Earthrise, By Arijit Ghoshal

It looked no different from any other day. Barely ten people.

The old lady was there in her usual seat. The one behind the driver. He had never seen her get up. Or down. It was as if she was a part of the bus. A somewhat worn out mannequin someone had forgotten to take home.

Some of the other regulars were there as well. And then the usual set of two to three new faces. He never knew where these “new” people came from. Magically appearing for a day and then disappearing forever. Maybe they tried the bus and didn’t like it and went back to the underground. Most people preferred the underground. It was cleaner, safer and faster. Much, much faster.

He had tried the bus too. One day. All those years ago. But unlike most, he had tried the bus and stayed.

He liked the feeling of flying, or hovering to be more accurate. Wheeled vehicles had never made much sense on the surface of Luna. Hover-busses had been quite popular on the early days of settlement, before the Authorities had started building the underground.

He also liked the fact that it took almost two hours to reach the habitat from the mines. That meant that by the time he reached his module he had just enough time left to eat, watch the news on the tele, and go to sleep. No time to do anything else.

The routine was comforting. He didn’t want to have to think about what to do. The routine meant that he didn’t have to. It had been almost ten years now. Six days a week. Fifty-two weeks in the year. He hadn’t taken a single holiday even though his meager salary he had enough saved now to visit Earth, or even Mars (if he took one of the cheaper shuttles).

There was only once he had taken a break. About five years back. It was after one of the local journos had the bright idea of doing a feature on “Number 26 – Our Last Hoverbus”. The fact that it made it to the third page showed how little anything of interest happened on the mining colonies.

Anyway, the article had started out by mentioning how the Authorities had in their immense benevolence decided to continue running the bus (even though it was making losses) in memory of all those killed in the accident five years ago. Then it had included a three or four line profile on each of the regulars. The last one, “man in the last seat”, was about him.

The story had created enough of a buzz for the bus to be crowded with curious people over the next couple of days (again showing how little anything of interest ever happened here). And after the first day, he had decided to take a week off, just to keep away from those crowds.

They had got the story wrong anyway. At least his part of it. Typical crappy journalism.

The man who still travels every day on the same bus his partner had been killed on. She had wanted to take the underground but he had convinced her to take the bus. Still unable to forget his guilt, he travels on the bus, alone, on the same seat every day where one day five years ago they sat together.

That’s what they had said. It wasn’t correct. She hadn’t been his partner. He had just met her a few weeks back at the mines. It was true he had never met anyone like her before, or since. But they were not married or engaged or anything like that.

And it hadn’t been guilt. It had just been as if the world had moved on and he had got sat down.

And the report had been wrong about him asking her. It was she who had wanted to take the bus. After seeing the photo he had taken on the previous day (which had been his first day on the bus). She had wanted to see the Earthrise too.

Check out Arijit’s blog and some more of his writing at https://orisit.wordpress.com/

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