Blanketed by the thick black of distant light polution and still walls, it was
also dark, but they weren't afraid. Not of the darkness. Or the cold. When
you didn't want to be seen or heard, you generally decided you just didn't
want to be around at all. And if you're too young to drive, that pretty much
means you go outside. They were used to being cold. Used to being in the
At a distant hiss of hydraulic brakes, Krupta blinked. The boys exchanged
expectant glances. Val's forehead creased with worry. "She's never been
"Maybe it's not the eleven, anymore," Krupta offered hopefully. "Maybe we
should come back tomorrow."
"Burns." Mark shook his head gently and then nodded into the shadows. The
small woman ambled dreamily towards where they stood through the grass. She
was always beautiful. Always striking in a way that was timeless and new.
The bus rolled around the culdesac and braked gently to a flatulent clockwork
stop. Sid shivered, and stepped resolutely through the double doors. He
turned and stared a silent plea to Val. Val clamped his teeth together and
nodded a reassurance that was not in his eyes.
They all watched in fascination and uncertainty as she climbed the stairs
behind Sid, and moved to her seat. They watched Sid clamp his hand around
the metal pole as the bus inverted it's ponderous stop and drifted off into
the stillness. As the bus rolled out of hearing, Krupta danced from foot to
foot, "Now what?"
"C.F. needs to get home. That's what." Mark offered them some trail mix, in
a rare act of inclusion. Mostly Mark seemed to assume that if you wanted food
you would have brought it. They both took some. Neither of them was hungry,
but it seemed unwise to discourage the gesture over such a trivial detail.
"Thanks, Leg," muttered C.F. Mark nodded absently. C.F. frowned and said,
"Do you think... I mean..."
"Yeah." Mark glanced at him and then at Krupta. "He'll be back in the
morning. No point worrying about it right now." He started back the way they
had come, and Krupta and Val fell in behind him.
* * *
Sid stood slumped against the bar and stared at the seat backs in front of
him. There was nobody else on the bus. He looked at his feet and said,
"Sometimes I miss school." He turned and looked at the woman behind him, and
watched her stare out the window at nothing. He turned again to look at the
seat backs. "I can't miss school anymore. They're going to punish me if I
miss this week."
For several minutes, he didn't say anything else. All he heard was the road
noise and the air from the heat vents. The bus rocked and bobbed gently with
every turn and elevation shift, and the soothing motion reminded him that he
was very tired. He didn't realize he'd drifted into a standing sleep until
her speaking awakened him to a deep intake of startled breath.
"You're not hiding from the right person."
Sid turned and looked at her. "I'm sorry?"
She turned from the window, and he shuddered. It was easy to forget, in the
dark, that her beauty was made strange by her eyes. She had no pupils. The
rich blue seemed so stark and cold against the crisp white with no black to
offer contrast and focus. "You are not hiding from those you think you
evade. You cannot be in control until you make the decisions that have
"I'm not making any decisions at all," he protested, "I just go missing."
"You always make decisions." She said with conviction. "They don't make
themselves. It's not an accident. Responsibility is with you. First you
have to understand why you leave. Once you understand why, when will be yours
to control once again. But you have chosen a poor why, and so you aren't
playing by the rules."
Sid hunched his shoulders as if to ward off a cold wind or an attacking bird.
At the next stop, he got off the bus. He didn't look back until the hiss had
trailed off down the block. Sid thought about tools. He thought about his
why. And he walked.