I’ve always felt cared for when I see school buses dropping off students. So that’s probably why that morning when I rode to school and watched the buses line up, everything seemed normal. When I had awoken that morning, I just did my morning routine. Get dressed, fix my hair, do makeup, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and go to the bus stop. Just the typical routine. I also didn’t realize that only about a quarter of the kids on my bus were there. And my parents barely spoke that morning. And that I had forgotten to turn on my phone. So when I got to school, I was completely stunned. Barely anyone had been there, even teachers, and all of our posters with the American flag on them were covered with black cloth. And the most startling thing was the dozens of people in full-body metal protection suits with guns in their hands directing us to the gym. When I finally saw Josey that morning, I was relieved to know that I wasn’t alone.
“Josey! What happened?” I asked her, hoping she knew.
“I don’t know. All I’ve heard is that Northern Uglad attacked last night. If that’s true, then there’s no way this will end up nicely,” Josey told me. Just thinking of Northern Uglad sent chills down my spine.
“They attacked? How? What’s going to happen?” I could already feel tears stinging my eyes, but I pushed them back. “What happened to our families? Where are they?”
“Be quiet! Do you really want anyone from Uglad hearing you talk about their country?” Josey warned me. But when I looked at her, I could see the fear in her eyes, too. We both walked quietly to the gym, because we knew there was nothing we could do. And whatever was about to happen, we knew it wasn’t going to be good.
When we finally sat down in the gym, there were even more guards. And even less students. I noticed a few people from my classes, but that was it. On the way in, I had heard three gunshots, and the entire school had fallen silent. Just as the last students filed in, the doors slammed shut, as if they were being controlled by a remote. In front of us appeared a screen with Hades Salem, the ruler of Uglad. Before I knew it, a video of him was playing.
“Hello, I am Hades Salem. I’m making this video for the day America is put to rest. Each of you listening to this are the few remaining of America. However, you are no longer an American citizen, as you are now official captives of Northern Uglad. Congratulations! You will be taken to Uglad today and continue the rest of your lives there.” And then the screen went black. Few remaining? Had everyone else been killed? That couldn’t be, I was just with Mom, Dad, and Reed this morning. Is that why they were so quiet? And Reed stayed home? And why was I going to Uglad? But before I could process any of this, a booming voice entered the room.
“Outside are buses, get on them,” the voice told us. It came from a tall, muscular man standing in the middle of the gym. He had a thick accent and a growing mustache. Just by looking at him I could tell he wasn’t planning on telling any of us what happened. Before I knew it, I saw a group of students standing up, trying to stop the guards. But within seconds, they were all shot dead. Josey and I looked at each other without a clue of what we should do. Before we could think, a guard shot his gun in the air and forced us all to the buses. The buses we rode weren’t at all like the ones that made me feel comforted. They were an ugly grey with a steel coating and dozens of windows. I immediately sat in the back next to a window, so I could see what was going on. As we drove to wherever we were going, I looked outside to catch a glimpse of what had happened. There was no one on the streets and all the windows had curtains on them. When we went by my neighborhood, I felt a sting of pain, remembering my family. As we neared downtown, I noticed some different things. Asterin looked completely deserted and so did Bistline. When we passed Carthorine, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In the middle of streets, people were bowing down to the Uglad flag. And after that, more officers appeared, shooting each of them to death and piling the bodies in a garbage truck. That had to be why Asterin and Bistline were deserted. After thinking about it, an unforgettable thought came to my mind. Asterin, Bistline, and Carthorine were in alphabetical order. After Carthorine was Enser, my town. Did that mean they were headed there?
Just then I remembered my phone. I dug it out of my pocket and turned it on. Josey looked at me like I was crazy, but I kept waiting for it to turn on. When I finally saw the screen pop up, there were already three notifications. Two of them were from BBC News, warning that Uglad was attacking. The messages were sent at 2:00 in the morning. Man, I’m an idiot. I remarked of myself. The third notification, though, was a text from my Mom.
Aubrey, I’m sending this because it’s my last chance. This morning, Uglad attacked
New York. It was a huge surprise to the government, and because of that it’s been
easy for them to take control. The city had made a list of the strongest teenagers in
case they were ever needed to join to the army suddenly. When Uglad attacked,
they demanded the youngest and strongest of the nation. Since we weren’t prepared,
we used the list we had made for the military. Because you were on the list, we had
no choice but to send you. I’m so sorry this happened, it never should have. Whether
we see each other again, just know that our family is still together. We love you.
