PART five: diin
Chapter 35: The Bus
The second week wasn’t as exciting as the first for DIIN and CREFY. There was nothing new for them to experience, no new sights for them to discover. Neither child noticed this however. The wheelbarrow made everything exciting. They took turns pushing each other around in it whenever they got a chance, and they constantly fought for who got to push it when CREFY’s mother and GOBA sat in it. Even fixing the wheelbarrow, every time one of its wheels broke down, was fun for them.
The group arrived at their first destination a full day ahead of schedule. It was the largest town they had come across until then. DIIN and CREFY had never seen so many OSZA in a single place. The town was swarming with activity. Its broken down buildings, the carts of food that littered its various streets, the multicolored trash heaps that seemed to form an entire layer of the town all by themselves; it all amazed them to no end. Even more amazing were the number of animals they came across in the town. Canines, felines and the larger ones they still hadn’t learnt the names of; a number of them roamed the streets freely, squatting wherever they pleased, only to be chased away by a passing vehicle of some sort.
To the kids’ dismay, they were given no time to explore their new surroundings. They were instead immediately taken to a large bus stop in the center of the town, and commanded to stay with their mothers, while their fathers went away for what seemed like an eternity.
“Well?” DIIN’s mother asked, as the fathers returned.
“They were more expensive than expected. But we got a place on the next bus. They will take us into the next country, and then put us on a train that will take us the rest of the way,” CREFY’s father replied.
“Is that thing a bus?” CREFY asked, pointing at the nearest structure he saw.
“No, my little baby. That large vehicle there… that’s a bus. And we get to sit in it,” his mother said, patting him on the head. “When do we leave?” she asked her husband.
“In the evening. Just after the suns set,” he replied.
“I’ll stay with them, brother. Why don’t you take the children around? Perhaps find us some food?” CREFY’s father said.
DIIN’s father nodded and held out both his hands. DIIN and CREFY each grabbed one, and away they went. They spent the next three hours walking around the town, searching through whatever trash they could, collecting any left overs they came across. The OSZA in the town they found themselves in were the complete opposite of the kind they had come across so far. None so much as smiled at them. None offered to share any food. Most of them didn’t even let them scavenge in peace. They ran after them and chased them away, claiming that the trash they were rifling through belonged to them and them alone. They returned to the bus stop, tired, with barely anything to show for their efforts. All the amazement DIIN and CREFY had felt about the town had been washed away by the meanness and anger they had witnessed. Nonetheless, the prospect of sitting in a bus still excited them.
The children fell asleep almost instantly upon their return. They awoke to find themselves in a large vehicle, with long benches and open windows. The first thing they noticed was that they were bobbing up and down, despite not doing anything to achieve such motion. It was a strange sensation, and yet, it was one that pleased them greatly. They climbed atop DIIN’s father and looked out of the window he was sitting at. He held them as they took turns sticking their head out of it, feeling the wind in their faces. It all made them feel a joy unlike any other.
The next day passed by before they even realized it. The bus traveled for hours on end, stopping only at strange places where some kind of a pipe was inserted into its rear end. DIIN’s father called them fuel stations. Apparently, they gave the bus enough energy to run for the next few hours. The bus, however, seemed to be rather naughty. It often stopped whenever it pleased, and only started again after its driver had given it enough water and allowed it to cool down by opening the front of its big mouth. The driver was a mean little OSZA. He screamed at the bus whenever it got too tired, and he often kicked it too. Strangely, once his anger subsided, he seemed to pray, just like their parents did, for the bus to start again. Stranger still was the fact that he often prayed to the Gods and the bus itself in the same breath. DIIN and CREFY always had to suppress their giggles when he did this. Their mothers demanded it. They told them that it was in their best interests to not anger the driver. But the kids knew that the driver didn’t mind. He often looked at them and smiled whenever their attempts to hold back their laughter failed, shaking his head and baring his funnily stained teeth at them, often laughing with them, before composing himself and resuming his rituals to start the bus back up again.
