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Short story review: That Bus is Another World by Stephen King

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This month's edition of Esquire featured a new piece by Stephen King. Unlike "In the Tall Grass", this work is only one part and is even considerably shorter than either half of the aforementioned story.

It's a fairly simple yarn that follows an advertising pitchman as he tries to get to an important meeting. As is often the case when traveling within a limited window of time, everything seems to go wrong. Flights get delayed, his luggage gets lost, he gets stuck in traffic, the whole nine.

Than something happens that takes the story in an odd direction. It's nothing supernatural, mind you, but it is out of the ordinary to say the least. It's tough to talk about because this story really does depend on catching you off guard with that twist, so I really don't want to spoil it here.

As brief as the story is, it really does bring up a lot of ideas about morality. It's easy to chide Wilson for his decision to ignore what he saw and just go on about his day. He does note that it was too late to take a picture, and he does consider calling 911. Sure, his excuse not to is flimsy, and he does succumb to the bystander effect, but at the same time, one has to wonder how much he could have helped.

Even if Wilson tried to take the guy's picture, said guy was looking right at him as he did the thing, so unless the cab was free to race off at a moment's notice (which it wasn't) the guy would immediately come after him next. It seems like his best bet would be to have the cab driver radio something in, but that guy wasn't exactly alert.

Then again, that could be the horrifying point of it all. Maybe it wasn't the bystander effect so much as it was the fact that there really was nothing he could do about it despite being so close.

Overall, the story's adequate. It's a really quick read, though as is often the case, you'll find that the story starts to wrap up just as soon as things start kicking into gear. Wilson is a little bland as a protagonist, but he is something of an every-man character. If nothing else, you can relate to his travelling mishaps, as we've all been there. It does raise questions, which in this case is a good thing. I'm not sure this issue is worth picking up just for the story, though. If other parts of the issue intrigue you, than go ahead, otherwise, if you're in a bookstore and are looking for a way to kill a few minutes, this will service that goal rather well.

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