Chapter 2: Chapter 2

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 24

Chapter 2


Devin and Oscar stood side by side at the bus stop, speechless. Images of the mutilated cow carcass flashed through their heads. Their shoulders were stiff. Their eyes were locked steadily upon nothing. Their breaths were shallow and quick. The air was numbingly cold.

The sun began to rise after some time. It shone bright and yellow, and it cast down a blanket of warmth onto the distant, disconnected world below.

The bus stop was reserved for Oscar, Devin, and a handful of other kids that lived in the neighborhood. The bus arrived at precisely seven fifteen every morning. Devin and Oscar were accustomed to their daily routine by this point. The month was March. School had been in session for nearly eight months. Initially, they'd both been kind of apprehensive about the transition from little Mill Creek Middle School to Opal High. But they'd since come to find that high school wasn't so bad. All they really had to do was keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Keep to yourself. Don't give the upperclassmen any funny kind of looks. Don't act annoying. Don't talk too loud in the halls, during passing period. Don't sit at a table at lunch, because those are reserved for the athletes and the popular kids. On second thought, maybe high school was shaping up to be akin to a four year prison sentence, after all. There were so many unwritten rules that you had to constantly keep track of and adhere to. You always had to be awake and aware of the fact that your actions had real consequences. Slip up at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and you might just find yourself beaten up severely by the Opal High School elites, broken bones and all. Everyday they went to school, and everyday they came home with a fake smile drawn on their face and a subtle twinge of despair in their eyes. They tried desperately to convince their parents that everything in their world was okay. No sense in worrying the grown ups, after all, with the trivialities of teenage life. Or maybe they weren't trying to convince their parents at all. Maybe they were trying, rather, to convince themselves. Who were they kidding? The reality is that every day, in and out, was a living hell. But they had each other, which was more than a lot of other kids could say. Lots of kids had to go it alone. At least with a friend it was somewhat bearable. Oscar and Devin helped each other. They reassured one another. Had one another's back.

Eventually Devin cleared his throat and spoke up.

"S'ppose your dad believed you?"

"Believed me about what?" Oscar asked.

"When you told him you'd put the cows away and locked 'em up last night. You think he believed you?"

"Oh, I don't know." Oscar answered. "Probably not. He thinks I'm a screw-up. Thinks I mess up everything that I touch."

"You think so too? Think you're a screw-up?" Devin asked.

"I guess." Oscar said, sounding defeated. He beamed at the sidewalk.

They were quiet for a minute or so.

"If it means anything, I believe you about the cows." Devin said.

Oscar nodded, a passive nod.

Shortly after the bus rumbled around the corner and rolled down the street, toward the small group of children waiting to be taken to school. It shimmered under the pale, early morning sunlight, and it growled as it moved along. The bus slowed to a halt at the curbside, and the doors hissed then flew open.

The bus driver, a thin, middle-aged man with sunken eyes and a colorless face, looked down upon the kids standing on the sidewalk below. He said nothing. Oscar stepped forward and climbed aboard. Devin followed, along with all the others waiting at the stop. The bus felt like a cold tomb, poorly ventilated, and with walls made of steel.

Devin and Oscar shuffled down the aisle, past several benches filled with teenagers with drowsy faces.

Every kid on that bus went to the same school and did the same things. Took the same classes with the same teachers. Worked on the same assignments. Faced the same challenges. And yet, they were all worlds apart from one another. They looked upon one another like they were subhuman, a perpetual semblance of disdain in their eyes. They didn't hate each other, of course. Because, in order to hate someone you first had to know something about them. Rather, they mutually saw one another as aliens. And they treated one another as such. Life at Opal High School was characterized by alienation. Everyone was separated by abstract boundaries that existed only in their own minds.

"Well, look who it is." A mocking voice remarked as Oscar and Devin maneuvered their way down the aisle, toward an empty bench at the rear. "The shit shoveling farm hands!"

Oscar glanced over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of Grant Godwin, an annoying smirk pasted on his face. He sat on a bench toward the front of the bus, surrounded by his entourage of loser friends.

