Kat’s head jerks as something snaps into the side of her temple. Whispered curse words reach her ears as she registers what happened. She glares at the rubber band sitting in her lap. Twisting her head up she glares at the boys.
One of them shrinks down in his seat as he peeks out over the top of it at her. Three of the five boys snicker and giggle at Troy. Only one of them isn’t giggling like a girl and does a good job of holding it in as he stands and makes his way to our bench seat. Lucy elbows Kat and gets fidgety as the boy, Kaden, approaches. She’s had the hugest crush on him for years.
The bus driver ignores him and continues driving as if his passengers are responsible enough to know not to walk around while the vehicle is in motion. Kaden stops and leans on the seats in front of them as he smirks down at Kat.
“I’m sorry about that, are you girls alright?” He asks his blue eyes staring with amusement.
“Oh! We’re fine Kaden, I mean Kat got hit in the head but she’s fine! Right Kat? You’re fine,” Lucy rambles as his gaze travels to her while she speaks. His eyes flash to Kat’s head though as soon as Lucy tells him the band hit her.
“There’s a red mark,” he says voice filled with concern and in moments he’s reaching out to touch it. Kat flinches back and says ‘I’m fine’.
“I’m sorry it hit you, Troy was trying to shoot me but he doesn’t have my skills,” Kaden states pulling his hand back.
“If it had been you I bet you wouldn’t have missed,” Lucy gushes. Kat rolls her eyes silently at the blond girl and fiddles with the rubber band in her hand.
“Of course I wouldn’t have, I always hit my mark,” he remarks winking at her and then turning his eyes back to Kat. “Since you girls are okay and don’t need any medical attention I was wondering if I could have my rubber band back?”
Kat glares up at him and then turns her gaze to Troy who is still staring terrified over the seat. He gives a small wave and mouths an ‘I’m sorry’. Kaden follows her gaze and shoots Troy a look before turning back to the girls.
“I promise I won’t let Troy have it again, and if the mark hurts too much I have a cold bottle of water you can set on it,” his fingers tap on the seat as he waits for a reply.
“If anymore projectiles come flying our way I won’t hesitate to punch both of you in the face,” Kat threatens as she hands him back the band. He smiles wide and takes it from her.
“Thanks ladies, and if anything does you can punch me as hard as you like,” he declares. He gives them a salute and then turns around abruptly and heads back to his seat. He gives the back of Troy’s head a swat before he sits in the seat across from him.
Lucy turns to Kat and grabs her arm in a tight grip. Kat stares into her excited brown eyes.
“Oh my gosh!” she speedily says. “Kaden talked to us Kat! We
are so lucky!”
“I guess,” Kat replies growing a bit irritated.
“You just don’t understand Kat, he is so good looking and popular,” Lucy cries in a higher tone than necessary. Kat cringes at her tone and starts to tune Lucy out as she gushes about Kaden.
Kaden is one of the most popular kids in their grade. He has soft looking brown hair and clear blue eyes. His handsome face is the envy of many and the center of attention for some. His best friend, Troy, on the other hand is also well liked but only because he’s a people person. He has jet black hair and dark eyes. His Asian decent giving him a slight accent that is almost in audible. They have played on the football team together since freshman year.
The Junior class is headed to a special museum. As long as they signed up to go that is. The only incentive to go is the fact you get a whole day out of school along with some extra credit tacked on to their overall grade as a student. The school charters nice busses for the trips and there are nine students on the bus including Kat and one student teacher who is sitting in the back of the bus passed out. They had started off early this morning at 5 am. The nine students on this bus were all the late arrivals and the other bus had taken off with the rest of the students. Only 53 students had signed up this year.
The journey takes an average of 3 hours to complete and the other bus was 45 minutes ahead. The buses had to travel by some farm fields and foothills before they reached the museum which sits in a valley. It’s only been about 35 minutes since Kat’s bus took off and she’s starting to feel the drag of sleep weighing her down. She isn’t used to waking up so early and the girls had stayed up late the night before. Lucy had stayed the night and decided they needed to watch movies almost all night.
Kat looks around at the other students and see’s they are all starting to settle down as well, the initial excitement of a trip wearing off. Rebecca and Brianne, twins, are sitting on the right side of the bus and 1 row behind Lucy and Kat, who are on the left, and both have their eyes closed. Zack and Nolan are sitting a row ahead and also on the right side. Zack has his head leaned back on the seat now and Nolan has his resting on the window. In front of them Danny sits with his head on the window as well and Troy sits facing Kaden talking avidly. Kaden is two seats in front of Kat and Lucy and sitting across from Troy grinning at him and chatting. Kat’s gaze lingers on each student.
