The teachers and the two senior boys were standing in the front with the driver making small talk. One of the freshmen came hurrying to the front of the bus.
"This isn't the road! We took the wrong turn."
"I realize tha ...."
"Get lost fag .." Jed Anderson suddenly changed his tune, thinking of the two teachers with him. "Go back with your girlfriend, Murphy," he said with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
The driver was trying to slow the bus, but the deeper into the valley they went the deeper the snow got. It was like that sometimes. When the storms blew in from the west, lowlands would get more snow than the hills. If you got high enough you could see the clouds below you, dumping their moisture as you sat in clear sunlight.
"Do you know this road, Jack?" asked the driver.
"It's River Road. It goes all the way to Jackson, but you can turn around where the bridge goes over to Bolin."
Jack Murphy was suddenly shoved aside by Jed, who pushed by him saying, "If you're stayin' I'm leavin'!"
In doing this, he caused Jack to bump the driver's elbow just as he was trying to negotiate a bend to the left on a suddenly steep downhill section of road. This startled the driver, and he over-corrected. The bus was no longer turning with the road, it was starting to slide straight ahead. The last thing the driver did was glance at the speedometer. It read 47 MPH.
It was at this speed that the bus connected with the rock outcropping, hitting a protruding section just behind the right front tire where the vehicle widened from the regular truck front-end into the much wider bus section. The collision occurred with such a powerful impact that the steering wheel broke in the driver's hands. His chest slammed into the column with enough force that it splintered his breastbone, sending fragments everywhere within him. A single large piece cut his heart in half. The two teachers standing by the door well also died instantly, one having his head dashed into the rocks and the other his spinal column shattered by the dividing rail he was leaning against. Jack Murphy flew headlong into the part of the radio that was screwed just above the windshield, crushing his skull. Don Holland was nearly cut in two by a large piece of the dashboard that had been torn by protruding rock just before his body connected with the jagged edge.
Just behind the driver, Pat and Kevin Anderson were both thrown forward. The twin brothers always liked to sit up front to see where they were going. Kevin's head was smashed into the pole that stood right behind and to the right of the driver. Pat's face crashed into the plexiglass panel that separated him from the driver. To their right, Scott Hyland's neck had been broken when he flew forward into the chrome rail in front of the first row, the same rail that had killed his math teacher.
For some on the bus, the accident seemed to have happened without noise. For others, the noise seemed like it would never stop. The fact is that nobody had seen it coming and that, though there had of course been noise from the collision, within the bus it hadn't really been that loud. A few moments of absolute silence followed, then the human noises began. No one had escaped injury in the accident, but the most grievous were suffered by those in the very front of the bus and the few children who had been standing at the time of impact. Cries came from all over the bus, some just whimpers and others turning into screams of fear.
Near the back, in the second to the last row on the right, the least injured boy on the bus was just begriming to realize what had happened. A second before the crash his bunched-up parka passed just in front of his face as he prepared to prop it against the window for use as a pillow. It had greatly reduced the blow to his head when he was thrown forward. The backs of his hands hurt and he had a nosebleed, but there didn't appear to be any other damage.
His name is Mike Waters. He was fourteen years old, a freshman at Dover, and one of the two least liked boys in school. Mike is the subject of this story. He'll claim that he's not a hero. His best friend - his boyfriend, had just died. So had one of his worst tormentors. He had known one type of horror during the several months leading up to the accident. He was about to come face to face with his worst fears, thrown at him suddenly in ways he had never imagined.
My name is Andy Stark and I'll be your primary narrator, though others will be helping me write this. The parts written by those people will be headed with their names and a brief description of how they fit into this sad saga.
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