Chapter 8

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The worst part is not knowing. Not knowing where we are, not knowing where we're going, not even knowing the time. Miguel had meditated on this for what he thought was hours, his forced ignorance marinating him in unpleasant thoughts. Ricky had fallen asleep after eating and Miguel had initially enjoyed the silence. But after a few hours, he found himself growing restless from looking out on a bare and unassuming landscape. When the sun dipped below the horizon Miguel had been pleasantly surprised by how many stars were visible, the sight of unpolluted nature being the one spec of beauty on this trip. We must really be out in the boonies then, he thought glumly, further from home.

The hum of the bus had sent most of the boys to a restless sleep while the rest sat in silence and looked out to the approaching stars, hoping that fate, gods, or politicians might intervene. Miguel nearly jumped out of his seat when Ricky suddenly sat upright. The boy looked around like a man waking from a drunken slumber, focused on him, and then smiled impishly. "Sup?"
"Jeez, dude," Miguel said swallowing a startled scream. "You scared the crap out of me. What's wrong with you, do you always wake up like that?"

Ricky shrugged. "Just when I sleep away from home." He realized the silence he had birthed with his comment and continued, "Any idea where we are now?"

"Not really. I saw a 'Welcome to Arkansas' sign but that doesn't mean much to me. I've never been here so even if I knew a city, I wouldn't really know where we're at on a map."

"Damn," Ricky said, penetrating that silence again, "they're really going to get rid of us."

"I don't know," Miguel said quickly. Can they? Will they? They can't dump a bunch of kids off on the other side of the border, right?

The bus slowed as it exited the highway and Miguel caught glimpse of a highway sign that read "Exit 233. Palestine." The bus moved on, following the road lit by a combination of starlight and the headlights. It stopped at the intersection and took a right, moving away from where the town was, Miguel noted. The bus continued down a darkened road littered with the remnants of construction, passing farm fields and several churches before making another right turn onto a gravel road.

"This is where they unload us, stand us in a ditch, and then shoot us," muttered RIcky.

"Dude," Miguel said squinting at the boy. "Why would you say that?" He knew it was ridiculous but all the same, he'd rather not even give the idea a chance.

"I don't know," said Ricky. "I mean, I don't think the guards would have enough bullets anyways."

"Oh, I'm so glad that's the case," Miguel said rolling his eyes. "There is something wrong with you, you know that?."

Ricky laughed. "Yeah, I know. I also have to pee really bad."

Miguel shook his head and looked ahead to see out the windshield. The loud, wet cough resounded from the front of the bus again. His first thought was that it did not sound good, his second was that that he hoped whatever it was wasn't contagious. The last thing he wanted was to be sick out here, away from home and not knowing if there would be a doctor.

The sound of rubber crunching on gravel slowed as the bus came to a stop in front of a chain link fence, a blinding light sprang to life and shone through the windshield. The harsh light stung Miguel's eyes as he blinked and and shielded himself to see the front of the bus. He heard the front door open and a strained hush fell over the bus as a silhouette stepped on board. He caught snippets of a conversation and thought he could make out a man dressed in a light-blue uniform speaking to the driver.

"Think he's a cop?" Ricky asked squinting. "Doesn't look like an ICE uniform to me."

'I'm not sure," Miguel said slowly.

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