As the bus left another town behind and started heading into the mountain pass, Chie rubbed her eyes slightly. It was dark, and she was tired – but the endpoint of the route would be coming up in less than half an hour, and after that she’d be able to head to a motel and crash. Normally she was able to catch small naps during the many rest-stop breaks, but what sleep she had gotten had been too light and shallow to be of particular value. Too excited about the engagement, maybe.
Chie just wanted to go home. And home, even for a veteran driver like her, was not this bus. The bus was not a home for anyone – it was just an impartial container moving from here to there and there to here, a vacuum being continually filled and emptied, its occupants getting on and off like waves washing in and out of the shore. In the short term a beach looks unchanged despite the force of these steady waves, but in the long term the effects of longshore flow and erosion can be seen; in the same way, the bus would eventually get dirty and break down, and people would try to fix it by cleaning it, upgrading its mechanical parts, and adding new technology just as they try to fix beaches by building groins and seawalls and trucking in sand… but in the end, for both, the decay was unavoidable. Humans are arrogant, Chie concluded, to think they can fix anything without facing consequences.
As she pondered all of this, in part as a method of staying awake, she gave a cursory glance in the rearview mirror. The few passengers who remained appeared to be asleep. She sighed deeply. For sure, she loved her job and wouldn’t settle for anything less, but sometimes she wished it was less mindless, more personal, less alienating. She never got to know the real lives of her passengers, even though she truly cared about them. A brief conversation here, a “good morning” there – that was about the extent of her interactions with them, and it was mandated to be that way. Nothing would change if she was suddenly removed from the equation. Her passengers would still get on and off, same bus, same route, same times, with just a different person at the wheel, and that didn’t matter. Her work was largely unskilled, and she knew that even her experience and seniority, in a time of financial crisis, would not prevent her from being replaced with a desperate person willing to be paid less to do her job. That’s just how it was – and for her, how it would always be. The decay was unavoidable.
At 11:06pm on a Tuesday night, a wrong-way driver speeding through the mountain pass slammed their car into the front of the bus. Chie saw it coming. The drop-off on her right, another oncoming car on her left, she did nothing but step on the brake. Both drivers and all passengers died. In this, too, the decay was unavoidable. Beyond the grave she would be condemned for lack of action, for supposedly killing all her passengers, for the crime of knowing something was going to happen beforehand and just letting it happen. But that’s how it was. On the last stretch of the route, with everything around her rushing towards an undefinable conclusion, Chie had been moving unavoidably towards the accident, and she could not have stopped that the way she could not have stopped time, for time flows apathetically in one single direction – at least in the here and now in which she had lived. So, in the end, they never made it. Like a tsunami ravaging a coastline, the bus itself was abruptly cleaned out and destroyed –
And tomorrow, it would be made anew.