“Fuck me, it’s cold.”
The bus came over the pure white hills and slowly approached us. Jake hated the snow. Personally, I didn’t mind it, but it’d be nice to be on the warm bus.
It slowed to a halt at the bus stop, right on time. That was the only benefit of moving here, I suppose: back home, none of the public transit was remotely on time, ever. But when you can’t walk anywhere, the public transit has to work.
The bus turned its rotating light on so everyone nearby could see it. The next one would be there in half an hour, so if they didn’t want to wait, they’d have to be onboard.
Jake and I got onboard as quickly as we could, given all our bulky clothes. Everyone else onboard had at least a thick jacket on. We took our goggles off first so we could find seats.
The entire thing could seat about a hundred, but it was never full. All the designs called for it to be that size, and so it was. We sat down and pulled off our gloves so we could relieve the stiffness in our fingers; Jake took my hands and put them against his belly, under his coat.
“Try not to get too excited,” he said dryly with a smirk. We’d been dating for two years and had been working together for five. He didn’t usually worry about my hands, but we’d been out in the snow for longer than usual, so he worried about me. He was always worried about me.
“I’ll be fine,” I said with a smile, pulling my hands back. He put his own hands on his belly.
“Well, fine,” he said, crossing his arms and pouting melodramatically, “If you don’t want me to take care of you, I guess I just won’t.”
I finished spreading out my soaked gloves on my knees and looked over my glasses at him. “What? Are you mad because your woman doesn’t need a big, strong man to take care of her?”
“If you needed a big, strong man, we’d both be very lonely.”
I chuckled at his joke. He was a little thin, but he was a fantastic scientist.
The bus shut its doors and the heat kicked on. The sign at the front displayed “Next Stop: Antarctica Base 3 – 44 minutes 12 seconds”. The snowstorms must have been worse than usual. Everyone on board slipped off their coats immediately. It would be 80 degrees on the bus before long. The bus rides were the only thing to look forward to on long days like this.
Ever since the Antarctic bases were open to the public, everything changed. It had only been three years, but the population exploded. Most of them wouldn’t discuss where they were from or why they came. Even more didn’t ask. Antarctica was a place to start anew. It certainly made the housing better here.
The windows fogged up more quickly and more deeply than usual. The snowstorms were really bad. Worse than I’d ever seen. Jake seemed uneasy. He was shifting in his seat, unable to get comfortable. Something was wrong, and he looked like he knew what.
“What’s up?” I asked, trying to remain calm. He could tell he was worrying me, but he couldn’t stop.
“I was playing with the Ham radio last week and got a transmission. Something I wasn’t supposed to hear. That none of us were supposed to hear. And now the snowstorms are worse, it’s just… It’s not good.”
“What is it?”
He stopped and looked at me. He pulled me in close and held me for a moment.
“Do you love me?”
I was confused by his question.
“Of course I do. What’s wrong?” Now he was really worrying me.
“Say it. I need you to tell me.”
Now I was freaking out.
“Jake, tell me what this is about.”
“I will. But please. Just… I need you to.”
“I love you, Jake.”
He held me a little tighter, then let go of me and turned me to look him in the eye.
“I love you, Hannah.”
He held me again. I was crying and I didn’t even know why. This felt like goodbye, for some reason.
“A meteor hit Earth two days ago. I heard on the radio when it would hit and what would happen. It’s the dark season, so we never noticed all the dust, but I heard the storms would get worse. I have no idea how long everyone will survive out here without supplies from offshore.”
Now he was crying. We must have looked insane.
“I made a few phone calls,” he continued, “and found out there’s a ship headed from here to the shelters in America. I bought you a spot, with all the money I could scrounge up.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was crying harder than ever.
“What’ll happen to you?” I asked, through my tears.
He just shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”
The 20 minute alert pinged on the intercom.
We sat there in silence for a moment, taking in all that happened.
Then the bus turned over.
The bus had been designed by half a dozen car companies. It’d be more aptly described as a tank. It was like a 747 on treads, but could only seat 100. The rest of the space was dedicated to energy storage, fuel, food, water, bathrooms, fifteen different types of communicators, and anything else you can imagine would be necessary for long trips on the bus. Needless to say, it was difficult to turn over, empty or full. And yet here we were, upside-down.
I came to after a few seconds. I was on top of Jake. His eyes… I will never forget the way he looked. I found out later his neck had snapped. I couldn’t see anything; the emergency power was localized to just the front of the bus. Nearly everyone was dead. Either they had fallen wrong, gotten crushed by luggage, or they were pinned under other bodies. I was the only one able to move freely. My instincts kicked in. I went straight for the front, where all the communications gear was. The driver was knocked unconscious. I grabbed the radio, hoping against hope that someone might hear me.
“Hello? Hello? This is Antarctic Bus 429, we’ve flipped over and need immediate assistance.”
“Bus 429, this is base, can you tell us your location?”
“I don’t know how to figure that out. I’m just a passenger, the driver is out cold.”
The woman’s tone changed immediately. She didn’t expect that.
“Alright, next to the wheel, there’s a touch screen that shows location and directions. There should be two numbers there. Those are your coordinates.”
I scanned what now served as a ceiling for the device she described. It had its own battery, so I didn’t have to worry about it dying on me. It was shining brightly overhead; the coordinates were dead in the center.
“77°19′01″ South by 39°42′12″ East” I said into the radio.
“Alright, 429, teams are being dispatched. Can I get your name?”
“Hannah,” I said exasperatedly, “Dr. Hannah Soong.”
“Well, Hannah, you don’t have to worry about anything. We’re going to take care of everybody onboard, I promise.”
I set down the radio and let the emotions wash over me. I moved back to where I was sitting, put on all of my coats and gloves, and waited, failing to keep my tears back.
The emergency teams were there within fifteen minutes. They took me back to the base as soon as they could. I found out Jake had died at 6:22pm. I’ll never forget it. There were fifteen people injured and three who died. News agencies leapt on the story, thinking it mattered to tell the story. No one was listening. Not anymore.
I was on a boat back to the mainland, to the Houston shelter, as soon as I could be. I couldn’t stay in Antarctica, not without Jake. So I left, thinking everything might be alright.
And then I saw America covered in snow.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.