Thursday, 30 April 2015

'The Road Worrier'

Look, not to call out 'life' on this whole "art imitating life imitating art" thing, but this upcoming Dublin Bus strike could be trying to hop on the 'me imitating life' bandwagon of my Young Adult novel series set aboard Dublin Bus in a dystopian version of the future (or near present! *PPppkkkkyyyeewwwww* your mind just got blown!) in an effort to imitate it.
Just to get it out there before the strike hits, here follows the premise and a brief extract.

In the year 2015 Dublin Bus announced a series of strikes that would hold Dublin city hostage to the whims of the Unions. The people cried out their dissatisfaction - blame lay everywhere, with the Unions, with privatisation, public service employees, society, the government. But the government would not be made to look like fools, too much had gone wrong for them, and the judging eyes of a public out for blood cast a gaze upon them. The government had to act fast, act decisively, and try not to add another mark against themselves. They acted fast, with little thought, and with boasts of their own efficiency.
But their hubris was their undoing. They couldn't bow to what the Unions wanted now, but they could bribe them with something they wanted even more - amnesty.
On days when strikes were proposed the government signed an order granting all public transport drivers amnesty from the laws of the road for the duration of their shifts. This was intended to keep buses on the roads, keep them running their routes, but almost immediately things spiraled out of control.
Realizing that laws were worthless to them for their shifts drivers became as efficient at keeping their timetable as they became at using their vehicles as wheeled machines of death. As the first day came to a close the depots never filled with buses finishing their routes. Shifts accrued overtime, accrued unpaid overtime, extended indefinitely.
All a driver had to do was never finish his shift and he never had to worry about rules.
The streets of Dublin became scenes of chaos - pedestrians, cyclists, decorative plants, all became targets.
When the roads became unusable, then the buses became essential again. But at what cost...

'Book 1: The Road Worrier'

Rust and burning plastic, that's all I could smell when I woke up. My head was filled with a dull throbbing, and my nose filled with the smell of charred flesh, my skin felt clammy and humid.
I looked around, my surroundings were familiar, the people alien, the vehicle I was in shuddered and threw us all to the side. I fixed myself back in my seat, tried to get comfortable, but in the humidity that was impossible. The accumulated stench of people was enough to make me retch, but density of the smell rammed it back down my throat.
"Do you mind if I open this window?" I asked the woman behind me, who only returned a scowl.
I reached to open it, but as I pulled it a clenched fist shot out and closed it fully again.
"Don't." croaked a man from across the aisle, fixing himself back into the middle his seat, spreading his legs, fixing his bag into the space on his seat that his legs couldn't fill beside the window. That's when everything came together, I could only be one place: On board a Dublin Bus.

I looked around again, trying to piece together why I was there and why my memory wasn't. I was also trying to work out why so many other people were there, resting on the floor, sitting on the outside of each seat.

Someone slapped me, "Got any smokes?" A tired, harsh voice sounded beside me as a pale skinny man pushed his face to within an inch of mine.
"No," I didn't smoke. "I don't smoke."
"The what f**kin' use are ya to me?! Get out of me f**kin' face, you muppe'." The gaunt ghost squealed while walking back to his seat.
This was definitely Dublin Bus. I wiped some sweat off my brow with my hand, noticing a note I'd had tattooed onto the palm of my hand: MIN FARE. DON'T GET OFF.
I wiped my hand on my forearm, somewhere behind me a voice quietly but aggressively whispered "F**k's sake!"

I checked my pockets, I didn't have much in them. My wallet was mostly empty, save for my bank card, my Dublin Bikes card, my Leap card, and card from some coffee shop with a single stamp on it.

I looked at the seat beside me, it was filthy - a trait of many seat on public buses, but something in the detritus caught my eye.
A bus ticket. A date. I picked it up to make sure that I wasn't dreaming; the ticket was worn and rolled and dirty and as close to decaying as something can be, but there it was in my hand. A Dublin Bus ticket, with the bus's route number, the time someone paid for the ticket, and the date. 2nd May 2015. The ticket was a few days old, but it was a sign: I'd made it.

I'd f**king made it.

