The Bus Ride Down Foulcroft Row

📅 Published on June 3, 2022

“The Bus Ride Down Foulcroft Row”

Written by The Vesper's Bell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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It was just after dark, and I was standing by myself at an abandoned bus stop on an almost equally abandoned street, waiting in near pitch-black conditions for a bus that logically would never come.  Most of the streetlights didn’t work anymore, and the derelict industrial buildings now housed nothing but the desperate and the depraved.  The only points of light that reached my eyes from wholesome windows or bustling vehicles seemed a world away.  I was terrified that at any moment some creep would come slinking out of the shadows to do unthinkable things to me, but I resisted the urge to flee back to the relative safety of downtown.  Just a little bit longer, and I would know if the Foulcroft Bus Route was real.

For longer than anyone cared to remember, people in my city have claimed to see an old bus puttering along the streets of the Industrial District at night, traveling a route that’s been discontinued for decades and after all the other buses have stopped running.  Sombermorey’s not that big of a city.  It only has seven bus routes, none of them run after 10 pm, and none of them go any closer to the Industrial District than Alchemy Street anymore.

An occasional sighting of a bus out after hours and off route wouldn’t be all that weird, but it’s always in the same area, and its marquee reads ‘Route 9 – Foulcroft/Fable’.  Allegedly, anyway.  No one’s ever been able to get a clear enough photo of it for its marquee to be legible.

There used to be a street called Faircroft when people actually lived in the Industrial District.  But as manufacturing jobs dried up or became automated, Faircroft was left to fester until people started calling it Foulcroft.  Eventually, it was demolished, and that whole section of land became part of Avalon Cemetery.  People who claim they’ve seen the Foulcroft Bus say it drives straight under an overpass towards where Faircroft used to be, then vanishes.

Aside from only showing up after hours, there doesn’t seem to be any real pattern in when the Foulcroft Bus appears.  Months, even years can pass between sightings.  It wouldn’t actually have been that intriguing of an urban legend to me if not for one final detail; the passengers.

At least several people have claimed that the Foulcroft Bus not only carries passengers but also accepts and discharges them at abandoned bus stops.  Since it only runs at night, no one’s ever gotten a good look at them.  So, I decided that I was going to be the first.

The idea occurred to me when I was buying bus tickets at an automated kiosk.  This may or may not be relevant, but they’re all made by a local company called Thorne Tech that owns property in the Industrial District.  I don’t know if it was a glitch or something more sinister, but when the kiosk recognized me, I got a popup saying I was preapproved for an exclusive bus route and asked if I wanted to buy a ticket.  I almost clicked no, thinking it was nothing but spam, but the idea of an exclusive bus route piqued my curiosity.  I would have liked more information, of course, but the kiosk refused to provide any.  My only options were to buy or not buy, so I clicked buy, hoping I wouldn’t be debited some ungodly amount.

The popup vanished, and I heard the ticket dispenser start whirring as it printed out the little hexagonal QR code voucher that the Avalon Transit Commission uses.  With a quick yank, I ripped it off and held it up to see what the hell I had just bought.  The ticket read ‘Adult Single, No Charge (Limited Time Promotion).  Redeemable Only At Stop A, Route 9; Foulcroft/Fable.  10 pm – 3 am ad arbitrium.  Ticket Is Non-Transferable.’

I was flabbergasted.  The kiosk had, completely at random, given me a ticket for the Foulcroft Bus.  I figured it had to be a prank or a publicity stunt or something.  I immediately started playing around on the kiosk to try to find out more, but there was nothing else about Foulcroft or an exclusive bus route.  Looking it up online didn’t yield any results either, so that left just one option.

And that’s why I was standing alone at an abandoned bus stop on the wrong side of the tracks at ten o’clock at night.  Ad arbitrium means ‘at will’ or ‘at your pleasure’ and I had to assume that meant the will of the ticket holder, since I didn’t see how anyone could catch a ride that only came when it felt like it.  There was no expiry date on the ticket, nor any date at all, for that matter.  But for all I knew, that information was in the QR code, so I decided to use it immediately rather than risk it becoming invalid.