The text sent tears to my eyes, but once again I held them back. Josey, who was reading over my shoulder, hugged me and we leaned on each other. This was really happening. I would never see my family again. But if we really were being attacked, we couldn’t go down without a fight. We gave each other a glance and we knew we were thinking the same thing. As the bus neared to a stop, I whispered to Josey.
“Follow my lead,” I said. Since Uglad was dumb enough to put one officer on the bus, it would be easy to take control. I silently crawled to the front, where the officer stood with his back to us. I tried to think of how I should take control, but nothing happened. Without planning, I lifted up my knee and dug it into the guard’s back. He jerked forward but wasn’t affected by the move. The guard whipped back around and stared me in the face. He lifted his gun and fired a shot. Luckily, I jumped back and missed the shot just in time. When the driver began getting up, Josey jumped on him and stuck her finger hard against his neck, sticking a pressure point. The man fell to the floor in an instant, allowing Josey to take control of the bus. The guard, however, didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy firing shots at me. Finally, when he showed no signs of stopping, I jumped on the guard’s back. A boy in the seat next to the guard quickly leapt up and swatted at the gun, sending it sprawling to the back of the bus. Soon, someone from the back had thrown the gun back to me and I held it against the guard’s helmet. We forced the guard, who was surprisingly small, out of his suit and held him hostage in the back of the bus. I examined the suit, but it had nothing inside of it. When I put it on, it felt like I was carrying pounds of metal inside a sauna. The tinted glass on the face of the helmet was easy to see through, although I could barely see out because the suit was so large.
“So, where are we going?” Josey asked. I hadn’t really thought this through.
“Um, I guess Enser, so we can save our families,” I told her.
“Aubrey, it might be too late.We can still go, though,” Josey suggested, her voice warning me.
“I know, just go. We don’t have anywhere else, do we?” Josey took a glance at me and drove on. After that, everyone else on the bus figured what was happening. We all rode in silence.
When the bus pulled into Enser, everything still looked normal. Nothing seemed different, except the windows were boarded up. We drove through the neighborhood, trying to find what had happened. But everything was so strange, it was hard to tell what had happened.
“It’s like they just skipped Enser,” marvelled a girl.
“How do we know? Maybe they already came,” murmured a tall, thin boy.
“Okay, we have to do something. I say half of us go down East Parkway and the other half goes down West Parkway. We’ll meet back at the bus in thirty minutes,” declared Josey. She could be a natural leader sometimes. We all agreed and divided the group in half. The guard went with the other group, but stayed in the suit so they wouldn’t look suspicious. Josey and I were both on East Parkway, where our homes were. As we walked, our group talked about forming a plan. One of the eleven, Nick, suggested escaping to Canada, since it wouldn’t be that far with the bus.
“That might work, but there’s going to be even more guards on the border. It would be nearly impossible,” Josey said.
“True. What if we headed to the coast and built a boat to sail around to Canada? We wouldn’t have to get through any borders,” Nick replied.
“Really? We could never just build a boat and not be seen.” When the government made the list, they should have focused more on intelligence.
“Okay, we’ll figure it out later. Canada will be our back up plan, but now we need to focus on getting everybody out of here,” I told the group. We walked quietly to East Parkway. When I got there, fear struck instantly. In the street was a group of officers shooting people after they bowed down to the Northern Uglad flag. I noticed my neighbor, Andrew in the street. But before I could do anything, he was shot. I was paralyzed with terror. Standing in the line behind Andrew were Mom, Dad, and Reed. They looked miserable. Their eyes were bloodshot and they had the largest frown on their faces. My heart dropped at the sight of seeing them. I felt like I was the one about to die, but then again I had the same chance as them. I walked as silently as possible over to the Millers’, my neighbors, house and hovered behind a bush. Everyone except Josey and I had gone behind the house to form a plan, but we were too focused on saving our families.
“We have to get their attention somehow,” Josey whispered to me.
“Yeah, but we can’t let the guards notice us. We could walk to their line as if we’re also captives and get them over here somehow,” I suggested, just blurting out what was on my mind.
“I guess so, but we really can’t be seen. If we are, then we’ll be shot within a few seconds.”