Nolan is a basketball player and a really good one. Kat has only spoken to him one time and that was for a small project. He had made a lot of jokes about making their project about being ‘black’ in an all white class and how he was the top student and how ironic it was. He said it in good humor of course as he is kind of a class clown. He’s in general a nice person in Kats opinion.
Zack is one of Nolans friends from basket ball and other then his blond hair and hazel eyes Kat hasn’t really ever noticed him or spoken to him. She tries to think of something about him she knows but nothing comes to mind.
Rebecca and Brianne are twins from Spain. They keep to themselves a lot but their dark hair and eyes and skinny figures attract a lot of attention. The girls speak perfect English but whisper to each other a lot in Spanish.
Danny is a friend of Kaden and Troy and plays on the football team with them. His dark hair and green eyes grabs a lot of girl’s attention at first but when he opens his mouth it tends to scare them away. He has a way with being a bit weird or un-sensitive.
Lucy has been with Kat since 7th grade. At first the girls didn’t talk or even like each other. Kat thought Lucy was a blonde bimbo, a mean girl. Lucy thought Kat was someone who would be mean and bully everyone. They finally became friends when some girls had been bullying Lucy and Kat stepped in thinking it was un fair. Lucy had the cute shy girl attitude and she was a bit on the not so smart side. Kat always helped her study though.
Kat has brown hair with red tints in it. The sunlight brings out the red in her hair. She has plain brown eyes and her hair is slightly curly so she keeps it pulled up and bangs curl down the side of her face. She is quiet for the most part but isn’t afraid to state her opinions. She’s averagely smart and gets decent grades.
Lucy is sitting with her back to the window still whispering about Kaden and how amazing he is. Kat had wanted to sit next to the window but Lucy had gone in the bus first and picked their seats. Kat starts to zone out thinking now about the last book she read when Lucy calls for her attention.
“Kat?” Lucy whispers harshly. Kat snaps to attention and looks at Lucy’s irritated face.
“What’s up Lu-Lu?” She asks yawning and stretching her arms above her head.
“You haven’t been listening to me,” she states rather then asks.
“I have, I’m just sleepy. I’m sorry,” Kat replies not entirely lying.
“It’s okay; I know I talk about him a lot. I’m actually pretty tired myself. Who ever came up with the idea to stay up all night is an idiot,” Lucy grumbles rubbing her eyes.
“Here let me pull out my mirror and show you,” Kat chuckles as she sits lower in the seat trying to get comfortable.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Lucy laughs swatting at Kats arm.
The girls giggle for a few more minutes before the call of sleep is too hard to ignore especially in the comfortable seats. They have about 2 hours to sleep before their day of museum fun begins.
Kaden and Troy eventually quiet down and also relax for a nap.
The bus driver sighs at the quiet that has claimed the bus. He’s a man in his late 50’s, round bodied with graying hair. He hates his job but need the money desperately. In 2 more years he can retire and move on to something else if he chooses. He likes children enough but spending hours with them is not how he wanted to spend his days. He silently curses choosing to drive for a charter bus company. He continues to drive and gets pretty comfortable winding the bus around the slow curves around the hills.
The driver is coming around a curve and sees a fence. He has the distinct thought of who would live way out here when he notices too late that something is in the road. Swerving sharply to avoid it he panics when the bus tires make a loud bang and he has to step on the breaks. The bus skids to a stop and the driver takes a few moments to breathe as he hears the students in the back move around in a panic.
“What’s going on?” The tallest one asks in a panicked shaky voice.
“It’s alright kids; just hit something in the road. I’ll just go out to check what it was and then we will be on our way,” the driver states trying to calm the children. “Just stay in your seats okay?”
“Mr. Hester? What’s going on?”
“Ah, Mr. Uh,” the driver, Nick Hester, addresses the student teacher.
“Dent, my name is James Dent,” the student teacher calls as he stands and makes his way to the front.
“Mr. Dent I’ll just be right outside okay? See if you can call the other part of your group. We hit something small, nothing to worry about, just be a minute to assess the damage,” Hester explains as he opens the door. “Can you close this door Dent? I don’t want anyone running around outside.”
“Oh, sure, wouldn’t want that now,” Dent moves to the handle and shuts the door behind the driver. He turns toward the students. “Alright guys, looks like we are stuck here for a bit, don’t panic and just do as the man said and stay in your seats. You will only complicate things if you can’t contain yourselves. I’m going to call the other bus.”