I promised myself that I was only going to do this once.  If the bus didn’t come, then it was just a dumb joke, and I was an idiot for falling for it.  It could have been worse than a joke, of course.  I realize that.  It could have been a trap to lure me out into the middle of nowhere and sell me to human traffickers or something.  I really should have just torn that ticket up and forgotten all about it, but I knew that if I did, a little voice in my head would always have wondered, ‘what if it had been for real?’

That was the thought racing through my mind when I saw a bus turn the corner and start heading in my direction.  There was nothing unusual about it at first, just one of those bright blue electric buses that the city had been making a big fuss about rolling out to keep on target for their carbon-neutral goals.  I was a little disappointed, as I had expected a phantom bus to be a little more antiquated.  I glanced up at its marquee, certain it would only say ‘Out Of Service.’

Instead, it said ‘Route 9 – Foulcroft/Fable’.

Ominously, it began slowing down and pulling over towards the bus stop.  I fought off an instinct to flee, and instead held my ground with my ticket in hand.  It rolled to a gentle stop with its front door precisely aligned with me; a pneumatic, snake-like hiss escaping as they folded open.

Sitting in the driver’s seat was an older black man with closely cropped white hair and thin glasses.  He looked friendly and professional enough, wearing the same royal blue tie and sweater vest combo I had seen other bus drivers wearing before, but considering how few bus drivers we had, it was a little concerning that I didn’t recognize him.

“Evening,” he greeted with a smile and a nod.  I nodded back, taking a tentative step on board.  I started to move the ticket towards the scanner, but then hesitated.

“Where’s the end of the line?” I asked.

“Fable Street, just like it says on the sign.  I’ll get you there, don’t worry.  The trip might get a little bumpy, but I’ll get you there,” he assured me.

Nodding my gratitude, I scanned the ticket, and the doors snapped shut behind me.  The driver was already taking the bus back out onto the road before I had even sat down, apparently in a hurry to get underway.  I peered at my reflection in the window, struggling to see anything past it and wondering if there was anyone outside watching me ride away in the mythical Foulcroft Bus.

I took a good look around the inside to confirm if I was truly the only passenger on the bus, and it seemed like I was.  Nothing inside seemed to be out of the ordinary either.  I leaned out of my seat a bit to see where we were going and saw that the driver was taking us straight to the overpass where other witnesses had alleged the bus vanished into thin air.  With a nervous swallow, I grabbed the nearest rod and braced myself for whatever was about to come.

The driver glanced into his rearview mirror and seemed to notice my apprehension.

“Seatbelts, everyone,” he quoted with a reassuring smile, just as we entered the overpass.

Have you ever driven under an overpass in the pouring rain, and for a fleeting instant, the downpour vanishes, and you’re immersed in a sudden and disorienting silence?  That’s what it felt like, going under that overpass.

The lights flickered, and in the space between light and dark, the outside world was swapped for a surreal landscape of hundred-meter-tall dead trees with pale, peeling bark and naked branches.  There were no leaves to be seen at all, either in the canopy or on the forest floor.  The barren ground was a charred black, and even the fungi blooming out of the dead wood looked to be crumbling into dust.  Everything outside the bus looked to be dead, and the unpainted asphalt road was in a severe state of disrepair as well.  I looked up to see if I could steal a glance at the sky through the dense skeletal branches, but what bare patches I could see were only a sullen grey.

“Beautiful desolation, isn’t it?” the driver asked, slowing down to accommodate the winding forest road we now found ourselves on.

“Yeah, it really is,” I said softly.  “Not what I expected, though.  I read that Faircroft Row used to be housing for factory workers back in the day.”

“Housing?  That’s a generous term.  Slums more like it.  Those places were falling apart before they were even abandoned,” the driver commented.  “You know who their original landlord was?”

