’m sorry. Here, please sit down. We won’t be here very long.”
Mrs Sinster also stood and moved into the aisle. “We very often appear in the wrong place. We’re being sent here, there and everywhere after we touched the map at the same time.”
“Sent. Map?” Queenie sat herself down without thanking them for moving. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
Clive spun his head around once again. “Talking to yourself?”
Queenie looked at Clive. “No, I’m speaking to this…” the aisle was empty where the couple had once stood. She looked at all of the seats and they hadn’t sat down.
Bess skipped back along the aisle and sat next to Queenie once more, knocking Clive’s head around as she did. Giggling, she looked at her old friend. “You look puzzled. You’ll get used to it.”
Queenie looked at Bess. “Do you know everyone on this bus?” She asked, and Bess nodded. “Who are the monsters? The ones with the red and green skin?”
“No idea. They aren’t on here. Only us zombies… and you!” Bess giggled once more.
Clive spun his head around again. “She was you know. Talking to herself.”
Bess flicked Clive’s head around.
“Why do you keep doing that?” Queenie asked, feeling concern for Clive.
“He can’t do it himself!” Bess giggled and skipped back to the upper deck.
Clive spun his head around yet again, and rolled his eyes at Queenie. One of them stuck but the other returned to its normal position. “She is helpful, but she insists on flitting about. Oh, to be young, eh?”
Queenie slumped into her seat. She felt an urge to turn Clive’s head around again as the way he was looking at her made her feel very uneasy. She gave into her urge and gently turned him to face the front, his neck slotting into place when she’d finished. That made her feel all the more uneasy. “You’ll have to sort your own eye out!” She reached into her bag, and used her last remaining wet wipe to clean her hands. A flash of light appeared in the aisle next to her and the red and green man and woman materialised out of it.
“We’re back!” The man said. “I’m Mr Sinster. This is Mrs Sinster!” He said cheerily.
“Queenie.” Queenie said. “Mrs Linkletlatter.”
“Mrs Linkletlatter?” Mrs Sinster asked. “No, you misheard. I’m Mrs Sinster, dear.”
“No, I’m Mrs Linkletlatter, Mrs Sinster, Mrs Queenie Linkletlatter.”
There was another flash of light, and the couple vanished before Queenie’s eyes. “I’m going mad.” She said. “It’s happened. They’ve done it. Finally gone.”
Bess skipped passed her and sat next to another zombie at the front of the bus, giggling as she did so.
Queenie breathed in through her tissue again, and looked out through her reflection in the window to the darkness outside. The view was always the same, never changing. She noticed the light flash again, and saw the Sinsters’ reflections appear and disappear. She closed her eyes. When she opened them, Bess was sitting next to her. Queenie jumped.
“Think, Queenie. Think. You must. You have a chance to get off. I know you’re not happy here. Nobody gets off here, but you have a chance. Think. Check what’s going on!” Bess giggled and skipped back upstairs.
The light flashed.
The Sinsters reappeared.
Queenie grabbed hold of Mrs Sinster’s arm, and all three vanished into the orange light. When Queenie’s vision came back to her, she was no longer on the bus. She was sat in a sofa in a living room, still holding onto Mrs Sinster. “Oh, I’m sorry.” She said, releasing her tight grip.
“No problem dear.” Mrs Sinster smiled, smoothing her sleeve.
“Now why would you do that?” Mr Sinster asked. “Nobody has ever left the Eternal Circular before.”
“You’ve heard of it?” Queenie asked. “So it’s real?”
“Oh, very real.” Mr Sinster smiled as he helped Queenie to her feet. “It passes through work sometimes.”
Queenie batted his hand away with urgency. “Not being rude,” she said, “but I don’t want to be taken back there. I’m going to get myself home now and get out of these awfully smelly clothes.”
“There’s a bus stop just over the road which goes into town.” Mrs Sinster suggested helpfully.
“Thank you, but no. I’m walking. I’m never taking a bus again.” Queenie hurried her way across the open room and out through the door without looking back. Outside, she realised she had no idea where she was. “I’ll work it out.” she said, as she walked down the garden path.
The bus stopped over the road as Mrs Sinster said it would. Queenie noticed it was slightly off the ground, hovering. She looked through the window and saw Bess smiling and waving toward her as the bus vanished into a murky green fog.
“Bye Bess!” Queenie waved, and began her long walk home.
So, at long last a happy ending for Queenie… and the Sinsters’ quest continues.
Queenie first appeared in The Eternal Circular, which returned here.
Previous parts of the Sinsters’ quest:
And the next part will be along shortly!