The 13th hour: One three! One three! One three! Doug Miller was haunted by this self-inflicted mantra of repeating one three. Over and over, before he went to sleep at night and upon first waking up in the morning. The perpetually annoying one three was there to greet him at the beginning and the end of his day. Plus, nearly hour for hour, it would show up in his mind in due course.
Doug was a simple man living a simple life in the city of Pittsburgh, USA. His job was pretty much a solitary one. Eight full hours a day, he worked in a mailroom located in the basement of a well-known high-rise insurance company. He went to and from work riding on a city transit bus that was on time for the most part. However, it did become quite annoying when the weather was foul and the bus was running late. It was not uncommon for Doug to get drenched by the pouring rain before heading down to the mailroom basement. Doug never remembered to carry an umbrella. He rarely turned on his radio to find out what the weather was going to be. He did not own a TV set, nor did he take the newspaper delivery.
Doug’s bus ride going to and from work was a 38-minute trip each way. Most of the passengers on the bus had jobs in his building or other buildings near his bus stop. His daily trip to and from work had been going on for 11 years, which was the amount of time Doug worked in the insurance company’s mailroom. On his way to and from work, he would look out the window of the bus. Never reading a book or a newspaper. Instead, he just stared out the window. Every trip was the same. He always sat on the right side of the bus, anywhere from four seats back to the end. This, of course, depended upon how full the bus was. Still, he was generally an early passenger on its trip towards downtown Pittsburgh’s high-rise business district.
The bus rides scenery was plain, gray buildings, small and large shops offering a variety of goods. Occasionally there was a dry cleaner. There seemed to be an overabundance of liquor stores along the route he took every day. The streets were busy with people walking to and fro. People of every description. Tall, short, large, fat, and just about everything in between. The sidewalk seemed to have a herd of humanity following the same direction as the bus. Doug thought to himself, “All these people walking towards the business offices in the morning and heading back shortly after 5 PM. What a life we lead.”
In the nearly 11 years Doug had been riding that bus, he never once talked to a fellow passenger. Oh yes, there were times when people would nod their heads or smile, but virtually everyone kept to themselves. Doug actually liked it that way. He had minimal contact with people at work or socially, for that matter. He went to work Monday through Friday, shopped for groceries on Saturday, and stayed in his home, which was a small three-room apartment all day on Sundays. And always alone.
Thursday afternoon on the 32nd week of the year. Doug followed his usual routine. He got up promptly at 6:45 AM. Started his daily mantra of saying to himself. One Three, One Three, One Three. Had a bowl of cereal with plain unbuttered toast. Washed up, got dressed, and went down to his bus stop promptly at 8 AM. The typical beginning of another day in the life of Doug Miller. But this day, something was going to happen that would change his life forever.
Doug got on the bus. Put his token into the machine by the driver. He looked back at all of the seats. Knowing he would find one of his favorite places to sit and look out the window on his trip to the downtown mailroom basement. This time he was extremely confused. There was no one else on the bus except for one passenger. It was a she, and she was short and round. Her clothes were a mishmash of colors and, for the most part, ill-fitting. She was wearing a hat that must’ve been popular at least two or three decades before. Doug was in for the surprise of a lifetime, at least certainly his lifetime. His mundane past was almost assured that his mundane future was about to change drastically.
“Am I on the wrong bus? Is today Sunday? Where is everyone?” Douglas was thinking. It wasn’t Sunday, and if he was on the wrong bus, well, that is a mystery. The only other passenger on the bus, the she, that was dressed rather strangely, stood up and walked over to where Doug was sitting and plopped down right next to him. Her hitting the seat firmly caused Doug’s seat to push slightly upward, giving Doug a bit of a shock, and he found it very unsettling. The woman had a strange scent about her. Doug could not really determine what it was. At first, he thought it was just the smell of musty old clothes. But as her fragrance started to surround them, it started to take on a more pleasant odor, almost floral.
