With the pull of a lever, the push of a button, and the turn of a dial, the bus twisted and spun on itself through a fantastic transformation! Sparks flew, the scenery changed from deep blue to bright orange and everything in between in an instant, the whole class agape in wonder. When it was complete, the children looked around in silence. The bus had certainly done something but there appeared to be no change. Ms. Frizzle didn’t even belt out her signature “Wahooo!” to their mild disappointment. Slowly, like the approaching dusk, the view outside the windows darkened and disappeared. A few of the children whimpered as a directionless hum overcame the bus. Ms. Frizzle stood up, opened the doors, and stepped outside; the children, unsure of what to do, simply followed.
The Walkerville Elementary School parking lot was gone, swallowed by an inky nothingness, a frigid humidity leaving them slick and shivering. “Wh-… did that book… is it just me or…?” Ralphie stammered while noting his footsteps were muted to near silence. Ms. Frizzle continued to walk through the dark, a stiffness in her movements, more reserved.
“Quiet, children” she said softly, her smile betrayed by a clenched jaw. “Please. Just follow.”
Ralphie shrunk back but took the words to heart. Everyone else around him looked just as unsure of what was happening. No matter how much he rubbed his arms, he couldn’t warm up. No breath puffed from the students’ mouths despite the temperature. There had been some pretty crazy adventures in this class, he thought, but this was different somehow. Nobody said anything. He wasn’t sure how this was going to be educational.
The minutes stretched on and Ms. Frizzle never slowed her pace. The class kept up but the interminable darkness around them made it difficult to reorient at even the slightest change in direction. In the rear, Tim glanced back at the bus, its interior lighting and headlights shining like warm beacons against an impossible nothingness. He didn’t consider himself afraid of the dark, not usually, but he could sense a feeling rising in him he hadn’t felt in a long time, not since he’d accidentally locked himself in a closet for an entire night.
A wave of blistering cold washed over Tim and he swallowed hard, peeling the damp shirt away from his body with numb fingers. He turned back to say something but the words caught in his throat – his classmates were gone. Tim whirled and the bus was gone as well, its welcoming light replaced by the same flat black that draped over everywhere else. He cried out, his voice muffled in the stifling cold, not even his own echo returning in that cavernous, claustrophobic place. There was nothing. Tim was alone.
The hum grew louder.