“The official Sombermorey website says that Faircroft Row was donated to the city by Crow, Crowley, & Chamberlin, that old bank on Druid Street,” I replied.

“It says it was ‘generously’ donated, which if you ask me is a sickeningly sycophantic choice of words for trading in an eyesore and class action lawsuit waiting to happen for a tax write-off and getting the city council off your back,” the driver retorted.  “But they weren’t the original owners, though.  Chamberlin’s many things, but he’s not a slumlord.  He evicted the whole street the instant he repossessed it.  Or his grandfather did, if that’s the sorry-ass excuse that immortal son of a bitch is peddling these days.  No, Faircroft Row was originally owned by its namesake, Felix Faircroft.  You may not have heard of him.  He’s not as prominent in local folklore as, say, Seneca Chamberlin or Thaddeus Fawn, but he used to own a good deal of property around town.  He fancied himself a gentleman adventurer of sorts and went off on over a dozen ‘expeditions’ to exotic parts over the years.  It was those expeditions, not to mention his cavalier attitude regarding his own investments, that caused his fortune to dwindle and his properties to deteriorate.  He was a proud man, though, and didn’t take it kindly when he got wind that people were calling this place Foulcroft Row.”

“So, you’re saying he’s responsible for this place?” I asked, confused, turning my head towards the window, just in time to catch a glimpse of a silhouette ducking behind one of the distant trees.  “There’s something out there!”

“Yeah.  Yeah, there is,” he said with a tinge of melancholy to his voice.  “Back to Felix.  He had originally used the land right between the cemetery and the Industrial District as a slum because it was the cheapest real estate in town.  But when his fortunes started taking a turn for the worst, he realized this presented an opportunity – of sorts.  He hobnobbed with Chamberlin and his buddies enough to know that they were into some occult shenanigans, some of which they used Avalon Cemetery for.  Morgana King, the witch who’s supposed to have founded the town, is buried out there or some nonsense like that; I don’t know.  But Felix, he got it into his head to expand Faircroft Row further out into the cemetery, the opposite of what ended up happening, ironically enough.  His thinking was that if the richest men in town wanted it kept intact, if he just went through the rigmarole of making it look like he was serious about buying some of the cemetery from the city, then Chamberlin would simply make him a counteroffer.  Fairly naïve of him, in retrospect.”

As he spoke, more of the silhouettes started peeking out from behind the trees.  They were still distant, so I couldn’t make them out in much detail, but they looked like shrouded, humanoid forms composed of deep purple storm clouds.  The only feature I could make out was a pair of pure white eyes, blinking curiously at the bus as we drove by.  I took out my phone to try to take a video of them but found that either the battery was dead or that the phone was broken altogether.

“No flash photography, please.  Wouldn’t want to spook ’em,” the driver chided playfully.  “So, Felix goes to the city council with his proposal of buying some of Avalon Cemetery to expand Faircroft Row, making sure to offer just enough money that they can’t just turn him down on the spot.  They hem and haw a bit, saying that they’ll need to survey the area, investigate what sort of impact it will have on the community, that kind of thing, but they’ll get back to him.  What they actually do is run straight to Chamberlin to see how he’d like the matter dealt with.  Being the vindictive and conniving little weasel that he is, he pretends to go along with the idea.  He invites Felix to meet him there one evening so that they can discuss exactly what parts of the cemetery get sold and how Felix will develop it.  Felix didn’t suspect a thing and still seemed to think that if he could sell Chamberlin on the idea even harder, then he could take Faircroft Row off his hands altogether and do it himself.”

They were getting closer now, the forms lurking behind the trees.  They were on either side of the road, both ahead of and behind us.  The nearer they got, the more likely they were to duck behind a tree the instant I looked directly at them.  They appeared to be becoming more emboldened, however, and it felt like their numbers had risen exponentially.  A few moments ago, there had been just one, but now it seemed like nearly every other tree hid one of the strange beings.  I became aware of a soft, rapid whispering sound, and I realized it must have been the creatures conversing with one another in their native tongue.

