The Orange Bus

Mystery Man led the train of children to the big orange bus.
Each of the children held the hand of the child in front. All were blindfolded – some with gaudy, rainbow weaves, some with dowdy grey scraps, and others with glittering golden or silver veils.

One by one they followed each other, in a straight and silent line, to the steps of the waiting bus. The first raised a foot, and entered. The others followed. All the while, Mystery Man coaxed, wheedled, encouraged and scolded. In moments a procession of children lined the bus aisle, each positioned next to a waiting blue leather bench seat.

Mystery Man climbed aboard, and studied them.
“Ok, let go the hands and sit down in the seat next to you” he said.

There was a brief fumbling. A bit of confusion, as some children bumped into others, and seats were missed. One child fell to her knees and whimpered. The Man waited patiently. Before long, all were seated neatly and in order, as he had asked.

“Do not speak”, he said.

Mystery Man took his place in the driver’s seat, and engaged gear. The bus slowly accelerated and presently, a low hum vibrated through the dusty windows. A sound of comfort. There was quiet in the vehicle. The children were silent.

“You are enjoying this ride, children. It is nice and peaceful. There is no danger. And if there were – I would take care of it for you”.
The bus carried on its way.

In what seemed like no time at all, the Man pulled the bus over, decelerated and brought it to a stop. He got up from his seat and once again addressed the children.
“When I say ‘3’, I want you all to stand up slowly, move out into the aisle, and hold the hand of the person in front of you.”

One.
Two.
Three.

The children obeyed. The Man smiled.
“Now, move forward, slowly, until you reach me, and I will lead you out of the bus. Careful, now. No hurry.”

The obedient children did as was requested. They filed out of the bus, with a little help from the Man. They stood on gravely ground, with a stiff wind blowing through them, ruffling their clothes. The Man took the hand of the lead child, and drew the entire file forward with him a little way. He then stopped them, and said “Now – I will take each of you, and place you in position. You must not move at all once placed. You must stand straight and tall. Do not shuffle. Do not step forward, or backwards. Do nothing at all until I tell you.”

One by one, the children were arrayed side by side, in a nice straight line.

“Now listen to me very carefully. I want you all to raise your faces upwards. That’s it – nice and high – lean your heads back.”

The children obeyed.
“Now, slowly take your blindfolds off. Do not move your head. Look at the sky for me.”

Each of the children slipped their respective blindfolds off. Each stared at the sky. Most squinted for a while, and then noted the wild rushing clouds above. It was almost twilight, with pink and orange tinting the sky. Their hair whished around their faces, but each was obedient and their faces remained upturned.

“Children, before you is a wonderful view. There are giant trees with branches like arms waving at each other. There is a river touched by gold meandering through a valley like an aberrant rich thread. Animals are grazing on the lush grasses. And all this is encompassed under the most remarkable sky. You can look forward now, and see it.”

The children lowered their gaze, and with caught breath, took in a most wonderful scene, soaking it up with their youthful, impressionable minds.

“I have one more instruction for you, children”, said the Man.
“Look to the ground at your feet”

Once again, the children complied – and most stepped back quickly, for they found themselves on the very brink of a high cliff. Five, however, stood their ground confidently.

Three sets of lips trembled in fear.
Two laughed in delight.
One stepped off.

The Orange Bus

Mark German

Strathmore, Australia

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