Ghosts of Christmas Eve

Once upon a particularly dreadful Christmas Eve, when the snow fell in clumps so hard and fast they had to close all the airports and cancel the trains, three strangers found themselves in a bus station.

Each carried dreams of family reunions, hot cocoa and peppermint candy canes by the fire, gifts of books and stories to be shared before the big day.

The ticket seller closed his booth at the appropriate time and braved the treacherous roads to get home. The strangers would have to wait about an hour for the last bus of the night.
One played games on his phone, but this particular night the signal was weak if not altogether absent and his battery ran low. The second worked through a book of crossword and Sudoku puzzles. The third sat quietly and smiled.

Finally, giving up on his phone, the first stranger said, “We should pass the time by telling ghost stories. Those are traditional on Christmas, aren’t they?”

The second stranger said, “Dickens.”

The third said, “I don’t think you’ll like my tale, because it’s true.”

By this time, the bus was half an hour late. “I’ll start,” said the first traveler. “An elderly couple lived at the end of the lane. He gifted his wife a framed portrait from their first Christmas together fifty years ago. But in the morning, when the family arrived, they found only the frame and an empty photograph. The couple had gone back to live their fifty years together again.”

The first agreed it was a decent tale and told his own, which involved the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. It was obvious where he’d gotten his tale.
Finally, with the bus almost an hour late, the third stranger spoke. “My tale is about three travelers waiting for the last bus during a monster of a snow storm. But the bus was late, and later, and later still, until each of the three realized they were, in fact, in the company of ghosts.”

He wasn’t a skilled storyteller. And the bus arrived before he could explain the tale. The driver apologized for his lateness as he let the two strangers board the bus. The third was nowhere to be seen.

After the bus left, the third stranger fell asleep on a bench and was found sometime shortly after dawn. The storm had driven the last bus of the night off the road before ever arriving. The driver had not survived.

All that remained of the first two strangers was a half-finished puzzle book and a phone with a depleted battery.

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