Kat watches as Mr. Dent pulls out his phone and fiddles with it. Her heart has calmed down considerably since being woken up by screeching tires and her body being slammed into the back of the seat in front of her. Lucy is wide eyed and looking out the window at their surroundings. Kat notices the other students are in a similar state of awoken panic. Her eyes go back to Mr. Dent as he grumbles over his phone.
“Everyone check your phones please. Mine won’t catch a signal,” he barks irritation evident in his voice.
Kat pulls her phone out and checks the signal. There’s none. She glances around and see’s everyone doing the same. Lucy whispers to her about the creepy fence and how it’s open. Kat ignores her as Mr. Dent speaks again.
“Anyone have a signal?”
“I don’t,” Troy says first.
“Me either,” Rebecca chirps up.
“Nobody? I guess we really are in the hills. Damn it,” Mr. Dent curses and turns his back to the students. He taps his phone against his chin in thought. Sighing he turns back to the kids seeming to come to some kind of decision. “Alright, I’m going to go outside and speak to the driver. Stay put. I mean it. Kaden come close the door behind me. You’re the most responsible, I’m trusting you to keep everyone on the bus.”
“Uh, okay,” Kaden agrees a little hesitantly. He stands up and waits for Mr. Dent.
The student teacher opens the door and takes a step. He turns and glares at the students before continuing down and outside.
“Alright Kaden, close her up,” he commands. Kaden nods and shuts the door with the handle.
All the students watch nervously as Mr. Dent walks along the bus. As he nears the back a loud bang hits the left side of the bus and the children jump and snap their attention to that side of the bus.
“What was that?” Lucy cries in a panicked voice.
“It sounded like something hit us,” Danny replies.
“Guys calm down we are all just a little jumpy, it was probably the driver checking things out,” Kaden states confidently but Kat notices his eyes hold fear.
“That gate is still open Kat,” Lucy whispers pointing to the gate.
“I heard you say that earlier, so what?” Kat questions frowning at her friend.
“When we first stopped the gate was closed,” She whispers again, her voice shaking a bit.
Kat stares at the gate and ponders. “Maybe the driver went in there to ask for help,” she suggests.
“I don’t think so Kat. I was watching it most of the time. The only time I took my eyes off of it was when Mr. Dent told us to check our phones. It had been closed but when I looked down at my phone and back up again it was open,” She squeals. Lucy has a hold on Kats arm as she speaks and digs her fingers in.
“Look Lu-Lu you could have missed him, maybe-“
“What are you guys whispering about?” Brianne interrupts. She’s standing now with her hands on her hips. Rebecca is also standing as if on her way to a new seat. Both girls move into the seats in front of Lucy and Kat. Kat glares at Brianne but notices that everyone is staring at her and Lucy. She glances at Lucy and see’s her face turn red and she shy’s away in embarrassment.
“We were talking about the gate over there,” Kat explains for her friend.
“What about it?” Troy asks frowning as he studies the gate.
“It was closed when we stopped and now it’s not. We were talking about how it could be the bus driver and it may not be,” Kat clarifies.
No one says anything for a while as they think about what Kat has just told them. Danny is the first move let alone speak. Out of the corner of her eye Kat see’s him turn in his seat looking out the opposite windows where the driver and teacher went. He swivels his head and sits up abruptly. His face shows panic as he stands up and moves around Troy. Danny makes his way to the back of the bus and looks through the windows. By now everyone is looking at him.
“Guys, where’s Mr. Dent?”Danny asks when he turns to face us, fear gripping him.
The students all still and look around at each other. Troy speaks up in a panicked voice.
“He’s not outside? What about the driver? Did they leave us?” Rebecca covers her mouth at his words and starts to shake as he speaks.
“Troy! Stop it, they wouldn’t have left us we all know that!” Kaden shouts in a commanding voice.
As he speaks another loud bang hits the bus and rocks it this time. Rebecca and Brianne scream and grab on to each other while the boys shout and Kaden and Danny almost fall over. Kat grabs Lucy who also screams. The students settle and look around wildly.
“What was that?” Zack yells frightened.
“LOOK!” Rebecca screeches while pointing outside. “The gate is now closed!”
“The hell?” Troy whispers.
Kat looks wide eyed at the now closed gate. Honestly it wouldn’t be scary if it wasn’t for the fact that their guardians are nowhere to be seen.
“Kat I’m scared,” Lucy whimpers as she looks at the gate.
“I know me too,” Kat admits holding Lucy a bit tighter.
“Okay,” Kaden begins, “Here is what we are going to do. We wait here for an hour. If no one comes back then we go investigate. Does that seem fair to everyone? No sense panicking now when it really could be nothing.”
“Dude, how can we not panic?” Nolan, who had been quiet until now, snarls.
