The inside of the bus was hot and dusty and had that bitter, stale smell only sweat has, though such a stench was to be expected with the sun beating down on everyone through the thick glass of the bus windows. Even I was sweating from my seat in the aisle, but it wasn’t just because of the heat. I could feel the back of my cotton shirt starting to stick to the spot on my back right between my shoulder blades beneath my black trench coat. But most of all, I could feel the hard metal of the .45 millimeter handgun in my inner coat pocket above all else. It wasn’t a particularly heavy gun, but in the moment it felt like an elephant leaning against my chest with each grueling second that passed.
My premature guilt was plaguing to say the least. I didn’t have to look around the bus to know it was a full house. There was a teenage boy listening to music in the seat across from mine. A group of old ladies wearing colorful dresses occupied a couple rows of seats towards the front of the bus. I even heard a baby cry behind me.
I don’t know what I was waiting for. Part of me thinks that I was waiting for someone to notice my odd choice of outerwear on a humid summer day. Part of me wanted some superhero to come to these peoples’ rescue and stop me from shooting up this bus. Despite the consequences I would have undoubtedly faced, I wanted to be found out. Maybe then this whole thing could’ve been aborted.
But I knew, no matter what, that if I didn’t go through with this that my little sister would die. I didn’t know why the people who took her wanted me to shoot up and rob a bus full of people. It seemed like such a pointless crime. I didn’t understand what it was supposed to accomplish. Why these people chose to blackmail me was also a mystery. But when I saw that video of Lyssa tied to a chair, bruised and bloody, getting answers wasn’t my number one priority. Saving my parents from the grief of losing a daughter, much less because I wouldn’t fulfill a demand, was the only thing that mattered.
I felt the jerk of the large vehicle as it came to a stop at a traffic light near a busy intersection. My phone vibrated in my back pocket, and I was so jumpy that I flinched at the feeling. It was as if the alert was timed perfectly with the stop. I subtly reached for it, digging it out of my pocket. On the screen, I had a text notification from an unknown number with one simple word.
This was it. My grace period was over. The time to debate with the angel and the devil on my shoulders had come to an end. I had approximately two minutes to do this or my parents would have one less daughter. I had to push aside the prevalent nausea I felt fighting for my attention, as if to talk me out of doing it.
I remember thinking a lot of things before I stood up. But there was one recurring curiosity that I had in that moment.
Is this why bad people do bad things?
Reluctantly bringing myself to my feet, I took a step into the aisle of the bus. I tried to control my breathing, but the fear pulsating through my entire body had other plans. Tentatively, I walked to the front of the bus, passing several people who gave me weird looks. But I guess everyone assumed I was just going up to ask the driver a question, because no one stopped me. A war raged within me as I took each step, as if the simple act of walking went against every fiber of my being. I kept my gaze fixated on the floor in front of me the whole time. When I finally reached the driver, I could feel her eyes on me.
“Can I help you with something?” she asked, looking me up and down.
I almost didn’t hear her with my heart pounding in my ears. Tears stung my eyes, threatening to spill over, as I lifted my head to look her in the eye. All I could think about was how everyone in this bus was someone’s brother, sister, daughter, or son. I didn’t need a mirror to know my regret was plastered all over my face.
The bus driver’s facial expression went from annoyed to perplexed when I didn’t say anything. I slowly turned away from her, tears spilling down my face in the process, to face all the passengers. Only then did some heads start to turn and pay attention to what was going on. My trembling hands rose to the opening of my coat, one holding it open and the other reaching inside to grip the gun by the handle.
My fingers lingered for a few seconds as I enjoyed my last few seconds of being able to say I was a good person. I thought about my responsibility as an older sister to protect Lyssa, in hopes of somehow making this easier. I thought about her, safe and sound, in our parents’ arms after all this was over.
I tried to make myself believe that anyone else would do the same thing in my position, but that didn’t change what I was about to do.
“God, forgive me.” I whispered under my breath before I quickly pulled the weapon out and aimed it right above my head, firing two bullets through the metal roof in one swift motion.