Pauline stared out of the window of the bus, primed for a new experience, but wonderfully bored at the moment. The road was without curves, without pitch, as even a pothole would be a blessed turn of events. At a point in her life where the world was hers, she randomly picked a town and decided to investigate it firsthand. The uncertainty of the situation was uplifting. The hope that one day she would feel as if she belonged somewhere gave her tiresome life meaning. She longed to grow roots but had yet to find suitable soil.
The only thing that caught her eye along the way was an abandoned car. It did not seem particularly interesting to her, as it was unattended, though a bit of smoke still emanated from the interior, slowly creeping out of the driver's open window. Pauline decided to turn her attention to the back of the seat directly in front of her, as anything would be just as entertaining as what is happening outside. She studied the cracks in the portions of the seat that housed old, sun-baked vinyl, making objects come to life in her mind. A frowning face, a crooked star, a guitar and so forth and so on.
As it was raining flower petals outside all morning, Gavin could not be bothered. He sat on the edge of his couch staring at the plume of smoke that slowly hovered and danced about three feet off of the area rug of his apartment's living room. He watched it dance and wiggle upward, though never dissipating, but remaining. He would alternate his position and view it from many angles, even brave enough once to gaze at it from below; relaxed upon his back with a pillow and glass of water. He dared not touch it, opting to wait it out, either to witness self-extinguishing or perhaps changing into something new.
Hours and days turned into weeks of watching the ethereal anomaly. The outside world was unable to impact his life in such a way as to pull him from his trend of sleeping, working and staring. He ignored calls, purposely missed get-togethers and seemingly avoided human contact unless by supreme necessity. He looked weak; his coloring was bland, fading.
As the light was unfavorably casting a glare upon the smoke, Gavin reached over to the window and brought the curtain together with an irritated jerk of its string. Satisfied with the light, he knelt before the smoke and barely immersed his face into it, but felt nothing. He closed his eyes and slowly inhaled, but there was no sensation of taste to match the vapid scent. Gavin then drew in a deep breath.
The road leading into town was so long and straight that it seemed infinite. It was built for speed. Jason's car was very sleek and the engine purred with violent control. It was built for speed. As the clean light emanated from the full moon, pairs of headlights that looked like cat's eyes on the hunt could be seen for miles. Jason buried his speedometer and the engine settled itself, almost proud to be at full power. He veered his car closer to the double-yellow lines that separated his lane from the oncoming traffic. He did this so as to feel the air push his car in short, turbulent bursts and listen to the Doppler Effect of the passing car's engine. Those feelings and sounds interested him, and the frightening proximity of it all was a rush unto itself. He kept his eyes focused ahead, but caught streaky blurs peripherally. Another car rushed his way and Jason anticipated the whipping wind and vacuous bump, but nothing happened.
Somewhat lost in thought, or perhaps lost in not thinking at all, Jason did not notice the sudden stillness next to his window. The car that should have passed him by at breakneck speed was moving backwards in the opposite lane with the swiftness and stability as if it were attached to his car. Jason slowly turned his head to look out of his opened window, first noticing that the car is only the width of the double-yellow lines away, and then realizing the impossible speed and control.
The seemingly hitched vehicle's height was level with Jason's car, and though the windows were less than a foot away, Jason retained his furious pace. He rotated his head completely to the side and looked into the open window opposite his and saw the driver. The driver had the head of a skeleton, with a few tendons and striated muscles still attached. It let out a strange laugh as if enjoying this little game. The meaty skull silenced itself as it too turned its head, to face Jason. Jason stared at the skeleton, which opened its mouth and spoke.
Pauline took a playful hop off of the bus and on to the sidewalk. As the door closed behind her with a short, pressurized burst, she smiled as a pair of lanky dogs chased each other down the pavement, under a fruit stand, around the corner and out of sight. Pauline slid the bangs of her hair securely behind her ears, turning herself to face the broad avenue ahead. She scanned upward at the old buildings with endless rows of windows and the wide ledges beneath them. A curtain was quickly snapped shut in the corner window on the top floor, and after disagreeing with the color choice of said curtain, she brought her eyes back down and in front of her. With a feeling of childlike adventure, she immersed herself within the architecture and population of this town.
Pauline leapt over a pile of matted flower petals and crossed the street leading to a park. She could hear the festive beats of countless drums and various brass instruments within the trees ahead. When she discovered the center of this atrium, with winding and intersecting pavements all leading one way or another to this central position, her stomach fluttered with joy. Hundreds of animals, seemingly dancing with each other, occupied a vast lawn of deep emerald grass. The drums and horns that she was suspicious of were seen in action as their players were scattered all around the natural dance floor. A procession of red wagons was circumnavigating the lawn and every stretch of pavement of the park's wiry network, pulled effortlessly by the people of this town. Each wagon had words printed on its side, such as "vitality", "feelings", "vanilla", "sing to me", "I'm not tired" and "listen".
As she continued to scour the park, the dance music was melded with a new tune. The high-pitched tones of a giddy Calliope were overpowering the drums and horns with each step. As Pauline increased her pace, she saw a merry go round spinning between a row of trees and a shimmering pond. None of the riders upon the regal and statuesque stallions were under the age of 60, though in their hearts, it was apparent that they had yet to reach their teens. For the first time in her life, Pauline felt at home.
Jason sped through a stop sign next to the bus stop and fired from his window a crumbled pack of cigarettes. The piece of litter smacked off of the pavement and rolled next to a few garbage cans ready to be picked up, along with an overturned and broken wagon that read "ennui" on its side. As he took the corner at a serious pace, the gun he had resting on the passenger's seat slid against the door and fell on the floor mat after clanking off of the contents of a brown paper bag.
Pauline ascended the countless stairs with her heavy burden of back packs and a weighty suitcase. With every few steps, one of her bags would tap against the rails and swing behind her, threatening to release from her grip. She would bump the bag with her hip and return it to its previous position in stride with a very natural rhythm. After climbing to the highest flight, she felt relieved to be on level ground. At her final destination, she dropped all of her bags and dug a set of keys out of her pocket and simply stared at them in proud victory. To her, these keys would open more than a simple door. As she entered the apartment, nothing could put a damper on her brilliant sense of life. Not even the ugly curtain in the window or the aroma of stale smoke in the air.