The bus seems to dissolve around us and time stops, people freezing, though the scenery continues to move. Alice falls asleep next to me and the world goes black, freezing cold washing over me. It stings after the heat of the bus. A human construct appears before me, the very same one I first saw on this world. Jaska. I’ve been found. Game over. End of the road.
‘I guess this is my stop then?’ I ask grimly. Jaska smiles and his laughter echoes threateningly in the space he’s taken me to.
‘No doubt you realised the underworld is breaking through the barriers. It was very easy to find you, Jet.’ My old tutor steps forward, though he remains out of reach. He will always be out of reach, if he wishes – this is his domain. He can get as close as he wants and I couldn’t do a single thing to him. ‘I have been sent to find you, and to punish you, for actions I am sure you are aware of.’ Jaska pauses. He wants to say something – I can feel it – but he is embarrassed.
‘Just say it, Jaska. I would have thought after spending most of the last ten thousand years around me, you would be able to speak your mind.’ I tell him, resigned to my fate.
‘I don’t want to punish you, Jet. It is the fact that we have spent so long wreaking havoc together that I despise the fact I have to do it. But I stood by and allowed you to lose control over yourself, so I too, am being punished.’ Jaska’s voice carries very little emotion as he speaks, but I don’t bother trying to comfort myself that he means it.
‘Your punishment being?’ I ask, almost bitterly.
‘This.’ Jaska answers simply. ‘I must go. You will realise how you are being punished soon.’ He tells me. The cold darkness melts away and I open my eyes, blinking the bus back into focus. Alice is slumped against my chest and my arm is around her. I lean my head back on the headrest again and block out Jaska’s words. I wait for Alice to wake up, silent, as silent as my heart.