Doug was extremely uncomfortable, squirming in his seat, almost entirely focusing out the window and looking at the hustle and bustle of people walking on the sidewalk. The strange lady spoke. “My name is Flora, Douglas.” He was immediately taken aback and quickly responded, which was not typical of Doug to do so. “How do you know my name?” Doug asked. Flora responded. “I know everything about you, Douglas.” No one had called Doug, Douglas since he was a very young child. Even his mother and father, after he turned 12, started calling him Doug. Doug spoke in a shaky, nervous voice. “How do you know so much about me? How come you and I are the only ones on this bus besides the driver? Where is everyone? I must be on the wrong bus.” In a very patient and kind voice, Flora told Doug, “Douglas, I was summoned by you. You kept repeating One Three. You brought me to you.” Doug thought for a minute, then responded, “How could you possibly know that? How could you know I repeat those two numbers? And if I’m on the wrong bus. I’m going to be late for work.”
Flora put her hand on Doug’s thigh and patted it in a comforting way. “Don’t worry, you won’t be late for work. In one hour, the bus will stop, and it will be full of the usual passengers that you typically ride with. You will get off the bus at your usual stop. You won’t be late for work.” Doug felt little comfort in what she was saying to him, and it even distressed him that she was actually touching him. He did not necessarily think she was creepy, but there was something extremely odd about this aged lady. “So how could that possibly be? Me arriving at work with a full bus. The bus is empty right now, except for you and me. Who are you? What’s going on? You frightened me, lady.” Doug’s voice was breaking up. He was nervous and was quickly losing his composure.
Flora told Doug while she continued to pat his leg. “You are in the 13th hour, Douglas. Picture a clock that has one more hour past 12. It doesn’t exist in any reality, but it does exist in the mind. Once the 13th hour is up, everything will be back to normal in your life. And I must say you have a terribly boring life at best.” Douglas was getting angry and annoyed, which was entirely out of character for him. And in a shaky but firm voice, told Flora, “You have no right to be here, and you have no right to be bothering me with such nonsense about the 13th hour on the o’clock. How crazy! You must be a crazy lady. I’m surprised you are not carrying a bunch of bags.” Flora giggled at first and then out came a big laugh which by anyone’s judgment was pretty condescending and meant to deliver a blow to Doug’s already frail ego.
“Thank you, Douglas, for being anything but understanding, and I especially appreciate your snide comments directed towards me! But in spite of your shallow self, I’m here to help you.” By this time, Doug was losing control. He thought he was losing his mind or maybe in some sort of twilight zone, like the TV show. He decided there really wasn’t much he could do. The bus wasn’t stopping. It seemed to be moving faster and faster. He wanted to get up and pull on the stop rope, but for some reason, he was wedged in where he was seated. The uninvited woman next to him was taking up a good majority of the seat. He was becoming claustrophobic. It took all of his strength, but Doug calmed down as much as he could. He looked at Flora and said. “If you’re here to help me, get me off this bus, let me go… Let me go,” he kept repeating, “let me go.” He didn’t even preface it with a please, or any form of kindness. He just kept repeating, “let me go.”
Flora again, with her continual patting of Doug’s thigh, said in a soothing and nurturing voice. “Douglas, I’m here to help you get out of this horrible rut of a life you’ve been living. You are a virtuous man; you have made yourself unaffected by the usual trauma that most human beings manage to create. You summoned me from another time by your uncontrollable invocation.” After a minute or so, Doug responded. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.” Flora stood up in the aisle of the moving bus and said, “Douglas, you and I will meet again. I’m going to take you to a place called room 13. It’s a place where you will be enlightened. You will become the most happiest of people. Your heart, soul, and mind will be flooded with peace and contentment.”
Doug was looking at Flora standing in the aisle beside the seat they were both occupying. He started to ask, all the while realizing the usual passengers were starting to fill up the bus. Suddenly everyone was there, and he could see the bus stop where he gets off was less than a half a block away. “When will I see you again? What is this room 13?” Flora responded, “you will have to wait a short time, but I will be back in your life before you know it.”