By Vera T., Iowa

2020 Write Now Special Edition Winner - Junior High: grades 7 & 8

Zara woke up on a worn bus seat that looked like it had seen better days. Zara tried to think about how she could've ended up here, but her mind came up blank. She took a peek out of a window and saw nothing, and then walked up to the driver's seat and tried to open the door. It wouldn't budge. She pushed harder, ramming her shoulder into it, hoping it would move. Then, she heard a voice behind her.

"It's not budgin' kid."

Zara jumped and spun around to face a man sitting in the driver's seat of the bus. He had a short mop of gray hair, tan skin, and a larger frame. He was wearing a nondescript black shirt and jeans, and spoke calmly.

"W-who are you?" she stuttered.

"I'm the driver," he replied simply, "And I'm here to take you to your destination.

"W-where is that?" she said nervously.

"You'll see." he said back. "You'll see. Now if you could sit down Zara, we can get moving."

"Um... Okay?" Zara sat down, confused, until something struck her. "Wait. How did you know my name?"

"We were expecting you." the man called over his shoulder as he started the bus.

"Great." she mumbled. "Now this is becoming the plot of a horror movie."

The bus shuddered and then slowly began to move forward.

"Now look out the window kid." he said softly.

Zara swiveled herself around and glanced out the window. A woman appeared, with black hair and pale skin, and a man with similar features.

"Mom? Dad?'

As the colors began to focus even more, Zara saw that the woman, (her mom?) was holding a baby, and that its features bore a striking similarity to her own.

"Wait..." she said cautiously, turning towards the driver. "Is that me? And my parents?'

He simply nodded, and turned up the speed dial. The image blurred and shrank away.

"Hey!" she shouted angrily at the driver. "What was that for?!"

He responded, saying, "Look back out the window."

"But..." she protested.

"Just look out the window."

Zara reluctantly turned to face the window again, and gasped. The forming of another picture was underway.

Window Zara was being walked toward a brick building with her mom. She was nervously sucking her thumb. Her mom said,

"It's okay Zara. I promise, preschool will be fun."And then the scene faded.

The real Zara inside the bus was so engrossed in the scenes appearing that she didn't notice the sad smile appearing on the driver's face.

In the picture, Zara was older and was walking to school with a blonde girl .At this point Zara began to remember some things.

"Oh!" she said excitedly. "That's Amber," she cried, jabbing her finger at the blonde.

The bus moved faster, and so did the images.

In the new image, Zara and Amber appeared to be arguing. The smile on her face faded.

"That was a few weeks ago." she said sadly. "Start of seventh grade...we had gotten into a fight because Amber ditched me at lunch to sit with them." She disgustedly gestured at the people in the background. "Ugh. The "popular kids."

The image faded, but the emotions stayed. Resentment, anger, and... guilt. Zara had felt bad about this. She steadied herself and buried the feelings.

As she looked out of the window, the other Zara walked in to see Amber crying. She knew this was because her so- called friends had ditched her. Window Zara started ranting about how she knew this would happen, with Amber nodding along. Then Amber muttered,

"Can we be friends again?" a pleading look in her eyes.

Window Zara just glared at her, turned her back on Amber, and left. Amber broke down into tears again as the scene faded.

Tears started to form in Zara's eyes. The bus driver turned around and asked,

"You okay kid?"

Zara hastily wiped her tears away and turned back towards the window. "Yeah."

A feeling of foreboding developed in her as a scene began to form once again. Somehow...this felt like an end.

It showed Zara back in class staring blankly at the whiteboard. Suddenly, the fire alarm began to wail. Students covered their ears as the teacher hurried them out of the classroom. One of the students asked, "Is this a drill?"

As if to answer his question flames creeped around the corner and everyone ran. The students pushed open the doors at the front of the school and exited.

When everyone got outside the teacher began to check if everyone was there. She went down her list, pausing when she got to Amber.

"Amber? Amber, if you're here please say present."

There was no response. Zara felt sick. Amber hadn't come back from the bathroom.

Zara sprinted towards the bathroom where Amber was, hearing muffled cries for help coming from inside.

Zara threw open the door and Amber collapsed, falling onto the floor.

"Z-zara?" Amber whimpered.

"What is it?' she responded nervously.

Amber pointed towards the ceiling, which was quickly cracking.

Zara cursed under her breath, and pushed Amber forward.

Then, with an ominous snapping noise a beam fell. Zara felt a pain on her lower back as she was pinned to the floor.

"Zara!" Amber shouted desperately.

Flames covered her and consumed her vision as everything went black.

The image dimmed and the light outside the window faded to black.

Zara curled up and began sobbing as the harsh reality of the situation hit her. She heard footsteps beside her and looked up. The bus driver stood beside her, and he was grasping a flower, a daisy, which she knew to be her lifeline.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked gently.

Zara drew a shaky breath, wiped her tears, and stood up.


He handed her the flower as she walked towards the front of the bus. Zara took one last look at the bus driver and, tightly holding her daisy, walked out the doors.

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