Chapter 24 - A Trip Down Memory Lane
Our second day outreach program consisted of the same routine. It was around ten when we arrived in the village of the Gallic Tribe. This tribe, I could say, was a tad bit less civilized than the Treveri Tribe. They still have colorful beaded headdresses and outrageous costumes worn by most adult men and women but the designs were more sophisticated in the other tribe. Their skin complexion was far darker than the former too. Their children wore improvised cloths made of cow and snake skin and they have weird tattoo designs in the shoulders, neck and back.
We started the program first with me, of course, as the emcee. Almost all of the tribesmen and children were gathered inside a large open-space tent we had set-up.
Luckily, the group who danced and played the bongo last night around the bonfire accepted my proposition when I told them about it inside the bus. They were the ones who opened the program while my group yesterday readied themselves for another song and dance number.
After the opening dance, I climbed back up in the makeshift elevation and eyed my audience with a big smile. Immediately as I did this, my eyes caught a very familiar face. It was Eriol, looking back at me and standing handsomely behind the audience wearing another drool-worthy branded outfit.
I didn’t panic knowing already that I was the only one seeing him.
He gave me a wink and briefly, I answered him a smile before I continued to announce the next entertainers.
The whole time the program progressed, Eriol kept a steady eye on me. I couldn’t help but feel conscious with it. He was one hell of a stalker, but a much welcomed one.
An hour later, Madame Ivana patted my shoulders when I stood in the sidelines. She said that she will be announcing the instructions right after the last of the dance number. I nodded and handed her the microphone.
Janine was behind me when I stepped backward. She handed me a red apron to which I quickly took knowing what it meant.
This day, we are not handing out ready-made lunch packs. This day, Madame Ivana’s house chef cooked chicken rice soup, meatball spaghetti, and clubhouse cheese and ham sandwiches all to be given to our beneficiaries.
I and my roommates were assigned to hand out chicken rice soup and refreshments, hence the use of the apron.
Raver was assigned to distribute small packs of medicines and it was together with Clara.
Yup! Looking at them, they do look good together. And it seems as though she became more inclined joining the outreach program because Raver was on her side. It was a plus on their blooming relationship, but the main advantage I see on it was that she won’t be leeching on Eriol anymore.
We headed to our stations at the left side of the makeshift tent and waited for our diners to line up after Madame Ivana’s instructions.
I scanned the area where I last saw Eriol and I didn’t find him there anymore. He had probably changed location too, but still constantly staring at me like he was my underpaid bodyguard.
Seriously though, he doesn’t need to wait for me the whole day doing nothing. He could fly away or teleport to another place and come back for me when we return to the retreat house. He doesn’t need to make me feel like I am a prisoner needing 24/7 surveillance. He could be productive if he wanted to, not bound himself to me.
“Is this enough?”
My musings were interrupted when I heard Janine ask, showing a bowl recently filled with the soup. I surveyed the content and I nodded back at her. “Yes. That will do, Janie. But we should cut the serving in half if it is for a child.”
“Hmmm... Yes, I think that is wise,” she said and then smiled at me.
The whole day went about without any problems except for the change of weather. After distributing toys for the kids, we finally went our way back to the villa. This was exactly at three in the afternoon. Madame Ivana decided to return early as the sky suddenly turned gloomy, looking like it will rain anytime soon.
Inside the bus, I sat in the first row next to the piles of empty boxes. In my back were my co-volunteers busily taking selfies, texting and making calls with their cellphones. I opted not to bring my cellphone with me because I feel it will only be a bother in my capri pocket and also I don’t want my focus sliced into two during the outreach program. So now with nothing to do, I directed my attention to the scene outside.
I noticed that the clouds looked angrier and the sky looked gloomier than what it was when we left the village. I couldn’t feel the cold wind outside because the bus was fully closed and airconditioned, but I could see how strong it was judging from the bent of the branches of some trees we passed by.
The driver, Mr. Malone, honked the bus horn alarming any oncoming buses in the opposite side of the road. This caught my attention briefly. I looked at his face on the front-view mirror and yes, I could see that he was trying his best to weave the bus properly along the road. His expression looked serious.
I wonder where Eriol is now... Is he actually flying in this kind of weather? Or has he already teleported back to the villa waiting for me?
“Oh good, it has finally rained,” Mr. Malone muttered under his breath, enough that I could hear. My mind doesn’t easily cook up possible bad scenarios, but the fact that I could sense anxiety in his voice made me nervous inside. It actually made my heart beat even faster.