The bus was stopped by some angry looking OSZA in uniforms at the end of the second day. DIIN watched silently as the driver got down and spoke to them for a few minutes, after which he handed them something. One of the OSZA opened it and counted its contents. An argument broke out. DIIN couldn’t make out most of what was discussed, but it seemed to be related to what was handed over. One of the OSZA pushed the driver aside and climbed the bus. He walked through the entire bus, counting the number of passengers on it. DIIN’s father handed her to her mother, who held her tightly. The OSZA walked off the bus when he was done counting, and screamed some instructions at the driver. The driver promptly ran back into the bus, and announced something about everybody having to chip in if they wanted to continue further. DIIN moved back to the window and continued to watch everything unfold. She saw a few OSZA get off the bus in protest. She watched in horror as they were beaten by the uniformed OSZA and then carried away screaming. Her mother grabbed her, and put a hand over her mouth before she could begin to cry.
“Quiet, child. Don’t worry. Nobody will hurt us,” she said.
CREFY’s father, just like the other passengers, removed some of the currency he had hidden in one of his soles and handed it to the driver, who promptly counted everything and handed it over to the uniformed OSZA. They counted it again, grabbed him by the neck and whispered something to him, before letting him go. The driver ran back into the bus, started it and barreled forward. Nobody spoke of what had happened, and DIIN and CREFY knew better than to inquire about any of it.
Three days later, the bus was stopped again. This time, however, there were no uniformed OSZA. The driver did not get down either. He switched the bus off and remained glued to his seat. DIIN’s mother pushed both the children under her seat as masked OSZA walked into the bus. DIIN couldn’t see much, but she could tell that the masked OSZA were grabbing some of the other passengers and taking them off the bus.
“What do we have here?” one of them asked, as he bent down and peeked under the seat DIIN’s mother sat on. There was something about his bright yellow eyes that scared DIIN, but she was too young to be able to put a finger on it. She could tell by the way CREFY had gripped her hand that he felt the same.
“Please. They’re just children. We have nothing to offer. We have no currency, no valuables,” her father said.
“I have no choice but to sell them then,” the masked OSZA answered.
“Please. No. We’ll do anything,” DIIN’s mother said. “I… I will do anything,” she said softly, a few seconds later. DIIN could tell that both her father, and CREFY’s, had gotten up as soon as her mother had uttered those words.
“No. You will not. Please, Sir. We have nothing,” DIIN’s father pleaded. “Please let us go.”
“Oh… But an offer has already been made, has it not?” the masked OSZA said. There was a hint of some kind of laughter in his voice that made DIIN’s skin crawl.
“No. Please. That cannot happen. We cannot let it,” CREFY’s father said.
“What are the two of you going to do exactly? I have enough bullets to kill you both ten times over. Sit down! Or I will increase my payment to include both your wives. And when I’m done with them, I will take your kids anyway.”
“No! No! Please, Sir! Please! Put the gun down. Anything you want. Anything,” DIIN’s mother pleaded, as DIIN wondered what a gun was. “Leave all of them alone. Please calm down. Please…”
DIIN began to crawl out from under the seat when she realized her mother was getting up. “No, child. Stay! Please,” her mother said. “You too, my husband. Stay. For my sake, and hers,” she told DIIN’s father. Both father and daughter had no choice but to obey.
DIIN watched as her mother’s feet made their way off the bus. She got out from under the seat and climbed into her father’s lap when she heard him sobbing. She was distraught. She didn’t know what to do. She had never seen him cry before. She didn’t even think he could. He was the strongest OSZA she knew after all. Instinctively, she gave him the biggest hug she could, and held on to him as he continued to cry. CREFY stayed under the seat, and his parents let him. They seemed to be as frozen as he was. DIIN could tell from the way their heads were held down that they felt guilty about something. She did the same thing when she was ashamed of whatever she had done.
DIIN’s mother returned an hour later. Her clothing was torn in a few places, and there were marks of all sorts on her body and face. She sat next to DIIN’s father and held onto him, her eyes fixated on his, her gaze telling him something that DIIN did not notice. DIIN could sense that her father was agitated, that there was something he wanted to do. Experience told her that he was about to burst with anger, but to her surprise, he stayed still, fighting back the tears. He kept murmuring the word sorry repeatedly after the bus started. DIIN’s mother put his arms around her and closed her eyes. DIIN hugged them both for the rest of the night, while they did their best to push back their tears.