I laughed to myself and looked around for a familiar face in the crowd, maybe I'd boarded the bus with someone and whoever it was had to sit somewhere else. I couldn't have gotten on alone, if I had then there had to be someone there to share my feeling. No one.
I wiped the window to look outside, the humidity on the bus had built up a layer of condensation on the window. Before I could get an eye on where I was someone griped my shirt and threw me out of my seat onto the floor.

Two eyes stared down at me, thick black rings were painted around each eye, the rest of the face was caked in a heavy layer of foundation, like a clown who'd coloured only within the lines of her own features. The arms that held me down where a deep orange colour of cheap spray on tan.

"The f**k d'ye think ye're doin'?!" The shrill voice screamed down at me. "That's our water! Ours! That's our f**kin' right! Don't go f**kin' wipin' in off them windows!"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I tried to placate her. I had to get up quick, the humidity of the bus was causing the mixed layers of powder and liquid foundation to congeal, gravity was forming stalactites of make-up, threatening to drip onto my face at any moment.
"Please, just let me up!" I implored her, as a thick glob fell off of her face and onto the floor beside me. I glared at it, only then did I noticed the make-up brush in her hand. She was still applying it with one hand as she held me down. On closer inspection the brushed had a razor blade Sellotaped to the handle end of it.
"D'you've a f**kin' problem with me puttin' on me make-up to?" Her eyes went wide with anger, the thick rings around her eyes expanded. "It's a free f**kin' country and I can put on me make-up on a bus if I want! I paid my fare on!"
"Let him up!" A voice called out.
"Don't you f**kin' talk to me like tha'!" The woman said, then gasped as she turned to look behind her.
"I don't want to have to ask to see you ticket, do I?"
The woman said nothing, stood, lowered her head and walked to the nearest free seat, immediately staring at her phone.
I sat up on the floor and went to stand, a hand reached down and pushed my shoulder. I fell back to the floor.

The sound of awful dance music emanating from the congealed clown's phone filled the bus. For the next few hours I tried to figure out how I'd gotten there, accompanied by its awful soundtrack. Of course, I knew how we'd gotten there.
It hadn't taken long, and it hadn't taken much.
On May 1st the bus drivers decided to strike, in an effort to dissuade them management of the various bus companies had offered them one thing: Drive your routes that day, and from the moment you start until your shift ends rule of the road and laws do not apply.
In hindsight it would have been easier to just give in to what the bus drivers unions wanted, but no one in authority wanted to bend to the drivers union's will.
Instead they gave something else, something that they thought they had all along - power on the road, absolution from any wrong move - and once they got it they went mad. They started their shifts the 1st of May, and they haven't stopped. So long as they were still technically working - driving a set route, picking up passengers, letting passengers off - and so long as they never clocked off they were lawless.
The buses rarely stopped, mostly only to let people off, but it was safest to be on one.

People who did without a bus, who walked or cycled, were just different shapes and speeds of target for the drivers who would swerve at anyone they could see. It was a sport.

From where I sat I could feel the bus veer quickly to the right, then felt a bump, then heard a laugh.
"Tha's another one!" A cry could be heard downstairs. "F**kin' b*st*rd shoulda gotten outta me bleedin' way!"

Once the drivers got out of control it wasn't long before the passengers followed suit. If a driver stopped to call the Gardaí because someone was smoking or disorderly on a bus there was the chance the bus would have to stop entirely. Shift over.

The only chance a driver had of getting a break was if another strike was called, they could stop driving in the morning, sleep, see their family, start again before business hours end on the same day. It was a tight window, but it could be done.

Now that I was finally on the bus, it was time to start planning how I would get off it...



Sure, it's a little rough around the edges, but that's either a selling point or something I could clean up if it wasn't so late at night and I was pushing myself for a deadline.

I know, it's a far cry from my usual output of erotic CSI:Miami fan fiction, but hear me out.
You never know, this could be your chance to read a part of this before some publisher - drunk on the potential for yet another dystopian fiction series - snaps it up, edits out all of my poor spelling and questionable syntax, and slaps a price on reading this quality output.

Speaking of which, if any publishers want this, or some weird mash-up of public transport-based fiction and erotic fiction, you are one messed up puppy, but depending on what you're willing to offer me I'll probably consider writing it.

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