(SCENE: Late night at the South Station Bus Terminal. It’s quiet, with few people waiting on this bus. There’s a thunderstorm outside, thunder crashing and rain pouring. These are a little muffled by the stone building, but still intimidating. There are muffled announcements and occasional quiet conversation of people passing through. But overall, the place is empty.)
(ROSE is standing in the terminal, searching through her backpack for the ticket she bought in advance. ROSE is young, maybe twenty-two. She’s in college and is going home for the weekend. But she had to work late tonight and this was the only bus she could get if she wanted to be home before tomorrow.)
Where is it…where…ah, there you are.
(Her phone rings, something cheery, and she answers)
Hello? Oh, hi Mom. Yeah, I just got out of work and I’m at the terminal now. It’s leaving in an hour. (pause) Yeah, I’ll get an Uber home from the station, don’t worry about waiting up for me. (pause) Lasagna? Oh hell yeah, you’re the best. Oh my god, I can’t wait to see you! Okay. Okay, love you too. Bye!
(ROSE hangs up and sits down in the uncomfortable terminal chair with a sigh. There are a couple people talking further down the terminal, but she’s happy to be alone over on this end. It’s been a long day and she’s tired. So she takes out her phone again and starts listening to music over her headphones.)
(DENNIS approaches. DENNIS is in his forties, confident in his own importance to the world to the point of arrogance. His footsteps are muffled by the music, but still audible)
(ROSE is listening to her headphones and not paying attention. She then realizes he’s trying to get her attention and the music cuts as she slides the headphones off her head.)
Just saying hello!
Oh, um, hello.
(Dennis sits down next to her)
You kids these days. So wrapped up in your phones, cutting yourself off from the world when what you really should be doing is engaging in the world around you. What’s your name?
(ROSE is deeply uncomfortable and it is obvious in her voice that she’s a little afraid. But she’s also been conditioned to be nice and polite to people. So even though she’d rather tell him to go away and go back to listening to music, she’s engaging.)
Hello, Rose! I’m Dennis. It’s very nice to meet you.
(He holds out a hand and she shakes.)
See, isn’t that better? Face to face interaction in the real world, not chatting with your imaginary friends online. So where are you headed, Rose?
DENNIS (with a laugh)
Oh, that’s nice. Always nice to go home after a long day. I’m going home too. The night bus is usually so lonely and it’s so nice to have a new friend to talk to while I wait. Isn’t that right, Rose?
(ROSE laughs nervously.)
So which bus are you taking, Rose?
Um, the Peter Pan.
(DENNIS laughs condescendingly, clearly thinking she’s too stupid to remember her bus and not that she’s trying to avoid telling him.)
You know, Rose, there’s just something so beautiful about the bus terminal late at night. It’s a liminal space. Do you know what a liminal space is?
DENNIS (interrupting her. His voice is haughty, lecturing)
A liminal space, Rose, is a space of transition. Somewhere between “what was” and “what will be”. And the thing about liminal spaces, well… (he laughs) anything can happen in them.
(There is silence for a moment. DENNIS is pleased with himself while ROSE is unsettled.)
Yeah…Um, I’m going to go get a coffee. It was nice to meet you.
Oh, good idea! I’ll join you.
(ROSE laughs a little shakily. This was obviously her trying to leave the conversation with no luck.)
(They walk over to the McDonald’s kiosk a few hundred feet away. The space is empty and echoing as they move through it.)
Lucky for us that we’re traveling the same night, isn’t it? Lucky for you that I was here. And lucky for me that such a pretty girl is waiting at the same time as me. Though…you still haven’t told me which bus you’re waiting on.
(There isn’t a line at McDonald’s, so they go straight up to the counter.)
CASHIER (bored and indifferent)
Hi, what can I get you?
I’ll have a double cheeseburger, a large fries, and a Coke. And whatever she’s having.
Oh! No, no it’s okay, I’m just-
Nonsense! (to the cashier) She’ll have-
Just a small black coffee please.
(Dennis pays and the cashier goes to get their food.)
Um, thank you.
(The cashier puts their food on the counter and Dennis picks it all up)
Here we are. Thank you good sir! Come on, Rose.
(He starts off for their seats again, carrying Rose’s coffee. Rose stays where she is for a moment. Then Dennis turns around.)
DENNIS (a little sharper, but still friendly enough that it could be imagined)
Rose! Come on!
(Rose follows as the scene fades out.)
(The scene fades back into the terminal. DENNIS has clearly been talking for a while.)
I have to hope that this means young people are starting to realize the truth about the world.
ROSE (bored and uncomfortable)
(She pulls her phone out of her pocket to check the time. As she does, her bus ticket falls out)
Oh! Your ticket. Allow me.
(ROSE tries to pick up the ticket before DENNIS can reach it. But he swoops in and picks it up)
Ah, look at that! You’re taking the ten pm bus to Northampton! What do you know, that’s the one I’ll be on! We can ride off into eternity together.
(DENNIS laughs but ROSE is now deeply uncomfortable. She’s been trying to keep him from knowing her schedule and hoping that she could duck away soon. But now she’s stuck.)
I…I’ll be right back.
I’ll be here!
(ROSE gets up and walks into the bathroom. She stands by the sinks and sighs)
What am I going to do?
(She stands there for a moment, staring into the mirror. Muffled announcements and flushes from the men’s room sound around her.)
