What Happened Exactly?

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                                                            What Happened Exactly?
A lumbering bus crammed front to back with morning commuters (many with their heads poking out of open windows, some on their way to work, some to school) screeches to a halt as the driver slams on the brakes, spilling people against each other in intricate waves you could plot on graphs if you chose to. Why did they stop? “What was that noise?” pipes the driver, “it was some kind of explosion.” “It was a rocket!” a few dozen people cry out. “Whatever it hit wasn’t us,” a snarky single voice adds. “Who stops a whole crowded bus because of a rocket explosion anymore?” Then
1(a) a second rocket slams straight into the side of the bus—if the driver hadn’t stopped it would have whizzed past the empty spot in the road, over the head of a cyclist and a taxi driver, to explode finally in a vacant lot more than a hundred yards distant, setting off no more than slight tremors in the back wheels of the bus. Since he did stop, everyone on the right side of the bus is killed or permanently maimed, and the damage on the left side is extreme too as hurtling bodies and shrapnel that had until recently been the coherent metal of a bus mushes and smashes against them. The driver lives after a limb is amputated, but skin grafts only partially repair extensive scarring to his right side, and nothing ever repairs the intense mental scarring brought on by guilt and second guessing
 (b) a rocket lobs in a soft arc above the bus, landing and exploding a few yards past it, instantly killing the driver and about two dozen passengers on his side—maimings and mutilations to be tallied later, if anyone concerned with rescue and care for the injured has time left over to compile such statistics. Bad as it is, it might have been worse—if the rocket had landed a foot or two closer and instead of rocking on its wheels then settling into place, the bus had lurched to the left and crashed with all the people aboard?
(c) a rocket skims so close to the top of the bus that it scorches a burnt and blistering trail across the paint, but speeds on in a slow-leveling arc until it explodes, harmlessly, in a large ramshackle vacant lot (formerly a pharmacy). Everyone aboard the bus feels lucky to be alive after such a close call—some for days to come, some for weeks or months, some for a period that at present remains indeterminate
2 (a) a rocket whizzes by, barely two yards ahead of the stopped bus, continuing ‘til it smashes through the boarded up window of an intermittently open convenience store, making a rubble of some of the inventory, torching the rest and spewing a good deal of the facade, pellets of wood, brick and cement hurled with ballistic force at passersby, some of whom jump out of the way just in time. If it weren’t for the quick thinking of the heroic driver, bus and passengers would have been directly in the path of that rocket
(b) after a long double breath during which no further explosions erupt, the driver breathes out, deliberately and at length, then shifts into gear and lurches forward, putting three seconds’ distance between the vehicle and the rocket that now smashes the roadway with force enough to have sent the bus and its human cargo careening end over end with who knows what resultant loss of life or worse? Was the driver, so recently disparaged as unduly timorous, suddenly blessed with divinatory powers? Would even that have been enough to have saved them if it weren’t for the acute sudden jerk of his reflexes?
(c) Two rockets explode on the highway, one ahead, one behind, close enough to reach the bus with a trickling gravelly spray (and craze one pane of the back window), but causing no further damage apart from a general lurching of standing passengers one against another. What to do now? Forward or reverse, the danger of meeting an incoming rocket is equally great. Standing still are the odds any better?

About the Author: 
Martin Heavisides has been, in alternate lives, a child, a writer, a student, a street vendor, a book scout, a bookstore employee, a walking courier, a security guard, a writer, a child.

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