I had to ride the bus that day. It was really frustrating because my truck had just been given a clean bill of health after spending weeks in the shop with problems that I didn’t even know how to spell. Trouble was, I’d forgotten to get the stupid emissions tested. So, that morning at five thirty I woke up to the sound of incessant beeping and a snippet of a song came to me as I reached over to end the terrible noise. Alarm clock screaming monsters coming my way… What was it from? I couldn’t remember at the time, so I flung myself out of bed, tired and a little irritated, knowing that it would bother me all day until I remembered.
My tiny apartment was abysmally gray that morning, since the sun hadn’t come up and only one lamp had a bulb that worked. I was so broke. I ate my cereal by the light of my single working lamp and ruminated on what an uneventful day I had ahead of me. How was I to know that the world was going to change that morning? I was planning on going to see Mom because Dad was out of town, and I hated to see her have to deal with my younger siblings all by herself. But before that I had work. And before work came the dreaded stench of public transportation.
So there I was on the bus again. I hate the bus. Kids, drunks, and old fat ladies all crammed together in one claustrophobic metallic tube. I felt filthy when I was on it. But on this particular day, I only shared the bus with three other people, including the driver; all of whom kept their distance, for which I was very grateful.
I fell asleep with my head leaning against the window. What woke me up-what woke the whole world up-made the ground shake and the bus driver slam on the brakes. I, along with the two other helpless passengers, went flying forward into whatever sat in front of us. I was lucky enough to be sitting in a seat that had a guardrail directly in front of it. Otherwise I probably would have gone through the windshield. The rail hit me in the sternum, knocking the wind out of me. I crumpled and fell to the ground.
A balding middle aged man was in the aisle next to me sporting a newly broken and bloodied nose caused by his recent crash to the floor. He regained his feet and then extended his hand to help me. Once we were up he spoke. “Are you alright?” I looked down at my stomach, wincing at the pain, but replied with “Yeah, you?” anyway. “Ah, I’ll be fine.” But he didn’t look fine. Then my eyes fell on the other passenger.
The man with the broken nose walked past me toward the front of the bus, but I barely noticed him. The other passenger was a woman. A pregnant woman. She was pretty far along from what I could tell. Tears were streaming down her face. She had herself propped up against one of the seats and was holding her stomach. I walked towards her, and as I got closer I heard her whispering, “Oh God, please God, Oh…” I crouched down beside her. Her long brown hair had fallen into her face as she sat rocking back and forth looking down at her belly.
“Ma’am? Are you okay?” She was startled at the sound of my voice, but she regained some of her composure and said through choked sobs, “He’s dead, I know he is, he’s gone, Oh God!” She latched on to me and just wept into my shoulder. I tried my best to console her, tried to ask her how she had landed, but she just wailed into my shirt. I took her by the shoulders and literally yanked her off of me and looked into her face. “Hey! It’s gonna be okay… you don’t know that. Now tell me how you fell.” She seemed shocked, but she didn’t start up again. Instead she answered that she had been thrown into the back of the seat in front of her, her stomach taking most of the blow.
“I’m telling you, I’ve lost my son! I shouldn’t even be on this stupid bus! I want to go home! I just… I… I just can’t…” Her words started to trail off into little moans, and I took her hand and helped her to her feet. When I turned I noticed that the driver and the other man were no longer on the bus. I started forward, the pregnant woman in tow, her hand clutching mine in a death grip.
I led her off the bus, into the crowded street. I found the man who had helped me up and I laid my hand on his shoulder. He turned. His face had gone very pale. The driver was close, but he was turned away from me. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?” He didn’t respond. Perhaps couldn’t. He simply turned. My gaze followed his past the driver. Off in the distance, the sky had gone dark. Very dark. It was like staring into nothingness. The sun should have been up; but the darkness was coming from the east.
I managed to tear my eyes from it when I started to feel pins and needles in my left hand. The pregnant woman was still holding on, so tightly that she had cut off my circulation. Her face was blank and motionless, staring into the dark. I pulled my hand free but she didn’t seem to care. She just kept staring into the blackness. I approached the bus driver. “Excuse me. Sir? Hello?” He finally looked down at me, his eyes still glassy and horrified. “What happened? Did you see it?”