“Are we in danger?” I asked the bus driver as I shifted my gaze between the bus’s doors, wondering if they were strong enough to keep the things out.

“Danger or no, I’m going to finish my story,” he replied adamantly.  “When Felix gets to the cemetery, he finds that Chamberlin’s had a brand new mausoleum built right on the border between the graveyard and Faircroft Row.  Enraged and bewildered, he demands to know the meaning of it, but Chamberlin assures him that all will be made clear once he steps inside.  Seeing no harm in humoring him, Felix obliges.  That’s technically the last anyone ever saw of him, so the story gets a bit more anecdotal from here.  Third-hand accounts of people who heard it from people who heard it from Chamberlin, that sort of thing.  Chamberlin leads Felix into the mausoleum and tells him that while he’s all for his idea of expanding the occupancy of the cemetery, he’s not a big fan of the current impoverished residents of Faircroft Row.  Not to worry, though, as he has an alternative demographic already lined up.

“As dark as it was in that mausoleum, Felix was just able to make out the white eyes staring back at him.”

I screamed as the creatures rushed out of the forest en masse and threw themselves up against the windows, peering in from both sides with ravenous eyes.  I still couldn’t make out any other facial features, but I could see a faint outline delineating their heads from their hoods.  The wind had picked up, and the dead trees started creaking and cracking in its gusts.  One broke clean in half and fell in front of us, blocking our path.

“What are they!” I screamed, frantically searching for anything I could possibly use as a weapon against such a massive and ethereal horde.

The driver put the bus into park and folded his hands into his lap, apparently resigned to our fate.

“It’s alright.  Really, it is,” he tried to assuage me.  “They’re Remnants, or at least that’s what I like to call them.  This whole place is a remnant of a world that’s just been slowly fading away.  It would probably have faded into nothing already if it weren’t for Chamberlin.  He used Felix as a sacrifice to pair this world with ours, stabilizing its decay.  Don’t ask me what he got out of it, but rest assured, he didn’t do it out of pure benevolence.  At first, this created an issue with the Remnants occasionally phasing over into the immediate area at night, a problem Chamberlin solved by seizing all of Felix’s assets and donating Faircroft Row to the city council to merge with Avalon.  The cemetery’s closed at night, and an occasional ghost sighting in a cemetery is nothing to worry about.

“This road we’re on now needs to be traveled now and then by someone from our world to help maintain the connection and keep this world from fading away.  That same damn tree tries to block the path every time, though, and it’s pretty heavy for an old man to move on his own.”

My eyes went wide with horror as I saw him methodically place his hand on the door lever.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

“They’re not going to hurt us.  They want us to make it through.  Otherwise, they risk their world fading again,” the driver explained.  “They’re just here to protect us from…environmental hazards, let’s say.  And yeah, they’re probably a bit curious too.  If you want, you can open a window and you’ll see they’re harmless, but we have to go out there and move that trunk before the weather gets even worse.”

I looked out at the dozens of Remnants surrounding the bus and the hundreds – if not thousands – in the forest just beyond.  They were definitely inquisitive, but nothing they were doing was explicitly hostile.  They had enough numbers that they could easily have overturned the bus if they wanted to.  I really had no reason to believe, or disbelieve, the bus driver’s explanation for what was happening, but he was right that the fallen trunk needed to be moved if we wanted to get out of there.  Reluctantly, I reached for the nearest window and slowly pulled it open.

The Remnants nearest to the window winced at the sudden movement, taking a step back in surprise.  Their frenzied whispers to one another were still utterly unintelligible to me, but at the very least, they carried some connotation of wary excitement.  One of them though was brave enough to take a step back towards me, gently reaching up its nebulous hand in a gesture of congeniality.  Hesitantly, I reached my hand out the window and placed my palm against its.

It went right through, my hand feeling nothing but heavy mist and static electricity.  The Remnant’s eyes turned to smiling half-moons while the rest of its kind gibbered hurriedly amongst themselves.

My head reflexively whipped around sharply at the sound of the bus door opening.

