Monday, August 6, 2012

The Midnight Bus -- an Urban Legend From Beijing

A young man and an old man, strangers to each other, got on Bus 302, the midnight bus. The old man took a seat near the front, and the young man, a seat a few rows behind. Two other passengers sat in the front close to the driver.

Shortly after the bus left the stop, the old man turned around to face the young man in the back.

"What did you just say?" asked the old man.

"I didn't say anything," the young man replied.

"Yes, you did. I heard you. Don't lie. You said something about me."

"Excuse me but I didn't say anything to you or anyone else."

"Oh, now you're suggesting I'm lying or that I am hearing things. Is that it?" The old man's face was furious.

"I didn't say anything to you! Don't bother me!"

"Why, you little disrespectful . . . I ought to . . . !"

The old man got up and marched back to the young man and boxed his ears.

"Hey . . . !" yelled the young man.

At this point, the bus driver pulled over to the curb, put the parking brake on, turned around and said, "All right, both of you get off my bus! I'm not having any fighting while I'm driving!"

"But--" the young man began.

"Get off now! You heard me!"

The young man, followed by the old man, exited the bus. The bus took off, leaving the two alone on a deserted street when night is at its blackest.

"What the hell was that all about?" the young man asked the old man. "Why in the world did you start a stupid quarrel with me? Why did you hit me?"

The old man smiled and shook his head. "I just saved your life and mine."

"What do you mean?"

"Did you see the two passengers in the front?"

"Yes . . . well, not clearly. I know there were two people with their backs turned. So what?"

"Well," the old man continued, "I happened to see them more clearly than you did.  Below their waists there was nothing there."

"So . . . they . . . were . . . ?"

"Yes," said the old man, nodding. "Exactly."

The news media reported the next day that Bus 302 had disappeared some time after midnight. No trace of it or anyone on the bus was ever found.

Notes

I just heard this story told in English by my very good friend Professor Li Yang of Qingdao, Shandong, China, an expert on Chinese urban legends. This story is now making the rounds in China. His son Andre related another version in which at the very end, once the pair have been kicked off the bus, the old man tells the young man basically the same story, then adding that he, too, is a ghost, meaning, of course, the hapless young man is now in mortal danger. 

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