“Hey! We aren’t going to panic okay? We are all safe in here and the bus driver and Mr. Dent will come back alright? We need to calm down. Rushing into a panic isn’t going to help us right now. We will be okay, just everyone sit down and relax, they will come back,” Kaden tells us standing at the front of the bus. His eyes show no fear this time only confidence. “We will be okay,” he says smiling.
Nobody says anything but they all think the same thing, ‘What if they don’t come back? What then?’. Kadens eyes scan back and forth over everyone as he waits for any comebacks. Danny once again is the first to move. He walks back to his seat and sits down rigidly. He pulls Troy, who had been standing, to sit down. When they both are seated Kaden watches the rest of the group for signs of relaxing. After a few minutes he takes a deep breath and relaxes his own body.
Kat watches as he bends down to talk with Troy and Danny. The three exchange a few words before Kaden nods and moves on to Zack and Nolan. Again he exchanges a few words and then seeming satisfied moves on to Rebecca and Brianne. Kat stares as they whisper. When Kaden leans up and heads for their seat Kat is curious as to what he will say. He stops and instead of standing he sits in the seat across the aisle.
“Hey,” he whispers with a smile on his face.
“Hello,” Lucy replies. She sits up and out of Kats arms as she stares at him. He smiles at her but doesn’t say anything before turning his gaze on Kat. She realizes he’s waiting for her to respond.
“Hi,” Kat says and his smile grows wider.
“How are you girls?”
“We are okay,” Lucy squeaks, I blink my eyes hard so I don’t roll them at her lie.
“Good, good. We will be okay I promise,” as he speaks his smile lessens but remains on his face. “Look in an hour some of us are going to go look for Mr. Dent. You can come if you want to but you can stay here too,” he explains. His hands are clasped in front of him and he looks down at them.
“Do you think that is a good idea?” Kat questions, concern written on her face.
“Honestly? Who knows? But sitting here and doing nothing isn’t a good idea either. That’s why some of us are staying and some are going,” Kadens eyes are serious as he explains. “Do you girls want to come with us or do you want to stay with Zack, Nolan, and the other girls?”
Lucy and Kat look at each other. Kat thinks it’s best for Lucy to stay here and is about to say so when Lucy beats her to it.
“We will go with you,” she states as a blush creeps up her neck. Kats jaw hangs open in shock.
“Great! Rest up okay? We leave in an hour if they aren’t back,” Kaden’s smile grows wide again as he stands up and walks to the front of the bus.
“Are you insane?” Kat asks angrily.
“What? I know you would have gone,” Lucy claims looking confused at Kat.
“But you should be staying here! I would have stayed here with you,” Kat explains clenching her fist on her thigh.
“Oh,” Lucy stares down at her lap for a second before looking up with a smile. “At least we get to be with Kaden!”
Kat rolls her eyes and huffs at her best friends one track mind. Kat knows how timid Lucy is and how scared she gets. She knows Lucy should be staying here. Not that Kat is any less scared. She just handles it better.
Kat checks her watch and notes the time. They have 50 minutes before they leave. She reaches under the seat in front of her and pulls her bag out. Opening it she pulls out a few candy bars and hands one to Lucy. Lucy smiles and takes the candy. Both girls begin to eat and relax.
As some time passes everyone begins to unwind. That is until there is a mysterious loud crackling static noise. Nolan had cracked his window and the noise was coming from outside. The students all sit up and tense listening to the sound. It abruptly stops just as it had started.
Kaden stands up and as if debating waits by the door. He then turns to everyone.
“I guess it’s been long enough. Those who want to come with me we should probably head out now, that sounded like a radio so maybe someone is close by,” he gazes at everyone as he speaks.
Troy and Danny look at each other and stand up. They nod to Kaden and he turns to look at Kat and Lucy. The girls glance at each other.
“We can stay if you want,” Kat says trying to give Lucy a way out.
“It’s okay, I’d rather be doing something than sitting here, plus, hottie,” she whispers the last part with a smile.
Kat sighs deeply and stands up along with Lucy. They slowly make their way to the front and Kaden smiles at them. Troy and Danny nod and give slight smiles as well.
“Everyone ready? Last chance if you want to stay,” Kaden’s eyes go from person to person searching for any sign of wanting to stay put.
The standing students look at each other and nod. Kaden stands up straighter and looks behind the girls at the other students.
“Zack is in charge. We need you guys to stay put here in case someone comes looking for us, we shouldn’t be too long so just relax and take turns sleeping,” he commands.
“If you see anything weird come back okay? We will all just walk until we find some place to call,” Nolan says with a serious face.