“Let’s get to it, then,” the driver said as his tired, arthritic legs carried him slowly down the short staircase.  Taking one last cautious glance at the horde of Remnants waiting outside, I chased after him.

The Remnants cleared a path for the driver as he hobbled towards the fallen tree.  Unsure if they would extend the same courtesy to me, I made sure to stay close to him.  The Remnant with the smiling eyes came the closest to us and seemed to be watching us with the greatest interest.

“Don’t wander off the road, and especially don’t lose sight of it,” he warned me.  “These woods are disorienting, and if you lose the road, the odds are slim you’ll find it again.”

“What was this place?  What were these people?” I asked, gawking at the desolate world around me in a mix of pity, confusion, and terror.

“Don’t know what they were, just what they are, and that’s in need of our help,” he replied as we came to a stop by the tree trunk.  “Don’t try to lift it, just roll it enough for us to get by.”

Bending down with him, I helped roll the tree over, letting out a gasp of shock when I saw a startling human-like face twisted in rage and agony emerging from its decaying bark.

“Is that–” I began to ask.

“Felix?  Yeah.  A bit of him’s in everything here now, but for some reason, this tree, in particular, is easiest for him to topple over,” the driver replied.  “Don’t pay him any mind.  He’s not too happy about having to be the one to keep this world from fading away, but the cost of his freedom would mean letting everyone else here perish.”

He nodded towards the horde of Remnants, who were now all staring at me in anxious anticipation, waiting to see what I’d do.  Pausing for only a moment, I bent back down and resumed pushing the tree off the road as its face grew more and more grotesque and outraged with each roll.

When the road was clear, I helped the driver hobble back into the bus, and we were off.  The horde of Remnants escorted us the rest of the way, but now their overall mood seemed much more jubilant.  The wind howled, and the trees groaned under the strain, but no more of them succeeded in blocking our path.  Before long, I spotted another overpass up ahead, the first man-made structure other than the road that I had seen in this place.

The Remnants all fell behind us now, the one with smiling eyes leading the way and waving goodbye.  Not wanting to be rude, I gave a little wave back.

When we went under the overpass, the lights flickered again, and when they came back on, we were in Sombermorey, somewhere between downtown and the suburbs.

“Here we are; Fawkes on Fable, last stop,” the bus driver announced as he pulled up to the bus stop, looking up into the rearview mirror and giving me an appreciative smile.  “Thanks for your help.  The first time doesn’t always go this smoothly.”

“Do…do you know why I was offered the ticket?” I asked, holding it up in the air for him to see.

“I don’t.  I’m just the bus driver,” he said with a shake of his head.  “I don’t know who assigns the tickets or what their reasoning is, just that I need at least one passenger with me, and that passenger’s yet to let me down.”

He reached into his pocket, pulling out a small blue and white card.

“Here you are; one commissary bus pass for your trouble,” he said with some embarrassment.  “I know it’s not much, but I appreciate the help.  If you ever want to go on another ride down Foulcroft Row, just wait at a defunct bus stop after hours with that card, and I’ll be there.  Things go easier for me when my passenger already knows what’s going on, and the Remnants seem better-natured too.  Can’t offer you much in return other than what else I know.”

I bit my lip nervously for a moment before gingerly accepting the bus pass.

“I’ll…think about it,” was my non-committal response.  The driver nodded understandably, opening the door to let me off.

As the bus drove away, I noted that its marquee now read ‘Out of Service,’ and there was nothing to distinguish it from any other bus in the fleet.  I reached for my phone and found that not only was it working but that the time was only a little past ten, as if the ride through the Remnant Realm had barely taken any time at all.  I was relieved at first, but that revelation gave me an uneasy feeling that took a moment to coalesce into a conscious thought.

If my short bus ride in the Remnant Realm had counted for nothing in my reality, then how long had Felix’s imprisonment, which had lasted over a century on the outside, felt like to him?

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by The Vesper's Bell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: The Vesper's Bell

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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