The jerk of the stopping bus pushes everyone back to their seat. In the last seat, Aaron is the first to look out of his window, his vision is blinded by the high rising trees and the darkness of the night.
‘It’s alright! Please sit down, everyone.’ Mrs. Martinez’s sweet voice doesn’t scare anyone, she stands up and heads out.
‘It’s going to take a while. The engine’s blown. I’ll talk with the driver on the other bus.’ He tells Mrs. Martinez as she flashes her torch at him. The one-way road is empty on both directions, only light they can see is of a village they left behind a couple of minutes ago & the second bus filled with half of the students on their trail. With heavy steps Mrs. Martinez climbs in the bus, it’s her first trip with senior high-schoolers and they are already behind schedule.
‘Why have we stopped?’ Gareth Hudson is finally awake, though Mrs. Martinez hates her fellow faculty on board he’s the right person to handle this.
‘The engine is blown, our driver- Ram, has went to get supplies. Could you please calm the students?’ Last thing Gareth expected was to get control over the loathsome teens from their favorite ma’am herself. Time to teach them a lesson.
‘Hello kids!’ The fake excitement laced in the bald man’s voice creeps under Aaron’s skin, he braces his ears for yet another torment.
‘Did y’all have a good time while I was sleeping? I bet you did!’ Of every vile feature of Mr. Hudson, his fake Scottish accent was sinister.
‘Help me stop him.’ Lonzo, Aaron’s only best friend, whispers ducking his head behind the seat. On cue, both of them start coughing vigorously.
‘What’s wrong with yer mouths?’ The tiny Aaron Lehmann and his gigantic friend Lonzo Novak have always been the nastiest of all, Gareth is sure it’s just another prank of those brats. Nonetheless he helps the two out of the bus, hoping they’d be better in open air. The air-conditioned bus was much better. He instantly regrets as the summer wind hugs his hairy arms and neck.
‘Sahib! I talked with the village’s head. They can let us stay here tonight, we’ll get back on track tomorrow morning. If you approve they will do the preparations for our stay in the village hall.’ The driver has returned, his crooked run makes Gareth recoil but the news he has brought is good.
‘Did you talk to the rest of my mates on the second bus?’ He nods, still panting and wiping sweat from his forehead. ‘Okay then, let’s get these little eejits out.’
Heaving a sigh, the two best friends lead the way with a torch waiting for their classmates to get off. Aaron almost drops his torch when Audra Emerson steps down from the bus with the grace of a butterfly resting on a flower. Her hazel eyes are all he sees in the dark, a few strands of her dark hair falling in her field of vision are visible, too. Unlike Aaron she has a huge group of friends, one that has surrounded her and thus he can no longer find her.
‘This is the only time I’m going to thank you, jumbo.’ Lonzo doesn’t need to turn for frowning at the voice. Randy Stein, along with his cronies, pats Aaron and Lonzo’s back. Randy’s arrogance has been the reason Aaron and Lonzo hate him, and the rivalry go back to the time when Aaron started schooling in Vodria Primary School. It was the first year that he lived with his foster parents, when he was 10 years old. Where did he live before that? Where were his parents? No one knows. Not even Aaron, which is the reason he never bothers to reminisce his early childhood. Lonzo and Aaron have been together ever since then, Randy embarrassed the two of them which eventually led them to team up against him. Little did they know their alliance would turn into a strong bond of friendship.
‘How about taking back your thank you and shoving it up your—’
‘Watch your filthy mouth, Novak. We Steins are above all.’
‘Yes please, my sweethearts keep walking, it’s getting darker. The locals have to sleep, too, it isn’t nice of us to cause them more trouble.’ Lonzo is well acquainted with the “Prestige” of Steins’ back in his hometown yet every time it gets the better of him. Aaron’s tap on his palm is enough to stop his outburst. It has always been the same, whenever they’re in trouble Lonzo is the sword & Aaron is the shield.
‘Watch your back, losers.’ Randy smirks and runs to catch up with the ladies.
The village hall is located in the center. The road has shrunk and thus the buses are parked beside the mainroad. The locals radiate a welcoming aura to the guests, some offer food while some give them blankets. The place of their stay doesn’t quite attract Mrs. Martinez, but she’s more or less grateful about it.
On their way to the hall, Aaron and Lonzo wander off course. The roads within the village are straight and connected, the temperature over here is chilled. In fact, Aaron can see light mist covering the roads. Am I hallucinating? He could feel each road leading to the same destination, to the heart of the village. Bored of having nothing to entertain they get back on track. It isn’t until they reach their pavilion, that his mouthgasps for air. The hall is haunted, a broken house where the villagers do voodoo, or alchemy or anything unearthly. Aaron’s leg turn to lead, he can’t move any further. He will not step in the haunted place.
‘Afraid of ghosts, aren’t you, kiddo?’ Randy laughs, a smug smile across his face. Aaron takes a deep breath ignores him, walking again he murmur to Lonzo about his queasiness. ‘AI drives cars, planes & submarines, we can heat food in seconds, my girlfriend lives across the country and still we talk everyday. We’re in the 21st century and you tell me you’re afraid of ghosts?’ Lonzo is having a hearty laugh, ‘It’s okay, only have to stay for a night.’ Feeling a little better he heads to the huge room where makeshift beds are made for 35 students and 5 of their teachers. The bright yellow bulbs illuminate every corner of the hall.
‘Settle down, students.’ Father Ronald, the beloved Principal of Vodria High School, is standing near the entrance with another old man, possibly the head of the village. ‘As we all know our bus has broken down, & it has got very late to wait for our drivers to fix it, this generous man has offered us this wonderful place to stay tonight.’ Everyone gives a round of applause and the echo rings in Aaron’s ear for a long time. ‘He will fill you with some instructions which I want each and every one of us to follow.’
‘If there’s anything you want please feel free to wake the keeper who would be staying with you. Don’t go beyond the metal gates on the south end. Nor I want anyone to wander in the dark, there aren’t many wild animals but I don’t want any risks. Thank you, hope you have a good time at Strigoikirk.’ At the mention of village’s name, Aaron notices Ioan Dalca’s face lose all it’s colour.
‘What’s wrong Ioan?’ Aaron asks punching him to get his attention. Without blinking Ioan turns his head, ‘In Romanian, Strigoi means an un-dead troubled spirit.’
Swallowing a gulp, he knows it’s going to be a helluva long night.
…to be continued.
©The Honest Fabler
©Cover and Image Credits- Google Images(& the rightful owner)