The events of this story are true. It occurred in North Dakota in 2010. The names have been changed to protect the victims. Everything else has been told exactly as it happened.
The uniformity of it was something Joss was still not used to - the uniformity of snow. Surely someone would like to go out there and just mess with the snow somehow. As the bus drove past each neighborhood the city still looked uniform. Maybe messing with the uniformity is a death sentence.
"You know you don't have to come with me today," said Zoe, looking out the window.
"Are you crazy? I want to see what you got going on in this hobby of yours," said Joss.
"School you mean," said Zoe.
"Yes, that," said Joss, having spaced on this school thing the ten times Zoe explained the whole idea of it.
One of Zoe's classmates got on at the next bus stop. Now Caleb is that one kid in every class - the chubby kid in a green camouflage shirt and black jeans with thick greasy hair. He sat in the seat behind them and put his head between the two seats.
"Hey, whose your friend?" said Caleb.
"She's my cousin Joss," Zoe answered.
Joss got a big warm feeling in her heart from that. She thought, "Zoe is so good at this double life. One day Zoe could be like a great spy or something, or baring that, she could have an affair with ease, although this is something that Zoe would never do in a million years. Just saying, she could pull it off."
"Whatever," said Caleb.
"Hey, I like your shirt," said Joss.
"I don't wear it to be chic or whatever. I wear it for tactical reasons," said Caleb, who was angrily air quoting the whole time.
"Tactical reasons?" asked Joss.
"He's working up to zombies," Zoe said as she turned to look out the window.
"Yea, see their thing called Ophiocordyceps? It's like fungi. They enslave ants and if they were to somehow take on humans, it would be zombie apocalypse time, and boom, me the new king of the wastes," said Caleb.
"Yeh, but your shirt is green," said Joss.
"Right, camouflage," replied Caleb.
"But snow is white," said Joss, pointing to the window and the white landscape. Caleb turned his backpack around and grabbed his blue highlighter and began to scribble furiously on his shirt. The bus arrived at Bismark High, one of the many schools that are just, well, okay. There's really nothing to say about its looks. Its just a big boring concrete box, or the word 'bleak' given form as a building, what with the dead trees lining it. They could look beautifulthough if you looked at them in the right way.
Joss went in quiet and unnoticed. The school was alive with over 8,000 people who really didn't care, so that when Joss slipped into Zoe's physics class no one even noticed her or even mentioned her, not even the teacher who had just started talking about space. Joss was excited at first, but so much math was happening. The teacher also brought in how the universe began, and that math was supposed to clarify space, but unfortunately it did not.
When did the universe begin? This was the big question, and a lot of people had thought about this, but computers very smugly bring up that the universe began Thursday, January First, 1970, because UNIX Epoch time began then, which was the basis for all digital time. There were fanatics about this whole thing, and they were not ones to change. Joss lost interest, but had no hope of somehow changing time so that this school thing would be over now instead of say later.
"Is this it?" said Joss, pretending to fall over in her small desk.
"Have you never been to school before?" said Zoe.
She had not. Joss was, in fact, unfamiliar with the concept of school, as she later clarified by answering the question that Zoe posed.
"I mean for the first 80 years of life I lived in, like, a tube," said Joss.
"Wait. You're 80 years old?" said Zoe.
"Is that not normal? I mean the years are different on my planet," Joss explained.
"Really, by how much?" said Zoe.
"Well, it's five year longer than earth," said Joss.
"You're 400 years old?" said Zoe.
Zoe put her head down on her desk. "Is that's a lot?" she said.
When Zoe sat up a pencil that had stuck to her face fell off.
"Yep," said Zoe.
"Oh," said Joss.
Joss ran out of the class as fast as she could, which she could do really fast. Bodies were everywhere, just everywhere. That's all she saw, bodies, so many bodies walking around. They were all over the place. She sat and leaned against one of those dead trees to let the day pass when Tomorrow Man just floated by, speaking in a strange language.
"All them who in the course of it speak see that the line is not drawn. Full of wandering spots of the sun, now is when they will find it. They exist beyond," said Tomorrow Man.
"Joss," said Zoe, shaking her, and then none of that was there. The world was normal, sweet. Joss was relieved by that. She then apologized to Zoe about all of that.
"Don't worry about that," said Zoe.
"Try this again."
September 21, 1941. Leningrad
The bodies were piled up like crazy. It was quiet right now.
"Hey, I think we can move now," said one of the very dead corpses, whose mouth was not moving.
"Let's give it a sec," said a second one.
They did, and it was still quiet, so the bodies were moved, and two young men walked out casually and cleaned themselves off.
"That was a bad one, man," said the young soldier with deep blue eyes. His name was Vasily. Also he was covered in blood, like really a lot of it. He took a cigarette packet, lit one and handed it to the other guy, Lev, who had dark brown hair and a badly shaven beard.
"I know man," said Lev.
Vasily leaned over the Neva River and tossed his cigarette into it.
"Should we report in to Gennadi?" said Vasily.
"Nah, I'm covered in him," said Lev.
"Oh that sucks. He was a nice guy," said Vasily, who also leaned over the railing, smoking. You don't see a lot of stuff when looking out at the Neva and smoking, so they did not hear the evidently loud steps of the hippo behind them. When it came into view Vasily hit Lev on the shoulder.
"Look how neat that thing is," said Lev.
"Aint these things like the most dangerous animals in the world?" said Vasily.
"You know it buddy," said Lev, who jumped into the river.
The thing about eclipses is they don't really block out the sky. Vasily was not really thinking about the eclipse. All he wanted to do was challenge the hippo, or something. Then the hippo started giving him a death glare, but he felt for a second that the hippo and he really were getting to like each other. He felt that so much that he went up and petted it. Man and beast together again, Vasily was thinking, as he hugged it, crying.
Vasily would have died there because them hippos are no joke, if not for the intervention of the zoo keeper Jov who in loud Hebrew started to yell at the hippo, ".לא אוכלים את האיש הזה"
The hippo stopped right away and walked back with Jov, who looked back at Lev, who winked and waved back like a dork.