The bus erupted with tumultuous laughter for a moment.

"Quiet down back there." The driver called in a monotone voice. He glared at the congregation of kids through the rear view mirror.

Oscar and Devin ignored their peer's offhand remark. They found a seat at a vacant bench, toward the rear of the bus, set their backpacks on the floor, and sat down. They could feel that every single person on the bus was looking at them. Silently judging them.

Grant had been giving Oscar and Devin trouble for as long as they could remember. He wasn't quite a popular kid. Yet, he always walked around and carried himself like he had something to prove. He acted tough, seemed to always be looking for a fight, but in reality he was nobody to be too scared of. He was their same age. His father, Lucas Godwin, was the wealthiest person in all of Opal. To be fair, that wasn't saying much. Lucas owned a pig farm, a few acres away from the Santana Ranch. Jonas's family and Lucas's were neighbors, but they had never acted particularly neighborly to one another.

"Hey Foster! My Pa says he saw your Ma shitfaced last night, around midnight, down on State Street. Must've been a hard evening drinking." Grant continued in a nagging little voice. He stood from his bench and turned around, so as to see Devin and Oscar. His friends grinned among themselves and chuckled.

The bus lurched forward and gradually pulled off. The next stop was the high school, a mile or so away.

"Must be hard having a deadbeat mother, Foster." The bus was totally silent aside from Grant's incessant pestering.

The bus driver carried on. Business as usual.

"Just ignore him." Devin whispered to Oscar. He shifted and turned to look out the window, to their right.

Oscar said nothing. His shoulders were stiff. His brow furrowed. Devin could sense that Oscar was upset. Grant continued to instigate, hoping to elicit some sort of reaction from the two friends, who were merely minding their own business.

"And what about you, Santana?" Grant turned to Oscar. "Your Pa barely scrapes by with his pathetic little cow rearing operation. Has to pray at the end of every month that somehow he'll be able to swing rent, else his sorry ass gets evicted."

Oscar somehow managed to maintain his composure.

"You and your whole damn family are nobody, y'know that? A bunch of nobodies, who don't even belong in this town. You too, Foster! You're both nobodies, and your families are nothing! You're worthless, y'here me!" Grant refused to let up today.

Still no response from Oscar.

"I'm talking to you, shit shoveler!" Grant barked suddenly.

"Shut up, Grant!" Oscar barked back. He leapt from his seat, his fists balled tightly. "Just shut up." Oscar repeated, his voice shaking slightly.

Grant's friends laughed at Oscar's aggressive display. Grant smiled, a vile ear-to-ear smile.

"Alright, sit down, the both of ya'." The bus driver finally called in a careless tone.

Grant and Oscar lowered themselves into their seats. Their eyes remained locked on one another for some time.

"Take it easy, man." Oscar heard Devin whisper. Devin still gazed out the bus window, seemingly unbothered by the commotion. Oscar eased up a bit, and the tense atmosphere inside the bus gradually subsided.

The bus rounded the corner to the high school after a few minutes. Opal High came into view through the front windshield. It was a dull place, with geometric buildings and paved surfaces everywhere you looked. There were hardly any trees or shrubs, and virtually the entire campus was gray. The perimeter was a high concrete, cinder block wall, riddled with chicken scratch graffiti, and topped with iron spikes. Devin and Oscar peered out the murky window to see hoards of students walking along the sidewalk, toward the front entrance. Their movements were habitual and familiar. They all hauled their weighted backpacks along with them, lumbering toward the unofficial prison that they called school. Obedient plastic people, going about the drudgery of their daily routines. Another beautiful morning at Opal High.

The bus slowed and pulled into the bus loop, falling into line. It reeled to a halt once more, then the door hissed and opened.

At once every student leapt from their seat. Oscar and Devin slung their backpacks onto their shoulders, hauled themselves off of their bench, then started down the aisle. They maneuvered past dozens of careless kids. The scene was hectic. Kids were laughing and cursing obnoxiously among themselves. Hustling off to their first period class. Shouting to their friend outside the bus, on the sidewalk.

