I know my life is pretty good compared to other people in the world. I have a good home, plenty of food, and a reliable Internet connection. But that doesn't stop it from being crap all the same.
I am (or rather, I was) a sophomore college student attending a very well-known university. While I was learning lots of interesting things and it didn't cost me anything from my wallet since my parents were paying my tuition, it was all maddening. I'm a computer junkie, video gamer, and lazy bum that has trouble paying attention. I'm not saying I'm worthless; I'm good at drawing pictures and writing stories, as well as computer programming. But I just can't seem to be able to use my talents to do my schoolwork. My dad says being a student is my full-time job in order to get me to do my schoolwork, but it's not much of an incentive. The pay is non-existent, the paperwork is massive, the bosses are uncaring, the hours are long, the commute is terrible, and I had to buy my own office supplies.
Even now, I am unsure of whether what has happened is a blessing or a curse.
On a few days, I had to catch a night bus back home due to the late-ness of my last class. I hadn't been getting much sleep lately and today I found particularly exhausting. During the wait for the buss, I almost nodded off more than a few times. By the time the bus arrived, I almost dropped off right then and there. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I got on the bus before falling asleep; there were substantially less people riding the bus than usual, so I was free to lay down. I took about four seats counting my large backpack.
I don't know how long I was asleep, but it was for a long time since I felt mostly rested when I woke up. As the wake-up fog lifted the first thing I noticed was that the bus was very nearly empty. The only souls aboard were, besides myself, the bus driver and two others sitting on the other side of the bus and several seats down. Very peculiar others at that, as well as faintly familiar for some then-unknown reason. One was a rather large peach-furred dog in an angle costume, sans the halo but with large feathery wings, and carrying a star-tipped wand. The other appeared to be a cabinet with feet wearing a crown; there were red gems embedded in the corners and words written around the frame: "PRESENT," "FUTURE," "FALSE," and "TRUTH."
The next thing I noticed, and this caused me no small amount of worry, was what was outside the windows. Instead of the usual small city buildings I saw on my way home, it was nothing but a dark creepy forest shrouded in a light fog. It too seemed familiar, but I could not recall from where I had previously seen it.
I checked the watch of my left wrist. It was a few minutes shy of eleven o'clock. I was usually home by eight; my parents were gonna kill me when I got home.
If I got home…
I shook my head. Where did that thought come from? I'm still not quite sure.
About then, I was distracted from my surroundings by a conversation between the two other passengers. Having nothing else to do, I decided to listen in.
"I don't know about you," the dog said to the cabinet in a friendly, feminine, slightly teenager-ish voice, "but I had a pretty good vacation."
"Me too," the cabinet replied in the voice of a middle-aged male. "It's still nice to return home, though. What did you do during your vacation?"
"Oh, just my usual stuff," the dog replied with a slight giggle. "Hey I think my hair got a little messed up. May I?" Her paw extended halfway to the cabinet's handles.
"Be my guest," the cabinet replied, turning to face her.
She grabbed the right handle and swung that side open. I leaned forward to see the only thing behind the door was a large mirror. The dog was checking her reflection in it, or what was certainly acting like it. The dog in the mirror had blue fur, a purple gown, a mean expression, bat wings, and a pitchfork. The dog in the bus didn't seem to mind or possibly notice as she fiddled with the long purple hair on her head. When she was satisfied with her appearance, she nodded to her "reflection" and closed the door. "Thanks!"
"Anytime," the cabinet said as it turned back.
"So whad'd you do for your vacation?"
The cabinet sighed. "I forgot the mirrors in the real world aren't magical, so I ended up doing community service after wrecking half a mirror shop."
The dog emitted a small laugh. "Oh Gregory's gonna have a real fit when he hears about that!"
Gregory? I didn't know a Gregory, but it did seem familiar as well. What was with everything? Why do I feel like I've seen them all before?
My wondering was again interrupted, this time by the decelerating motion of the bus. I braced myself for the movement; I had about a year's worth of experience riding public busses and managed to greatly reduce the recoil from inertia.
"Last stop," the bus driver said in a deep and somewhat creepy voice as both the front and back doors slid open. "Everybody off."
The wings on the dog started flapping and she started hovering in the air, while the cabinet just hopped to the floor. "Well let's get going!" the dog said to her companion. He nodded (with his whole body, no less) and they both left through the back door. I noticed he had to hop down to the ground.
It was quiet for a while as I stood up and got my backpack on. Then the dog peeked her head in and looked right at me. "Well c'mon! What're you waiting for?" she said to me before pulling back out.
It took a few seconds before I got over my initial surprise and followed them off the bus. As soon as I got off, the bus closed its doors and drove off into the night, leaving me with a flying dog and a talking cabinet on the side of a large dirt road with only a single dirt path leading off into the depths of the forest.
I looked back where the bus had disappeared. "Um… There wouldn't happen to be a northbound coming soon, would there?" I asked the two with me. "I think I missed my stop." I turned to look back the way I came. "By about half a continent."
"Sorry," the dog replied sweetly. "Busses don't go that way very often."
"Borderline never, I say," the cabinet added.
"Looks like you're stuck here for a while," the dog concluded.
Well shoot. Stranded out in the middle of nowhere. Just perfect. A cool breeze scraped my skin and I realized how cold it was. "There has to be somewhere to go, otherwise there wouldn't be a bus stop," I reasoned, rubbing my arms to keep warm. "You guys wouldn't happen to know a place I could hang out till the bus comes?"
"Sure; you could stay with us!" the dog replied cheerfully. "We live in a hotel at the end of this path here. See, there's a sign there!"
I looked where she pointed with her wand and saw the long wooden pole that marked the bus stop. Two pieces of what looked like driftwood were nailed to it. The upper board displayed the route number, 57. The lower sign was pointed at one end, pointing out the path, and painted on it in shimmering black were the words, "GREGORY HOUSE."
Then it hit me. Everything looked familiar because I had seen it on a DVD only a few weeks prior.
This spooky forest.
Angel Dog. Devil Dog.