The bus careened down the wet road at 9 pm. The students on board were tired and half asleep, with no reason to mistrust the man behind the wheel. They didn’t know he was no ordinary bus driver, no veteran of the mass transit system, no friendly face. To be blunt, he was otherworldly. But a rubber mask covered his freakish appearance quite well, as long as you didn’t look too closely at his ears, where the mask was peeling away from the collection of nervous sweat gathering there.
His name was Dowardin, and he was, as we said, otherworldly. He did not come from the sky, the future, or Hell, but from the sea and the past. He’d been to Hell, but didn’t consider it a former residence.
Dowardin was a creature who had lived off the corals and waters of every ocean in his long lifetime. Beginning when he was a small mamaddin sometime before historical record, his life had, like the bus he was now driving, careened toward a glorious culmination of millennia spent living, eating, loving, dying, and breathing both air and water.
The easiest way to describe Dowardin is this: His coloring is green, black, and blue. He can turn to a deep scarlet if he chooses, but finds the practice to be rather show-offy and childish nowadays, so generally keeps to his normal hues. He is tall, broad, and has a gruff voice which he has spent centuries trying to tame – without much success – into a gentle musical trill which floats from his thick leathery lips. That is Dowardin.
Tonight he drives the bus and prays to his gods that he can keep control of the vehicle and hold down his first regular job since the Industrial Revolution, when he was a shoveler at a sausage factory in New York City. He’d been a hard worker and even given a few fingers in the name of cheap produce. Lucky for Dowardin, his ability to naturally regenerate digits, limbs, and other body parts kept him from becoming completely disabled and losing his place at the factory. But soon the all the factories were made new with labor laws and inspections, and Dowardin was forced to look for something more discrete.
Dead end employment and failure was the name of the game for the would-be hero, and soon he was living under dumpsters and eating rats. His friends were all whores and vampires, and Dowardin started down a long road of self-hate and self-destruction. There were the drugs and the venereal diseases and emotional breakdowns all throughout his darkest days in the nineteen eighties, but that’s how it was for everybody, and before it was too late Dowardin joined a support group of his peers and managed to get back on his feet with the bus driving job and a small studio apartment just outside Boston.
All of this was running through Dowardin’s mind as he mustered all his will to keep the bus on track. But the storm was getting bad, and the road was full of oil and dead beavers. With every swerve and sudden application of the brakes Dowardin heard little yelps and murmurs of discomfort from his commuting charges. He began to sweat more heavily, and felt the fear of defeat rising in his gullet.