July 19, 2018.
New York, United States of America.
I was signing up for the Marine Corps. Not a big surprise for my kind of people—orphans. We all have the most basic education, lack of savings in their banks if they had an account, and the non-existence of family members.
My parents abandoned me when I was born and left me beside a street.
A pizza guy on a bike found and adopted me. His name was Mike. Although he was only 22 at the time he found me, he did well in taking care of me. Now, he's dead.
Last year, some terrorist attacked a shuttle bus. Of course, the NYPD called in the SWAT. But by then it was too late. The bastards opened fire and fled. Mike tried to help the wounded in the bus when it blew up. 9 people survived. 26 others didn't, Mike was one of them.
Police found evidence of an IED underneath the bus. The terrorist wounding the people in the bus was just to draw more people into the blast zone. Using people sympathy to their advantage.
Anyway a month ago i got tired of waiting. I remember the grief I felt when I heard of Mike's death and I wanted that kind of incidents to never happen again.
So here I am, in the recruiting centre. I held out my identification to the woman manning the desk.
"You 19? You look 16. This isn't fake ID right?"
"I get that a lot. Now am I going off to the war or am I stuck here?" I replied with a fake smile.
Forgot to tell you, by war, it's like Afghanistan in the late 2000s again. When the US and other countries pulled out in 2013, it was quite OK. Then the terrorist got more bold. They took to the streets and the Afghan's military forces couldn't control them.
Some Al-Qaeda moved there since it was practically a haven. But the UN security council didn't know that until too late. The escalating terrorist attacks made the mission for the law enforcement agencies to keep the US safe next to impossible.
So, the president decided to nullify the threat overseas. Nip it at the bud as they say.
The woman chuckled,"Be careful out there". She stamped something on the form I filled out earlier and put it in a file.
"Tomorrow 8.30 am. Don't be late or you'll miss the last ride to Texas"
"New training facility"
I gathered up my stuff and headed out.
I packed my belongings into a duffel bag. Those I wanted to bring with me anyway. A few change of clothes and a toothbrush. I'm sure I'm issued those things, but I didnt know what to bring so I just brought them along.
I took a look at the small apartment. This would probably be the last time I'll see it in a long time. All it had is 2 undersized bedrooms, a small kitchen, a bathroom and a living room with a crappy TV.
I brushed a picture of me and Mike smilling together a few years back. On an impulse I took the photo out of its frame and put it in my pocket.
I took one last glance at the apartment. The couch was draped with a large trenchcoat and a blanket, table had a few cups on it although I was the only one living in it.
Shrugging, I locked the door and closed it behind me. And walked briskly out of the flat.
The doorman, an old friendly chap who was one of the few who knew i was going to be a marine bade me fair well and told me to be careful. I nodded and said goodbye. I wouldn't know what to say anyway.
Something rose up in my throat as I realized I might never come back to this place again. I fought back the tears and took the bus.
A quick glance at my watch told me I had over 45 minutes left. So I bought a rather expensive coffee after i got off at my stop. Never know when I might get it again.
I was about to leave the shop when someone knocked into me. Spilling some of my coffee. Luckily it didn't get me.
I frowned and looked up. The one who bumped me was a girl my age. She's cute and looks familiar.
"Oh my god. I'm so sorry" she exclaimed. Her eyes had a flicker of recognition, "James? Is that you? Wow. It's been a while"
Her identity hit me like a sledgehammer. Jenny something, my high school crush.
The bus would go in 30 minutes and Jenny's standing in front of me. Talking to me in a totally innapproriate time when she should have done so in high school.
I didn't know how to react. So I just settled for the typical "Hi, long time no see".
"So what's up? I got back into town, college break"
I opened my mouth and closed it. It wouldn't look good to be telling her how I wasted a couple years of my life doing nothing but play video games and such.
"Well, I signed up for the marines" I offered her a wan smile.
She was pretty shocked. So I guess she thought that this might be the lasts time she sees me. Might be though.
We sat on a bench on the sidewalk and talked. Time just seemed to pass faster. And part of me wished I didn't need to get on that bus.
Time flew. In no time, I totally forgot about the marines.
I felt awkward after Jenny asked me a rather personal question and just instinctively looked at my watch.
My heart leaped as I saw the time- 8.24. With less than 5 minutes left to catch a bus a few blocks away.
I apologized and told her about the bus. But before I left, she kissed me. I was so shocked I never registered it until she pulled away blushing.
I held back a grin,"Now what was that for?"
"Luck. Come back alive and you'll have more," she said with a smirk.
I looked at her one last time and sprinted to the station.
Subtracting my last exchange of words, I only had about 3 minutes left and about 5 blocks to cover.
I ran as fast as I could while trying to get around people. New York is always crowded.
Half a block away, I saw the bus. It must have gone off early and was headed my way.
I knew what I was about to do was crazy and dangerous, but it would be the only way to catch the bus. It was moving fast, fast as in not-stuck-in-traffic type. But there's no way for me to get through 3 lanes of traffic and get on it on time.
I backed up against the shop and waited for the bus.
When it was almost directly opposite me, I sprinted for all I was worth. I jumped on the fire hydrant and leaped across a lane.
I landed on a car softly and jumped on another.
The bus was already a car ahead of me. So I gathered up my legs and leaped.
For a terrifying moment, I thought I wasn't going to get on the bus. Time slowed down, I was in mid-jump. And then I crashed onto the side of the bus, holding onto the window with my both hands. I struggled for a moment before jumping sideways into the open bus door.
The driver- a man in his fifties exclaimed profanities.
The other recruits in the bus were pretty awed at the stunt I pulled. Some missed my performance while napping were roused awake by the endless stream of profanity.
"Yeah I'm sorry about that, was late. This is the marines right?" I said sheepishly.
The man gestured me to come foward and I did so.
Out of nowhere, his hand slapped the back of my head. I saw stars for a full ten seconds and my ears rang. It's a wonder I didn't collapse.
"Now get the hell away and sit down. Don't make me stuff you in a straightjacket. You could have gotten the whole damn bus killed"
The bus was half-filled so I guessed that it held about a dozen and a half recruits like me.
I took a seat by the window. No one was on my row. I was used to it. In fact sometimes I prefer being solitary.
The air-conditioning wasn't working and in the mid summer heat, I was baking. I took off my jacket and rested my head on the window and started to think which is what most people called daydreaming.