I then woke up in a pleasant hazy state, partially confused as I thought I had woken up and called in sick. I even had visualized walking outside, seeing a gray sky and retreating to my bed. I guess I subconsciously wanted this lasting feeling to be upheld as long as possible. I sat on the transfer bus to the penitentiary. Strong, stirring thoughts of the night before. Jonah’s kiss lingered in my psyche. Lingered long, strong and hard. I hadn’t wanted to sell myself a pipe dream, especially not after my last relationship and the after-effects, but when it came to the brief instances I had shared with Jonah, what a piece of pipe to dream over. I was glad I decided to take up his offer for a date. It took my mind off the Warden, the looming verdict of the planted contraband in my office, my inmate case files. He took my mind off the prison and from the unfortunate and untimely outcome of the racially profiled, looming death penalty Dericks’ case.
A hypnotic, Samba-influenced song with a tribal undercurrent was on repeat in my headphones. I rested my head back on the seat, hair in a high bun, lips painted a daring burgundy- a contrast to my safe, usual choice of nude or clear gloss. Eyes closed, I indulged for a moment, until the bus jerked to a violent stop. Immediately, my high spirits were torn down. The driver was on the phone looking between the staff, the visitors on the bus and ahead. Levels of chatter and worry rose as everybody attempted to find the answers, peeking out of their limited spaces into the aisle. The driver instructed us to stay on the bus for our safety; he let off no more information than that. I remembered, that even though I had called my phone provider, I was on a different contact number. If there was an issue with the prison, I most likely wouldn’t have been notified. It sure as hell wasn’t an issue with the bus. I began to get anxious, I stormed up to the front of the bus. Just a stretch of paved, barren road ahead and behind us. Pissed. I had such a nice night-before, I even had a buzz waking up this morning. This was affecting my emotional feng shui. My worries over this contraband in my office began to flood back.
“What is going on?”
“Ma’am. I’ve been told to advise visitors and…”
“I’m not a visitor. I work here.” I hated being left in the dark in any situation, regardless of how minor or momentous the predicament at hand was.
“Ma’am. I can’t tell you right now, but I’m following strict orders.”
“From who?!” I exclaimed. He began bouncing his knee.
“How do I know this isn’t a plot to blow up the bus? Are we hostages?”
I should have known that the words ‘blow-up’ and ‘hostage’ in the same sentence near the vicinity of a penitentiary would cause chaos but I hadn’t had breakfast, or my morning Echinacea and Raspberry Tea yet. People were pushing, shouting questions, pulling out cell phones, getting increased levels of aggravated by the minute.
A congested smoky smell caught my nostril. Nobody was smoking on the bus. It could have been the gas from the van but it had a different foundation to it. I began to feel claustrophobic, I needed air- now. The minuscule window levers at the top did no justice.
“Let me out.”
“I’ve been given orders to keep everyone inside.”
“By WHO? Unless you can tell me who, I’m not bound by anything.” A few ‘yeah’s and sounds of agreement rose in the background.
“Are we gonna’ get shot or something? Town is like a twenty minute walk back where we came from. The prison is ten minutes the opposite way. Screw waiting here.” A heavy set man pressed the emergency button above the bus doors and exited. Half of the bus followed him, including myself. I needed to know what was going on.
To my horror, I looked ahead and saw thick, clouds of black overriding the sky. I coughed and spluttered as the densely nauseating smell of fire crept towards us. Other groups of people continued in pursuit of the prison. Family members, friends, lawyers, staff, everybody. I felt lost amidst the chaos, following almost aimlessly but knowing that I had to get to work. It was hard to see into the distance.
We all walked tentatively for around 5 minutes, until we heard a gunshot. The smoke and the foggy darkness intensified but all I could see of the prison was the outline.
“What was that?” Somebody asked.
“Sounded like a gunshot to me.” Someone else replied.
Then out of nowhere, what sounded like a firework streaked the sky with a piercing sound. It landed and exploded and a choir of roars, shouts and yelling took place. Almost like a war-zone, a stampede of bodies seemed to appear from nowhere. Running towards us
This took me back to the scene in my dream, it took an extra second to register before I unglued my wobbly legs from the ground beneath me, turned and ran. Ear-piercing sirens and blasts fired in all directions. The smoke was painfully blinding. The intoxicating fumes clouded my throat. My eyes began to sting.
Fight or flight took my body over as my wedges and I, ran for my life. A stitch tore under my rib, and short, sharp breaths carried more pain with each step. I hadn’t dared looking back, not once, I looked to my side, saw somebody in inmate attire with something in his hand, I continued to run, eyes fixated on the stretch ahead. The group who had left the bus had dispersed and the bus was nowhere to be seen. What was going on? Fear had seized every part of my being. Thinking straight wasn’t even an option. I ran for miles through what looked like the outback. I didn’t stop until I passed the turnpike and saw the town. I fumbled in my bag for my cellphone. I had an untimely missed call from Jonah. I called the prison- a long shot but at least was a possibility. The streets was full of cars; honking, beeping, additional catastrophe. Running to a near diner, I pushed the door only to be greeted by an owner with a saggy-faced, greying, scowling brunette and her fierce head shake. They had locked their doors. I pleaded silently, to no avail, flipped the bird and weighed up my options. I didn’t know where to run.