Short prose by Alex Shiflett

After not dying

When you’re a passenger at the top of a double decker bus on the left side, you have a great chance of surviving a crash that involves the bus rolling onto its right side. You have full advantage of the warning of rumble strips alerting everyone that the driver has fallen asleep. You notice the sunrise is still glowing across the horizon until the trees become the sky and the sky becomes a myth of heaven. You will think I have to do everything I can to not die right now and you will try, as you grip whatever safety measures exist when it comes to somersaulting in a crowded bus aisle. The sensation is blacked out and distorted, not just because you are spinning but because it is a moment beyond perception or narration. Then, it is over; the dream haze of 7:00 am in the summer washing over screaming people. Crying people. There is a brief, horrifying moment where the disorientation of where the bus is, in relation to the ground and the sky, breeds a collective fear that the bus is possibly teetering on the edge of a cliff. You learn later it is because the bus dragged along the side of the highway for at least half a mile before coming to its final resting place. You are neither screaming or crying, and forgot you had a bag full of precious things until someone calls out from the haze is this your precious thing?” and you think oh yeah, I have a life outside of this bus accident and slowly gather your tokens of self while handing people their request (phone? keys? wallet?). When the youngest firefighter you’ve ever seen opens the escape window located on the roof that is now the side wall, he is scared and nervous. He does not know everyone has survived, so his shaking hands make sense but are not comforting. You energetically pat him on the head, oh bless your heart, as you leap from the windowdoor. Ironically, you have crashed less than 20 minutes from your exit, less than 20 minutes from your childhood home. The event begins to evaporate as the crisis of after swirls around in the shape of fire trucks and ambulances, alarm sounds of calls to loved ones, paramedics offering ice and water, right-side of the bus individuals pulling glass from their hands and hair. You help a distressed woman find her phone and rush it to the waiting ambulance. She tells you she loves you, her ecstatic, crying eyes so briefly relieved before she is driven away. Now, you’re just standing on the side of the highway, a free event sure to bring every rubbernecker to call. The cacophony takes up all but one lane of traffic. Everyone will survive and you will wonder if the crash was even that bad (it was) as half the bus (the right side) is escorted to the hospital. Someone official approaches the remaining passengers and says a new bus will arrive shortly to pick you up and finish the job. You laugh. Yes of course, I will simply get on another bus. What else could one possibly do after not dying than try again?

Alex Shiflett

IG: @everydreamameaning

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