Oscar and Devin carried themselves with a certain type of agility and poise. They hopped over somebody's haphazardly placed backpack. Sidestepped an oblivious kid, standing halfway out in the aisle. Shuffled between chatting cliques of friends.

Toward the front of the bus Oscar suddenly felt his foot become stuck beneath something. He caught a glimpse of Grant, still sitting on a bench with his leg intentionally stuck out in the walkway, so as to trip him. Oscar's body continued forward while his foot remained stuck under Grant's leg. In an instant he had face planted upon the sticky vinyl floor of the bus. He slid down the aisle a bit, until his head pounded against the leg of one of the benches.

Oscar immediately pushed himself off the ground and found his footing. He rubbed his head for a moment and spun around to see Grant.

"What the hell's your problem?" Devin, who had been walking behind Oscar, screamed. 

"Fuck you!" Grant shouted back. He jumped up from his seat.

Devin, without thinking, lunged toward Grant. Oscar saw Devin land a hard, swift punch to Grant's face. Grant looked jarred.

Without warning, one of Grant's friends seized Oscar by the collar and, using his brute strength, shoved him out the door of the bus and onto the sidewalk below. Oscar collapsed to the floor but quickly picked himself back up. He threw his backpack down, nearby, and prepared for a fight.

Devin and Grant, meanwhile, struggled with one another inside the bus, stumbling down the aisle toward the door.

Three of Grant's friends hopped down onto the sidewalk, all of them at least half a foot taller than Oscar.

Oscar looked through the side windows of the bus and saw that two more of Grant's friends had intervened with Devin. They grabbed his wrists and shoved him forcefully out the door. Devin, too, fell onto the concrete.

Oscar extended his hand and helped his friend up. Finally, Grant stepped off the bus. He was the last kid to get off. The bus driver, looking rather panicked, shut the doors and sped away.

Grant and his five friends stood, watching Devin and Oscar. A spiteful hatred burnt in their eyes. They were wild, wide and mad. Oscar and Devin knew that they didn't stand a chance against these guys.

Already a crowd of students was beginning to form. Countless kids surrounded the fight. They laughed and pointed and cheered.

Grant's nose was bleeding from Devin's strike a few moments earlier. He wiped the blood on the sleeve of his bomber jacket.

"Think you two are tough? Is that it?" Grant asked, screaming and sounding totally irrational. "Think you can make a fool of me? You ain't nobody!"

"Leave us alone, Grant." Oscar said. "We don't wanna fight."

Grant laughed and looked at his friends, signaling that they ought to laugh along with him. They did.

"We don't give a shit about what y'all want." Grant said.

At once Oscar felt one of Grant's friends grab him by the shoulders from somewhere behind. He threw him to the floor. They did the same to Devin. They all moved in to finish off their prey, like a pack of starving scavengers. They began kicking Devin and Oscar in the head and chest. The boys did their best to protect themselves with their arms, but they didn't have much luck.

"Piece of shit!" Grant shouted with a terrible sort of malice. He spit on Oscar's face.

Oscar felt someone's shod foot punt the side of his head. His vision became blurry and he struggled to breath. Oscar and Devin were totally helpless.

Devin managed to open his eyes, in spite of the beating. He saw a few hulking Opal High School security guards shoving their way through the crowd of students. "Hey, that's enough, break it up!" one of them shouted.

Suddenly the beating ceased. Grant and his friends stumbled away and hurried off, disappearing into the crowd. The guards didn't bother to catch them. Didn’t even try.

Devin and Oscar were left, rolling in pain, on the filthy concrete floor. Their heads were pounding. Their muscles ached. Their ribs were sore. The encompassing crowd of students began to disperse. Their cheers subsided and they all went off to their classes. The boys took a moment to collect themselves and catch their breath.

"Alright, get up now. Both of you." Devin and Oscar heard one of the security guards command.

They knew, then, that they had somehow fallen into deep trouble.

Submitted: May 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 andrew s.. All rights reserved.


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