Man, what a day. Started off okay, glad I got some writing in early, because my two year old got sick later in the evening so I was up all night, ugh. These are the kind of distractions that no matter how you plan out your novel writing you just can’t be prepared for. I’ll have to do some heavier writing today to stay caught up. So with that said, let me just share what I did get accomplished in the form of this rough unedited second chapter. Have a great day, and wish me better luck today. 😉
When faced with impending danger, the mind does one of two things. It either shuts down completely in a state of numbing shock or it quickly accesses the situation, sending information to the body in an effort to get it to react. Everyone on the bus had this choice. Maybe if the ones who didn’t make it had reacted differently, things would have turned out in an alternate way. I realize my reaction at the time was not the best one.
I looked out the front window as the bus plummeted off the bridge. The river was rising to meet us, fringed in its early morning ice. Donald tried to get down between the seats to protect himself against impact. Unfortunately, my friend was a little too big too fit in the space, so he was more on the seat than protected by it. Mr. Mills braced himself as well, but like the captain of a sinking ship, he faced it head on straight in the face.
I don’t know what anyone did behind me. I could hear gasps, screams, and a few whispered prayers, but I couldn’t turn my head away from the approaching river. In movies they show things happening like this in slow motion, but in real life it’s not that way. We fell fast from the height of the bridge and when we hit the river, we took on water quick. The impact made the front windshield explode. I don’t know if this was from our speed or if chunks of river ice had hit it. All I know is the water came in hard and swift as we sank beneath the surface.
None of the side windows were open, so as water came rushing in the front of the bus there was nowhere for it go, except to fill up the interior like a goldfish bowl. It quickly filled the bus and we hit bottom, nose first. We seemed to be suspended in animation for a moment and then the bus tilted to the side to come resting against the riverbed floor. Screams and cries were soon replaced by escaping air bubbles and the gasps from lungs filling up with ice cold water.
I grabbed the collar of Donald’s coat and tried to haul him out from between the seats. My idea was to swim out through the shattered front window, but the rushing onslaught of water pouring through prevented our escape. It was like trying to swim upstream when someone had opened the dam full force.
I turned to look back on how everyone else was handling the situation and that’s when the bulk of Mr. Mills hit me. He must have been holding on against the current, and then when his air gave out, he let go of whatever he was keeping himself grounded with. His body collided with my head, and my face hit the back of the seat where I had been sitting only moment before. I saw Lori and another girl struggling to open the window next to them. It didn’t look like they were having much luck. Towards the back, both Brian and Kelly were trying to force the emergency exit door open. Brian had his hands on the handle, trying to lift it up while Kelly seemed to be screaming directions at him. Any fool could see that wasn’t going to work. All it did was allow the water into her lungs much faster.
I looked at Donald and pointed at the front door. It was closed but the door release was in front of the dash and within easy reach. He didn’t need further instruction. He fought against the water and headed for the door. Some of the other kids saw him going for it and they fell in behind him. I looked around me. Lori was still struggling with her window, though the other girl had given up and followed in Donald’s direction. To her credit, Lori had managed to get the window down halfway, but now it seemed stuck. I clambered over the seat and swam towards her. I touched her shoulder and she turned to me, her eyes frantic and wide. I shook my head. Even if we both could get the window down, it would be very difficult to swim through the three foot opening. Instead, I pointed her to the front door.
Donald had managed to get his hands on the door release, but was having trouble shoving the bar open against the water. Kids were in the doorway shoving against it. What they didn’t realize in their panic was that on a school bus the front doors open by folding inward, not outward. By being jammed in that space their own bodies prevented it from opening. We were trapped unless they stepped back from the door. There were so many in the way, I would never reach the door myself.
I stood there indecisive, thinking Lori was still beside me, but she had moved to another window and had managed to get it open. She starting out through the opening, squeezing through the small space, when her jacket got hung up on something. She was stuck. I reached for her legs and began to pull her back through in an effort to free her from whatever she had gotten hung up on.
She must have thought I wasn’t trying to help. Perhaps she thought I was trying to keep her on the bus. Her legs kicked out and connected with my chest, shoving me away from her. I tried to grab her and the sole of her chucks hit the side of my cheek. It didn’t help her situation any. She was still stuck, but I couldn’t help her. Time was running out and I had to save myself.
People were still jammed in the front section of the bus, and I looked towards the back where Brian and Kelly and their friends were still struggling with the rear exit. My best bet was to help the coolies get that door open. I started in their direction, and I was just a few steps away, when Brian looked at me. Even in the face of danger and death, he still had a permanent sneer on his face. I hesitated for a moment, thinking in that brief instant he’d rather see me float down here forever than to receive my help. Then the back door handle sprung free from its cradle. The door pushed open. Brian and Kelly were through it and out into the river.
I was running out of air. I had to make a decision. Follow them out or go back and try to help Lori again. Or perhaps make my way to the front and pull kids from the doorway so Donald could open it. Just then the front door burst open, breaking right off its hinges from the weight of all the people pushing against it. A surge of my schoolmates were sucked out into the river and desperately swam away from the doomed bus.
Now there was just Lori and I left. I don’t know why I felt this need to help her? I had barely even noticed her until now. I’d passed her in the hall a few times, saw her on the smoking block, but never really paid her much mind. She wasn’t even a friend, but now here I was risking my own neck to save hers.
She had attempted to go back through the window, and once again her jacket, a long black trench coat looking thing, was stuck on a piece of the window frame. I grabbed the jacket and tugged it free. She must have felt the tug because she kicked out with her feet again. This time I dodged the blow. She was out the window and free.
I looked around one last time. No one else was on the bus. They were all swimming away and heading for the surface. I had to get out of there. Lori turned and looked back at me inside the bus. She signaled for me to follow her. I went for the open window and came up short. My foot was stuck to the floor. One of my shoelaces had wrapped around the bolt that held the seats in place. I tried to jerk it free. When that didn’t help, I reached down to untie my shoes. I didn’t need them anyway. Leave them here on the bus. Big deal.
The problem was if you have ever tried untying wet shoelaces from a knot you know its almost impossible. When I couldn’t get the laces undone, I tried jerking my foot out of the shoe. That didn’t work either, and before I could anything else, the inevitable happened. I ran out of air.