So there we all were, on a bus travelling along a remote Peruvian road. Modern by Peruvian standards, the vehicle still creaked and groaned each time we hit a bump, or took a turn in the haphazard fashion that our driver had taken to employing. I’m sure he did this in the interest of time; there could be no mistake now.
The sky behind us was turning green.
Each of us ignored this as well we could, but to again be faced with the immediate prospect of another encounter was creeping into our collective psyche. I did my best to entertain Bianca as she bounced along with the rest of us, clutching her doll. She soon grew tired of my act, and returned her vacant stare to the horizon before us. I knew her thoughts remained clouded with the horror of the raid, the feeling of her mother’s blood on her face, and our world’s newfound emptiness that her life so perfectly represented.
I made my way to the rear of the vehicle, where Anders and his brother were conversing quietly, albeit through clenched teeth.
“I am done speaking to a toaster,” Anders declared.
“Anders,” Zelle countered, “Lemons might be the pearl of the jungle, but they're nothing to start a family feud over. In my travels to Guam, The Dutch Antilles and Nebraska, I've met a lot of people and animals. I've listened to a lot of music. I've tried snorkeling. I've seen the hollow stares of the spider monkey, calling ‘Zelle, Zelle, I have twice the thumb power, yet you mock me. Zelle, Zelle.’ I have eaten the spider monkey with pommes frites in Bangladesh, and felt its four thumbed wrath wreaking havoc amongst my aluminum innards. I've caressed sweet Nigerian sleep, still reeling from spider monkey fever, with the screaming flies eyeing me a thousand fold from there perches in the brush.
What we've got to think about is tomorrow: How much coffee do I have left? Where are my sunglasses? Why am I crying? How do these eyes continue to cry? Why am I crying, Anders? There - you don't know. Neither do I. In conclusion, I am confident that like the shark and the wasp, we can peacefully coexist like two kernels on the cob. Of corn. Which the Native Americans called maize.”
Zelle sank back into his chair. Anders turned to me with a look of desperation on his face. “His circuits are failing again. We might need to take him offline for a bit.”
Anders knew I would not approve of this. “He is our only source of information here in Peru,” I reminded him. “Taking him offline would leave us too vulnerable to errors in navigation; and I’m assuming you’ve seen the sky.” His reaction told me that he had not. He turned in his seat to press his face to the window, and screamed.
They were upon us.
Zelle mechanically lurched forward. His plastic brow bulged as his musculature attempted an expression, though which one I’m not sure.
“This is death,” he said, now standing. “This is death’s arrival. This is the hour we learn what we shall never learn, and entrench ourselves in the foreign circumstances that harbor us. This place, this time, so focal to us, so intimate, yet we cannot understand this road, this vehicle, even our own beings as they were to us moments ago. Would we prefer a bed in a hospital? A beach? Lungs full of raw sewage? Perhaps, but to death, preference is an addendum to the absolute. This is the absence of expectation.”
As Zelle spoke, the roof of the bus above him began to split apart, and with a sudden thrust the vehicle was torn in two. The rear of the vehicle detached, carrying away Anders and Philippe. I could hear their cries as I watched Zelle tear apart at his midsection, pulled simultaneously upwards and downwards. For some reason, I could not look away from the odd sight of the various bodily and mechanical fluids his remains were leaking as they splattered upon the still rotating, severed axle that was grating the gravel road beneath us.
My stare was broken when Bianca screamed. I turned to her as her eyes, bathed in horrific green, were fixed just past my shoulder, her mouth agape. I then briefly felt the very odd sensation of fingers inside my brain, and beheld the strange sight of my own screaming face as my eyes were forced from their sockets and dangled just in front of my mouth.
Finally, I joined Zelle, Anders, and the rest of humankind in realizing the absence of expectation.