Hieroglyphs by Jacob Armstrong

The back seat was always the best, where you felt as remote as possible from where you were headed, and from the old women who natter about Jean’s new hip near the bag rack. The single-decker thirtysomething-or-other clunked its way through a series of identical houses with dandelion lawns and rusted trampolines in their front yards. Metal and plastic squeezed and swelled against each other with the vibrations of the engine. At her feet lay a discarded Metro, the remnant of a careless bus reader, whose lower sheets had disintegrated into pulp in the rainwater which has dripped through the joints of the window.

She brushed her fingers along the surface of the seats in front, where sky blue paint was rubbed away at the corners, and clouded by contact with countless knees and grubby trainers. Names and seemingly illegible characters had been scratched and clawed into the face: you could see the slips of the nice, just as you could see turned corners in the wandering ink of homework frantically done on the Scholar’s.

In thousands of years’ time, when all of this – Grey’s monument, the Tyne Bridge, and that restaurant she’d always wanted to go to but had never had the chance – would be gone, maybe that seat will be the only remnant of our civilisation left. Perhaps a Tynesideologist will pore over its contents, writing theses on the concept of “DJ Scotty” or pondering the religious symbolism of the unfinished tic-tac-toe in the bottom left with a central nought and no crosses. In her mind, she saw a milkbottle-spectacled archaeologist raving about the blue bus seat as if it were a Rosetta Stone. Although, she hoped, in the future there’d be a better solution to myopia.

She reached down, pulled a biro out of her pocket, and did her utmost to scrawl ink into the plastic, although it blurred into an indistinguishable blue too ephemeral to interpret, like layers of a to-do-list on the back of a hand. She pressed the bell, just as the sky winced into drizzle which peppered the windows. DING.