Sunday, December 16, 2018

Those Eyes That Bind--an Encounter on a Midnight Bus (China)

Here is one urban legend among what has now become a cycle of eerie bus tales, all with buses, late-night traveling, and creepy passengers in common. 

The original version is a first-person narrative and does not disclose any names of individuals, including the narrator's herself, or locales or when the story took place. 

We'll call her "Lina."

When Lina was younger, she had the misfortune of having to take a bus home late at night all by herself after her shift.

This particular night was no exception, so when the bus finally arrived after having kept her waiting for a while, she quickly boarded, hoping to get back home as soon as possible. She found herself a seat just as a trio suddenly came aboard: two incredibly tall young men and a gorgeous, willowy young woman in a long white dress between them.

The threesome, with the men holding onto the woman's arms, moved silently past Lina, with the woman's luxuriant long, cascading black hair swaying to and fro, to take their seats a few rows behind her on the largely empty bus. There they sat, perfectly silent.

Are my eyes playing a trick on me? Lina asked herself. Did this woman just glide past me without a pair of feet? Hmm . . . more likely her feet were covered up by her long dress . . . 

In any case, Lina got the chills from the three. Not that she thought they may be criminals but just their general demeanor made her feel deeply uncomfortable. At the same time, she remained very curious about the three odd people. She very much wanted to look at them much the same way drivers cannot avert their eyes from a highway wreck.

She turned around quickly.

The woman in white had the most awesome, beautiful, entrancing eyes, and Lina felt those exceedingly lovely and large eyes focused on her as she turned to look at the woman and then turned back to the front.

The exquisiteness of the eyes did nothing to dispel the unease Lina felt.

Again, Lina's curiosity got the better of her, and she found herself turning around once again . . .

The eyes were still fixed on Lina, the large eyes, the large and unblinking eyes . . .

There was continued silence from the back of the bus. Lina squirmed in her seat and discovered she was now drenched with perspiration.

Does she keep on staring at me with those huge eyes of hers because I turned around a couple of times? she thought. Oh, let me out of this hellish situation soon!

Lina got up and moved to the front, near the driver, planning to get off the bus as soon as it came to her stop.

Her stop was coming up.

Lina turned around one more time.

From the front of the bus, she could still the huge eyes, reflecting the lights of oncoming cars, staring back at her, unblinking, unchanging.

The bus had come to the stop.

Lina got off and rushed away.

On and on she walked in the darkness, with the dread she was being followed. By those eyes? she thought.

There were footsteps behind her; she dared not turn around to look.

The footsteps were gaining on her, and then she felt a tap on her shoulder and heard a male voice ask, "Excuse me, miss?"

She felt her heart just about stop in her chest as she turned around. The person was a uniformed police officer.

"Umm . . . yes . . . ?"

"Miss, did you witness something unusual on the bus you exited a short while ago?" asked the cop.

"Why . . . yes!" She proceeded to tell the policeman everything about the three weird people, the woman's unblinking eyes that never seemed to take their gaze off her.

Finally, she asked the policeman, "So what happened? What's going on? Who is that woman?"

"Well," the policeman said, "regarding that woman. That woman they brought aboard the bus . . . the woman you were looking at . . . she was already dead . . ."

"午夜公交," Huang He, ed.; pp. 71-72. See 8/2/15 for the complete citation. 

For two versions of "The Midnight Bus," see 8/6/12 and 3/18/18. 

It's not explained who the three riders--the two living men and the dead woman--were. Also left unexplained is how quickly the police were able to get involved in the mystery. We don't know how long the time lag was between Lina's leaving the bus and the policeman's catching up to her. 

The story is somewhat reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843) in how unchecked nerves can cause the imagination to run rampant. Here, "Lina" imagines the unblinking eyes to be continually locked onto her without realizing the eyes are sightless, dead (literally) eyes. There is a false clue in the story that might cause the reader that this is a ghost memorate: the seemingly footless woman. Actually, her feet were likely obscured by her long (ghostly) white dress. Thus, the color of the dress itself is another false clue. 

Stories like this one may make us feel uneasy. Such stories remind us of the liminality imposed on us when we venture from a place of safety and put ourselves in an enclosed, hermetically sealed, if you will, environment that is a microcosm of the outer world, with all its uncertainty, ambiguities, dangers, and so on. 

Motifs: F512, "Person unusual as to his (her) eyes"; F541, "Remarkable eyes"; cF541.1, "Flashing eyes"; J1769.2.1, "Dead mistaken for living."

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