ROSE (trying to convince herself)
Maybe he’s just trying to be nice? Yeah, maybe he’s just awkward. (sighs) It’s going to be a long trip.
(She stays there for a moment, putting off going back out. Then there’s a knock at the doorway.)
Yoo-hoo! Rose! Did you fall in?
(ROSE freezes, drawing a sharp breath.)
DENNIS (clearly expecting an answer)
ROSE (trying to keep her voice calm)
(She sighs and walks out.)
There’s my girl! Come on, let’s go. Our bus is leaving in ten minutes!
(They walk back over to the terminal. There’s a little more activity now, but not much.)
Look at this crowd starting to form. We’ll need to stay close to make sure we get seats next to each other.
(He goes to grip her hand. She gasps and ducks aside.)
ROSE (blurts out)
I have to go to the bathroom.
(She darts back in the direction of the bathroom before he can say anything.)
ROSE (on the verge of panic)
Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god….what do I do?
(She walks into the bathroom, then stops. She’s standing in front of a utility closet.)
The utility closet..Maybe…
(She tries the knob and the door opens easily. She ducks into the small utility closet, knocking into some buckets in the tiny space. She closes the door just as footsteps are approaching the bathroom.)
(DENNIS strides right into the women’s bathroom.)
Rose! Rose, our bus is leaving. We’re not going to get our seats together if we don’t leave right now!
(His voice is muffled by the closed door. ROSE is breathing rapidly, trying not to panic as his footsteps go past the closet and into the main part of the bathroom.)
DENNIS (his voice sharper now)
Rose. Stop playing games. This is all very silly, but it’s time to go.
(He suddenly kicks in a stall door, which slams loudly. ROSE gasps and puts a hand over her mouth.)
Roooose. Rosie. Roseleen. Rosemary. It. Is. Time. To. Go. I won’t have you embarrassing me like this on the trip.
(He kicks open another door.)
If you stop this right now, your punishment won’t be so bad. Haha, just kidding!
(He kicks in the last three doors in rapid succession. BANG! BANG! BANG!)
DENNIS (in a quiet, calm voice)
Rose. Let’s be reasonable. I know you’re in here.
(ROSE suddenly realizes the closet door is unlocked. The footsteps outside get closer as she fumbles in the dark for the lock. She manages to slide it into place with a soft click seconds before DENNIS rattles the knob.)
ANNOUNCER (over the intercom, muffled but audible)
Last boarding call for the 10pm Peter Pan to Worcester, Springfield, Northampton.
(There’s a short silence punctuated only by ROSE’s rapid breathing. Then DENNIS speaks. He’s a little further from the door now)
Fuck you, whore. You missing out on a good man.
(He kicks the sink in impotent frustration, turning on the water. Then he storms out, his footsteps fading. As soon as they disappear, ROSE starts crying quietly and the scene fades out.)
(The scene fades back in to ROSE still in the closet. She’s clearly been in there a little while. She sniffles and tries to check her phone.)
Midnight. Still no service.
(She unlocks the door, but doesn’t move. Finally she takes a deep breath, turns the knob, and steps out into the bathroom. Everything in quiet apart from the water still running in the sink. It’s overflowed and ROSE steps in puddles as she walks out.)
(ROSE takes a shuddering breath.)
He’s gone. Just go out there, go over to McDonald’s and ask to call the police. It’ll-it’ll be okay…
(ROSE steels herself and walks out of the bathroom. The terminal is silent. The last bus of the night left a while ago.)
(ROSE’s phone buzzes. Then buzzes again. And again. Messages that didn’t come through while she was in the closet are pouring in.)
What the hell…please god there’s no way he could have gotten my number…
(She looks at her phone.)
(ROSE quickly dials her mom’s number and waits as the phone rings, shifting anxiously)
(MOM answers the phone. She’s very obviously been crying.)
Rose! Oh my god Rose, you’re alive. Oh thank god, I was so scared.
ROSE (completely confused)
Yeah, Mom I’m fine. What’s going on?
(She’s walking into the terminal as she talks. There’s a TV still on in the waiting area. The news is on but it’s very quiet.
…Slick roads and speed were factors, according to state police spokesman Lieutenant Nestor Santos. We’re still waiting on more details…
Your bus. I saw your bus on the news. The ten pm to Northampton. And I called and I couldn’t reach you and Rose, I was so scared.
(MOM starts crying again. Still confused, ROSE suddenly realized what the news is talking about.)
All we know is that the bus went off the pike just outside of Worcester. It went into the ravine behind us here and caught fire upon impact. According to Lieutenant Santos, all six passengers and the driver are confirmed dead, though identities are being withheld from the public until the families can be notified. Back to you, Sharon.
Rose? Are you still there.
Y-yeah, I’m here. Mom, I didn’t get on the bus. I-i didn’t…
Where are you?
I’m still at the terminal. There was a man. He scared me, Mom. I didn’t…I…
Are you safe?
ROSE (realizing she actually is)
I…yeah I am.
Okay, I just texted Auntie Cris. She’s leaving Watertown now and is going to come get you. I’ll meet you halfway. It’s okay honey, everything is okay…I love you.
I love you too, Mom
Stay where you are and she’ll be there in twenty minutes. Call me when you’re on your way.
I will, I promise. Love you.
(ROSE hangs up her phone and stands in front of the TV, which has switched to the weather. She stands quietly, watching the report as thunder rumbles outside.)