36 hours later and Eleanor was huddled with the seven 4 AM wonderers who’d responded to Alfred’s advert. She was feeding a fire that spluttered like her physics teaches when confronted with students whilst her companions shared a special brew. Following his advertisement’s publication, Alfred had relocated his missing bus stop operations to a cave in a forest. Unfortunately, now he had an audience, nerves meant his pre-prepared prep talk had to be interrupted for an emergency mediation session. Consequently, his supporters were crouched in a cave, bemused about why a man was humming in the corner. They’d begun scanning the terrain for pubs when, like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon, Alfred arose.
‘Truth owners. Let’s get these stops back.’
The 4AM wonderers cheered and sat down again in the damp.
‘I believe,’ Alfred said, licking a bead of sweat from his lip, ‘that due to extended human exposure, once inanimate bus stops and Christmas trees have developed feelings. Left whilst we jolly through the country, like neglected partners, they’ve become sullen.’
A communal head shaking and gasp of understanding echoed. Alfred paused for an effect (and nodding break).
Getting into his stride, he continued ‘And so, taking the only route available, instead of displaying endpoints, they use destination boards to swear and grumble.’
Disbelief trickled off the moist walls.
‘And the Christmas trees, I’m sure after consideration you’ll appreciate, are equally misused. Not hard to appreciate why.’
Alfred pitched his voice higher and let the words flow faster as he continued.
‘For 24 days we fill their branches with decorations, love, presents. Come January though, and it’s not just turkey thrown onto the street. Driven by hurt, the trees want revenge. The bus stops want revenge. And teamed up, they will get it.’
Had Alfred applied the same passion to his pursuits of love, he would have been a satisfied man: the 4 AM wanderers left as stirred by their leader’s speech as they had been watching Braveheart.
The psychiatrists in search of Arnold had been perturbed by his un-characteristic escape. Fortunately, the wanderer’s cries for solidarity were so hearty that they reverberated throughout the forest, thus alerting the ambling professionals to his location.
After the impassioned but directionless marchers passed the same potato shaped hedge a third time, Eleanor suggested they follow a pine needle and used ticket trail. It could lead she suggested, ‘to the rebel’s inner sanctum’. Having considered the skills he’d gleamed from watching Bear Grylls, Arnold decreed it ‘a first rate plan’. Consequently, as the wanders drained hydration bladders filled with special brew, they reached a peculiar grotto in the heart of the forest.
By following discarded cans (and Arnold’s, Hansel and Gretel inspired exit trail), the concerned psychiatrists arrived in time to see the bedraggled missionaries being fir marched into a bus stop shaped prison. Arnold’s screeching protest fell upon deaf ears. (Largely because neither trees nor stops possess them and the process of interpreting humans is a laborious one).
‘I understand your frustrated. I’m want to help. Stop, please,’
The wanderer’s accidental adornment of the Christmas trees however, succeeded where Arnold failed in making an impact. Unfortunately for all concerned, it wasn’t the sort best suited to demonstrating good intentions.
‘How dare you,’ the bus stops read in unison, ‘never again shall we be decorated.’
‘Garnish the prisoners and dot them along Moon Lane.’ The command scrolled along a stop that had spent 83 years at London Victoria bus station. After nearly a century watching luggage laden people embark on voyages, LVBS was particularly bitter. The firs beside it loaded their needles with used gum and bobbed towards the retching wanderers.