High street is empty. There are no cars, no trucks, no pedestrians, nobody. You can see a fair distance into the OSU campus from here and there’s no one there either. Come to think of it, there aren’t any birds or animals either.
It’s really strange, but it’s alright. I have the scroll case and the bus will come. All I have to do is wait and it will be alright.
I’m really bored, so I’m glad when the bus shows up. It’s white, like it should be and it says COTA on the side. Didn’t those use to be a different shape letters? It doesn’t matter. The bus stops and I get on. The bus driver has tusks, which might have been scary, but when I show him the scroll case, he’s so cheerful as he waves me to my seat that it’s impossible to be afraid of him. I’m the only passenger. I should have expected that.
I sit down, the doors close and the bus starts driving North. It’s really boring, looking out the window at an empty street. I hope my destination isn’t too far away. Graceland wouldn’t be too bad, but the Continent could take a really long time. Good thing the bus isn’t stopping. Wonder where everybody is. Maybe they all went to a concert? That’d be a stadium full to brag about. It might start listing if people weren’t spread evenly. Then you’d need a tug with a really long cable to pull it back. Hope it lists to the West. To the East, and the tug would have to be on the West side, so you’d need a cable across the Rockies. That can’t be good.
I must have dozed off a bit, because the weather has changed completely. The sky is slate gray and it’s darkish. Can’t seem to make out the clouds, must be one heck of a solid cover. I really hope the bus stop is right next to where I’m going.
So where are we? I don’t recognize it here. Few buildings, we can’t be that far North already, can we? Strange style too. I don’t remember that.
There’s a fence across the landscape and where it crosses the street, there are gates. Dark concrete buildings on both sides, another one built into the fence a little further. Everything is finished in matte black. The bus comes a stop and I see that the gates are separate for the North-bound lane and the South-bound one. Not just that, each lane has two gates behind each other, like an airlock— or a killing zone. But I have the scroll case.
Three people come out of the dark building. They’re wearing uniforms I’ve never seen before; one is carrying a gun and another a crossbow — he looks too burly to be human. The third approaches the bus and knocks on the driver’s window. The driver opens it and the guy outside rants at him in a language I don’t understand. The driver snarls back and the guys backs off a step. Suddenly I’m glad the driver has tusks.
The driver points at me and says, “Zagh shakh”. The guys walks around the bus and knocks on my window. It doesn’t open. What does he want? He looks really impatient. I look at the driver, who mimes taking something out of his pocket. The scroll case!
I take out the scroll case and the guy outside mimes opening it. So I do. There’s scroll in it, so I take it out and unroll it. The script on it is beautiful, but I have no idea what it is. The seal at the bottom seems to glow in the gloom. I hold it up against the window.
The guy outside looks extremely pissed now and stomps back to the driver’s window. He says something curt and nasty and the driver returns an extremely polite sounding “Nauva”. The guy stalks off and the driver closes the window. He then turns around and gives me a broad smile and a thumbs up.
As I’m rolling up the scroll to put it back into the case, another bus arrives from the opposite direction. It gets the same treatment, but then the first gates open for both buses.
We roll forward until we’re completely enclosed by steel barred fence. I hear the clang as the gates behind us and behind the other bus close. The other bus is as empty as this one, with a single girl. She looks familiar, but I can’t remember from what.
Then the gates in front of us open and we drive off.
Where are we headed? Is it a good place or a bad one? Am I the lucky one, or is that girl escaping while I enter a hell hole? Who put that fence there and what are they keeping out? Or in? What are those uniforms? What would they drive around in? Or would they travel on horseback? Maybe ride a dragon? That would be funny, me being exchanged for some dragon’s favorite maiden. Not so funny for me, but I bet you someone would tell a hilarious story of it. Around a campfire; you’re going to need a campfire even in the middle of the day with that weather.
I realize the sun is shining on my cheek. Dozed off again. The weather has returned to being nice. There’s something wrong, tho— The sun should be on the other side! I look outside and I recognize High street. We’re driving South and are close to the OSU campus again. How the hell—
We get to the bus stop across the street from where I got on. The bus stops and the driver gestures at me to get off. As I walk towards the door, he bows in his seat. I bow back and get out.
I watch the bus drive off on the empty street. Getting back where I started is a bit of a let-down, but at least I didn’t get drenched or chewed or shot. I walk back to Jones Tower, and take the elevator to my room. The door— somebody has taped a poster to my door, covering the bit of calligraphy that was there. Elwing landing on Vingilot, wearing the last Silmaril. At least whoever did this understood the message he covered up and it’s a really nice picture. I’ll have to ask around and see whose this is.
I get out my keys and unlock the door.