I redirected my eyes back on the mountains outside and there I see that the rain really has poured quite heavily. Madame Ivana’s range rover that was ahead of us looked even hazy now. Somehow, my co-volunteers at the back seemed not bothered by the heavy rain. Looking at them through the head mirror, they still chatted and laughed audibly.
The next thing I knew, I heard a loud screeching sound probably from the tires and we were spun around, I reckon, three times before the bus came to a complete sudden stop.
From sitting, I was shoved down face first on the two-seater bus chair. Headache and immediate nausea followed along with a sore spot in my temple where it was hit in the metal window during the spinning.
I heard shouts and wails from behind me so I stood up and looked back. From there, I saw my fellow volunteers show a confused expression too. Some were tossed off from the chair into the center aisle, cellphones were scattered everywhere, and the empty boxes were thrown into the back part of the bus.
We actually didn’t know what just happened, but it was enough to raise our heartbeats in panic.
“Calm down!” the driver yelled quickly. I shot him a look and my eyes instantly widened when I caught sight of what awaited us ahead.
The bus was actually on the tipping point between the safety of a leveled land to a far dangerous downward slope of the mountain where it ends with a cliff and a long drop. Any fall from that height, I am sure, would lead to an untimely death.
“Slowly exit the bus now!” he yelled again, but instead of doing what he instructed, my co-volunteers frantically stood up and dashed into the nearest exit door of the bus which was located at the back.
Unluckily for me, I am in the half portion of the vehicle where it was dangling midair.
“No! No! Please don’t panic!” I shouted in an aggressive tone, realizing their frenzy of leaving the bus was making it tip to the bad side. “Please be calm!!! Please!”
But they didn’t hear my pleas as they were preoccupied with saving their own lives.
Raver, Janine and my other newly-acquainted volunteers were able to safely disembark the bus, but I and half of the passengers, including the driver were trapped when the bus finally tipped into the ominous slope.
I shouted. The people behind me shouted. The driver also bellowed a frightening decibel when the bus speedily glided through the slope, hitting small trees and shrubs along the way.
Hastily, I sat back and held the handrails again, gripping it like I was biologically connected to it.
Picture yourself riding a roller coaster in the front seat and in the middle of a hundred feet sloping drop. Yeah. That’s exactly what I am experiencing right now. But at least the roller coaster has safety restraints and an emergency stop; the bus we were in doesn’t have at least one, so imagine my terrified state.
Being in the front seat didn’t even help calm my breathing.
I am the principal audience of the show in the front window where small trees were being run over by this bus at high speed. I am also the principal witness when a huge, tall tree somehow decided to freaking stand in our way!
Mr. Malone immediately veered the bus to the right, but it wasn’t enough to dodge the humongous tree. But come to think of it, this was probably better than falling off a cliff right? At least the tree would break our fall, but it sure was questionable on what damage we could get from it. We can only hope that the chances of survival are favorable in the end.
The nerves in my body that were continuously in seizure the whole time felt like it came to a shutdown when I braced myself for the powerful collision.
I closed my eyes tightly and hoped... dearly, dearly hoped for the best that everything would turn out alright.
That we would all be safe!
But who am I kidding? Probably, the volunteers behind me would be safe but me? Certainly not, and because of this fact, I couldn’t contain my tears anymore. It went streaming down my eyes when I shouted desperately for Eriol’s fucking name!
Please... wherever you are.
But I received no response from him. Nothing at all.
And then it happened. The collision. I immediately felt a painful blow to my liver, followed by very painful scratches of shattered glass in my skin. I felt blood whoosh through my ears and felt the vertiginous sensation in my head. Air was knocked out of my lungs for a moment and heck, I thought that it was it.
But after that, as if time stood still.
I heard no sounds. No shouts or yells from my fellow volunteers. I saw no objects in front of me. No trees, leaves, or land. All I saw was darkness and the feeling of a strong impact that hit the face of the bus.
That moment, I realized I was down memory lane for the first time. Shit. I exactly know what this means based on the psychology books that I have read so far. Memory lane always, always means that a person is in the brink of death.
I saw flashbacks of my twenty-five years of life all clear in my head. I saw me when I was in elementary; me when I was in high school taking karate lessons; me when I was in college, using the news simulator for the first time; me with Lorde riding Trinitus together; me with Eriol in our most recent encounter last night, and me with Aeshma...
Yes. Him. Aeshma.
With one last haul of breath, I shouted. Shouted with my heart crying out too.
“Save me now, my dear demon... my dear Fallen Angel!!! Save me, Aeshma, please!!!”