Kaden nods and opens the bus door. Lucy glances out the window one more time before she follows the boys out the door. Kat is the last off the bus and Kaden smiles at her as she passes him. Troy grins and offers a hand sarcastically saying ‘my princess’. Kat rolls her eyes at him while Kaden tells Zack to close the bus door.
The warm wind hits Kats face making her squint slightly. She breaths in the fresh air and looks around. The bus is stopped on a dirt road between the fence and large dirt hill. The road bends around it and disappears in front of the bus and the same at the back. Dry weedy plants sway in the breeze along the edge of the road.
The students wave to each other through the windows.
Kaden turns his head and looks around the front of the bus to the closed gate. Kat notices Troy looking around and jumps when he makes a loud surprised sound. He jogs to the side of the bus and picks up a broken black thing. He holds it up and as the other students approach him they see it’s a radio. He messes with it and tries to get it working but to no avail. Troy grumbles and drops it back on the ground with a ‘useless’.
“Broken?” Kaden asks as he stares at it.
“Yeah, completely useless,” Troy grumbles still shaking his head in disappointment.
“Maybe that’s the sound we heard just a few minutes ago,” Danny suggests.
“Probably was,” Kaden nods.
Kat looks around and notices something black lying in the road behind the bus. She slowly steps towards it and gasps. The others, noticing her shock, follow and freeze when they spot the object. Silence fills the group as they all start thinking the same thing. Someone must have planted it there.
“Is that,” Lucy begins, “What I think it is?”
“You don’t think,” Danny shivers, “someone put those there on purpose do you?”
The students flinch and take a small step back at his words. Kaden swallows thickly and decides to try to calm everyone down with some logic.
“Come on guys, nobody would do this. It’s probably just been there for years, it looks pretty old,” he says staring wide eyed at the black spikes that are sticking out of the dirt.
Kat sees Danny shift on her right and sees that he is going to argue with Kaden. She wants to argue herself but it wouldn’t do any good to panic right now. For all they know there could be miles and miles between them and anyone else regardless of if the spikes were planted or not.
“Kaden’s right,” she spills out, “I mean we don’t know anything for sure. There’s no point in getting ourselves worked up. We need to figure out where the driver and Mr. Dent have gone.”
Danny frowns and looks like he’s going to argue when Troy cuts him off.
“Isn’t there a gate on the other side of the fence? They may have gone in there,” he suggests shrugging his shoulders.
“True,” Kaden replies hesitantly.
“Might as well check it out. What have we got to lose? Worst case scenario there’s no one home,” Troy continues.
Everyone stays quiet and looking at each other as if deciding if searching beyond the fence is a good idea. Finally Kaden breaths out and rubs his neck nervously.
“Troy is right, we can’t just sit here. The only option is the gate. I don’t see any foot prints out here so and maybe the wind blew them away but I doubt they would just walk away from us and leave us here,” he says as he stands up straighter. He looks at the other students and they all reluctantly nod their heads. Nodding himself he begins taking steps around the bus and toward the gate.
Kat notices the fence is long. Trees and brush block the view of exactly how long it goes. The greenery almost conceals the fence as it is so over grown. As they near the gate she sees that it’s the only part of the fence that isn’t covered in green.
“Maybe we should split up?” Danny suggests as they stop in front of it. “Some of us can go through here and the others can go around the fence and see if there’s anything around?”
“Have you ever seen a horror movie Danny-Boy? Number one rule, never split up,” Troy frowns at him with his arms crossed.
“I’m just saying,” Danny begins until Kaden cuts him off.
“We have already split up enough,” he sighs, “Troy is right. No more spitting up from here on out. We don’t know this place or what’s really going on. It’s too dangerous to split.”
“I agree with Kaden, right Kat?” Lucy speaks almost in a whisper not taking her eyes off of the gate.
Kat nods and Danny shakes his head in defeat and sighs before motioning to the gate in an ‘after you’ pose. Kaden pushes on the gate and it doesn’t budge. There is no handle on the outside to pull or push it from either. Kat stares at the gate before an idea hits her.
“My uncle has a fence like this, I think the gate has a latch on the top on the other side,” Kat exclaims.
Kaden frowns and then gets on one knee.
“Troy, step up and see if you can find a latch,” he says motioning to his leg.
Troy nods an ‘okay’ before stepping up. The children watch as he reaches over the top still not even being able to see over it though. He moves his arm around feeling until his fingers brush against something.
The gate pops open just slightly as Troy grabs the object. He steps down and the students all stare at the gate. No one speaks as Kaden grabs the wood and pulls. They all peer in the opening and a shiver curls itself down Kats back at the sight before her.