The bus had crashed, that much was for certain. He’d told them. He’d told them not to go this particular night, but nobody ever listened to him anymore. He was an outsider, a paria in this group. It was his own fault, he supposed. He was the one who’d left eight years ago after all.
He sighed. Maybe if they hadn’t been so behind on schedule- because of him, mind you- they would have just departed tomorrow morning, in five busses instead of a single cramped one. It was a working formula after all: if you did not want to get on the other’s nerves, take five busses. It was less intimate, less chaotic, less waiting for a fight destined to happen. He remembered his cousin’s angry face, the narrowed eyes that clearly told Kevin that he was accountable for his torture. Of all people, Brian was especially fond of the privacy that the idea of five busses supplied. Of course, that was a lie, considering the five of them were constantly on each other’s busses.
It was hella expensive too. But oh well, whatever worked.
He should have probably stopped the meditation and start moving. The smoke seemed to be getting thicker. Something was on fire, and something would explode again. He did not want to be nearly caught in an explosion again. The burns on his shoulder were killing enough as it was, thank you very much. He straightened up, carefully letting his gaze wander over the dark field. A large part of it was filled with debris of what used to be a tourbus. Pieces of doors, stairs, baggage and… was that half a coffee machine he saw there? At least one part of the bus had exploded into little pieces, another half was to his right, laying uselessly on its side. He could make out a few other large parts of bus somewhere in the distance. The thing had broken in two on its way down the hill.
Fantastic, he could have been dead.
He scoffed at that realization, carefully placing his weight on his injured foot. It hurt like a bitch, but he stayed upright. That was a good sign. He slowly started walking, away from the smoke and debris and into the wet, snow filled field. He just started wondering what had happened to his fellow passengers when he heard a noise and cringed.
“Do you ask the million dollar question, or shall I?” AJ McLean’s gruff voice faintly drifted through the night. He was alive, and he was talking to someone, so that meant somebody else was alive as well. Good news.
“We need to find the others,” Howie Dorough replied and Kevin sighed in relief, glad that at least those two rascals had found a safe spot. He wondered if he should reveal himself. They weren’t all that far away, it seemed.
It was too dark to see everything properly and his eyes were still stinging from the smoke. He could follow their voices though. They had started walking towards the scene of the accident again and damn, they were faster than he was.
“Hey, hold up!” He yelled and heard the two voices mute simultaneously.
“That sounded like Kevin, did that sound like Kevin to you?” AJ said after a few seconds and Kevin rolled his eyes.
“I’m right here,” he stated, finally catching up on them.
“Kev!” Howie exclaimed, his eyes widening. “You look terrible!”
Raising his infamous eyebrows, Kevin scoffed, “You don’t look much better either. Are you bleeding?” He nodded at the red stain on Howie’s side.
“I’ll be fine,” the smaller man grunted.
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“How about you?” AJ inquired, “Are you hurt?”
The older singer shrugged, “I think I broke my wrist. And I definitely sprained my ankle. Oh, and then there’s this,” he said, showing the two younger men the burn on his shoulder. Their eyes got big and they fearfully stared at the wound. “But I’ll live.”
They nodded slowly. “We could have been dead,” AJ drawled nervously.
“Be glad we’re not,” Howie muttered. “Has anybody called 911?”
“You have a cellphone on you, dipshit?” AJ sneered.
“No, but there might be one in the wreckage,” Howie countered, “I mean, it’s still raining, right? It should keep the fire from spreading too quickly.”
“What makes you think we have any reception here?” Kevin asked incredulously.
“I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot, right?” Howie exclaimed.
“It’s a suicide mission, that’s what it is! That thing exploded once, so why do you suppose it won’t explode again?”
“Gosh, the two of you are a couple of defeatists,” Howie growled, “We gotta do something.”
“That’s right, we got to find Brian, Nick and Toby.”
AJ and Howie nodded in agreement, staring expectantly at him. Yes, Kevin was an outsider, except for when drastic things needed to happen. Then they suddenly all turned to him for instructions. He sighed, trying to think of a strategy to tackle the particular problem. “Alright, we need to determine where everyone was on the bus.”
“We were in the back, in the bunk area,” Howie quipped.
“Where were you? The front?”
“No,” Kevin shook his head, “I think I was upstairs, in the back. More towards the middle though,” he mused.
“So you weren’t in the front part?” Howie asked again, and Kevin frowned.
“No… I told you…” he hesitated, “Brian might have been though.”
AJ and Howie shared a meaningful glance and Kevin’s frown grew deeper, “What? Why does that matter?”
Howie shook his head, trying to compose himself properly.
“N-Nothing… what about Nick?”
Kevin stared back at the two singers, taken aback at the sudden change of subject. “I don’t… I don’t know about Nick. I don’t think I’ve seen him the entire ride.”
“He was on the bus, wasn’t he?” Howie asked, a little unsure.
“Yeah, he got in the same time as I did, I saw him,” AJ muttered back. Kevin had to strain to even hear him. Howie nodded, slowly turning his back towards Kevin. He leant closer towards AJ, muttering something Kevin clearly was not supposed to hear.
AJ frowned and nodded, “Let’s just hope he wasn’t in the front too,” he whispered a little too loud. Kevin’s eyes widened.
“Shht, AJ, jeez!” Howie hissed, but it was too late. Kevin quickly stomped closer, grabbing Howie’s arm.
“What? What’s up with the front?”
“N-Nothing,” Howie tried in a tiny voice.
“Don’t bullshit me, Howard!” the bigger man spat viciously, “You two are hiding something from me and I want to know what!”
“Let me go,” Howie replied monotonously, “It’s not going to help anybody if we get ourselves worked up like this.”
“Just tell me what happened with the front,” Kevin spoke slowly, releasing his grip on Howie’s arm.
“It- it was the part caught in the explosion. There’s not much of it left,” Howie gulped, shooting a helpless look at AJ, who nodded solemnly.
“Oh no,” Kevin whispered, instantly turning towards the burning scene, “No!”
AJ and Howie shared a glance again as they watched Kevin march of towards the wreckage, his sprained ankle completely forgotten. “We should go after him,” AJ suggested reluctantly.
“Yeah,” Howie sighed.
With a desperate note to his voice, Kevin called the names of the still missing passengers over and over again.
Before he even noticed it, he was running, sprinting through the cold field. The snow and the rain seeped through his tattered shoes and soaked his socks. He barely noticed. This was what complete and utter panic felt like, he realized. The shock from earlier was wearing off, replaced by an all-consuming fear. He’d been scared before, a thousand times actually, but never like this…
this was a special kind of fear.
The fear for someone’s life.
“Nick!” he yelled, “Toby!” he called, “Brian!” he screamed. His voice was giving in, but he didn’t give up.
He could vaguely hear the other two bandmembers following him closely, but paid them no mind. A sudden clap of thunder rendered him silent and he abruptly halted. He stared into the night, breathing hard, wildly looking around. The smoke hadn’t cleared a bit and was stinging his eyes.
“Nick!” he desperately cried out, “Bri… please…” he mumbled in defeat as his knees connected with the wet grass, “Somebody…”