The mist crept closer, slithering across the boot prints she left behind on the soft, moist ground. She urged her legs to go faster over the uneven path. A leafless tree grabbed at the flying strands of her long silver hair as she ran past. They hung like shiny tinsel from its branches. The mist took it from the tree, burning the wisps of hair with its touch.
In the distance, she saw a flash of light reflecting on the chrome bumper of the old school bus she called home. The boy and his dog would be waiting, hungry and tired, but hopefully, watching. She whistled three sharp notes through the gap in her front teeth, thankful for once that she’d never had braces like all the other kids at school. Her backpack bounced wildly. Cans of food and a full flask of water beat against her back.
The stink of burned rubber wafted from the sole of her boot. She glanced down at the mist swirling under and around her pounding feet.
Gasping for air, she burst through the trees into a clearing. Relief rushed through her. The boy had done his job. The bus doors were open. Inside, Dog barked for her. The boy stood on the front seat. He said nothing, but his eyes pleaded with her to make it, to push harder.
She sprinted for the opening, skipping the three rubberized steps, and pulled the door handle. Within seconds, the boy had released the layers of rubber flaps that fell over the closed door and began securing the edges with duct tape. Still out of breath, she helped him finish the job. The mist surrounded the sealed bus, enveloping the metal beast in its belly.
She, the boy, and his dog sat on top of their sleeping bags at the back of the bus and ate baby food from jars. They stared at the mist outside their windows. “I hated school buses before the mists came,” she said. “I don’t hate them anymore.” The boy smiled, green peas coating his teeth.
This image and more of Carmen’s photographic prints and merch are available for purchase at Fine Art America.