“I know, that’s why we have to hurry,” I said. Josey and I looked at each other one last time before we would be plummeting our bodies through a street with guards shooting everyone they saw. I crawled to the edge of the bushes and peered my head around, looking for anyone who noticed us. Thankfully, the coast was clear. I carefully made my way to the street, hiding behind everything I could, like a spy in a mystery movie. When I finally reached the lines of people, I casually glided to where my family was standing.
“Mom, it’s Aubrey,” I whispered. “Long story short, we’re here to save you, Dad, and Reed. Josey is on the front porch of the Millers’ house. Go to their backyard without drawing any attention and we can leave as soon as we get Josey’s family. We’ll move to her street, jump in the bus, and leave. Just trust us,” I told Mom. It took only a second before I heard a short “Okay” from Mom. She grabbed Reed’s wrist and nudged to Dad, who had been listening. First Mom and Reed went, using a line of trees the Millers had planted to hide behind. Then Dad went. When they were finally in the backyard, I looked around one last time to make sure nobody was watching. No one seemed to notice me, which was a good sign. I ran to hide behind the trees and headed to the backyard. But before I could do anything else, I heard a large commotion in the street. The moment I turned around, I immediately regretted it. At least twenty guards had their guns pointed...at me. When I heard the gunshot, I ducked down and began sprinting. Just twenty more yards to go, I thought to myself. When I finally reached the backyard, I crouched under the deck with everyone else. Nobody said a word.
“Where’d she go?” one of the guards marvelled as he followed. He had the same suit on as the guard from the bus.
“Don’t know. Just shrug it off, the guards on other streets will find her anyway,” another guard with the same identical suit responded. They marched back to the street without a second thought. The group of us under the deck stayed quiet for a few minutes, thinking of what to do next.
“Can someone tell us what’s happening?” I heard a quiet voice ask. Then it hit me. Mom. I had completely forgotten about Mom, Dad, and Reed. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for not saying anything to them sooner. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they had to be huddled in the corner, scared out of their minds.
“Everything I said is true. We came to get you and Josey’s family. There’s a bus that we took over that’s waiting for us a few streets over. About another ten kids are doing the same thing, but on West Parkway. We’ll meet them back there and decide what to do next. But now we have to get Josey’s family,” I explained.
“We don’t need to get my family. I looked at my street while you were getting everyone. It’s already been cleared,” Josey said in a quiet, monotone voice.
“Josey, are you sure? Maybe they haven’t even gotten there ye-”
“There were blood stains in the street,” Josey cut me off. The whole group went silent for a few moments. “We just need to hurry and get out. Don’t look on the past. Just go.” I could hear Josey’s voice quivering.
Once we got back to the bus, the other group was already there, plus an additional six. I didn’t ask any questions, just sat in a seat with Josey. When we had boarded the bus, a short, thin girl from the other group told us they had already planned to go to the Canadian border. I had been thinking the same thing, so I just nodded my head and sat down. We drove throughout the night and the rest of the day. It was an easy drive, since the only other vehicles on the interstate were a few buses like ours. The girl who told us the plan, Carmen, had put on the suit while driving so she’d fit in with the other bus drivers. Throughout the night, Josey leaned on me and slept but didn’t talk much. When we had sat down, there had been a tear streaming down her cheek.
I awoke with a sudden jolt. When I looked up, there was a new person driving. He was in the suit, but you could tell he was taller than Carmen. Around us were booths full of other buses. In the booths were more guards, all checking the buses and letting them through. They were looking at the backs where red marks were located, obviously a sign to let us in. I couldn’t remember if our bus had one, but I did remember noticing red marks on all the buses when we were boarding them, so there must have been one on mine. The driver, who I later learned was Nick, must have been thinking the same thing as me.
“It has a red streak, right?” Nick asked to the bus.
“Pretty sure, but if not, we’re dead,” I stated matter-of-factly. Nobody replied because we were all too nervous whether it was there or not.
As the bus pulled up to the booth, I could feel the tension of everyone on the bus holding their breaths. After a long wait, the guard said something to the driver and looked back. The driver held up his fist and we all let out a sigh of relief. The bus jolted forward and the engine roared as we crossed the border into Canada. I had never felt so relieved. However, I could tell this was just the beginning of a long journey.